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The Special Education Referral and Decision-Making Process for English Language Learners: Child Study Team Meetings and Placement Conferences


by Janette K. Klingner & Beth Harry ó 2006

The purpose of this study was to examine the special education referral and decision-making process for English language learners (ELLs), with a focus on Child Study Team (CST) meetings and placement conferences/multidisciplinary team meetings. We wished to learn how school personnel determined if ELLs who were struggling had disabilities, to what extent those involved in the process understood second language acquisition, and whether language issues were considered when determining special education eligibility. We observed CST meetings and placement conferences for 19 students who were considered ELLs when they were referred. Findings revealed that in practice, only cursory attention was given to prereferral strategies. Most students were pushed toward testing, based on an assumption that poor academic performance or behavioral difficulties had their origin within the child and indicated a need for special education. Although some school personnel were quite knowledgeable about language issues, many were not. There was tremendous variation in the quality of what transpired during meetings. These differences were influenced by the intentions, knowledge, skills, and commitment of CST or multidisciplinary team members. All the factors we describe point to aspects of the process that should be improved.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 11, 2006, p. 2247-2281
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12804, Date Accessed: 5/29/2017 3:45:49 AM

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About the Author
  • Janette Klingner
    University of Colorado at Boulder
    E-mail Author
    JANETTE K. KLINGNER is an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was a bilingual special education teacher for 10 years in California and Florida. One research focus is the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education. In 2004, she received the American Educational Research Associationís Early Career Award.
  • Beth Harry
    University of Miami
    BETH HARRY is a professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miamiís School of Education. Her teaching and research focus on the impact of cultural diversity on education, on working with families of children with disabilities, and on qualitative methods in educational research. Dr. Harry and Dr. Janette Klingner recently published Why Are So Many Minority Students in Special Education? by Teachers College Press.
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