Making Visible the Invisible: Multistudy Investigation of Disproportionate Special Education Identification of U.S. Asian American and Pacific Islander Students

Amanda L. Sullivan, Tara Kulkarni, Vichet Chhuon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although disproportionality has been a focus of special education research for more than 50 years, relatively few researchers have addressed potential inequitable or inappropriate treatment of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in the United States, particularly in quantitative research. This multistudy investigation explored patterns and predictors of AAPI representation in special education using (a) data from states’ federal child count reports and (b) a subsample of 4,290 participants from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011). Descriptive analysis of states’ child count data indicated that, compared to White students, Asian and Pacific Islander students’ relative risk of identification differed for most disabilities, with Pacific Islanders generally demonstrating higher relative risk. Multivariate analysis of the ECLS-K:2011 subsample indicated that ethnic group differences in risk of special education identification were not robust to sociodemographic and performance controls. We discuss potential contributors to these patterns and implications for research.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalExceptional Children
StatePublished - Mar 4 2020


  • asian american
  • disproportionality
  • special education


  • Education

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