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Placement of English Language Learners in Special Education
Transcript of Placement of English Language Learners in Special Education
"A variety of policies, procedures, and practices exist at the national, state, district, school, or classroom levels" (NEA, 2007) that can lead to the incorrect placement of ELL students. It is found that this "misplacement" of students has led to a couple of critical issues which can have a negative affect on ELL students. The critical issues are:
Over-representation of ELL students in special education
Under-representation of ELL students in gifted programs
Problems with the assessment process for placement of ELL students
Advocating for better representation in both special education and gifted programs for English language involves creating a plan with steps to ensure ELL students are fairly represented in both programs, correctly placed, as well as, assessed fairly.
Involvement of Key Decision Makers
The key decision makers, "(educators, administrators, school board members, community decision makers, and NEA’s local association leaders) all have a
in whether children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are appropriately educated" (NEA, 2007). ELL parents and students also have a
as well. Therefore, all must be involved in the decision making of how students are educated but also in how these students are assessed, placed, and identified for special education services or gifted programs.
Steps for fair
representation, assessment, & identification
over-representation of ELL students in special education
Under-representation of ELL students in gifted programs
Assessment process problems
The aims and goals
Steps to ensure all students are represented fairly
"To ensure that all children learn and succeed, educators need to know how they can help to decrease inappropriate special education identification and improve opportunities for
[ELL] children to enhance their gifts and talents" (NEA, 2007).
Steps to ensure all students are assessed fairly
Ways that key decision-makers must be involved
Who are the key
Communication between all key decisions makers
(parents with assessment team & administration
with local policy making officials) must be consistent and
Involved in the creation and constant evaluation of a system of recognition and response
Constant examination of assessments used on the ELL students
Constantly evaluating of data to ensure a fair representation of ELL students in programs
Examination of policies, funding & resources concerning the ELL population
Examination of services available in the school and community
Examination of the data, on both individual ELL
students and ELL students as a group, in reference
to performance, representation & progress
Providing proper training and/or
Creating a System of Recognition & Response
To include the following:
Specific detail for
(1) intervention hierarchy
(4) progress monitoring;
The use of research-based curriculum, instruction, and focused interventions
Collaborative problem- solving process for decision-making
Creating the tools and resources related to implementing each component"
Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
March 30, 2015
"With the exception of Asian/Pacific Islanders, [ELL] students, particularly those from low income backgrounds, are significantly under-represented in programs for the gifted and/or talented" (NEA, 2007).
The assessments"are intended for students who speak
a single language, usually English, and who are proficient
in it" (NEA, 2007). Thus they do not accurately test ELL students.
The assessments "fail to identify the level of ability of the student in each language" (Zamora, 2007).
"Inadequate examiner preparation in the assessment" (NEA, 2007).
"Interpreters adversely affect validity and reliability"
(Artiles & Ortiz, 2002)
"Districts and schools employ policies that strain needed supports or restrict options for students"(NEA, 2007).
Flawed pre-assessment (Artiles & Ortiz, 2002)
This is due to the following issues:
: "Intelligence and academic achievement test scores are most often used to recognize and identify, as well as develop and evaluate, gifted/talented students’ potential." They also"assume a certain kind of language socialization" (Iowa Dept of Ed., 2008). Thus testing for gifted student identification is better suited for student's whose first language is English rather than ELL students.
: Most referrals for testing to a gifted program are done via the classroom teacher. Thus a teacher's "lack of training may hinder them in identifying" an ELL students who are gifted and talented. (Iowa Dept. of Ed., 2008).
: ELL students who enter the schools face barriers that mask (or super cede) their abilities. Such barriers are:
"An environment that is dissimilar to any of their experiences
A disconnection between home and life outside the home
A curriculum that seems irrelevant to their lives
Instruction that is often irrelevant to their needs
A sense of alienation
An assumption that because they are limited in English proficiency, they are less able" (Hoagies Gifted, 2003).
Due to cultural background the parents may not be as actively involved or may not feel comfortable to advocate on their child's behalf in recommending their child for a gifted program.
Have various assessments available
Use of "nonverbal test, which uses picture patterns to assess
intelligence" for identifying if placement in gifted programs is
appropriate (Zher, 2009).
Use of "assessments in L1 and in English, using ESL approaches"
for identifying if placement in special education is appropriate
(Artiles & Ortiz, 2002).
"Involve parents and family in referral and assessment processes "
(Artiles & Ortiz, 2002).
Include child's history (academic, social, medical, and socio-cultural) in the evaluation process. (Artiles & Ortiz, 2002).
Ensure assessments are appropriate and culturally responsive assessments
Ensure that the individual examiners working with ELL students have:
"received in-depth pre-service preparation" (NEA, 2007).
received "in service professional development related to
cultural issues, second language acquisition, and bilingual
assessment techniques" (NEA, 2007).
"The lack of effective instruction in the general education programs" (Shepard, Linn, & Brown, 2007).
"The lack of effective pre-referral interventions" (Shepard, Linn, & Brown, 2007).
The use of "inappropriate and/or inequitable assessment procedures " (Shepard, Linn, & Brown, 2007).
Teacher's difficulty in "distinguishing between second language acquisition and disability as the source of a student’s academic deficiencies" due to the similarity of the characteristics (Zamora, 2007).
Lack of proper teacher training (Iowa Dept. of Ed., 2008).
