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Is Educational Policy Alleviating or Perpetuating the Racialization of Disabilities? An Examination of “Big-P” and “Little-p” Policies


by Adai Tefera & Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides — 2016

To understand the challenges associated with the enactment of educational policies that aim to improve equity and opportunity for students of color with disabilities, this article focuses on two separately conducted ethnographic studies. The first investigates district administrators’ approaches to addressing racial disproportionality after the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the second focuses on the emic perspectives of students of color with disabilities given the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) under the auspices of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Using a critical policy studies perspective, the authors examine how policy enactment within varying local contexts is influenced by harsh material realities and a dense policy environment, which exacerbate existing inequalities for students of color with disabilities. Collectively, these factors provide ripe terrain for understanding how policies, at the macro and micro levels, struggle to produce equitable outcomes and instead contribute to the educational inequities experienced by students of color with disabilities. The article ends with recommendations for policymakers on how to address existing procedural practices and compliance measures that are inadequately addressing and contributing to the persistence of racialized outcomes for students of color with disabilities.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 14, 2016, p. 1-24
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21541, Date Accessed: 4/29/2017 1:37:04 AM

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About the Author
  • Adai Tefera
    Virginia Commonwealth University
    E-mail Author
    ADAI A. TEFERA is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Foundations of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research examines how federal and state policies are mediated by stakeholders in local contexts and experienced by culturally and linguistically diverse learners with disabilities. She uses an interdisciplinary approach in her research, which include tools from critical policy studies, sociology, and political science.
  • Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    CATHERINE KRAMARCZUK VOULGARIDES is a Senior Research Associate at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University. Her work explores the social mechanisms and processes that contribute to educational inequities. She uses theory, primarily sociological theory, to ask questions about the intersections between social context, disability, educational policy, and race in order to improve student outcomes.
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