The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Communication Sciences and Disorders: M.S.


Communication Sciences and Disorders


School of Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Theresa Estrem

Second Advisor

Rebecca Crowell

Third Advisor

Kathryn Johnson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Special education, Disproportionality, English language learners


Disproportionality of services to some groups of students in special education is a national problem in the United States due to the risk that students are missed for important intervention services, or students are being pulled from the general education curriculum when they are not in need of extra services. This study consisted of a statistical analysis of the Minnesota Automated Recording Student System data set to determine the extent of disproportionality amongst English-, Spanish-, Hmong-, Somali-, and “Other”- speaking students in each of the 14 special education categorical labels over the academic years 2006-07, 2009-10, and 2012-13. Prevalence rates, percentage change, risk ratios, analysis of variance, and Tukey’s Honest Significant Difference Test were used to determine if differences existed between home language groups in each special education category. Results indicate that, overall, English Language Learning (ELL) students in Minnesota were at risk for underrepresentation compared to English Primary Language students in special education, although there were also instances of overrepresentation in some special education categories for some language groups. There were significant differences in enrollment in 9 of the 14 special education categories (Specific Learning Disability (SLD), Speech-Language Impairment (SLI), Emotional Behavioral Disorder, Other Health Impairment, Developmental Delay, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Cognitive Delay Mild, Deaf/Hard of Hearing (D/HH), and Deaf-Blind), with over- and underrepresentation related to interactions between language groups and special education categories. Because SLD, SLI, ASD, and D/HH are special education categories in which students are frequently served by speech-language pathologists (SLPs), these categories were further examined to determine which home language groups in particular were significantly different. The results of this research has implications for special education professionals, education policy makers, and SLPs when serving students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. More research is needed to determine why disproportionality exists between language groups, if special education enrollment is beneficial for ELL students, and to determine prevalence rates of language groups in other states and within Minnesota school districts.


I would like to thank Randy Kolb and Dustin Revermann from the St. Cloud State University Statistical Consulting and Research Center for the time and effort they put into this large-scale analysis. I would also like to thank the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association and the Minnesota Speech-Language and Hearing Association for allowing me to present this study to other professionals in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and St. Cloud State University for providing funding to attend those conferences. I am also very thankful for the guidance, hard work, and continuous optimism my thesis advisor, Dr. Estrem, has put into this project, and the valuable input I received from Drs. Crowell and Johnson to make this project a success.