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Implications Of Language, Culture And Learning

Abedi, J. (2006). Psychometric issues in the ELL assessment and special education eligibility. Teachers College Record, 108(11), 2282-303. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00782.x

This enlightening study examines the impact of linguistic factors and both assessment and classification of English Language Learners (ELLs) and the imprecise line between ELL students who are at the lower end of English proficiency and ELLs with learning disabilities. The significance of psychometric issues and ensuing validity concerns around misclassification, underlines the need for reducing the linguistic complexity of features that may impact comprehension. Additionally, Abedi, a researcher with deep insight as a result of many related studies, has significantly contributed to the growing body of knowledge surrounding the overrepresentation of ELLs in special education. Through a critical analysis of results from major studies; CRESST [Abedi, J., Courtney, M., and Goldberg, J. (2000) and Abedi, J., and Leon, S. (1999)], specifically related NCLB (2001) legislation mandates regarding inclusion and assessment, and the growing concerns of researchers over the validity of classification for ELL students, Abedi gives educators a sound foundational understanding of the achievement trends of both groups and how the linguistic gap can widen or narrow depending on subject matter (math versus reading, necessitating modifying the linguistic load. This study demonstrates there is a larger performance gap between ELLs and non-ELLs in areas that have greater levels of language demand, as well as showing a similar trend for students with disabilities. Misclassification of ELLs or students with disabilities is not negotiable, and more research is necessary to bring this critical information to educators and administrators.

Abedi, J. (2004). The No Child Left Behind Act and English language learners: Assessment and accountability issues. Educational Researcher, 33(1), 4-14. doi: 10.3102/0013189X033001004

The significance of how legislation actively affects students in the classroom is a subject of emerging research regarding education reform, the effectiveness of the NCLB assessment and accountability systems, and the pressure that is placed on schools and students in the high-stakes testing arena. Abedi, competent researcher on language complexity in psychometric measurement tools, provides a clear analysis of measurement quality and its effects on AYP. Adequate yearly progress is an instrument of great concern as the LEP (limited English proficient) student population is one of instability on standardized testing due to linguistic complexity. Abedi provides a wealth of critical, well-developed points regarding historically how and why LEP students’ scores will affect AYP outcomes, and has provided a large amount of substantiating data (n=150,000) in this US Department of education funded work. This study is applicable in some context to students in special education. Many of Abedi’s basic concepts are extremely relevant to research regarding students who are both LEP and special education.

Achilles, G., Mclaughlin, M., & Croninger, R. (2007). Sociocultural correlates of disciplinary exclusion among students with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities in the SEELS National Dataset. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 15(1), 33-45. doi: 10.1177/10634266070150010401

The study researchers, concerned with suspension and expulsion rates for students with and without disabilities, used selected participant data of a large sample of students (N=1,824) in order to identify factors that are linked to a higher likelihood of expulsion (HLE). The students were divided into three “high-exclusion” disability groups: learning disability (LD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AHDH), and emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD). Additionally, multilevel predictors were entered into logistic regression analyses to develop the factors leading to HLE. Of particular note for further reading, the data for this study was taken from the larger SEELS longitudinal dataset funded by OSEP. The federal SEELS study is documenting an array of experiences (e.g., educational, social, vocational) of children in special education as they move through elementary, middle, and high school. A benefit of this study is that the large sample number is the ability to look at the different correlates simultaneously, and draw from a bigger pool of potential data. The research data asserts that disciplinary exclusion is used often and commonly disproportionately applied to boys in specific disability and ethnic categories (EBD, Hispanic, African American, LD). However, patterns of disproportionality diverge among disability groups. More study and research is recommended.

Baker, B. (2004). A closer look at the costs of serving children “Living on the Edges” of state school finance policy: At-risk, limited English proficient and gifted children. Educational Considerations, 32(1), 42-54.

The need for public school finance policy to focus attention on ensuring that less clearly defined student populations such as “at-risk. limited-English proficient, and gifted and talented” are served because they potentially lie on the “ill-defined fringe” between general and special education. Through a review of literature on program costs and state aid for these fringe populations, Baker sufficiently outlines a number of Resource Cost Model (RCM) studies, statistical modeling studies, education production and education cost function methods, and other useful tools for estimating the qualities and quantities of educational resources that improve outcomes. He cautions; however, in “a perfect world, with perfect information, perfect data on student outcomes, and perfect measures of district inefficiency” the need to look at cost analyses will not eliminate distortions or differences in cost estimates depending on different school districts and different student populations. Additionally, a detailed analysis of the relative adequacy of current funding compared with cost estimates for limited English proficient children in five states -- Kansas, Colorado. Missouri, North Dakota and Nebraska allows for a complete dissection of the adequacy of current policies surrounding the funding (or not) for these student groups. Finally, there is much concern amongst researchers that the reliability of current methods of estimating costs, and further study is needed to apply more empirically sound standards of practice when legislators and consultants lack other means of supporting existing state policies.

Brice, A., & Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2001). Choice of languages in instruction. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(4), 10-16.

