ELL Assessment for Linguistic Differences vs. Learning Disabilities
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LDLD Assessment Process

LDLD Assessment Model A critical issue in US education today is the over-representation or under-representation of minorities in special education. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including misinterpretation of the various linguistic and cultural backgrounds that many students bring into USA schools. Often these differences are seen as indicators of learning disabilities.

How then, can educators recognize the difference?

The proposed LDLD Assessment Model has been developed over the last two decades and focuses on what assessors need to know and integrate as they evaluate English Language Learners (ELLs) or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) students with and without disabilities. Each of the six facets of the LDLD Assessment Model focuses our attention on guiding questions that teachers and other assessors need to consider in the assessment process.

Facets of the Model

The six facets of the model are:

  • theoretical/philosophical foundation
  • cultural diversity understanding
  • legal and ethical provisions
  • social/emotional dimensions
  • cultural and linguistic journey
  • language knowledge

As educators explore the major understandings inherent in the questions posed for each facet of the LDLD model, they will gain essential and necessary knowledge about how linguistic and cultural factors affect their perceptions of each student’s performance in US A schooling.

Theoretical Foundation

Central to the theoretical foundation is the integration of research from two major fields: special education and second/new language/culture learning are the following guiding questions:

  • What do educational assessors in the USA need to know that is additional and different about the research in the field of second (new) language learning in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing? How is different is it from understanding, speaking, reading, and writing in 'English as a first language' for students with and without disabilities?
  • What do educational assessors need to know about culture and the brain?
  • cultural diversity and the role of the culture of each of their student’s lives and how it impacts their learning and behaving in the USA classroom?
  • Why evaluators need to know about the role of cultural differences in educational evaluation?
  • Why do assessors need to know about the mismatch between politics about the language(s) of instruction in the United States and the research evidence?
  • Why does language of instruction matter for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse English Language Learning (CLDELL) students with disabilities at the beginning stages of learning a new language?

Read More ›››

Legal and Ethical Provisions

Current educational policy is often at odds with the research related to Language Learning Education. Knowledge of legal provisions that were milestone markers in providing CLD students access to a meaningful education is either lacking or ignored.

The guiding questions that touch on the legal and ethical provisions protecting CLDELL English Language Learners’ (ELL) right to fair assessment include:

  • What specific laws and court cases from (1) civil rights (2)special education, and (3) language learning education interact to ensure a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for educating students with disabilities who are English Language Learners from a diversity of cultural backgrounds?
  • Is current state policy in support of, or in contradiction to, sound research-based understandings of second/new language learning? What are the legal implications for a special education nondiscriminatory evaluation?
  • Does current educational policy at the state or district level conflict with professional as well as ethical CEC and APA practices in assessments of CLDELL students at different levels of English proficiency?

    Read More ›››

Linguistic and Cultural Journey

The cultural and linguistic experiences that have shaped CLDELL student's lives have a profound impact on their academic learning. The following guiding questions are crucial to gaining a better understanding of each student’s linguistic and cultural history:

  • What do assessors need to know about the linguistic journey of each student before and after the English language enters their lives?
    • What language(s) is/are spoken at home by caregivers and for how long?
    • What programs and languages of instruction have been used with the student and for how long (See History of Program Placement and Language)?
    • In what language(s) has the student learned how to read and write and what reading stage has been attained (Chall, 1983)?
  • What do assessors need to know about the cultural journey of each student before and after s/he enters the classroom in USA?
    • Where (countries or states) has the student lived, and for how long?
    • Was school interrupted?
    • What level of school attainment has the student achieved in his/her native language
    • Are prior school achievements known or taken into account in monolingual English classrooms?
    • How is the students’ cultural identity affirmed or negated in such classroom settings?

    Read More ›››

Language Knowledge

The touchstone questions for this facet of the LDLD ASSESSMENT MODEL include:

  • What do assessors need to know about the English Language in the USA?
  • What do assessors need to know about the characteristics of the student’s native language?
  • What do assessors need to know about how the student’s native language might interact and influence spoken and written American English in: speaking, reading, writing, and spelling?
  • What do assessors need to know about the characteristics of the language of each CLDELL student not yet fully proficient in English? Why is it important in the determination of Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)?

