In this study, we compared the referrals for special education evaluation of U.S. mainland-born children with those of mostly Latino non-mainland-born children in two school systems in the Northeastern United States. The investigation focused on whether there was a significant difference between referrals for special education from each group, based on either language or behavior. According to the literature, nonnatives are both overrepresented and underrepresented in special education, with reasons for referral including problematic use of language and inappropriate behavior. The researchers found that referrals for behavior in our sample were more frequent among natives compared with nonnatives, while referral for language use did not differ significantly between the groups. We discuss variables that could account for these findings including nonnative acculturation, the availability of alternative curricula for these learners, and the fact that many native children in inner-city schools speak alternative English varieties that contrast with the standard language used in school settings.
English Learners with Special Needs