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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from the California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities

FAQs


Chapter 1: Students with Disabilities Who May Be Identified as English Learners FAQs

Go to Chapter 1 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Should a student be given both the Initial and Summative ELPAC if she enrolls in school midyear, close to the Summative ELPAC window opening?

A: Yes. After the student has been identified as a potential English learner (based on the HLS), the student is administered the Initial ELPAC. The LEA has 30 days to assess and notify the parents of results. Whether this occurs before or during the Summative ELPAC window, if the student is classified as an English learner, within the Summative ELPAC window, she should be administered the Summative ELPAC.

Q: Can a special education teacher provide English language development services to English learner students in her classroom or on her caseload?

A: Yes. Under the current credentialing requirements, all special education teachers should have the appropriate English learner authorization to provide English learner services to students. It is not a requirement that the special education case manager or teacher provide the ELD instruction, unless the IEP states so, but ELD is a federal requirement.

Q: How do I request the use of an unlisted resource for the ELPAC for my LEA?

A: The LEA ELPAC coordinator must submit a request in writing to ELPAC@cde.ca.gov for approval of an unlisted resource that is not included in the accessibility matrix (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2Tw9I0J). Include the following information:

  • LEA name and school name
  • LEA ELPAC coordinator name
  • Number of students needing that resource
  • Contact information

Q: What are the different types of braille test forms?

A: Contracted and uncontracted braille refer to the type of braille language used. Contracted braille includes word contractions; uncontracted braille refers to writing in which the words are spelled completely (according to the National Federation of the Blind). Braille test   forms are uncontracted for kindergarten through grade two and contracted for grades    three through twelve and are available for both the Summative and Initial ELPAC paper and pencil administrations. As the ELPAC transitions to a computer-based assessment, more information will be provided.

Q: Are breaks the same as pausing?

A: No. Breaks are for students who need a break in the middle of a domain due to fatigue. In these instances, the audio for Listening or Speaking (Summarize an Academic Presentation) can be paused only once, and it is not necessary for the LEA to request an unlisted   resource for this.
Pausing is for students who need to have the audio pause between each question because they need time to process the information they are hearing. Pausing is an unlisted resource, which requires approval from the CDE. To date, all unlisted resource requests for pausing and repeating the audio for the Listening domain have been approved.

Q: What do I do with a student’s completed alternate assessment?

A: If a student takes an alternate assessment, the LEA should refer to the ELPAC Test Administration Manual and ELPAC Examiner’s Manual for current guidance. Also note:

  • The braille version of the ELPAC is not an alternate assessment and should not be identified as such.
  • Students who take locally determined alternate assessments will receive the lowest obtainable scale score (LOSS) on each domain affected. Caution should be used when interpreting results because the LOSS on one or more domains may lower the overall performance level on the ELPAC. The LOSS on the ELPAC will be used to calculate the ELPI for Title I accountability purposes. If the student is not reclassified, the LOSS will be entered as the “Most Recent Previous Scale Score(s)” at the next year’s administration of the locally determined ELPAC.
  • If a student takes a locally determined alternate assessment for all domains, the overall scale score will also be the LOSS.
  • In January 2019, the CDE began development of a statewide Alternate ELPAC for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. When the Alternate ELPAC is operational, LEAs will no longer locally determine an alternate assessment as all students identified as eligible for an alternate assessment, per their IEP, will take the Alternate ELPAC.

Q: What happens when a student’s IEP or Section 504 plan specifies that the student has a disability for which there are no appropriate accommodations for assessment in one or more of the Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing domains?

A: In this case, the student is assessed in the remaining domains in which it is possible to assess the student, per 34 CFR 200.6 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2WXTsHU). The IEP team may determine that the student should be exempt from a domain if there are not appropriate accommodations for the student to access the affected domain. A student may be assigned an overall score only if assessed in both oral and written language. To be considered as having been assessed in oral language, the student must have been assessed in either Speaking or Listening. To be considered as having been assessed in written language, the student must have been assessed in either Reading or Writing.