Why the misclassification?
It is estimated that "nearly three-fourths of ELLs enrolled in special education programs are improperly placed." This incorrect classification "impedes the academic development " of the ELL student and denies them "full access to the standard academic curriculum" (Zamora, 2007).
Some steps to ensure they represented fairly are:
Ensure assessments are appropriate and culturally responsive assessments (NEA, 2007).
Get parents involved by teaching "them how to advocate for their children’s right to an equitable and appropriate education" (Iowa of Dept. of Ed., 2008)
"Staff should regularly explore whether the district is meeting the goal of identifying a truly representative percentage of English Language Learners" (Iowa of Dept. of Ed., 2008).
"Utilizing culturally appropriate curriculum" (NEA, 2007).
"Strengthening parent/family involvement and community partnerships" (NEA, 2007).
"Increasing academic language proficiency" in students (NEA, 2007
"Ensuring quality early childhood opportunities" (NEA, 2007).
"Providing early intervening services (EIS)" (NEA, 2007).
"Employing a response-to-intervention (RtI) process" (NEA, 2007).
"Implementing school wide positive behavioral support (PBS) programs" (NEA, 2007).
Provide professional development opportunities for staff and other key decision makers (Iowa of Dept. of Ed., 2008).
Provide multiple assessment formats and multiple testing opportunities to get a better picture of students struggles and/or gifts. (Iowa Dept. of Ed., 2008).
Constantly review data of programs to ensure fair representation.
School board members
To create steps to ensure there is a fair representation of ELL students.
To create steps to ensure students are assessed fairly - including a process to examine assessments for validity, reliability and cultural bias.
To create a system of response and recognition to identify students who need to be assessed for special needs or gifted programs
To involve all key decision makers in constant communication, collaboration and evaluation of the process, policies and system in place
To provide professional development and/or training to
all involved (key decision makers, assessors, interpreters, etc.)
(Coleman, Buysse, & Neitzel, 2006).
Strategies for collaboration with key decision makers/ stakeholders, students & parents
Some strategies to create a collaboration of stakeholders in the student's team of decision makers are:
Making a concerted effort to make the parent and student comfortable. This would include:
scheduling at a time which is convenient for the parent
providing child care if necessary
providing an interpreter
providing documentation in native (first) language
being conscious of the cultural factors of the family and student
providing an explanation of the rights of the parents and the students
making sure the parents and students are aware of the importance of their opinion and contribution
Creation of a collaborative problem-solving process for decision-making which is used to make decisions about practice and evaluation of the individual child (Coleman, Buysse, & Neitzel, 2006)
Consistent meetings to discuss the student
Constant documentation to better show strengths and weaknesses
Keeping the team with the same consistent members to provide additional comfort and continuity
Collaboration between stakeholders (school system, parents and students) in the student's team is also essential to ensure a particular student is properly
placed and receiving the a proper education. Some strategies to create this collaboration are:
Collaboration between decision makers (the school system and with policy makers) is essential for creating a system to properly identify and assess ELL students. Some strategies to encourage this collaboration are:
Some strategies to encourage collaboration of decision makers (school and policy makers) are:
The creation of an "action team" consisting of key decision makers to constantly discuss all factors involved
The creation of an "action plan" which is consistently assessed to make sure goals are being met or if goals need to be changed
Scheduling specific and regular meetings between key decision makers to communicate and discuss:
(1) the system in place
(2) the policies affecting the decision making process
(3) data to ensure that all is fair, valid, reliable and not culturally biased
(4) proper training of staff involved in the process
Their role is to:
The role of the stakeholders/decision makers are to ensure:
"Districts and schools employ policies" that provides both support and options for ELL students (NEA, 2007).
There is a fair representation, identification, placement and assessment for ELL students
Proper training for all involved in the identification and assessment of students
Assessments are valid, reliable and not culturally biased
There is a collaboration among all stakeholders/decisions makers to constantly review policies and practices
The critical issues (previously discussed) "hinders the academic progress of many of the nation’s 5.5 million ELLs in K-12 public schools." Thus many "ELLs with learning disabilities are not receiving the academic interventions necessary to succeed" while others are "denied appropriate academic services and access to a rigorous standard curriculum" (Zamora, 2007). Therefore steps (as listed in the aims and goals of the action plan) need to be taken to ensure fair assessment, representation and identification (which is done in the form of a system of recognition and response).
Artiles, A., & Ortiz, A. (2002). English language learners and special eduction. Retrieved from
Coleman, M., Buysse, V., & Neitzel, J. (2006). Recognition and response: An early intervening system
for young children at-risk for learning disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/11394/
Hoagies gifted. (2003). GT-English as a second language. Retrieved from
Iowa Department of Education. (2008). Identifying gifted and talented English language learners.
Retrieved from http://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/IdentifyGiftedTalentedELL.pdf
National Education Association. (2007). Truth in labeling: Disproportionality in special education.
Retrieved from http://www.nccrest.org/Exemplars/Disporportionality_Truth_In_Labeling.pdf
Shepard, T., Linn, D., & Brown, R. (2007). The disproportionate representation of English language
learners for special education services along the border. Retrieved from http://www.tamiu.edu/coas/jseb/11files/ELL.pdf
Zamora, P. (2007). Minorities in special education. Retrieved from
Zehr, M. (2009). Identifying gifted ELLs. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning-