English Language Acquisition and Special Education

The Spring 2011 report of the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition is dedicated to the question of how to work with ELLs who have special needs. And yes, we have an article in this issue, but ours certainly isn’t the only one. 

Here’s a short summary of each (or go directly to the PDF):

  • Barker and Grassi discuss  the importance of culturally responsive practices in the referral and assessment process. It’s a balance between over-referring if kids don’t meet expectations and attributing everything to culture and language differences.
  • Sánchez, McTigue, Parker, and Akbayin describe what three districts do to deal with ELLs in the referral and assessment process. They highlight the importance of development of formal structures so that the process occurs systematically and consistently.
  • We (Peña, Bedore, & Gillam) focus on the question of assessment and better understanding the relationship between how ELL kids perform in their home language and English relative to the amount of input and output in each language.
  • Cobin, Templeton, and Burner present ways to examine language differences and language impairment. They tackle the question of whether teachers should worry (and refer) or wait. 
  • Staehr Fenner discusses the question of interrupted schooling. Some children begin education in the U.S., but have not received continuous formal schooling in their home country. A proportion of these children have disabilities which makes education particularly challenging.
  • Villareal presents ways that ELLs can improve their English and academic schools via peer tutoring.
  • Trainor discusses the importance of the transition process to adulthood.
  • Rice Doran and Sampson respectively discuss teacher training needs and readiness of special education programs to prepare special education teachers to work with ELLs. They emphasize the idea that teachers need to be able to deal with all children, not just monolingual English speakers.
  • Finally, Estrada and Lavandez present the factors that are at play in pushing up the proportion of ELLs who are (mis)diagnosed with a specific learning disability.

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