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Analyzing Racial Disproportionality in Special Education Using Secondary Data

Case
By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

I began my doctoral studies in 2009 with a substantive interest in the experiences of Asian American families and children with disabilities in the United States. As a group that is consistently underrepresented in special education, Asian American children are generally omitted from the policy and research discourse on disabilities. However, underrepresentation raises questions and concerns about how Asian American children are identified for special education and whether some are excluded from services designed to improve their learning. As a researcher, the challenge was designing a rigorous study that could bring attention to the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in special education to educators and policymakers. This methods case provides an account of one study using secondary data from school districts in California to examine the scope, magnitude, and predictors of disparities in special education enrollment for Asian American children. The case describes the value of using secondary data to assess local educational trends that can be overlooked at the national level. For new researchers, the case also discusses the process of finding and accessing secondary datasets that can be used to address important research questions in education. Particular attention is paid to the value of descriptive and exploratory quantitative data analysis.

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