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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm sorry...I didn't understand you.

While the overall student population, kindergarten through twelfth grade, has only increased by 2.6%, the ELL (English Language Learners) population has increased by 60.8% (Rhodes, 2010). This increase is also evident in the special education population where culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are believed to be overrepresented.

The problem here is that many of these students who are being placed in special education may not need it at all. What professionals are identifying as a disability may simply be difficulty with language acquisition. School psychologists should be knowledgeable about language acquisition and the impact that it has on a student's response to instruction and intervention (Rhodes, 2010).

The problem-solving model or Intervention & Referral Services (I&RS) is a problem solving method attempting to provide us with a method to meet the needs of ALL our students. It enables us to intervene when possible with evidence-based and documented interventions. Referral for special education evaluation is made only AFTER all interventions fail.

So where are we falling short in regards to CLD students?

•Is enough emphasis being placed on the gathering and analyzing information process for CLD students?
• How necessary is it for CLD cases to be handled by trained bilingual specialists?
•Is monitoring progress for CLD students too challenging due to a lack of evidence-based interventions?

From our understanding of the I&RS, it is the teacher's responsibility to monitor student's progress.

•Should practitioners determine how progress reporting is done, how it is measured, and how the results are managed?

We can see that it is important to have school psychologists working
in our districts who are knowledgeable on CLD students. According to
Rhodes (2010), professionals should be able to “examine academic and behavioral concerns in the context of language, culture, and disability”.

• Is it necessary to hire bilingual school psychologists?
•Should CSTs have at least one bilingual or trained specialist on the team?
•What other options do school districts have when it comes to providing interventions and assessing CLD students?

In most districts, school psychologists barely have enough time for consultations as it is.

•How effective would the implementation of a MSC (multicultural school consultation) framework be?

The increase in CLD students brings a need, now more than ever, for school psychologists competent in cultural and linguistic diversity. It is important for them to recognize all of the factors affecting CLD students and to be able to distinguish between a student with a disability, and a student with academic difficulties due to acculturation and language acquisition issues. CLD students are being placed into special education programs unnecessarily and methods need to be put into place in order to prevent this. The problem-solving model, when implemented thoroughly, has the potential to help us, as future practitioners, better serve the CLD student population.

This blog was created by Cyndi Raia and Kasandra Aristizabal.


Jennifer said...

I am shocked at how high the increase of ELL students is compared to the overall student population. It is definitely necessary for all School Psychologists to be trained in working with CLD students, regardless of whether the psychologist is bilingual or not. Working in this field we all need to be trained to be competent in working with CLD students.

It may be that one of the reasons ELL students are so overrepresented in Special Education is that professionals are incorrectly identifying student who have difficulties in language acquisition as students with learning disabilities. Professionals who are competently trained will minimize the amount of students who are incorrectly classified.

Regarding whether or not CST's should have one bilingual or trained specialist: We should all be trained specialists. As far as having a bilingual member on the CST it doesn't need to be a requirement. It can however be very beneficial in districts where the demographic calls for it.

Kevin said...

i am not sure where the problems are happening but it seems to me that it should be easier to realize when problems are coming from difficulty in language acquisition rather than some type of disability. I think that this is something that should be checked first as a source of the problem just like eyesight and hearing testing are done before anything else to rule them out as causes of what might be causing the trouble.
i think that as far as the monitoring goes it is probably just interconnected with the problem of incorrect identification of the problem as a learning disability. I feel that once the problem is correctly identified i believe that tracking the progress should improve with the improvement of the other problem. Whether there is a bilingual psychologist or not there is going to be a spanish teacher it cannot be too hard to bring them in to consult on such cases and like Jennifer said in districts where the population calls for it it would be beneficial to have a bilingual school psychologist.

Joey said...

I agree with the two above posts. I think that we need to be trained to be knowledgable of the second language acquisition process for bilinguals and beneficial interventions and programs that will help to learn to better understand the language used in schools. Like the post mentioned, it worries me that due to numerous case loads, schools where there isn't a trained CLD or bilingual school psychologist, are pressed by time. It is clear that learning a language after your early years takes time. The easy way out may be to just place a ELL student in special education and go on to the next case. If we are trained properly and have knowledge of programs that can help ELL students then we must advocate for our districts to have them. It seems like to make changes it requires action in graduate schools and school districts to recognize the need to not just find easy solutions.

Kasandra said...

@ Jennifer
The increase of ELL students in comparison to the overall student population is definitely shocking.

As Kevin, Joey, and you have said, all school psychologists should be trained in working with CLD students. While that's great to say in theory, unfortunately it doesn't always happen. The school psychologist in my practicum has told me terrible stories about the psychologist she did her externship with and how their CST did not differentiate between CLD students and other students. Rather than doing what they could, they'd simply go straight for the nonverbal tests and most of the kids were placed in a special education program when they did not need to be.

I think we are lucky to be in a program for school psych at a time where there is more diversity awareness.

