Term of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Brenda Louise Hammett Marina

Committee Member 1

Karelle Aiken

Committee Member 2

Simone Charles


This research study examined the problems of disproportionality of African American males in special education in middle schools in Richmond County, Georgia. Disproportionality occurs when the risk for being identified in a particular disability category is not proportional to the population being considered. The issue of disproportionality of African American males and other minority students in special education has been studied and debated well over thirty years and today continues to be a problem for the education community. The purpose of this study was to understand the role teacher expectations play in disproportionality of African American males in special education. Referral data from 2007 Richmond County School System was used to identify the middle schools with the most referrals of African American males to special education. Qualitative research methods were used consisting of school statistical information and interviews with general education and special education teachers who are employed by the school district and received their teaching certification through the traditional or alternative route. The data collected were coded, analyzed and discussed with program participants. The Office of Special Education and Georgia Department of Education uses the risk ratio as the preferred method of calculating disproportionality. Risk ratio answers the question, "What is a specific racial/ethnic group's risk of receiving special education and related services for a particular disability as compared to the risk for all other students?" The data revealed that African American male students in special education in this school district are disproportionately represented in the disability category of Mild Intellectual Disabilities (MIID). Findings from this study are organized into four categories: Category 1: African American males' representation in special education, Category 2: Disproportionality at the middle school level, Category 3: Teacher expectation and its role in influencing/shaping disproportionality, and Category 4: Teacher background, training, experience, teacher certification and referral to special education. It is concluded from this study that low or no teacher expectation, student demographics, behavioral issues, teacher training and experience contribute to the disproportionality of African American males in special education in this school district.

Research Data and Supplementary Material