NYC Region Mini Area Conference, April 26, 2003!

April 2003

Report from New Jersey: Keynote

KATESOL Spring Conference

NYS ODMAC April 26th

/ Index /
/ Letters /
/ Search /

for free!

ESL MiniConference Online!

Why We Need a Bilingual LD Certification
Report: Interventions and Assessments

Dr. Mihri Napoliello, Chair, Multicultural Education, New Jersey City UniversityOn Friday, March 7th, 2003, about 125 educators, mostly from in-state, attended the 3rd Annual "New Jersey Conference on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners," co-sponsored by NJTESOL-NJBE and the Multicultural Education Department at New Jersey City University. According to conference chairs Elizabeth Franks (Bilingual/ESL Supervisor, Roselle Public Schools) and Barbara Tedesco (Principal, Harrison School, Roselle Public Schools), about 50 percent of this year's participants were Bilingual/ESL educators and the other 50 percent, Special Education professionals. Dr. Mihri Napoliello, Ed.D., Chairperson of the Department of Multicultural Education at New Jersey City University, gave some welcoming remarks to start off the event, and a number of students and professors from NJCU participated, as presenters and guides.

The first session was a Keynote Address, "Research-based Interventions and Assessment Procedures," by Elizabeth Franks and Barbara Tedesco, who since the early 1990s have spearheaded efforts to raise awareness in New Jersey and nationally regarding procedures for sorting out special needs and language learning needs. ESL/Bilingual and Special Education professionals "need to be on the same page," said Franks. "We need to work together to build a process to communicate and dialogue for the child."

Franks and Tedesco introduced three levels of interventions: systemic, instructional and individual. At the systemic level, they reported, an accepting and supportive school environment is characterized by:

*academically rich, quality programs;
*skilled use and training of teachers;
*linguistic and cultural incorporation;
*meeting AYP benchmarks based on NCLB;
*elimination of ineffective responses to failure, such as retention or low-level academics;
*support for interventions; and
*an initial assessment of each new student's L1

All elements of a school community--janitors, cafeteria workers, administrators, teachers--are involved in establishing signs of welcomeness to culturally and linguistically diverse children, according to Barbara Tedesco, who added, "it's not just for World Nations Week." Tedesco recounted how a school with a small population of English language learners did training for bus-drivers and cafeteria workers on "how to help children feel accepted, not left out."

New Jersey City University"Culturally and linguistically diverse students need quality programs from the moment they step into the district," said Elizabeth Franks, who believes that disaggregation of data under "No Child Left Behind" is a great opportunity for teachers to have input in improving a school's program. The bottom line, according to Elizabeth Franks, is that "our kids need access to the whole program." English language learners are "trying to hit a moving target," she explained, so ESL only is not enough. "The whole school needs to get involved."

The Need For Skilled Training of All Teachers

According to Elizabeth Franks, Bilingual/ESL Supervisor for Roselle Public Schools , what is needed is a bilingual program and "skilled training not just of ESL teachers but any teacher who comes in contact with the ELL student." Barbara Tedesco, Principal at Harrison School, of the Roselle Public Schools, added that one good idea is to do mini-sessions, bringing in content teachers. "These can be done by teachers themselves," she suggested. "It doesn't always require administration."

Another important aspect of interventions at the systemic level on behalf of English language learners, according to Franks, involves all of us realizing that "what they bring to the classroom is valued, that these students are not empty slates when they arrive." Culturally and linguistically diverse students can be like a window, or a mirror, explained Franks, who suggested teachers ask themselves, "How can I tap into and use what the child brings to the classroom?"

Even something as seemingly simple as pronouncing new students' names correctly is crucially important, according to Tedesco. "This can be a workshop in and of itself for more than one hour," she said. "If there is a need to change names," Tedesco added, "make it a decision to share with the caregivers or parents."

The key questions to ask in advocating for systemic reform, said Elizabeth Franks, are:

Are they receiving appropriate services?
Are they having access to the curriculum from the first day when they walk in?