Chapter 2: Supports for English Learners within the Multi-Tiered System of Supports Framework FAQs

Go to Chapter 2 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Does a student need to receive all the levels or tiers of support before they can be referred for assessment for special education?

A: No. At any time, a request can be made that a student study team become involved in determining if a referral for special education evaluation is appropriate. However, the team needs to evaluate multiple areas in a pre-referral checklist to determine how the student’s needs will be served. In some cases, the team will decide that close monitoring in tiered instruction is merited to carefully assess a complex issue before assigning special education services and developing an IEP. In other cases, the evidence of a specific disability is pronounced, and the student may receive services immediately while also participating in continued comprehensive tiered instruction.

Q: When a parent requests an assessment for special education, does the assessment process need to wait until the student has completed all the tiers of supports in the MTSS framework?

A: No. The parent has a right to request an assessment at any time. However, the team needs to evaluate multiple areas in the pre-referral checklist in determining how the student’s needs will be served. In some cases, the team will decide that close monitoring in tiered instruction is merited to carefully assess a complex issue before assigning special education services and developing an IEP. In other cases, the evidence of a specific disability is pronounced and the student may receive services immediately while also participating in continued comprehensive tiered instruction.

Q: Can students with IEPs receive supports in the Tier I, Tier II and/or Tier III intervention groups?

A: Yes. They have access to the general education interventions as any other student, and this is in addition to their individualized special education services. Their IEPs take this into account as part of the comprehensive plan.

Q: Do English learners who need interventions receive their ELD instruction during the Tier II or Tier III intervention time?

A: No. Interventions address very specific identified skill areas and are not comprehensive.
Every student retains comprehensive ELD instruction (both integrated and designated ELD) in Tier I (core) instruction, and the ELD Standards and principles of ELD instruction inform how they receive Tier II and Tier III interventions.

Q: Who can provide intervention instruction? Can special education staff provide these  supports to any general education students in their groups? We used to do that but not sure how it is today.

A: Yes. This can be done. Please refer to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (accessible at: https://www.ctc.ca.gov) and the specific document in CL-808CA 10/2016. Also refer to the CTC description for Education Specialist Instruction Credential. This allows for the credential holder to provide instruction in a general education setting. Also see specialty areas as they may offer more information.

Q: Can students receive support in different tiers? If so, what does that look like?

A: All learners receive consistent and ongoing support in Tier I core instruction. A student may receive Tier II interventions, respond to that intervention through progress in academic and/ or behavioral growth, and then continue to engage in Tier I without the Tier II support. Few students will receive Tier II support and then need more intensive support through Tier III. In this case, they would still fully engage in Tier I core instruction with universal supports and the Tier III services would be additional.


Chapter 3: Special Education Referral Process for English Learners

Go to the Chapter 3 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Is it advisable to group English learners with non-English learners for RtI?

A: Yes. English learners may benefit from being grouped with non-English learners and with English speaking peers with similar learning needs. However, it is important to remember that the English learners are progress monitored separately from the English-only peers and compared to “like peers” to determine if appropriate levels of progress are being made. Take into consideration the ELP of the student when grouping for instruction.

Q: What is the recommended or required amount of time an English learner must be in MTSS or RtI before making a referral for special education?

A: It is best practice or recommended for English learners to receive high quality, evidence- based interventions over a four- to six-month period in order to provide enough time to determine if the student is struggling academically due to a disability or language difference and if the student’s academic difficulties can be remediated in general education. It is best to start progress monitoring after four weeks.

Q: May LEAs or districts establish policies and procedures that delineate that English learners must have received a certain number of years of English language development prior to a referral for assessment to determine eligibility for special education?

A: No. Federal and state law require all children with disabilities residing in the state who are in need of special education and related services to be identified, located and assessed per EC 56301 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2KPMT50).


