English learners (ELs) receive English language development services through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Although there are many critical decisions to be made in providing language development services to ELs, two critical decisions that have received considerable attention are: (a) the initial classification of a student as being an EL who is eli-gible for services, and (b) the determination that the student is no longer eligible for services and should be reclassified and exited from services (Linquanti & Cook, 2013, 2015). These decisions are complex, requiring consideration of many factors. Even more complex, according to both researchers (Abedi, 2009; Liu & Barrera, 2013; Liu, Ward, Thurlow, & Christensen, 2015) and practitioners (Liu et al., 2013) is making these decisions for ELs who also have dis-abilities. Especially vexing is the decision of when to exit an English learner with a disability from EL services. Federal guidance (U.S. Department of Education, 2014, 2015) indicates that ELs with disabilities can be exited from EL status only when the students no longer meet the state's definition of an EL (i.e., is proficient in English), although school personnel can have input into the decision. Little is known about how this occurs in individual states. Before the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), many states were already pro-actively engaged in efforts to improve Title III program accountability and reporting systems. With the passage of ESSA, greater clarity now exists in terms of appropriate processes for deter-mining how and when ELs with disabilities can be exited from English language development services. Specifically, under Section 3113 of the ESEA, each state educational agency (SEA) is now required to have standardized entrance and exit procedures for ELs. These procedures must include valid, reliable, and objective criteria that can be applied consistently across the state. The purpose of this report is to provide a baseline report on several factors that have affected decisions to exit ELs with disabilities from English language development services prior to the passage of ESSA, including the relationship of these decisions to students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). First, we review what we know about the current populations of ELs with disabilitiestheir numbers and their characteristics (language characteristics and disability characteristics). Then, we describe the survey of states that we conducted in 2015-16 and the responses to that survey, including the extent to which states collect data on the num-bers of ELs with disabilities exited from services. In this regard, we caution that some reported practices may not fully align with the requirements in Section 3113(b)(2) of ESEA and caution the reader not to infer program compliance from the practices included in states' responses. Still, such baseline information not only serves to document the current state of practice, but also assists in highlighting areas where additional technical assistance may be needed as well as provides the means for identifying subsequent changes in state and local policy and practice, and in measuring associated improvements over time. We conclude by discussing the implica-tions of the survey results for practice and policy.
English Learners with Special Needs