Date Published: Dec 31, 2003
Journal of Disability Policy Studies
D'Angelo, A., Lutz, J. G., & Zirkel, P. A.
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The authors of this study examined published hearing officer decisions under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to determine whether they were representative of the frequency and outcomes for the larger group consisting of published decisions and the much greater number of unpublished decisions. An empirical analysis of the fully adjudicated hearing officer cases in six randomly selected states revealed that the published sample was variably and, in general, questionably representative of the overall group of such decisions in terms of frequency and outcomes across time. More specifically, in terms of frequency, the representativeness of the published decisions, although moderate for the nation, varied widely from one state to another and was markedly limited for most individual states on a year-by-year basis. In terms of outcomes, the representativeness of the published sample also varied from state to state and was particularly suspect on a year-by-year basis within most states. On a collapsed-years basis, there was a statistically significant difference between the study sample's out-come distributions and those in three of the six states, and a questionable congruence with a fourth state. The likely reasons for the limited representativeness include incomplete submission by some state education agencies, inconsistent selection by the publisher, and variance in the categorization of the year and decision outcome. Although the authors recommend undertaking further research, they caution against the generalizability of published hearing officer decisions, particularly in examining longitudinal trends within individual states. (Abstract from author)