Special Interest Groups
The Challenges for Students Educated in Other Countries
By Debbie DeBlasio
This year’s NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference was my first as a board member, and it was pretty exciting to be behind the scenes as the conference unfolded. The board members and volunteers were amazing. Each person I worked with really cared – no one was there because they had to be. It was also my first awards ceremony and that ended up being my favorite part. Students were recognized and awarded in front of their families, teachers, and friends for their accomplishments. Most gave thank-you speeches that touched the heart. I hope this pride remains with them for a long time. They deserve it.
Howard Pomann and I joined our Higher Education and Adult Education Special Interest Groups together and presented on the needs of foreign-educated immigrants. When you teach a class of adults, you most likely have some students who have already completed college credits or a degree in their home country. Most of these students assume their previous studies have no value in the U.S. and believe they must start their degrees or career paths from scratch. This could be a tremendous waste of time for them and sometimes they get too discouraged to continue their careers here: they end up in lower-income jobs instead. Various community colleges are working to shorten the path for these students by coming up with ways for them to actively pursue their degree or career while they are still studying English as a second language. For example, creating programs that bridge adult education with academic ESL programs, and the latter with mainstream academic classes, granting college credit for past work, volunteer, or travel experiences, inviting advisors to class or hosting ESL-specific open houses to get them on the right track immediately, providing workshops on resume-writing and interviewing skills, setting up a mentoring system in which members from the community workforce guide students who are interested in following a similar path, etc. These initiatives, along with many others, are aimed at condensing the amount of time it takes to complete your career path. While not every institution offers all of the above, the best thing we can do is be informed about what is available to our students so we can help guide them to the right resources. If we do that, we may be able to help them save time and money while they work to achieve their dreams.
It’s a topic that is being discussed in community colleges around the country, so it’s a conversation worth having. We presented on both days and managed to get some audience participation each day. That’s one of the best parts of the conference for me – being in a room with colleagues - hearing their stories and getting their perspectives. It is such an advantage to be able to compare what you do to what other people you respect do. You can really learn a lot. I have. And I look forward to doing it all again next year.
Debbie DeBlasio, Adult Education Special Interest Group,
Department Chair and Associate Professor, Languages and ESL, Brookdale Community College, firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning about Translanguaging
By Monica Luzardo
Attending the Spring NJTESOL/NJBE Conference this year was such an enriching and amazing experience for me because of the content I was able to acquire throughout the different workshops I attended. The workshop that caught my attention the most was the one about “Translanguaging.”
Before attending the conference, I was not aware that many ways that I am using to teach my ELL students such as displaying multilingual word walls and multilingual collaborative work, are part of this Translanguaging pedagogical practice. The outcomes of this practice are great for the students because they use their primary language to convey meaning. Research shows that translanguaging increases student achievement. This technique emphasizes that home language should be used as a resource for teaching. The new language will be incorporated to previous structures and continue developing in conjunction with the home language. Translanguaging helps students with comprehension, and we are always negotiating meaning because we use language in different endeavors.
This workshop was very interesting, not only due to the fact that I can use more pedagogical ways to make my lessons more meaningful to my students, but also because I can share all the information with my colleagues. In addition, I can share all the knowledge and information I gained with my Kean University students. As an adjunct, I teach strategies and methods to future bilingual/ESL teachers; it is very important to be aware of all the changes and new techniques that are being used around the school system, especially those strategies that are making a difference for ELL students.
Much of the information from this workshop was new to me, so I am starting my research about Translanguaging because it is very important for me to be prepared for any changes that can make my teaching more interesting and helpful to my students. As educators, we all know how difficult it is to reach every student in the classroom but when there is a new method that is making learning easier for the students, reaching that goal feels closer to us.
Every time I learn a new technique that can make my students understand better, I feel so excited because accomplishing a new goal is getting nearer. As I mentioned before, I am researching about this topic so I can implement it in my daily lessons. I usually make my charts in two languages so I am creating new versions of multilingual word walls because the samples given by the presenter were very creative and interesting, and I am sure that students will feel really comfortable using them.
