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Placement of English Language Learners in Special Education

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Teresa M.

on 11 January 2015

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Transcript of Placement of English Language Learners in Special Education

Placement of English Language Learners
in Special Education and Gifted Programs

Teresa A. Myers

SEI-503/University of Phoenix

January 26, 2015

Dr. Karolina Kopczynski
Critical Issues Concerning the Over-representation of ELL Students in Special Education and the Under-representation of ELL Students in Gifted Programs.
1. Standardized Assessments

2. Cultural Context

3. Cultural Bias

4. Language Context
Steps to Ensure All Students are Represented and Assessed Fairly
Each school district must implement programs that fit the needs of its gifted and
Talented English-language learners. The following six steps presented by Cohen, (1990)
can help ensure all students are represented and assessed fairly.

Broaden the concept of giftedness
- A broader definition of giftedness may be the first essential step toward identifying and educating gifted and talented minority language students.

• Expand research on giftedness and minority language students
- Many researchers in the past did not consider minority language students as gifted, based on the traditional measure of giftedness as a high IQ score. Further research is needed on all the able learners in our schools, including minority language students.

Employ more well-rounded assessment techniques
. Using multiple instruments can result in a more precise picture because it provides information about students from different perspectives.

Increase staff awareness of their potential
for developing a gifted and talented program. Administrators need to be aware of the unique talents within their own staff as they identify local personnel who may be able to contribute their time, effort, and expertise to gifted and talented programs. For example, a teacher who has played piano for 10 years might be interested in teaching a course in music appreciation.

• Explore various program models
. The type of program implemented may depend on several issues such as the instructional model, the talents of the students, the number of gifted students identified, the talents of the professional staff, the availability of qualified personnel, the level of commitment of the school and school system, and budget constraints.

Increase awareness of different types of giftedness. Giftedness
may manifest differently in diverse populations. Many students are gifted or talented. Teachers face the challenge of identifying, developing, and supporting their students' talents.

Ways That Key Decision-makers Must Be Involved

The Aims and Goals of the Action Plan
• Provide students with appropriate placement in grade level instruction whether special
education or gifted and talented programs.

• Do away with the one-size-fits-all approach to learning and develop programs that meet the
learning goals and needs of the students in your school district

• Implement diverse methods of providing instruction to students; virtual school, online, or regular school

• Provide students the opportunity and support necessary to meet high expectations

• Include all members of the team in all instructional decisions

• Develop and maintain communication with parents and students about changes and program

• Adjust program processes as needed to meet students’ instructional needs.

Most often ELL students are under-represented in gifted programs because of their lack of proficiency in the English language. Since all schooling uses the dominant English language to teach, ELL students who struggle in the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening are often considered deficient; therefore, not eligible for the gifted/talented program. The critical issues concerning over-representation and under-representation of ELL students in special education and gifted/talented programs are briefly discussed. Next, assessment processes for placement of ELL students in special education and gifted/talented programs are also discussed. Next, an action plan is presented discussing the steps to ensure fair assessment and representation and how decision-makers can become involved. Finally, the aim and goals of the action plan is presented as well as strategies for collaboration between students, parents, and stakeholders.
Placement of English Language Learners in Special Education and Gifted Programs
“Requesting a referral for a special education evaluation is often the first thing teachers do” (nea.org, 2007, p. 2). Mislabeling ELL students often cause long-lasting harm by limiting access to a rigorous curriculum and lowered expectations that lead to false impressions of the student’s intelligence and academic potential. One of the main reasons students can be mislabeled is the use of standardized tests scores to recognize and evaluate students’ academic potential. These tests often are not normed using students from similar race, culture, or language populations as the test takers. Nor do these tests account for the language barriers encountered by students for whom English in the not their first language. The score results of standardized tests are often used to place many ELL students in special education programs instead of gifted programs. “Heavy reliance on standardized tests results in diverse groups of students being unequally represented, with greater concentrations in special education classes and fewer concentrations in gifted/talented classrooms” (IDOE.COM, 2008, p. 15).
Standardized Assessment
Cultural Context
Cultural context is another factor that causes over-representation in special education and under-representation in gifted programs. Native American cultures value interdependence over independence, which is encouraged in American schools. In school, students generally sit in rows and face the teacher, whereas in Native American culture, everyone would be seated in a circle and decisions would be made collectively. Behaviors considered disrespectful in one culture such as questioning authority or looking adults in the eyes may be seen as normal in another culture. Teachers must be aware of how students of diverse cultures are trained to behave with peers and adult others. The student who seems unable or unwilling to participate in class may be observing cultural traditions, not a lack of academic potential. “Behaviors that a teacher might devalue as signs of conformity such as not correcting an adult who has given inaccurate information n may be highly valued by the student’s parents as serving the collective good of the family” (p. 15).
Cultural bias affects ELL students when teachers and administrators stereotype a group as unintelligent because of dialect. Bias affects whether the teachers and administrators view the student as not smart or that the culture does not value education; therefore, the student is placed in special education classes, and not tested for or enrolled in gifted/talented programs. Hispanic, Native American, and African American students are disproportionately underrepresented in gifted/talented programs because intelligence, achievement, and ability test scores are often used as criteria for admission. This same bias leads to over representation in special education programs due to decades of mislabeling and misidentification that has led to stigmatizing English-language learners. Educators must recognize and realize that diverse cultures can express giftedness in many ways and often it is cultural and linguistic factors that impact the expression. “Steps to address these biases include conscious and intentionally directed K-12 multicultural professional development, the choice of culturally appropriate assessments, and the analysis and use of all data” (p. 16).
Cultural Bias
Language context is a critical issue for ELL students with limited English or no English proficiency. Many have dual language capability but only speak the native language at home and the second language conversationally in public. English proficiency is not enough to help them in the academic setting where content language may present a barrier to understanding how to answer questions, participate actively in lessons and test.
Language Context
The Assessment Process for Placement of ELL Students into Special Education
Problems with Overrepresentation

