Special Education

Parents of an ELL Tackle Complexity of Spec. Ed. Identification

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 10, 2011 1 min read
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I read with interest today a story about parents of a teenager adopted from the Ukraine who are advocating for their son to be placed in the special education program at Los Lunas School District in New Mexico. The parents contend their son has not been properly evaluated by the school district and they have filed a complaint against the school district with the New Mexico Department of Education Special Education Bureau.

But the school district has followed its usual procedures for identifying students with disabilities, according to the district’s director of curriculum, who is quoted in the article.

The article touches on a thorny issue regarding the education of English-language learners: How can educators distinguish between a language barrier and a learning disability?

It seems the parents of the student from the Ukraine have tried to sort the issue out to the best of their ability by researching the various education laws. And the administrators of the school system seem to have put procedures in place that they also believe address the complexity of situations like this.

But what I’ve found in my reporting on this topic is that the usual procedures do not always serve ELLs well. Usually, the parents of ELLs are immigrants and may not know well how to navigate the school system or legal system. That’s not the case here. These parents seem determined to do whatever they can to advocate for their son.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.