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English Language Learner or Learning Disabled Exploring the Differences


Whether or not a district receives bilingual or English as a second language ... Top 5 Languages: Spanish, Hmong, Lao, Russian & Albanian ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: English Language Learner or Learning Disabled Exploring the Differences

English Language Learner or Learning Disabled?
Exploring the Differences
  • Jacqueline A. Iribarren, Ph.D.
  • Title III, ESL Bilingual Education Consultant
  • Department of Public Instruction
  • March 21, 2007

Todays Agenda
  • Review legal background responsibilities
  • Defining ELLs
  • Understanding Second Language Acquisition
  • Assessment Process
  • Tests Problems Limitations
  • Appropriate Learning Disabilities identification
  • Understanding the difference

  • Sit Back and Relax

Legal Background
Legal Responsibilities…
  • Whether or not a district receives bilingual or
    English as a second language (ESL) State
    categorical aid for serving limited-English
    proficient (LEP) students, both federal and state
    legal obligations exist to ensure equal
    educational opportunity for LEP students.
    Districts are required to establish, sustain, and
    improve learning environments which alleviate the
    barrier caused by not being able to communicate
    fully and effectively in English, the language
    used within the classroom. These legal
    obligations apply even in schools or classes
    where only one LEP student is present.

  • No state shall deny equal education opportunity
    to an individual on account of his or her race,
    color, sex, or national origin by…failure by an
    educational agency to take appropriate action to
    overcome the language barriers that impede equal
    participation by its students in its
    instructional programs
  • Equal Educational Opportunities Act, 1974,
    PL 93-380

Legal Responsibilities Educational Equity and
  • No person in the United States, on the grounds
    of race, color, or national origin be excluded
    from participation in, be denied the benefits of
    or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under
    any program or activity receiving federal
    financial assistance from the Department of
    Education Title VI, Civil Rights Act, 1964

  • Public school are prohibited from denying
    immigrant students access to a free public
    education (K-12) on the basis of their immigrant
    status. Educators are not involved in enforcing
    federal immigration laws.
  • Plyer vs. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) Supreme

  • Where inability to speak and understand the
    English excludes national origin-minority group
    children from effective participation in the
    educational program offered by a school district,
    the district must take affirmative steps to
    rectify the language deficiency in order to open
    its instructional program to these students
  • OCR Policy Memorandum 1970

Bilingual/Bicultural Program Requirements
  • If any school, within a school district in
    Wisconsin, has 10 LEP students speaking the same
    non-English language at grades K-3, 20 students
    at grades 4-8, or 20 students at grades 9-12, the
    district must design a program and prepare a
    formal plan of services (PI-1849) to meet the
    needs of these students. The statute requires all
    such programs to be staffed by licensed bilingual
    teachers. When bilingual licensed teachers are
    not available, ESL licensed teachers may be used
    with bilingual teacher aides except in programs
    serving Spanish speakers. The obligation to
    maintain a state approved bilingual-bicultural
    program (WI State Statute 115.97) for students
    begins when any one of the three grade cluster
    trigger numbers is reached within a single
    school building. Districts may combine student
    numbers across different schools to meet the
    minimum threshold for state-assistance, but this
    is not an obligation.

Pupil Non-Discrimination
  • Under this law, no student may be denied
    admission to any public school, be denied
    participation in, be denied the benefits of, or
    be discriminated against in any school-related
    activity or program on the basis of the student's
    sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry,
    creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status,
    sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional
    or learning disability.   This law, like its
    federal counterparts, requires that every student
    receive an equitable educational opportunity. In
    order to meet this requirement, language barriers
    must be overcome or removed

Summary Federal Law
  • 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VI
  • No person in the United States shall, on the
    grounds of race, color, or national origin . . .
    be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
    discrimination under any program or activity
    receiving Federal financial assistance (emphasis
  • 1974 Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA)
  • No state shall deny equal educational
    opportunity to an individual on account of his or
    her race, color, sex or national origin, by . . .
    the failure of an educational agency to take
    appropriate action to overcome language barriers
    that impede equal participation by its students
    in its instructional programs (emphasis added).

