How Can You Help Stakeholders Better Understand and Use Significant Disproportionality Data? Part 1

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Imagine 15 percent of your district’s special education budget is withheld suddenly because of a state finding of “significant disproportionality.” Staff and stakeholders do not fully understand why—and now you must explain in detail to your district leadership what happened and what the district must do to fix the issue.

For districts identified with significant disproportionality, this is a serious and familiar reality.

If you’ve worked with significant disproportionality data, you know how vital it is to communicate the data well to special education leadership and stakeholders. Not only are the calculations around significant disproportionality complicated, but special education leaders also must be able to interpret the data to determine root causes of the disproportionality.   A proper interpretation ensures educators follow policies and procedures correctly and allows districts to select and implement strategies the best chance to improve their outcomes.

One of the key goals for sharing any education data is to build understanding. This goal is even more critical for significant disproportionality data due to its complicated and high-stakes nature. To build understanding, you first must take several steps to prepare the data. These steps include:

  • Reviewing multiple sources of data for relevancy
  • Ensuring the data being used is of high quality
  • Carefully considering what data would best help provide the necessary context for your stakeholders
  • Having data available in advance for stakeholders to review

Once you’ve taken these appropriate steps to prepare your data, your next step is to consider the stakeholder audiences for your data. Stakeholders often want to help provide solutions for significant disproportionality, but some stakeholders may find it difficult to assign meaning to the significant disproportionality numbers.  For example, have you attended meetings where you simply receive a table of risk ratios such as the following table?

Risk Ratios by Disability, Year, and Race Category

Screenshot of table displaying Risk Ratios by Disability, Year, and Race Category

While there are times having this raw data may be helpful, many audiences likely need additional context or understanding to comprehend the true nature of the disproportionality.  In the next blog post in this series, we will explore different ways that data visualization can help your audience achieve understanding of your state’s significant disproportionality data.

- Fred Edora


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How Can You Help Stakeholders Better Understand and Use Significant Disproportionality Data? Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog post, we mentioned how one of the key goals for sharing education data is to build understanding, and we shared some raw numbers of a sample district’s significant disproportionality data.  In Part 2, we will explore how data visualization can be a powerful tool that you can use to better engage your stakeholders with this type of data.   Common forms of data visualization are graphs, charts, tables, and similar types of drawings.  However, because of the nature of significant disproportionality data, stakeholders can find it difficult to interpret the data even in a data visualization, so here are some effective strategies to enhance understanding.