Assessing English Language Learners: A Perplexing Puzzle The intersection of language education and special education is not clearly marked for linguistically and culturally diverse students; some qualify as English language learners; others as English language learners with disabilities or specific language impairment; still others with only disabilities or specific language impairment. It is often perplexing to try ... Article
Article  |   June 01, 2008
Assessing English Language Learners: A Perplexing Puzzle
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Margo Gottlieb
    Illinois Resource CenterArlington Heights, IL and World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • Cristina Sanchez-Lopez
    Illinois Resource Center Arlington, Heights, IL
    Consultant
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Articles
Article   |   June 01, 2008
Assessing English Language Learners: A Perplexing Puzzle
SIG 16 Perspectives on School-Based Issues, June 2008, Vol. 9, 45-51. doi:10.1044/sbi9.2.45
SIG 16 Perspectives on School-Based Issues, June 2008, Vol. 9, 45-51. doi:10.1044/sbi9.2.45
Abstract

The intersection of language education and special education is not clearly marked for linguistically and culturally diverse students; some qualify as English language learners; others as English language learners with disabilities or specific language impairment; still others with only disabilities or specific language impairment. It is often perplexing to try to decipher which category is most appropriate and, consequently, how best to serve these students. Assessment data, if reliable and valid, coupled with historical information, can help define the pathway to educational success for the fastest growing segment of our school population. This article shares the challenges facing educators of English language learners and attempts to show how proper assessment can guide educational decision making. We pose that for English language learners, assessment must entail the gathering of information from multiple sources on their language proficiency and academic achievement in both English and their native language. In that way, we obtain a comprehensive portrait of the students' full complement of knowledge and skills. Ultimately, English as a Second Language or bilingual teachers working along with speech-language pathologists need to collaborate in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data to afford English language learners optimal opportunities for success in school.

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