  • 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) ACT, Title I
  • The purpose of this Title is to ensure that all
    children have a fair, equal, and significant
    opportunity to obtain a high quality education
    and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on
    challenging state academic achievement standards
    and state academic assessments. (Sec. 1001) This
    includes meeting the educational needs of limited
    English proficient children.
  • 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Title
  • The purpose of the Title III Part A is to help
    ensure that children and youth who are limited
    English proficient, Native American and/or
    immigrants, attain English language proficiency,
    develop high levels of academic attainment in
    English, and meet the same challenging State
    academic standards that all children are expected
    to meet.

U.S. Supreme Court Rulings
  • 1974 Lau v. Nichols
  • Equality of educational opportunity is not
    achieved by merely providing all students with
    the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and
    curriculum students who do not understand
    English are effectively foreclosed from any
    meaningful education.
  • 1982 Plyler v. Doe
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth
    Amendment prohibits states from denying a free
    public education to undocumented immigrant
    children regardless of their immigrant status.
    The Court emphatically declared that school
    systems are not agents for enforcing immigration
    law and determined that the burden undocumented
    aliens may place on an educational system is not
    an acceptable argument for excluding or denying
    educational services to any student. Therefore,
    school districts are prohibited from requiring
    U.S. passports, social security numbers,
    residency permits known as green cards, or any
    documentation or inquiry that would indicate
    whether a child or family was or was not a legal
    resident or citizen of the United States.

Key Points from Federal Rulings
  • Districts must provide appropriate language
    assistance services for the same challenging
    academic material as all other students.
  • Programs must meet the linguistic, cultural, and
    academic needs of LEP students while not
    segregating them unnecessarily from
    English-speaking peers.
  • Bilingual-bicultural instructional approaches
    should be used, to the extent possible, to ensure
    that students do not fall behind academically.
  • Districts must pursue and implement a program
    based on an educational theory recognized as
    sound or legitimate. The language assistance
    program must be evaluated and produce positive
    results for the LEP students who are being
    served. Results must include both increased
    English proficiency and increased academic
    competence to the same rigorous standards
    expected of all students.

State Laws
  • The Wisconsin Constitution (Article X, 3)
  • Through Article X, 3 of the Wisconsin
    Constitution, every Wisconsin student has a
    fundamental right to an equal opportunity for a
    sound basic education. An equal opportunity for
    a sound basic education has been defined by the
    Wisconsin Supreme Court as "one that will equip
    students for their roles as citizens and enable
    them to succeed economically and personally,"
    Vincent v. Voight, 236 Wis. 2d 588, 614 N.W.29
    388 (2000).

The Wisconsin Pupil Nondiscrimination Law (s.
118.13, Wis. Stats. and PI 9)
  • Under this law, no student may be denied
    admission to any public school, be denied
    participation in, be denied the benefits of, or
    be discriminated against in any school-related
    activity or program on the basis of the student's
    sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry,
    creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status,
    sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional
    or learning disability. This law, like its
    federal counterparts, requires that every student
    receive an equitable educational opportunity. In
    order to meet this requirement, language barriers
    must be overcome or removed.

The Wisconsin Bilingual-Bicultural Statute (s.
115.95, Wis. Stats. and PI 13)
  • The bilingual-bicultural statute creates certain
    obligations for all districts, regardless of the
    number of LEP students. Each district must
    annually complete a census to identify language
    minority students assess their language
    proficiency and classify each by language, grade
    level, age, and English language proficiency
    level. Once students are classified as LEP,
    districts must provide them with appropriate
    services and report English proficiency gains.

Bottom Line…
  • "There is no equality of treatment merely by
    providing students with the same facilities,
    textbooks, teachers, and curriculum for students
    who do not understand English are effectively
    foreclosed from any meaningful education.
  • Lau v. Nichols (1974)

Why are we here today?
  • The controversy began in 1968 when a
    disproportionate number of culturally diverse
    children where identified as mentally ill in
    special education
  • Two landmark cases Diana v. California 1970 and
    Larry P. v. Riles, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1986

  • Historically, special education has too often
    been a placea place to segregate minorities and
    student with disabilities…To the extent that
    minority students are misclassified, segregated,
    or inadequately served, special education can
    contribute to a denial of equality of
    opportunity, with devastating results in
    communities throughout the nation.
  • Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (pg.
    1, 2002)

