There are patterns of ELLs' placement in special education to show both overrepresentation and underrepresentation. Some studies show that ELLs are disproportionately placed in Special Education classes when there wasn’t any type of learning disabilities present. For example, “Artiles and colleagues (2002) studied 11 urban school districts in California during 1998-1999, where 42% of the student population was classified as ELLs. Although ELLs were not overrepresented at the district level, they found “English language learners [were] 27% more likely to be placed in special education programs in elementary grades and almost twice as likely to be placed in secondary grades” at the national level, Zehler et al. (2003) found evidence of underrepresentation of ELLs in special education.” On the other hand, researchers documented, in 2002, that 13.5% of students from the general school population were receiving special education services, while only 9.2% of ELLs were receiving the services" which shows an underrepresentation.
So, how does your school identify ELLs who need Special Education Services? When your ELLs need services to learn English and also extra help from an IEP, how do you balance both needs? What are strategies to help ELLs with Special Needs?
Tammy- I am finding a need to identify the size of incoming school population and language-translation needs in the Cleveland area - there needs to be better communication so community resources centers like libraries can respond to incoming needs. For instance, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District conducts language assessments by appointment and those appointments are booked until August 7th - when it will then switch to a walk-in process. First the kids are tested in English and then in their native language. I am not sure that we are adequately prepared to gauge the skill levels for less familiar immigrant populations like Somali and Arabic. Spanish and Chinese students have a fairly strong support network - here.
Hi lmcshane, I find it interesting to hear about the different ways schools across the country assess an ELLs' language proficiency. Yours is the first where I have heard that the parents need to book the appointment. Is this just because it was during the summer? Or do parents always have to arrange for their child to be tested? I know in AZ most school districts have to test an ELLs' language proficiency within the first 30 days of school or once they arrive at school. The teacher arranges the testing.
The process seems to be very clear-cut when you have a student with tests that have been normed for the language subgroup (Chinese, Spanish). It becomes a bit more muddy when you have other languages that are not.
Our school district started seeking help from Brown University a few years ago, and we had a woman named Phyllis Hardy come to speak to our ELL and SpEd staffs. The problem with these professional development sessions is that an inordinate amount of time is spent catching SpEd teachers up with what we do, and not much time teaching us what we should be looking out for.
The ending point we hit was as follows: If you have a student who is from a language group for which tests have not been normed, you need to collect data that seems to deviate from the norm. Multiple data points are necessary to show a trend, including tests, classwork, anecdotal evidence. When enough data is collected that you can bring a case to the EST (Educational Support Team), and they believe the concerns are valid, they will start a process similar to RTI. The first hurdle that must be met is whether the child is receiving an appropriate education. This is difficult for the ELL teacher to establish, because we have little control of what the classroom teacher does. But we can show that we have been seeing the student for HUGE amounts of time, working specifically on reading, with a research-based program, with little to no progress. Then we can start the ball rolling.
Here is a video that I created to help teachers understand the process. This is part of a series of videos I'm trying to create to address ELL issues, as little time is devoted to this during regular staff meetings. I hope this helps!
And, by the way, ours is a district that underrepresents. And asking for help from Brown University, at least in the Northeastern States, is free because it's a federally funded grant program. They actually came to do an assessment of our middle-high program last year to tell us where we were lacking. I would not say it was overwhelmingly clarifying. Everybody came to the table with their own agenda, and Brown neither supported nor debunked those positions. But it did put all the issues on paper, which is more than what we've had in the past.