Disproportionate representation of English Language Learners in special education.
Peterson, Sarah G.
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SubjectEnglish language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers.; Special education -- United States -- Case studies.; Education, Bilingual.; Education -- Statistics.
The disproportionate representation of English language learners (ELLs) in special education has been a persistent issue in the United States. This study examined Western New York teachers’ views of disproportionate representation, factors that influence disproportionate representation, and practices to help reduce the over representation of ELLs in special education. Eight teachers were interviewed in person at three different school districts. In addition, this study explored the extent of dis-proportionality in the identification and placement of ELLs in the learning disability, intellectual disability, and speech or language impairment categories in Chautauqua County, New York. The relative risk ratio was used to analyze the results. The results indicated that assessment practices, bilingual assessments, instructional factors, referral procedures, teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, teacher training, and low socioeconomic status are all factors that influence disproportionate representation. The results also indicated that there are a variety of strategies and practices that can help reduce disproportionate representation. Some of these practices include more training, more differentiated instruction, better bilingual programs and education, more positive attitudes and expectations when working with English language learners, and the use of various formal and informal assessments. Further, the results indicated that there is an over-representation of English language learners in the intellectual disability category, an under representation of English language learners in the speech or language impairment category, and a proportionate representation of English language learners in the learning disability category. Implications are discussed with regards to teachers and their classroom practices when administering assessments and providing instruction to English language learners.
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