Englis h Lea rners with Disa bili ties : A Need for Guida nce English learners with disabilities are a diverse group of students with unique educational needs. The proper identification of and service provision for this heterogeneous group is both complex and necessary for maintaining civil rights. The 2015 Dear Colleague letter released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice emphasizes that state and local education agencies must ensure that all [English learner] students who may have a disability, like all other students who may have a disability and need services under IDEA or Section 504, are located, identified, and evaluated for special education and disability-related services in a timely manner (p. 24). Once appropriately identified, English learners with disabilities must receive the specific language and disability-related services that meet the student's individual needs. Identifying and serving English learners with disabilities is no simple task. For years, the Council of Chief State School Officers (hereafter CCSSO, or the Council) has facilitated conversations within its English Learner (EL) and Assessing Special Education Students (ASES) State Collaboratives on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) groups on this topic. The SCASS groups consist of state education leaders and national experts. Since October 2014, CCSSO organized regular joint EL and ASES SCASS meetings to discuss concerns related to the appropriate identification of and service provision for ELs with disabilities. In December 2014, CCSSO commissioned a white paper providing a literature review on this topic (Park, 2014). Then, the Council published a policy paper on English learners with disabilities in June 2016 (Park, Magee, Martinez, Willner, & Paul, 2016). The activities listed above generated rich discussion between the EL and ASES SCASS that identified a need for additional research and policy guidance on identifying and serving English learners with disabilities. CCSSO responded by launching a project to develop an English Learners with Disabilities Guide (hereafter the Guide) for states. The Guide has been created in partnership with representatives from over 20 state and local education agencies, as well as in consultation with national experts and federal representatives. A small-scale research study involving four states (described in the appendix) was also conducted to support the development of the Guide. The purpose of the Guide is to offer recommendations to states developing policies and procedures on 1) the identification of English learners with disabilities, and 2) Individualized Education Program (IEP) development for English learners with disabilities. The Guide focuses on English learners with disabilities whose language proficiency and disability may be related within an educational context. For some English learners with disabilities, English language proficiency is unrelated to their disabilities (e.g., a student may be an English learner and have a physical disability for which they receive special education services). Furthermore, the Guide identifies specific areas in need of additional research to inform state policy and procedures. Although this Guide addresses English learners with language-related disabilities, it does not address the subset of these students who have the most significant cognitive disabilities. Nevertheless, state policymakers should give special consideration to English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities as they develop or revise their policies and procedures. It is important to note that English learners with disabilities are a heterogeneous group of students. Before using the recommendations presented here to develop policies and procedures, state education leaders should first collect and analyze data that would help them better understand 5 CCSSO English Learners with Disabilities Guide who the English learners with disabilities in their state are, as well as what current needs exist for these students. Data that states might review include a) descriptive statistics of English learners with disabilities broken down by disability type, home language, English language proficiency, grade level, and other characteristics; b) disproportionate representation of English learners in special education, including both over and underrepresentation; c) existing policies related to English learners who are suspected of and who have disabilities; and d) areas in need of further guidance as reported by district and school level practitioners. This needs assessment will identify current challenges that the recommendations in the Guide can help state policymakers address. This Guide is not official federal or state policy, but rather a set of recommendations for state policymakers to consider when creating guidance and supporting research on topics related to English learners with disabilities. Organization of the Guide The Guide is divided into three sections: 1. Developing a Framework for Identifying English Learners with Disabilities 2. Individualized Education Program (IEP) Development for English Learners with Disabilities 3. Policy and Research Needs for English Learners with Disabilities The first section focuses on students who are already identified as English learners and are considered for special education eligibility. The recommendations in the second section are focused on students who are dually identified as being both English learners and students with disabilities. The final section describes policy and research needs for both English learners suspected of having disabilities and dually identified students. The recommendations in the first two sections highlight key elements for state education leaders to consider when developing policies and procedures. Following each set of recommendations is a list of resources and tools that serve two purposes: 1) they offer concrete examples of the recommended policies and procedures, and 2) they can be used as potential models for states wanting to develop similar tools tailored to fit their specific contexts. Links to the original documents are embedded in the text as hyperlinks. As of October 2017, these links are operating and available. The policy and research needs identified in the final section of the Guide were derived from research and meeting activities that led to the development of this document. Information on how this Guide was created, including the research, meeting, and review processes, is presented in the appendix. The concluding section highlights some of the most pressing areas where future resources and attention should be directed. Of note is the issue of exiting English learners with disabilities from English learner status. All stakeholders involved in the creation and review of this document expressed that this is an area of deep concern among state, district, and school educators. Due to limited existing policies and practices in this area, as well as limited research on how specific disabilities interact with English language proficiency, this document does not include specific recommendations on this topic. The goal of this Guide is to offer recommendations based on existing policy and practice related to English learners with or suspected to have disabilities.
Teaching Methods and Strategies
English Learners with Special Needs