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English Language Learners : Academic Experience, Pre-referral and Assessment Best Practices. Martha Villegas-Gutiérrez, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist Education Evaluation Center The Teaching Research Institute Western Oregon University. Objectives. Case Review IDEIA

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English language learners academic experience pre referral and assessment best practices

English Language Learners: Academic Experience, Pre-referral and Assessment Best Practices

Martha Villegas-Gutiérrez, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Education Evaluation Center

The Teaching Research Institute

Western Oregon University


  • Case Review


  • Reflection: ELL Students academic experiences

  • Demographics

  • Definitions

  • ELL Identification

Objectives cont
Objectives (Cont.)

Important Considerations


ELL Instructional Programming Research

Linguistic Needs


ELL Pre-Referral

English language learners academic experience pre referral and assessment best practices

Language Proficiency Assessment Practices

Formal Assessment Practices

Learning Disability Possibility

Language Difference Possibility

Summary and Recommendations

Case review
Case Review


1st grade, monolingual/Spanish, male student referred for an evaluation due to

“being significantly behind in all areas”

Areas of Concern:

  • Reading

  • Problem Solving

  • Memory

  • Writing

  • Organization Skills

  • Speaking Skills

  • Concentration/paying attention

  • Math

  • Communication Skills

  • Self-Confidence

  • Passing classes.


IDEIA 300.534 Determination of Eligibility

-A Child may not be determined to be eligible under this part if the determinant factor for that eligibility determination is

(i) Lack of instruction in reading or math;

(ii) Limited English Proficiency

Actividad en espa ol
Actividad en Español

Tome cinco minutos para contestar las siguientes preguntas:

  • ¿Cuál es su nombre?

  • ¿Cuál es su profesión?

  • Describa su preparación y experiencia profesional para trabajar con estudiantes clasificados como aprendices del inglés o ELL (por sus siglas en inglés).

  • ¿Tiene usted alguna pregunta con respecto a los procesos de referir y evalualar estudiantes clasificados como ELL para educación especial?

Know thy self
Know Thy Self

  • Cultural Background

  • Language

  • Language Modality (Verbal, Nonverbal)

Ell demographics
ELL Demographics

Limited English Proficient Students will constitute 40% of students in public education by 2030 (Thomas and Collier, 2003)

1997-98 to 2008-09 English-language learners enrolled in public schools increased from 3.5 million to 5.3 million, or by 51 percent

(National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2011)


  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD)

  • Non-English-proficient (NEP)

  • Limited-English-Proficient (LEP)

  • English Language Learners (ELL)

Ell identification
ELL Identification

  • Home Language Survey

  • English Proficiency Screening (State Standards)

Special ed identification difficulties
Special Ed. Identification Difficulties

  • Over-identification

    -Students classified due to language difference (Diana V. California Board of Education)

  • Under-Identification

    -delay in referring student due to possibility of misclassification

    **ELL with real special education needs are not being met.

Important considerations
Important Considerations

Language Acquisition: CLD children’s knowledge and learning is based on the language spoken at home.

Home language and Children’s culture communicate traditions, values, and attitudes.

**Encourage parents to use and develop children’s home language to enhance children’s learning and development.


  • This belief that “young” children will be confused by two languages is a myth and is not supported by research.

    • - R. Banerjee & M. Guiberson (2012) Young Exceptional Children, p. 37.

Language proficiency
Language Proficiency


Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) are skills used in day to day interactions with others.

I.E., playground conversations between children and informal verbal interactions with a parent, a friend or a neighbor.

ELL need an average of one to three years of exposure to the second language to reach appropriate levels of conversational proficiency with peers. (Cummins, 2004).

Language proficiency1
Language Proficiency


Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is the ability to use and understand complex linguistic meaning in verbal or written communication.

I.E., engaging in sophisticated, intellectual conversations or writing school essays.

ELL need five to seven years, on average, to reach peer-appropriate grade norm levels in academic areas taught in a second language (Cummins, 2004).

