RTI and Disporportionality in Special Education

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Disproportionality, in special education, is the overrepresentation or under-representation of a particular population or demographic group relative to their presence in the overall student population (Ralabate, & Klotz, 2007). There are many factors thought to contribute to disproportionality: cultural differences, lack of appropriate assessment strategies, socioeconomic status, race, and gender (Kanaitsa, 2010).

Cultural differences pose several barriers for students and may impair their opportunity to learn. These barriers are created by differences in language expression, communication style, preferred learning style, gender-role customs and behaviors, and limited parental involvement due to these cultural or socioeconomic barriers (Ralabate, & Klotz, 2007).

The lack of appropriate assessment strategies unfairly puts cultural and language diverse students at a disadvantage. These types of tests are geared towards assessing the majority of the population, not the minority. This poses a serious problem when trying to correctly identify students who may have learning or behavioral problems (Ralabate, & Klotz, 2007).

Socioeconomic barriers can limit a student’s success due to a lack of resources, and lower parental involvement. This can impact a student’s performance in school, indicating a possible disability when there might not be one.

Culturally and socioeconomic diverse students already have to overcome one stigma, but when they are placed in special education, they find their selves struggling to overcome another. If they need the support of specialized education then the eventual outcome is more beneficial than the label. One the other hand, when students are placed in special education services they do not need i...

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...cial education. Retrieved from Bright website:

Klotz, M. B., & Canter, A. (2007). Response to intervention (RTI): A primer for parents. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists

National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt). (2005). Cultural considerations and challenges in response-to-intervention models. An NCCRESt Position Statement.

Ralabate, P., & Klotz, M. B. (2007). Truth in labeling: Disproportionality in special education (NEA educators’ guide 18456). Retrieved from National Education Association website:

Sands, D., Kozleski, E., & French, N. (2000). Inclusive education for the 21st century: A new introduction to special education. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
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