Volume 18, Issue 1 (1989)
The Confirmation Bias in Special Education Eligibility Decisions
Carolyn O'Reilly, Gregory B. Northcraft, Darrell Sabers
ABSTRACT: Research in cognitive social psychology suggests that the high placement-to-referral ratio of special education eligibility decisions may result from a“confirmation bias” set in motion by a teacher’s referral. The study described in this article examined the influence of teacher reason for referral on school psychologists’ classification eligibility judgments. Forty practicing school psychologists evaluated a simulated report of a child referred either for “Learning Disabilities” or “Gifted” placement consideration. It was found that weighting and recall of assessment data in the report and classification of the described child all were significantly biased by reason for referral. Implications of these findings for improving the quality of special education eligibility decisions are discussed.
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