This informative overview of bilingual instruction and effective strategies addresses the role of code switching (alternating language exchanges) and code mixing, and its applicability to special education and integrated into general education. While currently bilingual instruction is not a popular (or legal) choice for many states, there is no reason to devalue what works in the classroom for some students. There are many English words that borrow lexically from French, Spanish and Mayan, and capitalizing on the commonalities allows students to lower affective filters. Again, the application of common strategies (reiteration, check for understanding, spontaneous language use, and instructional methods) are valuable across populations of students with learning and language needs. While somewhat narrow in scope as to the literature review and presenting factors, this article opens the doors for peers to collaborate and share what works for students.

Causton-Theoharis, J., & Theoharis, G. (2009). Creating inclusive schools for all students. The Education Digest, 74(6), 43-7.

In this condensed version of a previously published article, the authors present the challenges of including all students in the classroom. From the student with behavioral outbursts to those with autism, learning disabilities, and English language learners, are actively engaged in one classroom with their regular education peers. All students by federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) are to be served in “one” classroom. The questions, concerns, needs, and training of teachers is paramount, as is using a humanistic approach to inclusion by using intervention strategies and effective leadership. While not a peer-reviewed, empirical study, this article represents a need for research as well as development of professional training for educators. It is an important foundational concept for research associated with special education/English language learners.

Gubrium, A. (2007). Chapter 11: “I don't ask God to move the mountain; just give me the strength to climb it.” Disability stories of southern rural African American women. Wagadu, 4, 162-83.

This revealing and insightful study conducted by an abolitionist preacher and advocate of women’s rights, is a compelling dismantling of what it means to be “disabled” as a Black American female. Gubrium reflects a social constructionist perspective by scrutinizing what resources the participants use to understand their experiences, and how these resources are used to make sense of their experiences. Methodology used in this study of 7 (of a larger parallel study group of 20) African American women in a poor rural community in the south, was a semi-structured narrative and social location approach in that the participants were able to construct the interviews to their level of comfort. Extremely useful was the discussion regarding both the biomedical and Aftocentric perspectives on disability; how deeply rooted in white colonialism, triple oppression (gender, domesticity, and enslavement), and how from a postcolonial standpoint, was the need to create a “caste” of people who were disabled. Each study participant revealed the cycle of work as a caretaker, injured, and then cared for by a caretaker, yet brought varying impressions as to the reasons: injury, mental, or laziness, and Gubrium suggests yet another perspective: disability as transgressive. That is, the subject transgresses the biomedical and Afrocentric and achieves her identity as a result of God and spirituality in the face of disability, however defined. Further reading is recommended to gain insight into how each culture sees themselves in the context of “disabled” in order to better apply appropriate instructional or research methods.

Kim, K., Lee, Y., and Morningstar, M. (2007). An unheard voice: Korean American parents' expectations, hopes, and experiences concerning their adolescent child's future. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32(4), 253-64.

In this qualitative study, researchers Kim, Lee and Morningstar reveal Korean parents’ desires, expectations and goals for their child’s life after high school, with a clear focus on how to best implement effective transition planning and services when much is rooted in the cultural family system and perceptions. Ensuring that family cultural values are considered during the transition process is critical as well as mandated by the NCLB. How then do we appropriately serve Asian American families which are the most diverse (subgroups) of any minority group (Chang & Myers, 1997) in the United States? The data were collected through in-depth, open-ended protocol, semi-structured telephone interviews conducted in Korean. Analysis revealed a significant need to inform parents of services such as out-of-home placements and district specific, general expectations for teachers and staff involved with their severely disabled children. Of note, along with very useful implications for practice was a discussion of the limitations of this study, participants were gained through a convenience sampling method which was somewhat small (n=10).

Klinger, J. & Artiles, A. (2006). English language learners struggling to learn to read: Emergent scholarship on linguistic differences and learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(5), 386-389.

Klinger and Artiles are clear at the onset of the article that this is the first in a series of five articles. This particular article was meant as an overview and not as empirical research. As an overarching topic: the English language learner struggling to read; is he at the low end of acquisition or is it a learning disability? The article provides many avenues for further reading. Identified within the article is the CRESST research (Abedi, 2006), and a particularly compelling concepts to follow up on: that some students underachieve because of insufficient instruction or they have limited opportunities to learn, and is a “by-product of the acculturation process (Collier and Hoover, 1987).” This is a good article for initial scan of emerging scholarship and research base, and provides encouragement to broaden approaches to research and think creatively about how we refer, assess and instruct ELL students with or without learning disabilities.

Lee, H.J. (2010). Cultural factors related to the hidden curriculum for students with autism and related disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 46(3) 141-149.