I learned much about translanguaging in the workshop, but I need to learn much more in order to be able to expose my students to the benefits of this method of teaching.
Monica Luzardo, Bilingual 4th Grade Teacher, Elizabeth Public Schools
Representing The Bilingual Elementary SIG
Thanks for Another Great Conference
By Michelle Land
I am honored to serve on the NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board as a new inductee. I am excited to embrace the opportunity to serve the membership in a greater capacity. As the new Bilingual/ESL Middle School Special Interest Group (SIG) representative, I have some big shoes to fill. Following in Noreen Drucker’s footsteps is a daunting task, especially since her footsteps are usually going twice as fast as everyone else’s.
Being interested in other languages and cultures has always been a part of who I am. Born in Germany, to American parents, I began life as a typical German child would, being swaddled in a diaper and sucking on my “nook”. At 6 months, we returned to the United States and my American life began.
I have studied several languages, and found myself drawn to teaching languages. I have studied in several countries, including England, Norway, and Russia. When love brought me to Norway, I began teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) full time at an elementary school which went from 1st to 7th grade.
Upon my return to the United States in 2003, with my Viking and our children in tow, I began working as an ESL teacher at Randolph Township Schools. I have been at Randolph for 12 years, traveling daily between our middle school and an elementary school. It was there that I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Noreen. Shortly thereafter, I became a member of NJTESOL/NJBE. In the past years, I have regularly attended and presented at our Spring Conference.
Our Special Interest Group met at this year’s conference. The members were very focused on a few choice topics, including advocacy and differentiation in the mainstream. These meetings are a wonderful opportunity for our members to meet to discuss issues of importance and share strategies. In the current climate of education, it is important that we reconnect and regenerate.
Being new to the Executive Board, I only have a small taste of what is involved in running a conference of this high caliber. I would like to thank the Executive Board members for all that they have done in order to make this conference such a great success. The sheer number of participants is testament to the growing awareness of our field. I will do my best to help the Executive Board continue to meet the needs of our membership. I would also like to thank all of the presenters and participants. We are able to make a greater impact due to your efforts to attend and share your experiences.
If you were unable to attend the conference or would like to revisit some of the information presented, please check the NJTESOL/NJBE website for some of the handouts. Once again, thanks to you all for another great conference.
Michelle Land, Bilingual/ESL Middle School SIG, Randolph Public Schools, email@example.com
The Rights of English Language Learners with Special Needs
By Maryellen McGovern Fitzpatrick
This year, one of my goals in my work has been to educate schools and districts on the rights of all English language learners (ELLs) with a specific focus on the rights of those ELLs with special needs. Too often, I have heard from individual teachers that many of their ELLs are not receiving some of the services for which they are eligible, including Basic Skills Instruction, Response to Intervention (RTI), Child Study Team evaluations, and/or Special Education services. Furthermore, some teachers have indicated that their ELLs have not been included in remedial after school and/or summer school programs for students who are below grade level in reading and/or math. The repeated, but erroneous, refrain that these teachers hear is, “Language services trump Special Education.” Some teachers have also been mistakenly informed that in order for ELLs to be eligible for any of these services, they must first be exited from ESL/bilingual.
