Exploring How State Education Policies in the Use of School Punishment and Special Education Affect Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities: A Multilevel and Longitudinal Study

Principal Investigator: David Ramey | Department of Sociology and Criminology | The Pennsylvania State University


Over the past quarter-century, the number of American schoolchildren receiving suspensions or expulsions more than doubled. At the same time, the use of behavioral individual education plans (IEPs) increased at a similarly fast pace. Furthermore, rates of punishment and special education differ across White children non-White children. As scholars and policymakers grasp to understand these trends, the role of policy remains unclear. Although state policies set forth uniform standards for districts and schools, there is reason to believe that they can either ameliorate or exacerbate social inequalities in school punishment and special education. With funding from the Spencer Foundation Small Grant, Dr. Ramey seeks to construct a longitudinal dataset of state-level policies pertaining to school accountability, school discipline, and disability. Combining this dataset with several waves of data on school punishment and special education, this project explores two important questions First (1), how do state-level accountability, discipline, and disability policies influence the use of school punishment and special education in grades K-12? Second (2), do state education policies exacerbate or ameliorate racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the use of punishment and/or special education? ,

Grant Type:

Small Grant

Grant Amount:




Research Area:

Education and Social Opportunity

Topic / Subject:

Special Education, Other, Policy

Methods / Approach:

Econometric analyses, Historical inquiry/archival research, Multi-level models (e.g., HLM)

Disciplinary Perspective:

Public Policy, Sociology, Other