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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm sorry...can you just speak English?

The population of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students is growing within the United States. The education of CLD students is controversial both within the United States and across the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, China, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand as well (Rhodes, 2010). When CLD students fail to meet expected learning outcomes, educators may question the student’s ability to learn the material. These students are often referred to Child Study Team for suspected learning disabilities. With more than 400 different languages in the United States alone (Kindler, 2002) and 1 in 10 student born in other countries (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001), there is more room for misrepresentation of CLD students within special education. Furthermore, “students who are English language learns (ELLs)...often display characteristics and behaviors that are similar but unrelated to disorders and disabilities that require special education intervention” (Rhodes, 2010, p. 566). Difficulty understanding instruction and mental fatigue of learning a new language are associated with the appearance of inattentiveness, impulsivity, distraction, disruptiveness, and disorganization (Ortiz, 2005).

Few methods of assessing difference (in language acquisition) versus disability exist for CLD students. Witt (2002) proposed the Screening to Enhance Equitable Placement (STEEP) model which a uses problem-solving model to develop intervention strategies and screen students for additional evaluation. Intervention procedures are adjusted and effectiveness is evaluated through progress monitoring. Overall, a problem-solving model is suggested for differentiating deficits in language acquisition from disability. Stages of the problem-solving model may be used to identify cultural and linguistic demands of the curriculum, educational and language history, previous exposure to ESL instruction, and level of acculturation resulting in culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions (Rhodes, 2010). Rhodes (2010) suggests that school psychologists implementing the problem-solving model should be “proficient in providing consultative services in a multicultural and oftentimes multilingual environment” (p.575).

Unfortunately, models such as these, which consider the unique cultural and linguistic experiences of CLD students are not widely used in school systems. If this knowledge is available to school psychologists, why aren’t more of them taking preventative measures to assess cultural and/or linguistic differences before accepting CLD student referrals? Should there be a required procedure for teachers to follow before referring CLD students to the Child Study Team? What is the school psychologists role, if any, in preparing teachers to effectively distinguish language differences before referring?

Kindler, A.L. (2002). Survey of the states’ limited English proficient students and available educational programs and services 1999-2000 summary report. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs.

Ortiz, S.O. (2005). Language proficiency assessment: The foundation for psychoeducational assessment of second language learners, In R. L. Rhodes, S.H. Ochoa, & S.O. Ortiz (Eds.), Assessing culturally and linguistically diverse students: A practical guide (pp. 137-152). New York: Guilford Press.

Rhodes, R.L. (2010. Implementing the problem-solving model with culturally and linguistically diverse students, In G.G. Peacock, R.A. Ervin, E.J. Daly III, & K.W. Merrell (Eds.), Practical handbook of school psychology: Effective practices for the 21st century (pp. 566-578). New York: Guilford Press.

Witt, J.C. (2002). STEEP RTI--response to intervention. Retrieved December 4,2012,from http://www.isteep.com/steep_rti.html.

This Blog was created by Denise Annecchino, Gabrielle Centra and Sherlyne Dalupang.