Unfortunately, these types of comments are the result of misinformation and misunderstanding. In fact, districts are required by law to provide English language services AND special education services if a student qualifies for both. The funding for these services will come from only one stream, so there is no “double-dipping” involved. Furthermore, schools and districts must be made aware of their legal obligation to provide English language learners with equal access to all curricular and extracurricular activities. To that end, the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Bilingual Programs has prepared a comprehensive fact sheet on ELLs with special needs. It is an excellent resource for district officials and teachers, and it can be found at:
Additionally, in January of 2015, the Federal Department of Education and the Federal Department of Justice released joint guidance which addresses the civil rights of ELLs and which clearly describes schools’ legal obligations to provide BOTH language and special education services as well as equal access to educational opportunities. That document is also available on the NJDOE’s website via the “EL Civil Rights and Joint Guidance” link found on the following webpage:
Now, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a student’s lack of progress is due to a language or a learning problem, but once the determination has been made that a student qualifies for both language services and special education services, the school is legally bound to provide BOTH services. However, this is where another common misunderstanding comes up, and that is that some school administrators mistakenly believe that unless ESL is written into the IEP, the school is not required to provide both language and special education services. For this reason, I generally recommend that teachers and Child Study Team members ensure that language services are included in the written IEP so that there is no question about a student’s eligibility for both services. Let me clarify that recommendation. According to the NJDOE’s Department of Supplemental Services, ESL and bilingual services are not considered special education or related services, so they should not be listed as part of the student’s special education program on the program page in an IEP. There are many different IEP forms, but the State model form has a program page where it would list all of the special education services that the student was receiving. For example, it would say “Pull-Out Replacement for Math, 5 times a week,” or “Speech therapy in a small group two times a week for thirty minutes.” ESL services should not be listed on that page.
It would make sense, however, to list ESL and/or bilingual services in the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAPF) section of the IEP. This is a narrative section of the IEP where you would describe the student’s current strengths/weaknesses, etc. It would make sense to describe any other services the student receives (such as ESL) when describing the student in this section. In looking at my own children’s IEPs, I see under the “PLAAPF” section a narrative which details, among other things, how and what they are doing ASIDE from Special Education; e.g. “O.S. was in the mainstream classroom for Math, Writing Workshop, Social Studies, and Science.” The narrative goes on to explain what he is successful in and what is not working for him. This is exactly where it can be stated that a student has qualified for ESL and/or bilingual services and will continue to receive those language services until a) parents decline services or b) the student is exited from ESL/bilingual using multiple measures. This would be separate from whatever Special Education services are described later in the document.
Listing ESL services on the IEP ensures that those services will be offered along with any special education services the student qualifies for; this does not indicate that ESL is itself a weakness. In fact, ESL is the RIGHT of any student who qualifies as an ELL, including those ELLs who may have special needs. Parents can decline ESL/bilingual services, but by law the school must offer those services. Furthermore, I don’t wish to convey the message that ALL ELLs must have an IEP in which ESL/bilingual services are included. My point is that any ELL who qualifies for special education services must ALSO be offered ESL/bilingual services, and that it would benefit that student to have those language services noted in the PLAAFP narrative to avoid any misconceptions that language trumps special education or that special education trumps language services.
On a final note, it has been argued in some settings that an ELL student with special needs will never be capable of passing the ACCESS test. This is an assumption and not fact. Depending on the ELL student’s learning disability, if he/she is provided with appropriate interventions as well as targeted language instruction, then it is absolutely possible that the student will eventually succeed on the ACCESS or any other test he/she takes.
Thankfully, for most of our ELLs, these issues have not been a problem. But unfortunately, some of our districts have been following an “Either/Or” policy in making decisions about ELLs who have special needs as well as ELLs who might also benefit from Basic Skills, RTI, Before/After School Remedial Programs, and Summer Programs. So, in those cases, students are receiving special education , and not ESL, or they are receiving ESL/bilingual, and not special education or other supplemental services. As ESL and bilingual educators, our job is to advocate for our students, educate our colleagues and administrators, and work to facilitate success for all.
Maryellen McGovern Fitzpatrick, Elementary ESL Representative,
English Language Learner Specialist, NJDOE – RAC 7
Introduction and Reflections
By Carole Maurer
I am excited to be writing my first Voices article as the new Early Childhood Special Interest Group (SIG) representative. My name is Carole Maurer. I have over twenty years of experience in the field of early childhood education. My experience includes working with infants through third grade in both private and public settings. I have spent most of my career in preschool. From 2007 to 2014, I worked as the preschool and kindergarten master teacher at the Fairfield Township School District. I was hired last November as a K-12 English as a Second Language teacher at the Ocean City School District. I am currently working at Ocean City Primary School with kindergarten through third grade ESL students, and loving this new role. I am thrilled for the opportunity to utilize both of my specialized areas, early childhood and ESL, and to serve NJTESOL/NJBE as Early Childhood SIG representative. I am looking forward to the professional learning and growth that this new venture is sure to provide.
