Checklist for Addressing Disproportionality

Annotated Checklist for Addressing Racial Disproportionality in Special Education

This checklist tool contains many general education probes intended to help educators identify factors that contribute to disproportionality in special education, including those outside the realm of special education, yet within the control of schools and districts.

District PracticesDeveloped by Daniel J. Losen, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, this checklist was designed as a tool to aid states and districts that are now required to analyze special education data, and take proactive steps to reduce racial disproportionality.


A Useful Tool

Districts that have used the checklist report that it helps educators:

  • analyze racial and ethnic disparities in special education identification, restrictiveness of setting and discipline
  • identify inappropriate policies and practices that may be contributing
  • design proactive early interventions to reduce such disparities, even where specific causes are not identified.

Where research has revealed likely contributing factors, rarely are intentional actions or blatant incidents of discrimination identified as the cause of the racial disparities in special education. 

Research does suggest, however, that far more subtle and unconscious forms of race, gender and class bias may contribute in some cases. Research also indicates that the racial disparities in special education are the result of shared challenges in both special and general education. 

For this reason, the federal government encourages districts with data revealing large racial disparities to engage in a broad inquiry into the policies, procedures and practices in a school district’s regular education program as well as compliance with the IDEA.

For more information, contact:

Bonnin, Erin
CREATE Asst. Coordinator
Cole, Juliet
Conference Co-Coordinator
Collins, Rebecca
Project Coordinator
Dunlap, Ronald
CREATE Coordinator
Gokee, Andrew
Project Coordinator
Hart-Tervalon, Donna
Special Education Team, Department of Public Instruction
Hastert, Charles
Kampa, Mary
Project Coordinator
Moe, Melissa
Project Coordinator
Reed Jenkins, Courtney
Special Education Team, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Van De Hey, Jayne
Project Coordinator
Van Haren, Barbara
Project Coordinator