Bottom Line…
  • These cases brought national attention of the
    inappropriate placement of culturally and/or
    linguistically diverse children in special
    education programs

Any Questions?
Thoughts Comments
Defining ELLs
ELLs in Wisconsin
  • Over 29,000 across the state
  • Top 5 Languages Spanish, Hmong, Lao, Russian
  • Over 67,000 teacher only 33 taught ELLs
  • Nationally Accounts about 10 of total student
    population and the fastest growing student

Who must be assessed for ESL services?
  • Any student who speaks another language
  • Any student who has had another language spoken
    in their home
  • OR
  • A child who has spent a significant amount of
    time growing up hearing another language

DPI English Proficiency Levels
  • LEVEL 1 Beginning/Preproduction
  • LEVEL 2 Beginning/Production
  • LEVEL 3 Intermediate
  • LEVEL 4 Advanced Intermediate
  • LEVEL 5 Advanced
  • LEVEL 6 Full English Proficiency

Classification Language
  • LEP - Limited English Proficient
  • ELL - English Language Learner
  • ESL - English as a Second Language

 Staff Serving ELLs 
English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher
Bilingual Resource Teacher   Bilingual Teacher
Bilingual Specialist/Paraprofessional
Service Delivery Models
  • Instruction in general ed. classroom with
    ESL/bilingual support
  • ESL academic content class
  • ESL newcomer class
  • Bilingual instruction

How about your School?
  • What does ESL instruction look like?
  • Can you articulate your ESL service delivery
  • How are you serving ELLs?

Understanding Second Language Acquisition
Stages of Second Language Acquisition…
  • Silent Period
  • Code switching/mixing
  • Native language loss
  • Language dysfluencies (lack of vocabulary,
    word-finding difficulties, and/or
  • Receptive vs Expressive Language

  • Variations in acquisition (i.e. different
    language groups, different types of learners,
    different types of sounds, etc.)
  • Differences between oral and literacy development

Understanding First Language
  • First language influence on English learning
  • Transfer
  • Interference
  • Characteristics of students language
  • Why do some language groups learn English
  • Importance relationship of L1 in academic and
    literacy development

Understanding the English language difficulty…
  • Variations
  • Content
  • Cultural specific language

Social vs. Academic Language Proficiency Domains
  • BICS Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • CALPS Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency

  • New English Language Proficiency Test
  • Yearly Test Title III Funding
  • 4 Domains Speaking, Listening, Reading Writing

  • Given by Tiers/Grade Clusters A, B, C K-2,
    3-5, 6-8 and 9-12
  • Also a Screener
  • Mandated by state
  • Trained administrator test coordinator

Assessment Process
Diana v. State Board of Education (1970)
  • Class action suit alleging disproportionate
    representation of bilingual students in a program
    for the mentally retarded
  • A classic example of the harmful effects of
    inappropriate assessment practices and failure to
    account for linguistic differences

Informed Parental Consent
  • Definition Included in the meaning of consent
    is the requirement that the parent be fully
    informed, in his or her native language or other
    mode of communication, of all information
    relevant to the activity for which consent is
  • Knowledgeable, Legally Competent Voluntary

Recommendations to fully inform parents
  • 1. procedures to better understand the rights
  • 2. the purpose of the assessment process
  • 3. the sequential steps in the process
  • 4. the timeline of activities
  • 5. possible outcomes

Considerations for Special Education Referral
  • Language level
  • Academic history
  • Cultural/Socioeconomic differences
  • Acculturation
  • Provision of services support
  • Pre-referral interventions (i.e. curriculum,
    instructional, behavioral)

Possible Challenges…
  • Strong and consistent pre-referral policies and
  • Lack of instructional strategies to support ELLs
  • Lack of ongoing inservice training/p.d.

Biggest Challenge…
  • Limited English Proficiency
  • Testing Measures
  • Assessment Practices
  • 1. inadequate trained examiners
  • 2. inappropriate assessment practices
  • 3. failure to comply with federal and/or state
    guidelines (Rhodes, Ochoa Ortiz, 2005)

Biggest Challenge..
  • Lack of native language cultural support
  • We dont have an ESL program here
  • Lack of consultation collaboration among staff

Tests Problems Limitations
Limitations with Various Tests
  • Language of test
  • Norm Sample
  • Sample identification
  • Use of interpreters?
  • Does it measure English language proficiency vs.

