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Special Education

Research on the racial disparities in policies and practices related to special education.


Recent Special Education Research


Research Item Can Our Schools Capture the Educational Gains of Diversity? North Carolina School Segregation, Alternatives and Possible Gains
May 17, 2024 marks the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled segregated schools were “inherently unequal.” At the time, North Carolina was one of 17 states that enforced de jure segregation, that is, segregation by law. The state of North Carolina and the school districts within the state have played prominent roles in our nation’s history of school desegregation. North Carolina’s public school enrollment is increasingly multiracial, and the expansion of school choice means that a growing share of students attends charters and private schools, both of which tend to be more segregated than traditional public schools. On the cusp of this important anniversary, the authors assess where North Carolina schools are now in terms of school desegregation, as segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities and outcomes, while desegregated schools are associated with numerous short-term, long-term, academic, and nonacademic outcomes for individuals and society.
Research Item Segregated Choices: Magnet and Charter Schools
This analysis describes levels of diversity in a comparable subset of schools to enable policy-relevant comparisons between charter and magnet schools. We examine schools in districts that had at least five charter schools and five magnet schools in any year since 2000. This selection includes most of the 100 largest school districts since both types of schools developed mostly in large urban districts. This sample is especially relevant to choice policies because it allows comparisons in the same districts where both types of school choice have been tried at a significant level. This study describes the level of segregation in recent decades in large districts which had a significant presence of schools of both types.
Research Item A Capitol Hill Research and Policy Briefing: A Civil Rights Agenda for the Next Quarter Century
On March 13, 2024, the Civil Rights Project will bring together researchers, policymakers, civil rights and education advocates as well as other stakeholders for a research and policy briefing, "A Civil Rights Agenda for the Next Quarter Century."
Research Item Disabling Inequity: The Urgent Need for Race-Conscious Resource Remedies
Among the most critical pre-pandemic inequities that have not received sufficient attention is the fact that many districts are not meeting their legal and moral obligation to educate students with disabilities, which must include providing needed mental health services, behavioral supports and educationally sound interventions by well qualified staff. This report reveals serious pre-existing conditions of inadequate support that are likely to be exacerbated by the current pandemic, summarizes the pandemic’s disparate impact, which is resulting in greater losses of instructional time amidst increasing experiences of trauma, and argues for additional post-pandemic steps to ensure that all students with disabilities needing supports and services must receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to have those needs met, and that they are not excluded because of behaviors caused by their disability.
Research Item Settle for Segregation or Strive for Diversity? A Defining Moment for Maryland’s Public Schools
This report is the second in a series of 12 reports analyzing school segregation in the Eastern states. It investigates trends in school segregation in Maryland over the last two decades by examining concentration, exposure and evenness measures by both race and class. After exploring the overall enrollment patterns and segregation trends at the state level, this report turns to the Baltimore metropolitan area to analyze similar measures of segregation.
Research Item The School-to-Prison Pipeline
In this comprehensive study of the relationship between American law and the school-to-prison pipeline, co-authors Catherine Y. Kim, Daniel J. Losen, and Damon T. Hewitt analyze the current state of the law for each entry point on the pipeline and propose legal theories and remedies to challenge them. Using specific state-based examples and case studies, the authors assert that law can be an effective weapon in the struggle to reduce the number of children caught in the pipeline, address the devastating consequences of the pipeline on families and communities, and ensure that our public schools and juvenile justice system further the goals for which they were created: to provide meaningful, safe opportunities for all the nation’s children.
Research Item Racial Inequity in Special Education
An illuminating account of a widespread problem that has received little attention until now, Racial Inequity in Special Education sets the stage for a more fruitful discussion about special education and racial justice-a discussion that aims to advance racial equity in both special and general education.
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