I had the opportunity to attend both days of the NJTESOL/NJBE Conference last month. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and collaborate with other professionals in our field, and to learn new teaching methods and strategies. As always, I returned to school feeling recharged and excited to try out some new tricks of the trade.
There was a recurring topic that resonated with me from several of the workshops. I was in the audience of the keynote presentation by Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner, as well as her break-out session. Each addressed the importance of advocating for our students. Dr. Staehr Fenner outlined several important components of advocacy including reframing the role of the ESL teacher to incorporate that of student and family advocate, collaboration with content area teachers, and accountability for all teachers through an inclusive teacher evaluation. Ken Bond and Lori Ramella from the New Jersey Department of Education opened their presentation on the Bilingual Administrative Code by asking participants to indicate their level of familiarity with the code. The reality seemed to be that many teachers and administrators working with ELs are unfamiliar with the code. This was further expressed through the Early Childhood SIG meeting in which Karen Nemeth addressed questions and concerns regarding ESL services for preschool students. There were inquiries regarding whether or not preschool is addressed in the Bilingual Administrative Code. Karen assured participants that it is, and that requirements for preschool ELs are further addressed in the Preschool Program Implementation Guidelines.
As I reflect on everything I heard and learned at the conference, I have an increased understanding of the significance of our role as advocate for EL students and families. I realize that in order to advocate effectively, we need to fully understand the Bilingual Administrative Code and all that it encompasses. As I embark as Early Childhood representative, my goals for the SIG become clear. We need to improve the collaboration between preschool teachers and ESL teachers, sharing our expertise for the benefit of this unique population of students. We need to ensure that professionals working with this specific population of students are educated about the Bilingual Administrative Code and the Preschool Program Implementation Guidelines. The success of our preschool ELs is our common goal.
I look forward to working together, and serving NJTESOL/NJBE in this capacity. I wish everyone a happy summer.
Carole Maurer, Early Childhood SIG Representative, ESL Teacher, Ocean City School District, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot Topics in ESL Secondary Education
By Marcella Garavaglia
As always it was nice to see so many familiar faces and welcome new members at this year’s Spring Conference. We discussed new and updated information that affects our classroom, English language services, and most importantly our English learners. I had the pleasure of presenting with my colleague and NJTESOL/NJBE’s Executive Board Secretary, Caia Schlessinger.
As this school year comes to an end we must begin to prepare for September. I will review some topics that were discussed at the conference and frequently asked on the e-mail hotlist throughout the year.
Hot Topics in ESL Secondary Education 2015 (*Links provided in presentation as well.)
- It is extremely important for administrators and teachers to read New Jersey’s Bilingual Code. It explains what language services should be offered in each school district. Depending on each district’s English learner (EL) population a district waiver form may be requested if it would be impractical to provide a full-time bilingual program due to various criteria described in the code.
- Certified ESL teachers may teach a replacement or sheltered English Language Arts (ELA) class that allows ELs to receive ELA credit.
- ELs may receive World Language credit if they take an additional English (reading support) or ESL class that is separate from the replacement or sheltered ELA class.
- A student who has waived or opted out of English language services will continue to have rights to extended time and dictionaries on state tests, as well as classroom accommodations. (See pages 29-32 of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division and U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights' Dear Colleague Letter 2015)
- “English learners whose parents have waived services may not be excluded from state assessments and are still eligible to receive accommodations allowed to English learners on PARCC assessments.” (See page 50 of the PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual, Third Edition)
- A student who has waived or opted out of English language services will continue taking the ACCESS for ELLs test every year until they have achieved an exit score or met the district’s multiple criteria. Once the student has met the exit criteria, then the student will no longer be able to receive classroom accommodations and state testing accommodations.
