An Examination of Poverty, Racial and Ethnic Minority Affiliation, English Learner Status, and Special Education in Central Valley School Districts of California

The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA) was reauthorized to include accountability targets to address disproportionality in special education categories. While socioeconomic disadvantaged students were not identified as a target subgroup by IDEA, the goal of closing the achievement gap for all students has been at the forefront in education. However, historically at-risk populations, including students in poverty, minorities, English Learners, and students receiving special education services, continue to be left behind. Rooted in social justice through education, an exploratory study examining possible links poverty, minorities, and English Learners have in Specific Learning Disability placement was conducted. The population included 58 Central Valley school districts of California. A series of Bivariate correlations followed up by partial correlations found that districts with high poverty rates also had high SLD placement rates. Primary correlational results suggested students in poverty are placed in special education under the SLD category at disproportional rates. Follow-up partial correlations provided evidence that student SLD placement is complex, in that multiple variables contribute to SLD placement, not one sole factor.