When Is It Appropriate to Refer an ELL for Special Education?

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When Is It Appropriate to Refer
an ELL for Special Education?
OSPI Staff
Migrant and Bilingual Education
January 23, 2009
K20
10 Questions to Consider
1. How have I honored the referring teacher’s concern?
2. Do we have a clear pre-referral process in place?
3. Who is the gatekeeper within the ELL program who is contacted
for every pre-referral?
4. To what extent does everyone understand language
development?
5. Is the ELL exhibiting atypical performance?
6. To whom is the ELL being compared?
7. What data should I look at for the peer comparison?
8. What role does Response-To-Intervention (RTI) play in the prereferral process?
9. To what extent are parents involved?
10. To what extent are district ELL/Special Ed trends being
scrutinized?
1. How have I honored
the referring teacher’s concern?
Do’s
Don’t
• Respect that the teacher
wants the child to succeed.
• Respect that the teacher is
probably doing the best she
can with what she knows.
• Respect the teacher’s
understanding of pedagogy.
• Offer immediate assistance
– observations, co-planning,
modifications.
• Dismiss the teacher’s
concerns as unimportant or
foolish (this leads to stealth
referrals and a competition
to qualify an ELL just out of
spite).
• Make the teacher feel
ignorant because she
doesn’t have a background
in ELL issues.
• Promise something that you
can’t/won’t deliver on.
A Quote from Research
One of the most common reasons for referrals to special
education has been limited English proficiency (MaldonadoColón, 1986). This is the case despite the fact that limited
English proficiency, when it stems from the presence of a nonEnglish language in the child's home, has, in and of itself, no
negative effects on learning. […]
When, however, no accommodations are made to a child's lack
of proficiency in the language of the EC [early childhood]
setting, children are left without means of understanding what
is being said or expressing what they need to say. Their
performance then becomes similar to that of children with
disabilities.
SOURCE: Barrera, Isaura (1995). To Refer Or Not to Refer: Untangling the Web of Diversity,"Deficit," and Disability. In: New York
State Association for Bilingual Education Journal v10 p54-66, Summer 1995
2. Do we have a clear
pre-referral process in place?
• Create a process with a multi-disciplinary
team: Special Ed “best friend”, content and/or
grade-level teacher, administrator, ELL staff.
• Get approval for the process and
communicate it often to all staff.
• Avoid an overwhelmingly complex process if
the majority of referrals are based on simple
misinformation.
Another Quote from Research
If […] the child has intact learning abilities and
an age appropriate repertoire of skills, but can
not understand the language of instruction, it is
equally inappropriate and wasteful of both
financial and human resources to generate a
complete interdisciplinary assessment and
special education program instead of simply
providing needed linguistic support.
SOURCE: Barrera, Isaura (1995). To Refer Or Not to Refer: Untangling the Web of Diversity,"Deficit," and Disability. In: New York
State Association for Bilingual Education Journal v10 p54-66, Summer 1995
Sample Process Overview
Process for Addressing Concerns
Identify Concern