Kasandra said...

@ Kevin

I like the point you make about how difficulty with language acquisition should be screened first, as they do with hearing and vision. As a lot of us have said, this is something that can easily be done and is a partial solution to the overrepresentation of ELL students.

Even more so, what I didn't consider until just now is the money that can be saved. While it may be costly to obtain certain instruments or to have a bilingual psychologist or a translator come in to administer the tests, in the long run I think it would be cost effective. At the district I currently work in, we are constantly exceeding our budget in special ed. due to the amount of new students being placed in the special ed. programs.

While at my school this isn’t due to CLD students, at other schools where the demographic is different, this could be part of the problem.

Kasandra said...

@ Joey-

"It seems like to make changes it requires action in graduate schools and school districts to recognize the need to not just find easy solutions."

I definitely like what you said here. I think that the changes being made in grad school will flood over into the school districts when those in grad school become teachers, psychologists, etc.

Until then, what do you (or anyone who wants to jump in on this) think that school districts can do? Would workshops be of any assistance?

Kevin said...

@ Kasandra
I do believe that workshops would be useful but i think they would be mostly to spread the awareness of the situation. accomplishing that alone will be a big step in the right direction but Im just not sure that workshops would be sufficient to change the way things are done in school districts.Im sad to say i think that the real change may just have to wait for the next generation of school psychologists to become part of the system.

Toyin said...
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Toyin said...

I think there are many things that play a role the over-representation of CLD students in special education classrooms. The biggest one that I find is the lack of adequate training or awareness of CST staff members. Some people might want to point to budget limitations, school politics, and other factors. But I think if the professions within our education system is treated as other professions, we wouldn't be in this predicament.

Accountants have to take a rigorous tests before they can get their CPA; Doctors have to jump through so many hoops before they can get their license and they do research and ongoing training; Financial advisors follow a similar model. The list goes on and on. There are many professions that require ongoing training.

I think until there are is more awareness, training, and perhaps even laws mandating schools to give non-verbal tests to CLD populations, the cycle will continue.

I'm sure there are other ways to tackle the issue, but I think awareness and educational training in the form of ongoing professional development is important. The United States is a melting pot of so many different cultures and we have to be sensitive to this and prepared for what this means. While being bilingual on a Child study team helps, there are way too many languages for us to learn, so we just have to be able to identify the difference between a learning disability and problems that stem from English-Language Acquisition.

cyndi said...

I def have to agree that our generation of school psychologists will be making a difference when it comes to a variety of things, one being CLD students. But what we can do now as students is bring these topics up during our practicum, during workshops we go to, conferences, articles we submit, etc. Just because we're students, doesn't mean we don't have a voice or can't ask questions and add our own opinions. Yes, we are looked at as students who are learning, but we also have a huge impact and benefit; we are young, have fresh ideas, and are learning about hot topics and ways to intervene, avoid, and help. So speak up when you see something you don't agree with or want to understand more about.

cyndi said...

@ Kasandra, workshops can work as a step in the right direction, but the implementation is the second and most crucial part, as Kevin is suggesting. Administrators need to be a part of these workshops for awareness and so changes can start. Maybe even University/College School Psychology directors/professors need to be involved in reaching out to their local districts, making them aware of important factors surrounding CLD students and changes that need to be made.

cyndi said...

@ Toyin, I agree with what your saying about ongoing training and professional development. Some school psychologists are trained to keep up with the times and others fall into habits and their old ways (like educators do) and don't realize the harm they are actually doing to themselves and students, in this case CLD students. I can list at least 5 examples I've witnessed at my practicum where the screening of a ELL student was not done properly, bilingual reports were done poorly from outside agencies, meetings should have been rescheduled due to lack of translator presence but weren't due to time constraints, etc. And I'm sure all of you have your stories also.

Monique said...

Based on what I have read throughout the semester... Generally, the rule of thumb is that the problem/discrepancy must be evident in both languages in order for it to be a disability. Unfortunately, many psychologists nowadays aren't trained to determine whether or not the problem is evident in both languages. I agree with Kevin, Joey, Kasandra etc..I think that graduate programs need to implement some kind of change in their curriculum. The number of CLD students is through the roof and the number of school psychs trained to work with them is way below what it should be.. It really doesn't matter whose fault it is because it isn't anyone's fault in my opinion. What matters is that graduate curriculums have to change. We need to know learn how to work with CLD students even if we are not bilingual. We should be able to correctly distinguish between a disability and a difficulty.. How do you guys propose we do this?? I think that we need to get out there and work with them one on one during our graduate careers and I think that we need graduate professors that have knowledge about CLD students, diverse students and how to work with them.

Jennifer said...

While I think that workshops and trainings would really be beneficial, and at this point the only thing that might help for those in the field who have already completed their education, I have to go back to funding. The budget just isn't there for trainings. In fact, trainings that were being done by the state an a consistent bases for other important things haven't been held in the past couple of years. I have to agree with Kevin in that unfortunately the change will have to come with the next generation, and even then it will still be a battle against those who are used to doing things incorrectly.

