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Research on the Paradoxes and Inequities in Special Education and the Law

Funded by: The William T. Grant Foundation

Research Team: Adai Tefera (PI), Alfredo Artiles (Co-PI), Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides (Co-PI), Pedro Noguera (Co-PI), Alexandra Aylward, and Sarah Alvarado

This interdisciplinary study examined the contextual factors that contribute to the educational paradox that exists between persistent racial disparities in educational outcomes, a policy framework that aims to provide equal opportunity and access to high quality intervention services, and persistent racial disproportionality in special education. Utilizing mixed methods, this study focused on how historical, social, and economic factors within school districts may affect the implementation and ultimate success of policy in reducing racialized outcomes in education. Specifically, the study (1) identified the impact of social contextual variables (e.g. racial demographics, risk ratios, district size, staffing characteristics, racial segregation) on the mediation of disproportionality across the two districts; and (2) explored district policy makers', educators', and leaders' interpretations, decisions, and assumptions as they attempt to address disproportionality. This study generates new knowledge by offering an interdisciplinary lens that accounts for the historic dynamic of the interlocking of race with ability differences.


Aylward, A., Kramarczuk Voulgarides, C., Artiles, A. J., Tefera, A. A., & *Diaz, S. (forthcoming). Social context: Suburban districts and citations for disproportionality in special education. Exceptional Children.

Kramarczuk Voulgarides, C., Aylward, A., Tefera, A. A., Artiles, A. J., & *Diaz, S. (forthcoming) The boundaries of compliance and racial inequities: Examining the dualism of disability at the intersection of local context, material resources, and racial ideologies.

Tefera, A. A., Artiles, A. J., Kramarczuk Voulgarides, C., Aylward, A., & *Diaz, S. (forthcoming). Understanding the complexities of racial disparities in special education: The aftermath of equity remedies in a school district with multiple citations.

Conference Presentations:

Tefera, A. A., Kramarczuk Voulgarides, C., Artiles, A. J., Aylward, A., & Diaz, S. (2019, April). Examining the twists, turns, and textures of education policy: How and why context matters in the racialization of disabilities. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Toronto, CA.

Kramarczuk Voulgarides, C., Aylward, A., Tefera, A. A., & Artiles, A. J. (2019, August). Race, disability, and policy: Examining the boundaries of legal compliance when pursuing equity in education. American Sociological Association, New York, NY.

Kramarczuk Voulgarides, C., Tefera, A. A., Aylward, A., & Artiles, A. J. (2019, February). The boundaries of legal compliance and the dualism of disability: Race, policy, and inequities in special education. Paper presented at the Sociology of Education Association, Monterey, CA.