Modifications, Interventions, Consult with ESL Staff

Contact parents regarding concern

Complete Checklist and meet with Child Study Team

If no progress is made, return to Child Study Team

Other interventions, such as homework center, tutors, etc.
3. Who is the gatekeeper within ELL who
is contacted for every pre-referral?
No one has all the knowledge about
ELL/Special Ed referrals, but …
• When a Special Ed or ELL staff person suggests
that “Yes, this kid probably is Special Ed”
before knowing all the facts, it is difficult to
bring any contradictory information to the
table.
• Many ELLs are referred because they were
referred at an earlier grade.
4. To what extent does everyone
understand language development?
•
•
•
•
•
Avoid these common fallacies:
No English = No intelligence/learning
Social, oral language (BICS) = academic
language (CALPs)
Judging GLEs without ELD standards
Ignoring time as a crucial factor in language
development
Ignoring the role of dominant language
Dominant Language
An English language learner has:
• a dominant language for home, family, church,
shopping (usually the first language, remains at a
simple level unless child receives direct instruction in
this language).
• another dominant language for school and academic
situations (usually the language of instruction,
proficiency will continue to increase).
[email protected]
10
5. Is the ELL exhibiting
atypical performance?
• Franklin Bender “Difference vs. Disability: The Continuum of
Working with English Language Learners” from National CEU.
www.NationalCEU.com
• Catherine Collier “Separating Difference from Disability”
www.crosscultured.com
• Evaluation and Assessment in Early Childhood Special
Education: Children Who Are Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/pubdocs/CLD.doc
Quote from SpEd OSPI document
A formal referral to special services is only
justified after it has been determined that a
child’s behavior and performance cannot be
explained solely by language or cultural
differences, the acculturation process, or the
learning environment. - pg. 22, OSPI pamphlet
6. To whom is the ELL student
being compared?
• A peer analysis is critical in determining if the
student’s performance is atypical.
• The ideal peer group are ELLs, same language
background, same time in program, same
grade of entry in school.
• Scour district longitudinal data and find as
large a peer group as possible
When children are learning English as a
second language:
When children have a language
impairment or disorder:
•
it is typical for their skills in English
vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and
comprehension to be less well- developed
than their peers who only speak English.
•
errors or limited skills in vocabulary,
pronunciation, grammar, and comprehension
interfere with communication in their first
language (L1), compared to peers from the
same language group.
•
they will acquire English in a predictable
developmental sequence, similar to younger
children who are beginning to learn English.
•
•
reduced opportunities to use their first
•
language may result in loss of competence in
L1 before becoming proficient in English.
their English skills are delayed in
comparison to peers from the same language
group who have been learning English for
the same length of time.
their communication is impaired in
interactions with family members and others
who speak the same language.
•
they may switch back and forth between L1 •
and English, using their most sophisticated
skills in both languages within single
utterances.
results from assessments conducted in
•
English are unlikely to reflect the child’s true
skills and abilities in most domains.
•
skills in their first language will be limited,
inappropriate, or confused in content, form,
or use.
assessments conducted in English will be
unable to discriminate between language
acquisition and language disorder.
(Source: OSPI Pamphlet, p. 12)
Appropriate Comparison or Not?
• ELL 3rd grader to all 3rd graders?
• ELL to all ELLs in the district?
• ELL Spanish speaker to all ELL Spanish
speakers?
• ELL to older or younger sibling?
7. What data should I look at
for the peer comparison?
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Years in program
Entry grade
WLPT-II levels
WASL scores
Mobility
Parent input
There is always more to find out…
District Data Example
Comparison of Test History to Peers (same language group, same entry grade,
same time in US)
WLPTII Spring 2006
• 55 ELL 7th graders completed the test
• 1 Level 1, avg. years in program – 1
• 12 Level 2s, avg. years in program – 2.4
• 31 Level 3s, avg. years in program – 4.9 (Student X is in this group)
• 11 Level 4s, avg. years in program – 5.6
Currently have 25 Russian ELLs in 8th grade.
Average length of time in program has been just over 4.1 years.
• Of the 57 8th graders in the district who used to be in ELD, the average length
of time in program prior to exit was 4.3 years. Of these, 29 are Russian
speakers, who were in the program an average of 4 years.
• Of the 33 ELLs who have exited the program, and who started in 2nd grade, the
average years in program prior to exit was 4.1 years.
• Of the 17 Russian ELLs who took the 7th grade WASL last year, the reading
scores were: 8 Level 1s (Student X is in this group), and 9 Level 2s.
• The math scores were: 10 Level 1s (Student X was in this group), 6 Level 2s,
and 1 Level 3.
WLPT-II for Kindergarten Spring 2008
COMPOSITE LEVEL
L1
L2
L3
L4
(blank)
Grand Total
Total
COMPOSITE LEVEL
L1
L2
L3
L4
Grand Total
ENTRY DATE Total
9/5/2007
118
9/5/2007
1227
9/5/2007
648
9/5/2007
125
2118
Level
L1
L2
L3
L4
Grand Total
Entry Date Lang
9/5/2007Spanish
9/5/2007Spanish
9/5/2007Spanish
9/5/2007Spanish
1141
7531
3514
631
12817
SPA
Level
L1
L2
L3
L4
Total
Lang
Total
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
862
5104
2030
195
8191
Level
District
L1
NK
L2
NK
L3
NK
Grand Total
Total
88
647
258
24
1017
Level 2
Scale Score
509 to 534
Total
1
14
7
22
Total
2245
536 257
538 to 565
5029
8. What role does Response-To-Intervention
(RTI) play in the pre-referral process?
There is great promise […] in using an RTI approach for many
reasons. First, the universal screening and progress monitoring
called for in the RTI process allow for comparison of students to
other similar or “true” peers in their local cohort rather than to
national norms. Second, an effective RTI model requires
collaboration among all educators (e.g. speech and language
therapists, school psychologists, counselors, English as a second
language/Bilingual specialist) thereby providing increased
opportunities for professional dialogue, peer coaching, and the
creation of instructional models integrating best practices of the
various fields of education and related services.
Source: “A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention
with English Language Learners” Julie Esparza Brown, Portland State University, 2008.
Quote
Students who have disorders that interfere with the teaching
and learning process should be referred to special education
programs that will allow them to develop the skills necessary for
full participation in society. However, it is vital to distinguish
students who are experiencing difficulties in school because of
limited English skills from students who are handicapped.
Inappropriate referral to special education can be stigmatizing
and costly, and can inhibit limited-English-proficient students
from achieving their full academic potential.
SOURCE: Olson, Paula. (1991) Referring Language Minority
Students to Special Education. ERIC Digest. ED329131 Mar 91
9. To what extent are parents involved?
• Parents need to be contacted early in a
language they understand regarding the
teacher’s concerns.
• Parents need to be educated about language
development and differences between
siblings, the role of 1st language literacy, etc.
10. To what extent are district ELL/Special
Ed trends being scrutinized?
Sometimes individual schools and staff are
unable to notice trends in referrals across the
district.
Here are some Spokane examples.
Spokane Public Schools
SpEd Statistics
Group
Total
SpEd %
English or no other language 28580
15.3%
Language other than English 1670
5.1%
Eligible ELLs
6%
986
Spokane Public Schools
SpEd/ELL Statistics
Language
SpEd %
Bosnian
Total SpEd % Eligible
ELLs
57
14%
30
Hmong
78
(50 or more)
23%
3.8%
37
5.4%
Marshallese 140
1.4%
126
1.6%
Russian
636
4.1%
331
4.8%
Spanish
244
12.3%
162
12.3%
Ukrainian
52
2%
29
3.5%
5%
67
9%
Vietnamese 131
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