Disability Outcomes in a Public Charter School System: The Search for Consistency and Equity



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Background: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to find and identify students with disabilities. Special education evaluations, Full and Individual Evaluations (FIE), are completed to identify and confirm eligibility for disability conditions. In the state of Texas, these FIEs are commonly completed by Educational Diagnosticians and Licensed Specialists in School Psychology (LSSPs). The guidelines for the identification of disabilities are vague at both the federal and state level, leaving room for interpretation by the individual evaluator. This may lead to the inconsistent identification of disabilities. The fidelity of evaluations can impact the services provided to students with disabilities and disproportionality of students who receive special education services. Purpose: The goals of this study were to analyze data from a large charter school system in the state of Texas to (a) describe the students in special education and their primary disability category, race, and gender, (b) describe the students in special education and their primary disability category, race, and gender within each of the individual districts within the large charter school system in Texas, (c) compare the differences of students with disabilities within the individual districts within the large charter school system in Texas. Methods: The sample for this study included students aged 6 through 21 who attended a charter school system in Texas on the fall PEIMS Snapshot date for the 2019–2020 school year. Deidentified student data was collected from the charter school system’s data management system and district demographic information was collected from the 2019-2020 Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR). The design of this quantitative study was descriptive and causal comparative. Descriptive data and graphic representations of data were provided for visual analysis. Results: The overall charter system’s disability rates are inconsistent with national and state ratios. Both gender and racial disproportionalities existed within the charter school system as a whole. When investigated individually, the districts had inconsistencies in the identification of disabilities. Gender and racial disproportionality existed within each district. Although some primary disability conditions were more conducive to gender equality, all had more males identified than females. Generally, Hispanic students are overidentified with specific learning disability, Black students are overidentified with intellectual disability, and white students are overidentified with emotional disturbance. Conclusion: The charter school system followed some trends consistent with literature and had trends in direct opposition of most literature. Overall, there were inconsistencies in the proportions of students identified with disabilities in each district in both race and gender. The data gathered and these areas of inconsistency are the first areas to target moving forward.



Special education, Disability Identification, Full and Individual Evaluation, Disproportionality, Fidelity in Assessment, Peer Review