- Alternate ACCESS for ELLs was created by WIDA to measure English language proficiency growth of ELLs with significant cognitive disabilities.
- Model Curriculum, English Language Arts (ELA) Exemplars for ELLs: These exemplars are a great example of how one theme, in any content area, even in a sheltered course, can be successfully taught to English learners of varying English Language Proficiency (ELP) levels within one classroom.
- Caia Schlessinger and I also presented our updated English Language curricula for the Freehold Regional High School District. Students take these courses depending on their ELP levels.
- FRHSD, English Language 1 Curriclum Guide
- FRHSD, English Language 2 Curriculum Guide Draft
- FRHSD, English Language 3 Curriculum Guide Draft
- FRHSD, English Language 4 Curriculum Guide
Please save these useful links for your own reference and continue to share your experiences and questions through the NJTESOL/NJBE hotlist.
If you were unable to attend the conference or would like to review information from some of this year’s workshops click here: Presentations & Handouts for Some Spring Conference 2015 Workshops
Marcella Garavaglia is the NJTESOL/NJBE ESL Secondary Representative. She teaches ESL at Colt Neck High School for the Freehold Regional High School District. email@example.com
By Howard Pomann
A this year’s conference, the Higher Ed Strand was highly successful with many attendees from two-year and four-year colleges/universities, as well as from secondary and adult education. Several presentations focused on increasing student engagement and developing academic skills through collaborative learning, task-based instruction, note taking and reading strategies, reflective graphic organizers, and cloud based tools.
This year, the Higher Education and Adult Education Special Interest Groups conducted a joint SIG meeting, highlighting strategies to assist ESL students with university experience and professions in their country to transition to their careers in the United States. Going forward, linkages with adult education and higher education will be necessary to provide credit bearing short-term certificates, such as the CDA certificate at Hudson County Community College, which will lead to degrees in ESL students’ chosen professions.
In the area of curriculum development, two workshops emphasized the advantages of learning communities to accelerate completion of credit courses while in ESL, to enhance students’ academic English, and to provide a pathway to a certificate or degree. In the presentation, “Evolving Approaches to Linking ESL and Psychology,” Derek McConnell and Lynn Meng from Union County College discussed various strategies for linking an Introduction to Psychology course content with an advanced ESL reading course. Students who completed these linked courses had strong retention in subsequent semesters.
One workshop on learning communities which I would like to share with you in more detail is “A Certificate to Success – ESL Pathways to Preschool, Child Development Associate (CDA) and Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education” by Saliha Yagoubi and Johanna Van Gendt from Hudson County Community College (HCCC.) Currently, a major challenge for community colleges is to develop stackable certificates that ESL students can complete in one year on the way to their Associates Degree. This workshop outlined the process of developing a Learning Community which links intermediate level ESL reading and discussion courses to the content courses required for a CDA certificate. As a result of completing the certificate, students earn 11 credits towards an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, become qualified for employment in the Early Childhood field, and improve their academic English.
ECE 100 Preschool Child Development Associate (CDA) Workshop I (4 credits)
ESL 043 ESL Reading III
ESL 063 Academic Discussion III
ECE110 Preschool Child Development Associate (CDA) Workshop II (4 credits)
ECE120 480 hours field experience in a preschool setting (3 credits)
ESL 044 ESL Reading IV
ESL 064 ESL Academic Discussion IV
In order to provide the academic support for the credit level CDA courses, content based materials were developed for the ESL reading and academic discussion courses, focusing on the following principles:
- Start with the text & syllabus for the content course.
- Consider the skills, goals, and aims of the corresponding ESL course.
- Consider the academic/ professional “target situation” in which these students will need to operate
- ESL reading skills support students’ ability to navigate content course text.
