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Equality in Special Education: Addressing Significant Disproportionality in Ohio


Every year, each school district receives a Special Education Profile displaying the district's performance on key indicators established by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The profile also informs the district of any required activities for specific indicators. The 2020-2021 Special Education Profile, targeted for release in December, will be the first to fully reflect new federal regulations for calculating and addressing significant disproportionality. IDEA defines disproportionality as an overrepresentation of students from any racial group in identification for special education, placement in more restrictive educational settings or disciplinary actions.   According to IDEA, disproportionality becomes significant when overrepresentation exceeds a threshold defined by each state with input from stakeholders. Ohio has set the state’s threshold to 2.5 based upon stakeholder input. This means districts will be identified with significant disproportionality when students in a specific racial group are more than 2.5 times as likely as their peers to be identified for special education, placed in more restrictive settings or disciplined. Districts exceeding the threshold for three consecutive years must redirect 15 percent of federal special education funds toward services designed to address the contributing factors, including professional development, educational and behavioral evaluations, services and supports.  Ohio’s State System of Support is prepared to support districts identified with significant disproportionality, as well as those at risk. Once the Special Education Profiles are released, state support teams, regional data leads and the Office for Exceptional Children will support identified districts and schools through each step of the process. Specifically, supports include assisting districts to examine and understand their data, identify factors contributing to disproportionality, develop improvement plans to address contributing factors and target funds accordingly. Various districts and community schools in Ohio have been able to reduce disproportionality with these supports and by implementing evidence-based strategies.   For more information on calculations, requirements and supports for disproportionality, see Equity in Special Education: Disproportionality. This webpage contains:  
  • An overview of the new regulations, supports for districts and examples of districts that have lowered disproportionality over time;  

  • Frequently asked questions;  

  • technical document detailing each step of the disproportionality calculations, with examples; and  

  • Fiscal guidance for districts redirecting funds toward early intervening services to address disproportionality.  

When disproportionality data are released as part of the Special Education Profiles, the Department will email notifications to superintendents, special education contacts and community school sponsors. Special Education Profiles are accessed through the Department’s OH|ID Portal.  For questions, please contact the Office for Exceptional Children

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