The second language acquisition process
The Second Language Acquisition Process:

The second language acquisition process is a complex, and lifelong process similar to first language acquisition.

Second language acquisition is best developed by exposure to meaningful activities that focus on language use. (Collier, 1995).

The second language acquisition process1
The Second language acquisition process:

Children of low social economic background or those whose parents have not had the opportunity to receive formal schooling are those most in danger of lost years of cognitive development due to an early switch to the second language in preschool. Wong Fillmore, 1991

Language and identity
Language and Identity:

Language is an important marker of one’s identity. For young language learners and school age children, language is a fundamental part of the social world they have grown up in. To disallow a child to use her language for self expression is to diminish her as an individual. Genesee, Paradis, Crago 2004

Language and identity1
Language and Identity:

“What is lost when children and parents cannot communicate easily with one another? What is lost is no less than the means by which parents socialize their children: When parents are unable to talk to their children, they cannot easily convey to them their values, beliefs, understandings or wisdom about how to cope with experiences.”

Wong Fillmore, 1991

Individual differences in english acquisition
Individual Differences in English Acquisition

  • Silent period (six or more months)

  • Code Switching/Code Mixing (Me voy a poner my shoes)

  • Conversational skills acquisition but not truly proficient

  • Conversational proficiency (developmentally appropriate receptive and expressive skills)

Factors that influence the second language acquisition process
Factors that Influence the second language acquisition process

Home and Community Characteristics

Parental and community attitudes

Degree of parents’ bilingualism

Literacy in the home

Use of mixed languages

History of Education

Quality of Schooling in native country


Years in school

Interruptions in schooling

Quality of education

Socio cultural background/Acculturation

Acculturation process

The process of adaptation to a new cultural environment without abandoning native cultural values.

Acculturation influences family and social interactions. It also influences cognition, emotion, and behavior, perceptions, ideologies, beliefs, values, language use, and other aspects of human behavior and functioning.

Cuellar & Paniagua, 2000

Acculturation: process

Integration/Biculturalism: Integrate aspects from both cultures. Healthiest acculturation outcome

Assimilation: Replacement of home culture and language by school/new culture and language.

Rejection: Rejection of home/heritage for school/new culture and language, or rejection of school/new culture and language for home/heritage culture.

Deculturation: Acceptance of neither home/heritage nor school/new culture/language.

Effects of acculturation
Effects of Acculturation: process

Heightened Anxiety

Confusion in Locus of Control


Silence or unresponsiveness

Response Fatigue

Code Switching


Resistance to Change


Stress Related Behaviors

C. Collier, 2002

Family acculturation
Family Acculturation process

  • Family’s Cultural Background

  • Cultural Identification to both native and mainstream culture

  • Cultural Family Traditions

  • Cultural Educational Beliefs

  • Parents’ acculturation pattern

Observations and interviews
Observations and Interviews process

Conduct observations and ask questions to assess Rhodes, Ochoa and Ortiz (2005)10 Domains:

  • Language use or language preference.

  • Social affiliation

  • Daily living habits

  • Cultural traditions

  • Communication style

Interviews and observation cont
Interviews and Observation (Cont.) process

  • Cultural identity or cultural pride

  • Perceived prejudice or discrimination

  • Generational status

  • Family socialization

  • Cultural Values

Professional training for working with ell students
Professional Training for working with ELL Students process

Language Proficiency

Second Language Acquisition


Ell pre referral process
ELL Pre-Referral Process process

  • Rhodes, Ochoa & Ortiz Prereferral (2005)

  • EEC Data Gathering

    -Parent Questionnaire-lang. dev., hearing, vision, past or current illness

    -School Questionnaire

    -File Review

    -Student Interview

    -Parent Interview

    -Teacher Interview

Pre referral cont
Pre-Referral (Cont.) process

-Observations: Classroom, playground, testing

Pre referral team consideration areas
Pre-Referral Team Consideration Areas: process