- ESL speaking skills provide the language students may need to function as professionals (i.e. discourse communities).
Specific examples for integrating child development content into the ESL courses were explored by participants. For more information on the CDA certificate, feel free to contact Profs. Yagoubi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Van Gendt (email@example.com).
It was great seeing all at the conference.
Howard Pomann is the Director of the Institute for Intensive English, Union County College (firstname.lastname@example.org, 908-965-6030)
Parent and Community Action
A Community Embracing the American Dream
By Angeline Sturgis
Our district is a diverse one, enjoying students from many countries with many first languages. Historically, this area was largely Eastern European, and there is still a vibrant Polish church and community nearby. Several years ago, however, our population began to change, and the number of Spanish-speaking students began to double each school year. Not all were ELLs, but most of their parents were not fluent in English. I soon realized a few things: I wanted to bring the parents into the school to explain the American education system to them so they would better understand their role in their children's life at school, I needed to invite the whole family, and I needed to provide dinner for them. I also thought it would help if I could speak Spanish, which I had never studied in my life.
The process has been exciting. All of my visions have become realities at our little school, with a strong organization called "Latinos Unidos of Eldridge Park School." Together we crafted our mission statement, "Supporting Latino Families through literacy, education, and cultural pride; embracing the American dream together as a caring, diverse, community." We meet at least 5 times a year, with dinner, children's activities focused on literacy, a parent information session, and a chance to make announcements, connect new families with established ones, and celebrate academic successes. For the first few meetings, I cajoled the local restaurants into donating their best menu items; fellow teachers and I roamed library sales for used books to be given as prizes to every child who attended a meeting. This is no longer the case. I have tapped into grant money, making life easier, and meetings glorious.
At the SIG meetings for Parent and Community Action, I'll be letting you in on just how you can involve families, promote literacy, and celebrate your community. Oh, and by the way, after six summer home-stay trips to the countries where my students' grandparents still live, I'm doing ok as a second language learner in Spanish. Now that is cause for a real educational celebration!
Angeline Sturgis is a K-3 ESL teacher in Lawrence Township, NJ. Besides being actively involved in the Latinos Unidos group in her school, she is also a founding member of The One Table Cafe, a pay-what-you-can community restaurant in Princeton, NJ.
Advocate of the Year
By Elizabeth Franks
Joyce Farr, an ESL teacher in Monroe Township Schools, South Jersey, received the Advocate of the Year award. The heartwarming, powerful speech that she delivered at the Awards ceremony is printed below:
"Colleagues and Distinguished Guests,
It is a truly humbling experience to be standing before you this evening. Many of us may not recognize that every morning when we step through the doors of our workplace into our multilingual and multicultural classrooms that we represent the voice of our students. We are advocates for the very often voiceless and under-represented. Beyond classroom teaching, we hold the hopes, the challenges, the struggles, and dreams of countless families and their young who are either trying to build a life here or fighting for survival in this country.
I didn’t learn advocacy in college. I wasn’t trained to be an advocate, despite my training in the legal profession. I learned it in the trenches of our school system, as an immigrant, an educator, and a minority.
Painfully shy and soft-spoken since young [sic], I never would have dreamt this day possible. However, my personal experience with education reform, the petty politics of the workplace and the radical changes in the wider realm of our nation, have been compelling teachers.
Ladies and gentlemen, advocacy does not require us to shout from the rooftops of the buildings where we teach, nor from the steps of Capitol Hill. It involves a simple act – the willingness to speak up and be a voice for those who count on us. It may be simply asking our colleagues what they might recommend as an accommodation in the classroom or asking that our English learners be educated equitably. It may mean asking our supervisors whether we could find some additional resources to meet the needs of our students. Perhaps it means providing them with translations, extended time, a different grading policy, a different set of books pitched at their level.
Perhaps it requires of us a certain risk. Perhaps it means asking that our students not be over tested. Perhaps it requires that we defend the rights of our students. Sometimes, the fear of using our voice stops us short but we can do it. We can do it for the Pablos, the Adillahs, the Carmens and the Emrans, for this generation who count on us to raise our collective and individual voice to hold up the light of their dreams.
