Creating Systems of Supports for Newcomers

Every day teachers struggle to determine if the learning difficulties of ELs extend beyond ‘expected’ new language development and cultural adjustment. Existing assessment and intervention approaches may not reflect the complicated interrelationships between language and literacy development, or account for cultural and linguistic influences and backgrounds. Thus, interventions often fail for EL students because they do not address the holistic needs of the student.

ELs who are experiencing significant challenges in school, or not progressing as expected, are best served when assessment and intervention decisions are made collaboratively, including the perspective of the ESL specialist, special needs teacher, classroom teacher, and family. Supports are more effective when they are designed and implemented as part of a continuum that reflects the interrelated identified language, cultural, and learning needs.

The popularity of Response to Intervention (RtI), Planning and Placement Teams (PPT), or other forms of data teams at many schools has brought attention to the needs of EL students; but without a deep understanding of the relationships between language acquisition and learning disabilities, interventions may be ineffective, and even detrimental, for students. ESL specialists must be involved to provide specialized knowledge and advocate for EL students at all levels of intervention as well as during and following any referral and IEP process.
Hamayan, Elise; Marler, Barbara; Sanchez-Lopez, Cristina; and Damico, Jack (2013). Special Education Considerations for English Language Learners: Delivering a Continuum of Services, 2nd ed

Collier, Catherine (2011). Separating Difference from Disability, 5th ed.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann and Marcia B. Imbeau (2011). Managing a Grades K–8 Differentiated Classroom: A Practical Guide.
USDOE Website. The IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) address the rights of students with disabilities in school and other educational settings. Background knowledge and context on the federal regulations.
A curated site from Colorín Colorado that includes an in-depth resource section featuring recommendations and resources to help educators, administrators, and families work together to ensure appropriate support and services. Includes links to specific instruction and assessment tools and resources.
Overrepresentation: An Overview of the Issues Surrounding the Identification of English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities. This paper addresses the serious and pervasive problem of the mis-identification of English Language Learners (ELLs) as Learning Disabled (LD).
English Learners Around the World: Cultural and Linguistic Resources. A curated site that includes individual ‘cards’ for countries around the world, describes the location, educational system, and other facts on each country.
Managing a Grades K–8 Differentiated Classroom A Practical Guide. A handbook that discusses the basics of differentiation and gives practical applications in the classroom.It demonstrates how educators can make classrooms and instruction more responsive to students’ individual needs.

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