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 5) firstname.lastname@example.org 6) Abstract following: EDUCATIONAL-PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT PRACTICES 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 equitable. 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 available.
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