Thank you for this honor."
Elizabeth Franks is the Advocacy representative for NJTESOL/NJBE. She was a bilingual/ESL teacher and administrator for over 35 years and currently consults for Language & Literacy Associates for Multilingual and Multicultural Education (LLAMAME, LLC).
Specific Learning Disability: What is it exactly?
By Sonya Bertini
It was my pleasure meeting some of you at the annual NJTESOL/NJBE Conference in May. As a result of the workshop I gave, “Building Bridges for ELLs with Disabilities”, it became clear to me that the definition of a specific learning disability is confusing among many of you who are not special educators. No wonder. The definition seems very broad and about as clear as mud.
Let me begin by saying that it is important to fully understand this disability because according to the data available, the majority of ELLs who are receiving Special Education services have been classified Specific Learning Disabled (SLD). In the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), a specific learning disability is defined as: A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and developmental aphasia. Simply put, a specific learning disability is a neurologically-based dysfunction which impairs performance in reading, writing, and arithmetic. What is important to remember is that as specified by IDEA a learning disability does not include children who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, or mental retardation, or of environment, cultural, or economic disadvantage.That last line is especially significant for English as Second Language and bilingual educators. We are getting more students coming from impoverished or war-torn countries where education is just not a priority because survival is. These children come to us at 15 [years old] for example, and are placed in the 9th grade due to their age. However, when we look at their transcripts, we are dismayed to discover they have not been in school for the last three years. Although they certainly look like learning disabled kids while they struggle in our classroom to meet the rigors of the high school curriculum, by law they do not meet the requirements to be classified as SLD.
The common and most cited characteristic of children with learning disabilities is a significant discrepancy between achievement and overall ability. In New Jersey, a child who has been referred for evaluation has to be tested by at least the psychologist and the learning disabilities teacher consultant (LDTC) on the Child Study Team. The psychologist conducts testing to determine the child’s IQ, while the LDTC tests to determine the child’s performance in an academic setting. We would expect that a child with a normal IQ (say 100) would perform at an average level on the achievement tests. If they do not, if their score is below average in any one of the subtests, a red flag goes up. This child may well have a specific learning disability.
English language learners with learning disabilities may exhibit several but not all of these:
- Appear to hear but is not able to follow oral instructions or complete tasks assigned orally in both the second and native languages.
- Lack ability to organize written tasks, speech, or self-care.
- Short attention span, distractible.
- Auditory or visual memory problems.
- Poor perceptual-motor coordination.
- Poor language skills in both native and second languages.
- Sporadic behavior.
- Reverse words, numbers, letters, and phrases in both languages.
- Difficulty in performing mathematical calculations.
- Extreme difficulty in writing in both languages.
- Appear to see and read but are not able to follow written instructions or complete visual tasks.
(Baca and Cervantes, 2004)
None of the characteristics listed above should be taken as single predictors of a specific learning disability. It is imperative that the child is assessed in the native language and cultural factors must be taken into consideration during testing. It is also important to bear in mind that approximately, one quarter to one third of all SLD children also have ADHD. When a child has both, efforts to provide remedial help for the learning problem are often negatively impacted by the symptoms of ADHD. Finally, individuals with learning disabilities are also at a greater risk for developing behavior problems and low-level depression than are non-disabled children.
Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of what a specific learning disability is and what it is not.
Baca, L.M. & Cervantes, H.T. (2004). The Bilingual Special Education Interface. New Jersey:
Pearson Education, Inc.
