Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Graduate Education

First Advisor

Jenny VanRy


English Language Learners (ELLs) have been over-identified for placement into special education classes for more than 20 years. Causes include a lack of precisely defined constructs for disabilities, funding methods used by states, failure to follow federal legislation, weak prereferral systems to special education in schools, a huge influx of non-English speaking students to the classroom, and a lack of training amongst teachers. Correctly identifying ELLs who also need special education is difficult, but teachers can safeguard against improper identification by taking into account the social, educational, cultural, and language aspects of students' special circumstances, i.e., the needs of the "whole child." By recognizing that ELLs exhibit similar learning difficulties to students with special needs, experience huge changes in culture and educational styles, and social isolation because of a lack of second language, educators can tailor their assessment techniques and classroom practice to help ELLs function better in the classroom. Schools should consider the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs of the student by hiring bi-lingual personnel for assessment for special education, conducting professional development training for classroom teachers, not relying on a single assessment tool, assessing skills in both the native and second languages, and documenting a problem across settings (home and school), among others.


Action Research Report Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Education