Challenges with Interpreters
  • Cultural linguistic expertise?
  • Knowledge of critical issues?
  • Neutrality and Confidentiality?
  • Understanding terms?

Which tests to use?
  • Limited availability
  • Valid?
  • Purpose and Restriction of standardized testing

Inherent Test Bias…
  • When we test students using a standardized
    device and compare them to a set of norms to gain
    an index of their relative standing, we assume
    that the students we test are similar to those on
    whom the test was standardized that is, we
    assume their acculturation is comparable, but not
    necessarily identical, to that of the students
    who made up the normative sample for the test
  • (Salvia Ysseldyke, 1991, p. 18)

Appropriate Eligibility Determination for ELLs
and Learning Disabilities
  • Linking Student, Schooling, Early Intervention,
    Referral, and Assessment Data

Final Regulations…
  • Solidify the need for strong pre-referral process
  • The 2006 final IDEA Part B regulations clarify
    that lack of appropriate instruction cant be
    used as the sole eligibility factor for special
  • Factors to consider when evaluating students with
    limited English ability
  • Former learning Environments
  • Family Factors
  • Developmental History
  • Length of time in country
  • (The Special Educator, September,

Non-Biased Multicultural Assessment Approach
  • Distinguishing between factors associated with
    second language acquisition and disability (e.g.
    SLD) is a complex process!!!

Characteristics of typically Reading-Related LD…
  • Students have had consistent schooling, but
    achievement is still substantially below grade
  • Significant reading difficulties are documented
    over time
  • Specialized reading interventions in the context
    of general education have failed to improve
    reading under achievement

  • Multiple data sources corroborate reading
    difficulties (i.e. results of formal/informal
    assessments consistency)
  • Parents report similar problems at home in either
  • (Wilkinson , Ortiz Kushner, 2001)

Conducting the referral
  • Complete student records (health, social, family
    and school histories)
  • Language dominance and proficiency data (both
    languages if necessary)
  • Outcomes of interventions tried and their effect
    on progress

Non-Biased Multicultural Assessments
  • Selection of the language to use for testing
  • Primary language, second language, both?
  • Need for trained interpreter?

Limitations of Formal Language Measures
  • Weak psychometric properties
  • Lack of Spanish other language Norms
  • Norms obtained from monolinguals in other
    countries (versus bilinguals)
  • Problems occurs when tests are translated (i.e.
    item difficulty)

  • Assumes that language is utilized the same across
  • One-word labeling of objects is not emphasized
    in the same manner or frequency across all
    cultural/language groups (Pena et. al 1992, p.
  • Instead, some cultures emphasize the functions
    of the object…therefore, ELLs from these cultures
    appear weak in vocabulary skills

  • Formal language measures assess one, some or all
    of the structural components of language (i.e.
    phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary)
  • different tests give different proportional
    weights to the various components of
    languagepronunciation, comprehension,
    grammatical structure vocabulary
  • (De Valenzuela Cervantes, 1998, p. 156)
  • Thus, different scores can result given these

Informal Methods
  • Observations
  • Questionnaires
  • Teacher Rating Scales
  • Storytelling
  • Story Retelling
  • Language Samples

Bottom line with Language Measurements…
  • Their sole use to assess language proficiency is
    not recommended for ELLs
  • Creates a strong rationale for utilizing informal
    measures (measuring language abilities across
    different settings and reflective of situations
    in which she/he is expected to use both BICS
    CALP) to supplement formal measures

Language Proficiency…
  • The concept of Dominance indicates only that
    one language is better developed than the other
    but reveals nothing about overall proficiency in
    either language
  • ...Dominance does not dictate the course of
    assessment rather it is the absolute level of
    proficiency in each language that governs the
    path of evaluation (Ochoa Ortiz, 2005 p. 148)

Bottom Line Non-Biased Multicultural Assessments
  • Use a comprehensive assessment model
  • Developmental history, observations, family
    interviews, instructional information,
    criterion-referenced tests

Using Tests…
  • Standardized vs. non-standardized tests
  • Valid and reliable?