Making a language screening part of the initial evaluation just makes sense. Great comment!

Joey said...

@ Jennifer- It's a shame how everything comes back to budgets and funds in order to help students grow in the school environment.

It seems that there are things districts can do. Workshops can help for sure. I think administrators must be aware of what is going on and hire accordingly as well. A requirement for districts where this is an issue should be to hire those people who know of the problem at hand and who are skilled in the processes to go about handling it.

I tend to agree with everyone that this may be a generational thing and that as we are trained to be aware of the problems and we begin our careers in the field that things will change but part of me worries that it may be the institution's fault that this is the way it is. How do we know this will change when there is fresh faces who are aware of the problem. I'm not trying to argue I just genuinely am wondering as to whether or not this is ingrained into school systems. I certainly hope not.

To think of solutions for right now is important. Can ever growing use of technology help curtail what is happening with CLD students? From the emphasis being placed on the problem, I want to be aware of evidenced based assessment and intervention methods that are proven to work and make sure the school I work in uses them.

cyndi said...

@ jennifer and joey, it is a shame that issues always come back to funding, but we are looking at this in a realistic point of view and from what we already know or are learning from our current positions within school districts and practicum placements. I'm glad everyone agrees with more training, hopefully we can strengthen our relationships with our administrators (or future administrators) since they are the ones with the most power to make changes.

cyndi said...
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cyndi said...
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cyndi said...

@ Monique, I think you bring up a great point on getting out there and working one on one with CLD students. For those of us who have access to students on a regular basis, its a great idea to start becoming familiar with this population. For those of us who do not have this access yet, start getting involved and volunteering, reading articles and research on CLD students so that we are ahead of the game. November's CQ had a great article on Graduate CLD students; finding mentors and becoming mentors. check it out.

Nicole said...

I agree with the comments which have said that language screening should be one of the first things done when meeting with a new student. Although many of you have experience from your practicums working with ELL students (or watching the psychologist work with them), I cannot say the same. In fact, I have yet to witness a single case with an ELL student in my district. Although my district is pretty far from diverse, it makes me wonder if these students are falling through the cracks all the more. Budgeting is always going to be an issue, especially now and probably for the next few years. While workshops may be helpful, the school psychologists should definitely be trained in this area and then can perhaps train the teachers in the building to be able to recognize the signs that a student is having language troubles rather than cognitive/behavioral ones.

Julian said...

I agree with the above posts that a school psychologist should have some sort of training for working with CLD students. I do not think that hiring a bilingual psychologist is only way to go, but I do feel that at least one member of the CST should be bilingual. Like we have learned in one of our classes, culture is a big part in dealing with students or people in general. I see it in my experiences in practicum. Only one of the school psychologists working is bilingual woring with a dominantly Hispanic population. They are constantly asking for other professionals or myself to translate to the non-English speaking parents. As many people have said in previous posts, workshops and training individuals for working with CLD students. Unfortunately, this may not be a possible solution. I like the talk of the next generation of school psychologists. I agree when people say that we as students need to bring up these issues in our classes and learn more about it.

Timothy McG said...

This article actually came as no surprise to me. Growing up in Keansburg, NJ I was easily able to see this happening first hand.
Although many CLD students came throughout my academic career of K-12, the Keansburg student population decreased by grade 12. I guess that means Keansburg defies the overall population. Among the students of Keansburg, my peers, I would say about 15-20% of students were placed into some kind of basic skills class, most of which graduated by my side my senior year of high school.
I do not believe that enough emphasis is being placed on the gathering and analyzing information process for CLD students. I think that teachers and practitioners perhaps cannot comprehend a CLD student's language, or even actions, and therefore just throw them toward a special education class.
I believe it is absolutely necessary for CLD cases to be handled by trained bilingual specialists. Without someone who can speak a child's language and understand their culture, the placement of CLD students in special education classes shall continue. Additionally, monitoring the progress for CLD students is far too challenging for a teacher who only speaks english. This is not due to a lack of evidence-based interventions because if a teacher cannot understand his/her student, they will report the same progress at time passes.
As far as it comes to monitoring students, I believe it is the teacher's responsibility to relay information about each and every particular student. This is what makes it hard for CLD students if the teacher cannot evaluate them correctly due to a language or cultural block. Perhaps teachers should speak several languages (or at least one other one). Finally, a bilingual psychologist is not necessary in this process I do not believe. As I have stated, I think it is the teacher's responsibility to determine whether a child needs to be placed in special education classes or not (but by being accurately evaluated of course).

Michelle Montoya said...

It is already difficult for students to adapt to a new environment when moving to another country or yet to start off with diverse cultures once they reach an age to start school (if coming from an immigrant household). Therefore it must be difficult to learn a language that is not their parents language. It is the instructors and psychologist duty to make it easy for them to adapt to the English language, not set aside and make the student special care for someone else.