Sonya Bertini, Special Education Special Interest Group Representative,
Vineland Public Schools email@example.com
Spring Conference Take-Aways
By Regina Postogna
At the NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference the Supervisors Special Interest Group (SIG) and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) English Language Learner (ELL) Committee held a joint meeting which was filled to capacity by educational leaders from throughout the state. Ms. Maria Romero, NJPSA ELL Committee Chair and I presented an excerpt of what we had presented at the NJPSA LEGAL One workshop in April which focused on bilingual education and the law. During the presentation the following 3 tiers of second language acquisition were reviewed:
- Tier A Beginner
- Tier B Intermediate
- Tier C Advanced
Also the following 6 steps in English language development were discussed as they pertain to English Language Development (ELD) and the ACCESS 2.0 assessment:
- Formerly ELL
- (Never ELL)
The WIDA website was provided: https://www.wida.us . The accommodations for ELLs taking the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) were reviewed along with the website to reference: http://www.parcconline.org.
Mr. Russell Altersitz from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) division of data, research, evaluation & reporting gave a presentation on New Jersey Standards Measurement and Resource for Teaching (NJSMART). New Jersey Standards Measurement and Resource for Teaching is a student registration system developed by the department to collect student-level data which is data provided by grade level to measure student performance on standardized assessments.
As the 2014-2015 school has ended now is the time to look forward and prepare for the 2015-2016 school year. The data validation window for the ACCESS test has closed as of June 19th and we are expecting the results in mid to late July. Once we obtain those results district bilingual/ESL program supervisors will be reviewing them along with the multiple measures (teacher input, benchmark assessment results, etc.) used to determine placement in another year of a bilingual/ESL program or to exit. Once the decisions have been finalized the school district is required to send a letter of continuing placement to the parents and guardians or a letter of program exit.
The NJTESOL/NJBE Website has many of the handouts from the Spring Conference. Follow the link below for the State Initiatives in Bilingual/ESL Education presentation which was given by Ms. Lori Ramella and Mr. Kenneth Bond from the NJDOE:
Dr. Regina M. Postogna, Supervisors SIG Representative, firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring Conference Reflections
By Kristi A. Bergman
This year’s NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick had record attendance. It was wonderful to see so many colleagues from different districts, colleges, and universities. For those who attended the Cutting Edge Research with the Graduate School Forum, you heard about topics relevant to our field. However, if you missed the session, I would be happy to put you in touch with the speaker(s) of your choice.
Mr. Ayhan Dogan, Rutgers University, opened the forum by sharing his research on Using Video and Online Games for Teaching/Learning. Included in his presentation was data from a survey he had conducted in both the United States and Turkey. Ms. Shirley Shields, Atlantic Cape Community College, shared her research from her fellowship at Princeton on Retention and Goals of ESL Students. She had collected data from nearly 300 ESL students in higher education. Overwhelmingly, most sought academic advice from their instructors, as they were not familiar with academic counselors. Mr. Timothy Hall, The College of New Jersey, provided a detailed overview of his doctoral research out of Columbia University on The Use of Language Chunks in Second Language Acquisition. He presented language learning through usage-based theories, focusing on the role of chunks, low-scope patterns, and constructions. The study questioned the extent to which chunks were used for the purposes of acquisition and found little contribution to their role in the formation of productive grammar. Tuba Arabaci Atlamaz, Rutgers University, discussed her research on Understanding Willingness to Communicate among English language learners and explored the factors that contribute to this willingness.
In addition to the Cutting Edge Research with the Graduate School Forum session, poster sessions were shared on both days. Some of the posters included: What in the World is a Glog?; Project Based Instruction for ELLs; Teaching for All; ESL Markers for Future Success: Tiering Student Growth Objectives (SGOs); Using Conversation Partners to Build Bridges; and Free Accessible On-line Resources for ESL; and Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Content Teachers.
Current graduate students or experienced teachers who have conducted research, please consider sharing your work next year. This year the Graduate Forum was an intimate gathering, and meaningful interaction with the presenters was possible at the end of the session. If you did not have the opportunity to join us in May, we hope to see you in 2016.
If you have any questions about the presentations you saw at the Cutting Edge Research with the Graduate School Forum or poster sessions, please email me at email@example.com.