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Book cover: Research in Social Science and Disability

Research in Social Science and Disability

ISSN: 1479-3547
Series editor(s): Dr Barbara Altman, Dr Sharon Barnartt

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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Disproportionality: A sociological perspective of the identification by schools of students with learning disabilities


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Title:Disproportionality: A sociological perspective of the identification by schools of students with learning disabilities
Author(s):Dara Shifrer, Chandra Muller, Rebecca Callahan
Volume:5 Editor(s): Sharon N. Barnartt ISBN: 978-0-85724-377-5 eISBN: 978-0-85724-378-2
Citation:Dara Shifrer, Chandra Muller, Rebecca Callahan (2010), Disproportionality: A sociological perspective of the identification by schools of students with learning disabilities, in Sharon N. Barnartt (ed.) Disability as a Fluid State (Research in Social Science and Disability, Volume 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.279-308
DOI:10.1108/S1479-3547(2010)0000005014 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:The disproportionate identification of learning disabilities among certain sociodemographic subgroups, typically groups who are already disadvantaged, is perceived as a persistent problem within the education system. The academic and social experiences of students who are misidentified with a learning disability may be severely restricted, while students with a learning disability who are never identified are less likely to receive the accommodations and modifications necessary to learn at their maximum potential. In addition to inconsistent definitions of and criteria for diagnosing students with learning disabilities that may result in misdiagnoses, it is feared that discrimination also plays a role. We use the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) of 2002 to describe national patterns in learning disability identification by individual- and school-level characteristics. Our results indicate that sociodemographic characteristics are predictive of being identified with a learning disability. Whereas some conventional areas of disproportionality are confirmed (males and language minorities are more likely to be identified), differences in social class entirely account for black and Hispanic disproportionality. Discrepancy between the results of bivariate and multivariate analyses reaffirms the importance of employing sophisticated methodology in explorations of disproportionality.

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