Date of Award

5-16-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Stephen Truscott - Chair

Abstract

The disproportionality of minority students in special education has received much attention throughout the years. Prereferral Intervention Teams (PITs) have been frequently recommended as a means of diminishing disproportionality. One purpose of this study was to examine the impact of PITs on the special education process. This was achieved through the calculation of risk ratios by ethnic/racial group at key phases of the special education process, (a) including referral to PITs, (b) referral for initial evaluations, (c) referral for special education, and (d) special education placement phases. Results indicated that African American students were significantly more likely to be represented at each phase. This study also aimed to determine if there was a difference in PIT implementation based on ethnicity and whether or not students proceeded through the special education process. There were significant correlations (p < .05) found between the “Behavioral Definition” and “Hypothesized Reason for Problem” components of the problem-solving process and phases of the special education process. Significant correlations (p < .05) were also observed between ethnicity, initial evaluations, and special education referrals and also between initial evaluations, special education referrals, and special education placements (p < .01). Using the Likert Scale and Scoring Rubric for Problem-solving Components to assess PIT implementation on 251 PIT records, five component scores of the scale served as dependent variables, while independent variables included ethnicity (Black/White), being referred for an initial evaluation (yes/no), and being referred for special education (yes/no). The results of 2 x 2 ANOVAs showed statistically significant differences (p < .10) between PIT records for students who were and were not referred for initial evaluations and students who were and were not referred for special education on only one component of PIT implementation. This indicates that overall PIT implementation was similar between students of different ethnicities, as well as between students who progressed through the special education process and those that did not. The current findings emphasized the importance of ensuring quality implementation of PITs and demonstrated their limited impact on disproportionality and student outcomes, such as referrals to special education, when implemented with poor integrity.

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