Pursuing Equity: Disproportionality in Special Education and the Reframing of Technical Solutions to Address Systemic Inequities

Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides, Edward Fergus, Kathleen A. King Thorius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In the review, we examine what is known about disproportionality with the intention of informing the direction of policy and practice remedies. We outline the definition, contours, and characteristics of disproportionality and examine some of the prevailing explanations as to why the issue persists. We then pivot the review to consider how policy, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), has sought to address disproportionality in special education and disciplining of students with disabilities. We question why a legally sound civil rights law like IDEA has been unable to abate disproportionality for nearly 40 years. We then turn our attention to review interventions embedded in IDEA that have been recommended to address disproportionality and question why they have not improved outcomes for “nondominant” students in special education. We conclude with some recommendations for disrupting disproportionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-87
Number of pages27
JournalReview of Research in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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