Chapter 4: Assessment of English Learners for Identification as Students with Disabilities

Go to the Chapter 4 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Are there any written guidelines or procedures for the assessment of preschool age students who are bilingual or who have a primary or dominant language that is other than English?
Our preschool assessment teams are having a hard time with this in consideration of special education eligibility (in many situations without consideration of language differences.)

A: Part B of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the section that lays out the educational guidelines for school children three to twenty-one years of age. IDEA requires that all students referred for assessment to determine eligibility for special education and related services receive an assessment that meets the requirements found in the IDEA (34 CFR 300.304–305) (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2v9NeFc) and in state statutes (EC 56320– 56330) (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2V1FROH). Since we do not classify preschool children as English learners or require them to take the ELPAC or similar test, it is presumed the federal laws regarding primary language assessment apply.

Q: When districts are administering assessments to determine special education eligibility of English learners with moderate to severe disabilities, are they required to assess in their primary language?

A: Test and assessment materials are provided and administered in the language and form most likely to provide accurate information on what the student knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally (EC 56320[b][1]) (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2V1FROH).

Q: May the parent waive the requirement for a student to be assessed for special education in his primary language?

A: No. Again test and assessment materials are provided and administered in the language and form most likely to provide accurate information on what the student knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is not feasible to so provide and administer (EC 56320[b][1]) (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2V1FROH).

Q: Is it required that an interpreter who assists an assessor to administer a test that will determine special education eligibility in the primary language be certified or receive formal training?

A: There are no regulations regarding certification or formal training. In addition to the requirements in EC 56320 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2V1FROH) and EC 56381 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2Dg3VmC), assessments and reassessments shall be administered  by qualified personnel who are competent in both the oral or sign language skills and written skills of the individual’s primary language or mode of communications and have a knowledge and understanding of the cultural and ethnic background of the pupil. If it is clearly not feasible to do so, an interpreter must be used, and the assessment report shall document this condition and note that the validity of the assessment may have been affected (5 CCR 3023[a]) (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2ICd2BI).

Q: Is it true that schools or student study teams must wait until a student has been receiving English learner services for four to six years or is at least in the fifth grade so she can fully develop her English language skills before being referred for special education?

A: No. This is a common misconception. Disabilities occur in primary and English language development and across all contexts. It is required that assessors rule out that the student has a disability versus a language difference. Skilled assessors trained in English language development and bilingual assessment can make this determination even if the student has not fully acquired English skills.


Chapter 5: Developing an Individualized Education Program for English Learners

Go to the Chapter 5 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Is it required that the IEP team classify a preschool student as an English learner?

A: While not a formal identification as English learners, frequently occurs upon enrollment in transitional kindergarten or kindergarten when the home language survey (HLS) is completed by the parent. The IEP must still document whether the student is hearing or speaking a language other than English at home. Most preschools use the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), which includes observation of students as dual-language learners. These observations can be used by the IEP team to document in the IEP if the student is a dual-language learner.

Q: Is it required for a student who is an English learner, who has an IEP and is identified as having a specific learning disability (SLD), to receive only instruction in English so as not to confuse the student?

A: Research indicates that the student may acquire language two (L2) earlier if they are proficient in language one (L1) (Fortune and Menke 2010; Butterfield 2017). The IEP team needs to carefully consider the individual needs of the student when making decisions about the language of instruction.

Q: What decisions can only be made by the IEP team for students who are English learners with disabilities?

A: Three key decisions are the jurisdiction of the IEP team: (1) the language of instruction, (2) use of accessibility tools or use of an alternate assessment for the ELPAC or CAASP, and (3) how and where ELD designated instruction will be provided (general education or special education) and if instruction will be provided by a general education teacher, special education teacher, or through designated ELD instruction.

Q: Must English language development (ELD) goals be included in the IEP?