Elizabeth Franks, Bilingual/ESL
Supervisor for Roselle Public SchoolsRetention is another related key issue. In New Jersey, noted Franks, "a student by law is not to be retained solely for a language problem." Retention policies are up to the school system, but should answer the following questions:

What can we do?
What kind of programs will we offer?
Will there be summer programs?
Will there be after school programs?

The Importance of An Initial Assessment in L1

Franks and Tedesco both emphasized the importance of getting an initial assessment of how a new student is functioning in his or her first language, L1. "This is crucial information at the start," explained Franks. "If a kid comes in functioning at grade level in L1, and three years later is not at grade level in either L1 or L2, we need to be in a position to ask: what happened?"

In addition to an IDEA proficiency test (IPT), she explained, schools need to add a component in the child's L1. "It is critical that this be part of the school's initial interaction with the child," she said, "because years down the line, after no instruction in L1, it will be tough to get this information to help in making an assessment."

At the instructional level, the mission must be for all teachers to use instructional strategies effective for English language learners, according to Barbara Tedesco and Elizabeth Franks. They believe that the "Five Standards for Effective Pedagogy," from CREDE (Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence), are central to fulfilling that mission. Those five standards are:

*Teachers and students producing together
*Developing language and literacy across the curriculum
*Making meaning, or connecting to students' lives
*Teaching complex thinking
*Teaching through an instructional conversation

Barbara Tedesco, Principal, Harrison School, Roselle
Public SchoolsOne research-based instructional model suggested by Franks and Tedesco in their keynote address at the "Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners" conference was the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP, often referred to as "sheltered English." They also referred to "Reading First" initiatives such as those recommended under NCLB, but warned teachers and administrators that studies are still being done on what's effective for English language learners. Whichever instructional model is chosen, according to Barbara Tedesco, "principals and adminstrators have to check to see whether curriculum policies are being implemented, need to be watchdogs."

"Document, Document, Document...Train, Train, Train"

In addition to the selection of effective instructional strategies, each teacher must use a clinical teaching cycle in a continual effort to either resolve learning difficulties or validate the existence of a learning problem, or both. This clinical teaching cycle, according to Tedesco and Franks, requires assessment of a difficulty, followed by teaching using significantly different strategies which take into account various learning styles and multiple intelligences. After each new effort to teach using a different strategy, teachers need to test again. The key, according to Barbara Tedesco, is "document, document, document, and train, train, train." A further crucially important factor, said Elizabeth Franks, is that a clinical teaching cycle "requires that, systematically, time is allocated to these processes."

If systemic and instructional interventions have been tried and learning difficulties are not yet resolved, it is time to seek support systems at the individual level, according to Franks and Tedesco. Consultations via Parent Advisory Councils are conducted to gather relevant data on the student, including attendance, grades, achievement in both languages, classroom observations, length of time in the district or country, and mobility. When looking at grade level, said Franks, "you need to look at actual as well as functional levels." It is also important to watch the child in different settings, she explained, not only in the classroom. Other options for intervention at the individual level, according to Barbara Tedesco and Elizabeth Franks, include Title I, counseling and community-based programs. One-on-one tutoring can also be used to identify the exact weakness and find strategies to address the deficiency."We don't know what is happening in the lives of many of our students," Franks continued. "Unless we know that affective filter is really down, nothing we can do will help."

The Transition from Prereferral to Referral

Only after various combinations of systemic, instructional and individual interventions have failed to help a student learn in a new school is it time to begin a referral process, according to Franks and Tedesco. If the problem persists, explained Tedesco, a special education referral is initiated, with a summary of all the interventions and relevant data to accompany the referral. "With these interventions in place, I feel more confident," she said. "If things are being done according to a process, then you have everything to feel right about. It shouldn't have to get to the point of an OCR (Office of Civil Rights) order."

