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Resources and Strategies for Identifying and Supporting English Learners with Learning Disabilities

Produced by REL West


No definitive processes exist for identifying English learner (EL) students with learning disabilities and determining the best academic supports for them. As a result, students can end up in classrooms or programs mismatched to their needs, which can hamper their academic achievement.

Two main factors can lead to inconsistent identification of EL students with learning disabilities:

  • A lack of understanding about why EL students are not making adequate progress
  • Poorly designed and implemented referral processes

Based on a review of the research literature and state practices, this brief is designed for policymakers who are developing guidance for identifying EL students in need of special education services, and educators of these students.

The brief provides:

  • Key questions school staff should ask to distinguish between language issues and a possible learning disability
  • A list of the types of data that can help to identify EL students with disabilities
  • Links to ten publicly available manuals, developed by states and districts, for identifying and supporting EL students with learning disabilities
  • Strategies for identifying the source of an EL student’s academic difficulties
  • Five guiding principles drawn from the 20 states with the largest populations of EL students

Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2018
Format: PDF
Pages: 4
Publisher: WestEd