A: No. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that IEP goals be developed in areas of need related to the student’s disability. Being an English learner is not a disability. Rather, state and federal regulations require that IEP goals be linguistically appropriate, which means they must be written at a level of linguistic ability that is appropriate for the student based on her current English language development level as evidenced by recent assessment (ELPAC or an alternate assessment).

Q: When do I include universal tools, designated support, and accommodations for the ELPAC to my English learner students with disabilities?

A: These decisions should be made by the student’s IEP team. The team should review assessment information that provides the team with an understanding of how the student’s disability affects the student’s ability to interact with the ELPAC. The IEP team should ask what supports (provided through the accessibility resources) the student needs to use to show his true level of English proficiency. In some cases, students may only require the use of designated supports, and in others, students will require accommodations. IEP teams should refer to the accessibility matrix when holding these discussions. The IEP should document how the student will access the ELPAC and which accessibility resources the student will use during the administration of the ELPAC. Also, IEP teams should consider documenting the instructional implications for the use of the selected accessibility  resources. The accessibility matrix displays the universal tools, designated supports, and non-embedded accommodations allowed as part of the ELPAC as of August 3, 2018.

Q: Does the interpreter for the IEP have to be trained?

A: California Education Code is largely silent on this topic. The applicable code is EC 56341.5 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2GppTpv), and the relevant section (i) states:

The local educational agency shall take any action necessary to ensure that the parent or guardian understands the proceedings at a meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents or guardians with deafness or whose native language is a language other than English.

However, 5 CCR 3023 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2ICd2BI) states:

In addition to provisions of EC 56320 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2V1FROH) and  56381 (accessible at: https://bit.ly/2IpV9qy), assessments and reassessments shall be administered by qualified personnel who are competent in both the oral or sign language skills and written skills of the individual’s primary language or mode of communication and have a knowledge and understanding of the cultural and ethnic background of the pupil.    If it clearly is not feasible to do so, an interpreter must be used, and the assessment report shall document this condition and note that the validity of the assessment may have been affected.

Interpreters for low incidence disabilities do have to meet certain requirements as stated in 5 CCR 3051.16(c) (accessible at: https://bit.ly/1Hnpssm):

An educational interpreter shall be certified by the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), or equivalent; in lieu of RID certification or equivalent, an educational interpreter must have achieved a score of 4.0 or above on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), the Educational Sign Skills Evaluation-Interpreter and Receptive (ESSE-I/R), or the National Association of the Deaf/American Consortium of Certified Interpreters (NAD/ACCI) assessment. If providing Cued Language transliteration, a transliterator shall possess Testing/Evaluation and Certification Unit (TEC Unit) certification, or have achieved a score of 4.0 or above on the EIPA - Cued Speech.

Requirements for certification exist for low incidence disability interpreters, but there are  none for language interpreters. Local school districts must set their own policies that determine the qualifications of the language interpreters they use and any additional training requirements.


Chapter 6: Educational Programming: Access and Equity For English Learners with Disabilities

Go to the Chapter 6 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Can a special education teacher provide integrated and designated ELD to English learners as part of their special education services?

A: Yes. Certificated special education teachers who have their English learner authorization may provide both integrated and designated ELD. Frequently special education teachers co-teach with general education teachers to provide comprehensive ELD (integrated and designated ELD).

Q: Will learning in two languages be confusing for English learners with disabilities?

A: There is no evidence of this. English learners with disabilities can become multilingual, just like students without disabilities. Also, maintaining the primary language is important for students so they can continue to communicate meaningfully with their families and caregivers and continuously develop a sense of cultural pride.


Chapter 7: Teaching and Learning to Meet Student Needs

Go to the Chapter 7 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Do English learners with disabilities need to have designated ELD?

A: Yes. All English learners, including English learners with disabilities, receive both integrated and designated ELD instruction, which comprise a comprehensive approach to English language development.

Q: The instructional materials my district provided give me very little guidance on how to provide integrated and designated ELD. What should I do?