Currently in Wisconsin…
  • As a result of the New IDEA 2004 provisions,
    Wisconsin will use 2 methods for determining LD
  • 1. Old Model Classroom achievement, Significant
    Discrepancy Information Processing Deficit
  • 2. RTI data driven model-An LEA may use a
    process that determines if the child responds to
    scientific, research-based intervention as a part
    of the evaluation procedures.
  • 614(b)(6)

Bottom Line…
  • Both sets of data must conclude in a deficiency
    for the student to be identified as LD

That means…
  • Pre-referral interventions must have been tried,
    documented and provide rich data.
  • Must Answer How was instruction modified and
    what were the results?
  • Still need an IQ/Academic achievement score

Assessment Team Considerations…
  • Is the team ready to involve parents
  • Interpret for Parents?

Break it Down RTI
  • Most useful related to instruction
  • Curriculum based assessment
  • Criterion-referenced

IQ/Achievement Testing Special Factors to be
  • Is there a proficient language?
  • Exposure to English native language
  • Age of student
  • Length in the United States
  • Educational history

Achievement Tests….
  • Achievement Spanish/English or both? Linguistic
  • Cautions Emphasis on speed (i.e. reading
    fluency, math fluency, heavy emphasis on language
    skills verbal ability
  • Spanish Translations U.S. based focus (i.e. U.S.
    currency) norm samples

Intellectual Assessments…
  • Verbal/ Non-Verbal
  • Cultural Loading
  • Linguistic Demands (Receptive language Auditory
    Processing difficult to measure independent of

Have we gathered enough data Information on
  • Work samples
  • Curriculum based data
  • Intervention results
  • Rate of Learning

Can we answer the basic question in assessment
  • Are the students observed learning problems due
    to cultural or linguistic differences disorder?

Dont forget…..
  • Interpreting results
  • Primary language impairment
  • Exclusionary factors
  • Is there a need for Special Education services?

A Multiplicity of Factors must be Considered
  • Parent Input
  • Oral language proficiency in L1 L2
  • Literacy levels in both languages
  • Prior Instruction
  • Type, Duration Quality of Language Programs
  • Teacher Variables

Determination Eligibility
  • Decision is based on the referral and assessment
  • Data other than the presence of an IQ-Achievement
    discrepancy supports the decision

If found to be student with a LD, then…
  • Is there a need for Special Education?
  • IEP Documents needs in both ESL/Bilingual
    education and Special Education Services

If not eligible, then what?
  • Retention?
  • Holmes (1989) and House (1989) research data
    indicate that simply repeating a grade does not
    generally improve achievement (Heubert Hauser,
    1999, p. 121).
  • The biggest indicator of dropping out is that a
    student is older than his/her peers.  Those of us
    who are responsible for monitoring what happens
    to students over the long term are frequently the
    biggest critics of retention.   

  • McLaughlin (2005) sums up this view with the
    cutting saying, The definition of insanity is
    doing the same thing over again expecting
    different results.
  • Student Silent Voice and emotional trauma

  • The problem is most likely due to a lack of
    English proficiency instead of an inability to
    grasp academic content. 
  • We know that cognitive ability is not linked to
    language proficiency.  We also know when language
    is the reason that a student is not getting the
    content (McLaughlin, 2005).  

  • The Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court decision (1974)
    made it clear that students with limited English
    proficiency must be granted equal opportunity in
    education, and may not be discriminated against
    because of their lack of English.

If not eligible, then what?
  • ESL/Bilingual Education Programming
  • Double Dosing
  • Creative Interventions
  • Progress Monitoring

Questions Comments?
Best Instructional Practices
  • Differentiated Instruction and Scaffolding
  • Primary Language Support
    -Varies in time and intensity depending on DPI
    level of student
  • English Language Proficiency Goals

  • Collaboration Among All Staff Working With
    English Language Learners
  • Standards-Based Curriculum
  • Formative Summative assessments

  • Support levels for 3-5
  • Parent Participation Programs
  • Based on an understanding of the culture involved
  • Parents as stakeholders
  • Involvement of Community
  • Individual Student Record Plan

References Acknowledgments Assessing
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
Students (2005), Rhodes, Ochoa Ortiz.
Authentic Assessment for English Language
Learners (1996), OMalley Pierce. Illinois
Resource Center (IRC)
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