    Read about how Portuguese influences English

    Read about how Spanish influences English

Read about how Khmer influences English

Cultural Understanding

What do assessors know about the specific CLDELL student’s culture and its implications for learning and assessment & evaluation?

  1. What do assessors need to know about what cultural characteristics are having an influence in the student’s learning and behaving in the U.S. classroom? (See Kohls Cultural Values Continuum)
  2. What do assessors need to know about culture-specific information about the country of origin (i.e., if the student is an immigrant, how was the school system structured (if applicable, etc.)?
  3. What do assessors need to know about intercultural relations at the classroom, school, and community levels? Why is it important in understanding families of CLDELL students
  4. What do assessors need to know about the acculturation process for CLDELL students? (See Stages of Acculturation or Cultural Adaptation)

    Read more ›››

Social and Emotional Dimensions

What do assessors know about the social and emotional well-being of the CLDELLs in adjusting to a new culture, new language, and new school? This is a dimension of the ELL’s life that has been traditionally ignored in many settings.

What do assessors need to know about the interaction and influence of culture in the student's development of Self, and Self Esteem?

    1. How does contact with two or more cultures affect the sense of self-esteem and social behavior?
    2. How does culture play a role in interpersonal relationships of students (majority-minority)?
    3. How do others in the school accept and respect the identity of the CLDELL student?
    4. How is cultural diversity acknowledged by school personnel, community, family, etc.?
    5. What is the student’s sense of self (cultural identity)?

Essential Understandings

  1. CLDELL students are a very diverse group. They may differ in the following ways among others:
      • Level of first language proficiency
      • Level of schooling in the primary language
      • Level of proficiency in English as new language
      • Learning opportunities
      • Cultural and ethnic background
      • Immigration status
  2. It takes time for school-aged children to learn a new language (Hakuta, Butler & Witt, 2000):
    • up to two years for social language
    • five to seven for academic language. (Cummins, 1981a)
    • later research suggests that it may take up to 10 years for academic language.
  3. Spoken fluency (ease of production) in English as a new language is not the same as language proficiency (understanding, speaking, reading, and writing at a level equivalent to a native English speaker of the same age). In other words, the fact that a student can already speak fluently in ESL does not necessarily indicate that s/he is proficient at understanding, speaking, reading, and writing at the same levels as English-speaking peers.
  4. The level of achievement in the student’s native language greatly influences the student’s academic achievement in English.
  5. The literacy process only happens once. A student does not need to learn how to read English if s/he is already literate in his or her native language. (Therefore, the time spent on teaching English phonics to a literate ELL is time that could be better spent in other ways.)
  6. Home culture initially shapes the way a student perceives, thinks, acts and learns.
  7. Assessment and evaluation are related but different concepts. Assessment is the process of collecting data to make decisions and evaluation is making sense of the data collected and it involves comparison with some criteria. Read more>>>>
  8. Public policy does not necessarily match the research or sound educational practice.
  9. Procedures for assessing ELLs are only appropriate and fair when conducted by well-trained assessors that are also knowledgeable about the impact that linguistic and cultural factors have on learning in general an literacy in particular.
  10. Language proficiency assessment in Native Language and English as a knew language need to be done before any other academic assessment.
  11. Tests and other assessment procedures need to be done in the student's native language or mode of communication (PL 94 142, IDEA 2004)
  12. Learning disabilities are a construct of learning differences. These differences may appear similar to the behaviors exhibited by students in the process of learning English, but Learning Disabilities are not synonymous with Language Differences. (LD vs. LD) (Teaching LD, 2005).
  13. The discrepancy formula used in determining SLD classification is a controversial construct that is invalid and inappropriate for CLDELLs. Please see 2RTI
  14. English tests that are given in another language without proper validation for administration of those languages are invalid and scoring should not be reported.
  15. Language performance and language competence are not synonyms. A student‘s spoken fluency is not the same as language proficiency.

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