A: With your school administrator, you can reach out to your LEA’s English learner specialists who, working collaboratively with your LEA’s special education specialists, can support you and your grade-level or department team to adapt the instructional materials to meet student needs. This will involve using the CA ELD Standards—and other resources provided in this guide—to “tune” lessons and specific activities and possibly add activities to ensure that English learners with disabilities make academic, linguistic, and social-emotional learning progress.

Q: Is it okay to provide designated ELD that is connected to math and science.

A: Yes. Designated ELD builds into and from content instruction, so a focus in designated ELD on the language of math and science is appropriate.

Q: I do not speak the language of the parents of my English learners with disabilities, and they do not speak very much English. How can I collaborate with them?

A: Your LEA’s English learner and special education specialists can help you find ways to communicate effectively and collaborate meaningfully with families of your students. This chapter also offers guidance and many online resources for teachers seeking to expand cultural awareness and proficiency.


Chapter 8: Exiting English Learners from Special Education Status

Go to the Chapter 8 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Does an English learner need to be reclassified as fluent English proficient (RFEP) in order for the IEP team to consider exiting the student from special education?

A: No. The decision to exit an English learner student from special education must be based  on the IEP team’s determination that the student no longer meets eligibility requirements for special education. English learner services must continue until the student is reclassified as English fluent proficient.

Q: Is it a legal mandate that a member of the English learner department and the IEP team meet for an English learner who is being considered for exit from special education?

A: Although the term “English learner specialist ” or similar term is not explicitly specified in federal or state regulations regarding required IEP team membership, FAQ #5 from the  US Department of Education regarding English learners with disabilities released in 2014 states: “It is essential that IEP teams for English learners with disabilities include persons with expertise in second language acquisition and other professionals, such as speech- language pathologists, who understand how to differentiate between language acquisition difficulty and a disability.”


Chapter 9: Reclassifying Students with Disabilities from English Learner Status

Go to the Chapter 9 of the CA Guide for Educating EL with Disabilities

Q: Does a student’s individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan take precedence over provisions for English learners in the California Education Code?

A: No. The requirements in a student’s IEP or Section 504 plan are federal requirements as are the provisions for English learners. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) require that an LEA provide to English learners with disabilities both the language assistance and disability-related services to which they are entitled under federal law. The LEA must inform parents of English learner students with IEPs how the language instruction education program meets the objectives of the child’s IEP. Even if the parent declines disability-related services under IDEA or Section 504, that student with a disability remains entitled to all English learner rights and services.

Q: Is reclassification the responsibility of the IEP team for English learners with disabilities?

A: Each district or LEA must establish policies and procedures to designate the staff responsible for reclassification of English learner students. While the IEP team may be  the most appropriate group of professionals to make reclassification decisions for English learner students with disabilities, it is important to note that an English learner specialist with specialized knowledge on second language acquisition should be present when reclassification decisions are made.

Q: A Spanish-speaking student whose family recently arrived in the US has enrolled in our middle school. She was referred for a special education evaluation right away and identified for special education services. She is now receiving her services the majority of the day in a “special day class.” While she was quite social before, she has become sullen and withdrawn. What should I do, as her general education art teacher?

A: Any staff member with concerns about a student may convene an IEP team meeting. This includes the special education case manager and school psychologist. The IEP team   can review the student’s assessment results and air the concerns of a general education teacher. Key questions to consider are: (1) Was the student given a psycho-educational assessment to determine eligibility in both her primary language and English? What were her cognition skills in her primary language as compared to English? (2) Is she receiving appropriate ELD instruction, and if so, what has her response been to this instruction? (3) Would it be appropriate to re-assess in both languages, considering best practices for bilingual assessment, to determine if she should be placed with true peers? If not, would the team be open to more inclusion in general education classes with support from the English learner and special education specialists? Did the health history reveal any additional needs?