How has ‘Student Misplacement within Special Education’ been handled over time, what contributes to the problem and what efforts are being made to decrease the occurrence?

Education has made vast strides in regards to “respect and inclusion for all students and cultures.” However, as respecting and appreciating diversity seems to be a constant growing theme in education, our study has shown misplacement/ disproportionality has always been and still is a major problem. Most interestingly, many of the past factors which contributed to misplacement such as, cultural, racial bias and social classification, are indeed some of the key contributors to educational misplacement today. The number of minority children in special education continues to rise. As teachers most in special education classrooms there is always a student or 2 that we often feel could better be serviced in a different setting. It may be a student who is intellectually above the majority, or below. A student who may not have had behavior issues but has begun to adapt to their surrounding of other students with behavior issues, or even a student who is on an alternate track but could have transitioned to a community school with the proper inclusion program. In searching for artifacts we came across an article in which Edward Fergus, the deputy director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University and his team, the Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality (TASD), shared their work over 8 years with about 40 districts in New York State that were cited for disproportionality. Their goal was to identify the problem’s root causes, and develop strategic solutions. Our exhibit takes a look at various factors that contribute to educational misplacement across the globe. As you explore the exhibit keep in mind these key points and consider how strategic solutions could minimize the occurrence. “Children are usually assigned to special education between kindergarten and third grade. Sometimes the placement is warranted because of a child’s legitimate disabilities. Other times, a targeted intervention could be enough to resolve a simple skill deficit early on. Once children are assigned to special education, they usually stay there through high school. Some special education teachers tend to hold onto their students, not trusting general education teachers to accommodate their unique needs, and lots of Parents are also reluctant to remove their kids from special education; afraid their children will lose the extra attention, services or promotional criteria modification.” Not to mention the funding available to schools for special education students. When children from racial, ethnic and linguistic minority groups show up in suburban school districts, Fergus says, “school officials often fail to bridge the cultural gap. Fergus concludes “That it’s one of the toughest areas that we’ve exposed in many of our school districts,” It’s an area that many of our practitioners aren’t comfortable talking about. We have very little language to engage in productive dialogue about it.”
We (Chynna Johnson, Cliff Fugate and Danielle Van Dunk) hope to continue to spark constructive dialogue that results in less students being misplaced within Special Education.

Ornate Divider

Keeping Special Ed in Proportion

Anthony Rebora, Oct. 12, 2011

This is an extensive article about Inclusion including instructions on implementing an Inclusion program. It provides information about inclusion for high-incidence disabilities, to describe inclusion models, and to provide suggestions for effective practices for increasing learning for all students when students with high-incidence disabilities are included in the general education classroom.


Instructing Students With High-Incidence Disabilities in the General Education Classroom

Sharon Vaughn, Jeanne Shay Schumm and James W. Forgan

Experts say improvements in school instructional cultures can keep some struggling minority kids out of special education. This article offers data about the issue and several suggestions to avoiding overrepresentation.


6 Reasons Black Boys Without Disability Wind Up In Special Education

Nick Chiles, Mar. 11, 2015

Many Black boys who end up in special education do not have a disability. Rather, they have circumstances that spur behavior patterns that are not compatible with the school environment. These 6 reason explain why we have so many Self Contained classrooms with majority black males.


Separate and Unequal: Why Are so Many Minority Students in Special Ed?

Melanie Smollin, May. 13, 2011 

TakePart spoke with Edward Fergus (Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University) to learn why racial, ethnic and linguistically diverse students continue to be funneled into special education, and what school districts can do about it.


Evaluating ELLs for Special Needs a Challenge

Lesli Maxwell, Nirvi Shah Aug. 28, 2012

The article is about ELL students being referred to special education. When it was something as simple as the student needing glasses. They talk about special education being a default intervention. They explain a new system in California that looks at the student in all angles and it is intended to avoid the student being misplaced.


Probabilities Associated with the Referral-to-Placement Process

Bob Algozzine & Others, 1981

This is a study, a national survey of 94 Directors of Special Education was conducted to ascertain: (1) the number of students referred for psychoeducational evaluation; (2) the number of referred students evaluated; and (3) the number of evaluated students placed in special education programs. I was done for each of the school years during 1977-80. The way they conducted their survey was to mail postcards to the students houses. The amount of students referred for evaluation and the amount of students receiving special education services were high. The study also ask where the student lived, in what type of neighborhood. (rural, urban, and suburban communities)



UNESCO, 2000- 2015

Here is a gender is a educational gender disparity simulator. It highlights and provides a detailed report on gender disparity from various cultures across the globe.


World Inequality Database on Education

UNESCO, 2015

This is an interactive database identifying global educational inequalities.


The sad state of our education system

OPFARHAN, Jan.19.2013

This is a video and comics of unfair testing and the problem of the change in the education system. They talk about the root of the problem comes from the system of education itself, plus the society perception towards education that mold the way people are being educated right now.


METRO MATTERS; For Misplaced Students, Special Education Can Disable, Too

Joseph Berger, Aug. 24.1992

This article talks about the misplaced students and how it disables the student. It doesn’t give the student a chance.


Latino Students and Disproportionality in Special Education

Becky Pérez, Russell J. Skiba, and Choong-Geun Chung; Winter 2008

This article reviews data from both the national level and the state of Indiana that shows that Latino students are in general under-represented in special education. Possible reasons for that representation and future directions will be outlined.



  1. I thought this was a great inquiry question! I was really interested that y’all used a global approach to your artifacts. I spent years working with teachers unions against Education for All (EFA) and Unesco. I’d love to talk about the ways in which these initiatives mirror our own charter school movement and the erasure of public funds for students with disabilities!

  2. I really do appreciate this exhibit, because while we may all be aware of the segregation in our schools, it’s not often brought to light in such an explicit manner. Unfortunately, like most of your pieces indicated, there’s no easy solution to this problem. Hopefully, we see a positive change in our lifetime.

  3. I believe your introduction in the exhibit notes summarizes everything special education teachers feel, but are unable to express because of the limitations placed on them by administration, time restraints, job security, etc. These pieces are extremely relevant and necessary and I wish that more people would take the time to read and digest them. Great job!

  4. Michael Pantone

    The inquiry question driving this exhibit is a critical concern that many of us working in D75 face each time we receive a new roster of students. I believe that the idea of the ‘least restrictive environment’ can sometimes serve our students but at other times, it does not. Many times students are passed along to the ‘next’ level so that the rigor of instruction can increase. Unfortunately, I’ve seen several times where a student has be moved to a new, more rigorous placement and although the student may have the cognitive ability to do the coursework, they no longer are receiving the human resource supports that they require to get the work done. I appreciate the light you shed on minority students and their ‘pipeline’ to special education. The inequalities of special education placement for minority students based on behaviors needs to be made glaringly apparent to the public. Thank you for this exhib