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Disentangling Language Differences from Disability: A Case Study of District-Preservice Collaboration
Journal of Multilingual Education Research
  • Julie Esparza Brown, Portland State University
  • Phyllis Campbell Ault, Education Northwest
Identifying which K-12 English Learners (ELs) should receive special education services has historically been challenging and fraught with error. Educators are commonly puzzled as to whether an EL student’s academic difficulties are the result of insufficient academic English language, inappropriate instruction, or an intrinsic learning disability. This article examines the influence of a university–district partnership designed to prepare bilingual/bicultural special educators with specific skills and knowledge in disentangling language difference from disability. A unique aspect of the program was that these “BiSped” educators were mostly bilingual, bicultural paraprofessionals in their schools. This feature of the program recognized the unique position that these educators already held as cultural brokers, translators, and caring adults. Distributed leadership, embedded reform, and transformative practices serve as the conceptual framework for this case study. Based on the diverse sources used in the case of one sample district, BiSped educators positively influenced the academic success of ELs. Their practices reinforced effective approaches used in the case district. They became valued team members and resources within the school system and contributed in concrete ways. BiSped educators bridged systems that often act in isolation. Corresponding whole-school professional development further created a culture of collaboration across English Language and special education programs.
Citation Information
Julie Esparza Brown and Phyllis Campbell Ault. "Disentangling Language Differences from Disability: A Case Study of District-Preservice Collaboration"
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