There are unwritten social rules and standards for conduct which most individuals learn automatically and take for granted. When considering one of the most significant challenges for individuals on the autism spectrum are deficits in social interaction, behavior, and functionality. When a new variable such as acquisition of a second language is added, potentially compounded by socioeconomic status and community isolation, it becomes apparent that unspoken and shifting social rules must be evaluated and specifically taught as an intervention strategy. Of all educators the question must be asked, “What is your culture” and deep reflection and analysis is essential according to Lee. Lee provides case study examples and outlines the SOCCSS (situations, options, consequences, choices, strategies, simulation) as a social decision making process which students can self-manage after guided instruction. A somewhat broad topic with many moving parts, Lee attempts to provide a foundation of understanding. It is clear that hidden social rules must be taught through a variety of approaches in order to give students clarity through role modeling and practice. What is not clear is how effective the strategies might be with students who have autism, at least in this article. There is a rationale; however, there are many other factors besides social deficits which may render this approach ineffective.

Lian, M., & Fontánez-Phelan, S. (2001). Perceptions of Latino parents regarding cultural and linguistic issues and advocacy for children with disabilities. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 26(3), 189-94.

Using a survey with Likert scale items in three categories, researchers probed 100 Latino respondent parents regarding cultural and linguistic issues and advocacy. This is not a peer-reviewed article; however the information gleaned from parents is applicable to current classroom settings, and it presents clearly that there is a definite need for correlation studies to see if there is a relationship between demographics and perceptions, and include a diverse and large sample (Mexican America, Caribbean, Central and South American families with children who have disabilities in both English and Spanish. Note, Likert surveys are an excellent means of gathering data about students and families with a low-threat, high response method.

Morrison, T. (1990). A Writer’s work. Films Media Group, Films On Demand, from http://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=12280&xtid=4996

Nobel Peace prize winner and acclaimed African American author, Toni Morrison is interviewed by Bill Moyers. She describes herself as living in two worlds: the real world and the one within the pages of her stories. In order to broaden perspectives and learn of other cultures and people, it is essential that educators and researchers develop a comprehensive ability to ask the right questions in the best way to achieve the best results. She speaks of learning from her characters as they develop much like a researcher, and brings the viewer through a historical perspective of Black writers and a candid discussion of race to the table. Compelling research focus is gained through accessing a variety of media to understand topics in depth.

Shippen, M., Curtis, R., & Miller, A. (2009). A qualitative analysis of teachers' and counselors' perceptions of the overrepresentation of African Americans in special education: A preliminary study. Teacher Education and Special Education, 32(3), 226-38. doi: 10.1177/0888406409340009

In this qualitative study using a focus group (n=8-12 x 3, same content areas) methodology, data was obtained through carefully planned conversations designed to obtain perceptions of general and special education teachers and counselors. Results revealed both divergent and overlapping themes between the three groups. Overrepresentation is a chronic problem currently in education and understanding the implications in order to resolve the dilemma must begin with those who work directly with the families and students. Two susceptibility variables, poverty and lack of educational support from families are not surprising given research; however, of note was the lack of understanding of the factors of overrepresentation by professionals, indicating further study and research regarding professional development opportunities. While the results are compelling, there are limitations in a small study with elementary level professionals only and analysis of the subjective and complex world of perceptions.

Spooner, F., Rivera, C., Browder, D., Baker, J., & Salas, S. (2009). Teaching emergent literacy skills using cultural contextual story-based lessons. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34(3/4), 102-12.

Using a single-subject multiple probe across skill set, obtained from a cultural contextual story-based lesson protocol in a forward chaining instructional format. There is limited research on effective literacy instruction for educators, specifically for English-language learners with a moderate or severe intellectual disability. A unique and yet highly informative study, preliminary results suggest that using story lessons that are culturally and linguistically based in the student’s native language, allows for acquisition of life skills along with literacy skills. The student in the study was Spanish-speaking and had a moderate disability (based on formal assessments). The paraprofessional was also Spanish-speaking and was specifically trained to use task-analysis in chained phases versus total task presentation. The researcher was reflective, yet critical and suggested that while the implications for future research are numerous, the study was limited in time and in using only one subject. There is an ever-increasing need for a variety of appropriate interventions for students who are ESL and moderate-severe needs, due to the exponential growth of this population in the schools during the past 20 years, thus giving this study a unique view of teaching and learning.

Stubblefield, A. (2007). “Beyond the pale”: Tainted whiteness, Cognitive disability, and eugenic sterilization. Hypatia, 22(2), 162-81. doi: 10.2979/HYP.2007.22.2.162

As informed, reflective practitioners, Caucasian educators particularly must develop a sense of history and the past, no matter the discomfort. This article is presented as an argument proceeding in stages regarding the concept of feeblemindedness, rooted in the early twentieth century that was linked to “off-white” ethnicity, poverty and gendered moral characterization which symbolized tainted whiteness. Drawing the reader through the eugenics movement (involuntary sterilization of the feebleminded) in the United States and history of miscegenation (mixed race) prevention, Stubblefield analyzes both a social construction and medical model of dis/ability, and how race, feeblemindedness, and white impurity are inextricable, and in the hands of the white, male elite. With all such highly charged topics, the necessity of providing accurate historical facts with academically centered language is critical in written and oral presentation of data and information.

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