Summer 8-15-2016



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Shelley Orr

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Patrick Tanis

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Laura Shelley


The research question addressed in this capstone is, what are educators’ perceptions of the causes of the disproportionate experience of African Americans in special education? In this study, the author examines educators’ beliefs about two existing racial trends in special education. The first is the over-identification of African American students as candidates in need of special education. The second part of the disproportionate experience is that African American students tend to make less growth than their White peers once receiving services. In this research, the author provides a historical synthesis of the extensive record of disproportionality literature. The capstone includes a qualitative analysis of six interviews of educators across two research sites. Findings suggest that insufficient teacher knowledge, intervention and assessment biases, and cultural discontinuities between home and school environments were reported to have the strongest effect on disproportional outcomes. The author compares and contrasts the perceptions of the teachers and administrators at both school setting and finds that schools serving a higher percentage of African American students more-readily cited systemic factors and intercultural biases when explaining disproportionality. Conversely, schools serving a smaller percentage of African American students were more likely to report that that factors within the school, such as a lack of teachers of color or intervention breakdowns, play a more significant role. Finally, solutions for reducing disproportionality and suggestions for future research are put forth.

Research Methodology

Case Study, Interview


Multicultural Education, Social Justice, Special Education, Disproportionality

Included in

Education Commons