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Set to Come: Federal Guidance on ELLs With Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education expects to put out guidance soon on the civil rights of English-language learners who have disabilities and also those who are gifted.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department, said the federal government will put out guidance in 17 areas, including some that touch on the education of ELLs. The conference call was a preview to a speech on civil rights that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave in Selma, Ala., yesterday.

Duncan mentioned ELLs both in the conference call and his speech, so I can, at least for the time being, stop pointing out on this blog that the Obama administration isn't drawing attention publicly to the needs of such students.

I get a sense that educators are hungry for any research findings or models on how best to determine if ELLs have disabilities based on the amount of traffic this blog gets whenever I post something on the subject. The latest tidbit I have to share on the subject is from a book, Why do English Language Learners Struggle With Reading?, published in 2008 by Corwin Press, that the press person for that publishing company just sent me.

The book includes a chapter intended to help reading teachers distinguish if an English-language learner who is struggling to read has only language issues or also has a disability. It offers this tip: "If the majority of ELLs [in one's class] are making little progress, the teacher should focus on improving instruction. If most ELLs are doing well and only a few are struggling, the teacher should look more closely at what is going on with those individual students and consider that they may need additional support."

Not much, however, comes across my desk that provides information about ELLs who are gifted. Perhaps that's one of the next hot topics in this field.

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