Tedesco and Franks went into a fair amount of detail regarding the role of a Child Study Team in determining the appropriate language for the child to be assessed in. The first task for the Child Study Team is to determine and document the child's dominant language. "You need to compare both languages to determine dominance," Elizabeth Franks reminded the audience. One test she recommended was the Bilingual Verbal Abilities Test, co-authored by Jim Cummins and published by Riverside, a test available for comparing proficiency in English with proficiency in 15 different languages. "You can look at tests like this paired with something prepared locally," suggested Franks.

If a child is dominant in his or her first language, the recommendation will be for the child to be tested in the first language, Franks and Tedesco explained, but you will also need to test in English. If the child is dominant in English, they said, the school should still consider the first language in doing cognitive assessments. "You want this information about the child in both languages," said Tedesco. "If you don't use bilingual assessment, you will never know for sure whether it's a learning disability or a language learning problem."

The Child Study Team would ideally include someone with a certification for Bilingual Learning Disabilities, according to Tedesco, but this certification program does not yet exist in New Jersey. "It's so important to know information about the child's first language," she reiterated.

If the Child Study Team decides that a comprehensive evaluation of the child is justified, there are two new questions to answer. First, an assessment battery needs to be selected. If the assessment is available in the child's native language, he or she should be assessed in that language as well as in English, according to Tedesco and Franks. They also recommend that there be informal as well as formal tests used in the assessment. "You cannot depend on standardized testing for English language learners," stressed Tedesco. There should also be curriculum-based assessments, she added.

The Role of Adaptations in the Evaluation Process

The second important area to consider when putting together the comprehensive evaluation procedure for a culturally and linguistically diverse student concerns adaptations. In most instances, adaptations will entail the involvement of additional personnel for the assessment process, according to Franks and Tedesco. The school and district will need to contract the services of a bilingual professional and may need to do any or all of the following trainings for those who assist in the process:

*train the bilingual education professional to assist;
*train other bilingual professionals to assist;
*train community professionals to serve as interpreters;
*train non-professionals in the district as interpreters; and/or
*train community non-professionals as interpreters.

"In all instances, train your assessment personnel, whether monolingual or bilingual," advised Barbara Tedesco. Interpreters need training in "how not to put your own opinion into the mix," she explained, and training for all assessment personnel needs to include areas such as "not letting people lose face" and legal issues and roles.

Where Learning Disabilities Diverge From Language Acquisition

Franks and Tedesco suggested a few standard assessment adaptations: removing time limits; varying the mode of response, for example reading selections to students to check receptive skills, with an oral response; using interpreters; and dynamic assessment, which means test, teach and retest. They recommended Catherine Collier's "Cross Cultural Developmental Education Services" Web site,, for "wonderful materials for screening." Distinguishing between adaptations for English language learning and those for learning disabilities is integral to this process, explained Barbara Tedesco. "That's why L1 data is crucial."

It is key that test results before modifications be compared to test results after modifications, according to Tedesco and Franks. "If the score improves with adaptations," explained Elizabeth Franks, "then the child is learning the language." If the score does not improve with adaptations, "then there could be a learning disability," she said.

Finally, the Individual Education Plan committee must meet to determine eligibility for special services and, if there is eligibility, develop the IEP and recommend services for the child. According to Tedesco and Franks, the IEP committee must review all the data in order to determine if the student has a legally defined disability and requires special education services. The IEP committee also needs to provide assurances, based on the data, "that the student's problems are not primarily the result of language, culture or not having the opportunity to learn," said Franks. "We've got to tease out that the problem is not a cultural and language difference."

When it comes to developing the IEP itself, the committee needs to be certain that the document includes all of the following items, according to Franks and Tedesco.

*present level of performance in L1 and L2
*annual goals for L1 and L2 (L2 meaning ESL)
*amount of time in each setting
*duration of services
*evaluation criteria
*persons responsible for implementation
*strategies appropriate to disability and language and culture

Then, the placement decisions for this student need to provide services in the least restrictive environment that addresses all needs. This responsibility is going to include bilingual education services as well as further decisions regarding which services will be provided in "pull-out" settings and which in "inclusion" settings.

Report by Robb Scott, Hays, KANSAS

2003 ESL MiniConference Online