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English Learners with Learning Disabilities

Sep 13, 2016 2016-09-13

Professional Growth

SPOTLIGHT! On English Learners with Learning Disabilities

A 20-state review of research and policies from the federal Institute of Education Sciences found no clear-cut process for identifying English language learners with learning disabilities. The report from the institute’s Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd found that states and schools often have trouble drawing distinctions between English learners who struggle with the language and those who have learning disabilities.

The report offers four suggestions:

• Rely on additional considerations, such as previous education experience, fluency in the student’s first language, attitude toward learning English, and parent input, when determining whether English learners should be placed in special education programs.

• Establish exit criteria for support programs for EL students in special education.

• Provide test accommodations for English learners.

• Produce manuals to aid classroom educators in identifying and supporting English learners who may have learning disabilities.

Among the states with the largest EL populations, only five—Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia—have publicly available manuals designed to aid educators. Among those, only the Illinois and Minnesota guides explore how a child’s cultural background or acculturation process might lead to misdiagnosis. And only the Illinois manual outlines a professional development program for educators serving English learners who may have disabilities.

Here’s a look at the brief with links to references.

ELL/ESL Specific Learning Disability

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