1)     Addressing The Needs of Culturally/Linguistically Diverse Students Who
       May Also Require Special Education Services

2)     Guillermo A. Rivas, Ph.D.

3)     Sonoma County Office of Education

4)     3401 Castlerock Ct.
       Santa Rosa, CA 95404


6)     Abstract following:


                             BILINGUAL ASSESSMENT

Theoretical Foundations: Cultural and language factors often play a significant
role in problems related to academic achievement. It is considerably more
difficult to assess the needs of those who have delays which are intertwined with
language and cultural factors and therefore diagnostic problems may arise in the
ability to distinguish between actual learning disorders and difficulties in language
proficiency, as well as in the differentiation of cultural adjustment reactions from
emotional problems.

Historically, the assessment of language minority students may be characterized
by the use of inappropriate procedures including the evaluation of children in
their non-dominant language or with instruments standardized on an Anglo,
middle-class population. Early, appropriate identification and diagnosis, based on
valid assessment procedures is crucial and may have long-lasting effects upon
the child's eventual progress and achievement potential, as well as their self
esteem - which in the long-run may be equally as important.

Rationale for Use: Research in the area of test bias with minorities has
demonstrated the potential bias in the use of tests with English Language
Learners (ELL’s) and Bilingual students. These studies consistently indicate that
administering verbal tests in English to these children yield questionable scores
at best, if interpreted as tests of cognitive ability rather than as short-term
predictors of achievement, when English is the medium of instruction (Jensen,
1980). Relevant issues in test translations and other alternative procedures have
also been identified (Oakland, 1977; Samuda, 1975). It is generally accepted that
a greater emphasis should be given to the multi-cultural aspects of assessment
and to the influence of language, affective and motivational variables - such as
the educational background and attitudes of the parents, as well as their overall
ability to serve as positive resources for their child's education and learning.

The fundamental rationale (at this point) for the use of appropriate assessment
practices for language and ethnic minority students are the various court and
legal decisions mandating the need for such practices. The most prominent
cases to this end, have been the Larry P. vs. Riles; Diana vs. The California
State Board of Education (1968); Lau vs. Nichols (1974); and Public Law 94-
142, regarding the "Education of All Handicapped Act". The implications of
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, regarding the definition of a
"handicapped person"; and most recently, the addition of the Hughes Bill; the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA” Reauthorization, 1997); and
the Felix-Waihe’e Consent Decree (1994), are having a sobering effect upon the
identification and servicing of ADD, ADHD and further potential ramifications for
identification, eligibility and the need to provide free appropriate public education
placements (FAPE), to disabled Language Minority Students with Special
Education Services.

In order to address the above identified concerns, history of inappropriate
practices and procedures, and in order to establish more appropriate and
equitable guidelines, it is highly recommended that techniques and practices for
identification incorporate both a) informal and b) formal assessment procedures.
These can include a complete review of the child's background information by
way of an in-depth parent interview of fami ly, developmental milestones and
health history. In-class and out-of-class observations. A child interview involving
and allowing him or her, to communicate in a manner that they feel most
comfortable with, about subject matter that they are/should-be familiar with and
material that may be new, unfamiliar, abstract and challenging. Language
assessment should also be implemented involving the determination of their
preference and proficiency in both (all) languages. Academic skills should also
be assessed, it is suggested, through criterion-referenced measures and
curriculum-based assessment strategies when appropriately normed instruments
are not available. Formal measures include Non-Verbal Tests such as the
Performance subtests of some standardized intelligence tests; Matrices of
various types; and locally normed tests may also be developed. Test-teach-test
methods; task analysis; and Piagetian based developmental scales are also
generally accepted as valid measures which yield useful and non-biased
understanding of a child's abilities when compared with others of their own age
and peer group.

Strengths and Weaknesses: The strength of this type of approach to the testing
of language minority children is that many more variables are taken into account
that have not generally been taken into account due to the demands upon testing
time, training, language proficiency and the cultural background needs of the
examiners. Ultimately, more information is gathered in this type of testing which
span a wider range of knowledge about the students' and their needs. This may
be helpful in his or her academic development and therefore may tend to
diminish the inappropriate diagnosis and placement that has traditionally plagued
these cultural and language minority groups. In general the most effective
methods involve the use of multiple criteria and interdisciplinary team efforts. The
intention being that the more sensitive and detailed the discovery, the more direct
and effective the relationship between the specific findings of need and the
corresponding proscription for possible remediation.

Weaknesses, in the opinion of this evaluator, have to do with the same demands
as delineated above. This is to say that even when this type of valid information
is gathered, the "system" is not willing or able to incorporate the extent of the
findings and is therefore unable to adequately address the needs presented.

At present, there is no (systemic) plan to "cut-the-pie" that way, even if that be

Another argument made, is that the findings may hold a lessened level of inter-
examiner reliability as to the interpretation and conclusions drawn from such
information. The lack of standardization of available norms on these populations,
create an unacceptable problem for those that are insistent and dependent upon
the “discrepancy model” between cognitive and academic test scores required for
establishing eligibility.

There may also be valid/radical arguments as to what the "mission" of the
discipline should be, in that, we (as a discipline) should not be in the business of
trying to do the "best" that we can but rather "what we can", given the resources

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