Inadequate examiner preparation in the assessment of ELL students
Inappropriate assessment practices
Failure to comply with federal, state and local guidelines pertaining to special education eligibility (nea.org, 2007).
Lack of development of English language proficiency

"ELL students placed in special education classes are provided interventions that aid cognitive, linguistic, and processing disabilities, not proficiency in the second language, which is what is needed to succeed academically" ( para.

Proper Assessments for Appropriate Placement
Colorin Colorado (2007) presents four factors that educators can use to properly assess ELL students for placement into special education programs.

• Home language preferences
• Educational background
• English proficiency level
• Academic content knowledge in English

The Assessment Process for Placement of ELL Students into Gifted Programs
The Iowa Department of Education, (2008, p. 19) recommends assessing all students for giftedness upon entering their schools if programs are available at that student’s grade level. It also recommends the following multi-selection criteria useful for assessing students for placement in gifted/talented programs:

• Home Language surveys or assessments
• English language proficiency tests
• Acculturation scales
• Input from the student’s cultural group
• Prior academic performance in the child’s home school
• Parent interviews
• Assessment data
• Student observations
• Dynamic-performance-based indicators
• Portfolio assessments
• Teacher and /or parent nominations
• Behavioral rating scales

Methods such as self-reports, case histories, interviews, and autobiographies can be used to identify gifted ELL students. “Interviews are often scheduled as part of the identification or selection process to determine a candidate's general fitness for a program and provide information for instructional planning” (Cohen, 1990, para 14).

Principals and teachers must work with parents, students, and ESL teachers to discuss issues and concerns about special education and gifted and talented programs.

Enlist the support of school administrators, board of education members, and elected officials for programs and processes.

School administrators, teachers, parents, students, and ESL specialists develop a team approach with regular meetings to discuss concerns and program processes.

Ensure ESL and general education teachers receive proper career development and certification to teach special education and gifted/talented students

Conduct regular assessments to ensure processes continue to work.

Maintain open and effective communication with members of the team

Make sure parents and students are aware of any gifted and talented programs and how students are eligible for placement.

Administrators need to be willing and ready to meet a variety of students needs without bias and lowered expectations.

Strategies for Collaboration Between all Stakeholders, Including Students and Parents
• Include ESL specialist and ESL teachers in the referral process

• Identify methods to collect and distribute program information for support agencies

• Develop school, community and family support teams for students and parents

• Keep and maintain a database of contact information for stakeholders

• Schedule and keep regular meetings to discuss issues and concerns
As discussed earlier, the assessment procedures used to identify giftedness in ELL students were developed using middle class native English speakers. “Such procedures have led to an underrepresentation of minority language students in gifted and talented programs, which in turn prevents our schools from developing the strengths and abilities of this special population” (Cohen, 1990, para 2). Scores from the same assessment procedures are then used to place ELL students into special education programs when the students score too low. Decision makers must take a proactive approach to ensure students from diverse cultures are assessed and represented fairly in all programs.
Cohen, L. M. (1990). Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Talented Minority Language Students. In Gifted Education Digests. ERIC EC Digest #E480. Retrieved January 4, 2015 from http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/siegle/tag/Digests/e480.html

Colorin Colorado (2007). Identifying language proficiency for program placement. Retrieved January 3, 2015 from http://www.colorincolorado.org/educators/assessment/identification/

Hamayan, E. V, Marler, B., Sanchez-Lopez, C., and Damico, J. S. (2007). Some myths regarding ELLs and special education. Retrieved January 3, 2015 from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/40714/

Iowa Department of Education (2008). Identifying gifted and talented English language learners. In The Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development Grades K-12. Retrieved January 3, 2015 from https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/IdentifyGiftedTalentedELL.pdf

National Education Association (2007). Truth in labeling: Disproportionality in special education. Retrieved January 3, 2015 from http://www.nccrest.org/Exemplars/Disporportionality_Truth_In_Labeling.pdf
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