Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

An IDEA for Improving English Language Learners' Access to Education

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

An IDEA for Improving English Language Learners' Access to Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

English Language Learners (ELLs) and language-minority families have few promising options for receiving tailored educational services under federal law. Civil Rights era statutes like the Equal Education Opportunities Act (EEOA) designed to protect and promote ELLs' right to an education have led to few actual changes in children's education, and fewer still within reasonable time frames. For the subset of ELLs with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) holds out the promise of more direct and immediate improvements in their education. The Introduction of this Article presents the problem through a hypothetical student, Faith, and her family. Part I examines the demographics of ELLs and students with special needs in public schools in the United States. Part II discusses the EEOA's shortcomings and the promise of the IDEA'S dispute resolution procedures for language-minority families. Part III examines how major metropolitan areas in California, New York, and Texas have been applying the IDEA, particularly with regard to ELLs and their families. Finally, Part IV gleans lessons from these urban districts' practices and identifies several areas of particular concern for language-minority families, advocates, and school administrators hoping to structure their special education dispute resolution programs in the most effective way.

Table of Contents

Introduction

I. English Language Learners and Special Education
     A. Definitions and Demographics
        1. English Language Learners
        2. Students with Disabilities
     B. Separating Language Learning and Learning
        Disability
II. The Promise of the IDEA
     A. The IDEA Provides a Unique Framework Among
        Federal Education Laws
     B. The EEOA and NCLB Fall Short at Improving ELL
        Education
     C. Maybe Lawsuits Are Not the Answer: How the IDEA
        Can Help
        1. The IDEA'S Dispute Resolution Procedures
        2. The Benefits of Special Education Dispute
        Resolution

III. The Use of IDEA Dispute Resolution in Urban Schools
     A. Procedural Safeguard Notices
     B. Translations and Interpreters
     C. Dispute Resolution Procedures
        1. Mediation
        2. Other Dispute Resolution Methods
     D. Parent Groups and Outreach
     E. Specific Services for ELLs in Special Education

IV. Applying the IDEA to English Language Learners
     A. Lessons Learned
     B. A Tale of Two Populations: Somali and Latino
     C. Biases, Beliefs, and the Role of Dispute Resolution
     Providers

Conclusion

Introduction

Faith (1) is a seven-year-old who loves building Legos with her older brothers and baking cookies with her mom. Her family just moved to a new city in a new state, and Faith's new teacher sent home a piece of paper called a "home language survey." (2) Some time after returning the home language survey, Faith's parents learn that she has been placed for several hours a day in a class for students who do not speak English, and they are puzzled. Even though they do not speak English at home, Faith was not in a class for English Language Learners at her old school, although she did have a special person who helped her with what her former school called a "reading disorder." Faith does not complain about her new classes. She loves being able to speak her native language with other students in the class who also speak it, but she says the math is a lot easier than at her old school.

Faith's parents worry that this separate class is going to put her even further behind in school. After her mother makes several phone calls to the school, someone at Faith's new school answers the phone who speaks her native language. Once Faith's mother explains their concerns, the staff member tells her mother that the school will evaluate Faith for a disability. A couple of months later, Faith's parents are invited to a meeting at which they receive a written report, in English, saying that Faith is not eligible for special education services and that she will be kept in her current educational placement. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.