Impact Feature Issue on Educating K-12 English Language Learners with Disabilities

From the Editors

English language learners (ELLs) with disabilities are a growing part of the K-12 school population nationwide. According to one calculation, over 500,000 students with disabilities in U.S. schools have limited English proficiency. These are students whose first language is not English, and in school they have the dual challenges of learning in a new language while navigating the education system as students with disabilities.

The available knowledge on how to effectively educate K-12 English language learners with disabilities, and measure their progress, is small but growing. However, many educators and families have pressing questions. How can educators distinguish between language-related needs and disability-related needs when evaluating and teaching these students? How do these students fit into and benefit from current teaching approaches? How can schools create more collaboration between language-related and disability-related services in meeting the complex needs of ELLs with disabilities? And, for their parents, how do the special education and English as a second language systems work, what are their child’s options and rights, and what is the family’s role in Individualized Education Programs and other aspects of their child’s education? In this Impact we offer some responses to these questions and others from people around the country who are helping our education system respond to the needs of this growing student population.