General Educational Background History

Preschool Experiences

Schooling Factors

Evaluation Student’s Performance

Language Considerations

Family and Cultural Factors

(Rhodes, Ochoa, and Ortiz, 2005)

Language proficiency identification
Language Proficiency Identification process

  • Native Language Proficiency


    -Informal Measures (language sample, oral story retelling, receptive language evaluation)

  • English Language Proficiency

  • Formal and Informal Measures

Formal assessment language alternatives
Formal Assessment Language Alternatives process

  • English

  • Native Language

  • Bilingual

  • Non-Verbal

Formal assessment multidimensional assessment model for bilingual individuals mambi
Formal Assessment: Multidimensional Assessment Model for Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

  • Rhodes, Ochoa and Ortiz (2005) recommended system to determine the language of formal cognitive and academic evaluation

  • Based on Language Proficiency Levels, Grade Level and Academic Programming

Jesus results
Jesus’ Results Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

Language difference possibility
Language Difference Possibility Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

Difficulties related to:

Typical Second Language Acquisition Stages:

Silent Period

Code Switching


English language learners academic experience pre referral and assessment best practices

Difficulties observed Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)Only in Second language (Student’s oral and literacy skills are developmentally appropriate in native language.

Assuming research based, native language instruction opportunities.

Learning disability possibility
Learning Disability Possibility: Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

Native language delay or disability history

Assuming Adequate Instruction in Native Language:

Native language literacy difficulty

Familial learning disability history

Ld possibility cont
LD Possibility (Cont.) Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

Specific language weaknesses:

Phonemic awareness in both languages

History difficulty in spite of research based, high quality reading intervention designed for ELL compared to other, similar English language learners.

Review formal and informal results patterns
Review Formal and Informal Results Patterns Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

  • Informal Assessment: English- word id. and basic sentences. Spanish-unable to read or write. Can count from 1 to 20.

  • Formal Language Results: Very Low Expressive skills in both Spanish and English, Average Receptive skills in both Spanish and English

  • Formal Academic Results (English) reflect

    Average Reading Skills (English)

    Low Average decoding and calculation skills.

  • Formal Cognitive Results: High Average Nonverbal Reasoning Abilities

Conclusion Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

ELL Pre-Referral and Assessment Process:

Personal Cultural/Linguistic Background

Professional Training and Experience

Language Proficiency

Second Language Acquisition


Muchas gracias
Muchas Gracias! Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

I hope you found this presentation practical and helpful in addressing the needs of Oregon’s ELL students.

Resources Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)


CrossCultural Developmental Educational Services

Education Evaluation Center, The Teaching Research Institute, Western Oregon University www.wou.tri.eec

National Center for Cultural and Responsive Educational Systems nccrest.org

(National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2011)


References Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

Banerjee, R., Guiberson, M. (2012) Young Exceptional Children, p. 37.

Berry, J. W. (1980). Acculturation as varieties of adaptation. In A.M. Padilla (Ed.). Acculturation: Theory, models and some new findings (pp.9-25). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Collier, C. (2004). Separating Difference from Disability: Assessing diverse learners (3rd ed.). Ferndale, Wash.: Cross Cultural Developmental Education Services.

Collier, V. (1995). Promoting academic success for ESL students. Woodside, NY: Bastos Book Co.

Cummins, J. (2001). Language, Power, and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire.

Genessee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M.B. (2004). Dual language development & Disorders; A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

References cont
References (Cont.) Bilingual Individuals: (MAMBI)

Cuellar, I., Paniagua, F. (Eds.) (2000). Handbook of multicultural mental health: Assessment and treatment for diverse populations. San Diego, CA: Harcourt (Academic Press).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act Revision (Public Law No. 108.446), U.S.C. Section 300.304 (2004).

Rhodes, R. L., Ochoa, S. H. & Ortiz, S.O. (2005). Assessing culturally and linguistically diverse students. The Gilford Press

Thomas, W. P., Collier, V. (2002). A National study of school effectiveness for language minority students’ long-term academic achievement. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2006 from http://repositories.cdlib.org/crede/finalrpts/