Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Bilingual Special Education: Training Issues

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Bilingual Special Education: Training Issues

Article excerpt

Bilingual Special Education: Training Issues

ABSTRACT: Bilingual special education, in its brief history, has undergone several shifts in

emphasis--for example, from nonbiased, native-language assessments to bilingual services.

Increasingly, training programs for teachers of students with both limited English proficiency

and disabilities have emphasized an interface between special education andbilingual education.

Though cuts in federal funding have reduced the number of training programs, the quality of

training has improved. This article describes a pilot program of the California Special Education

Project. Begun in 1984, this 3-year staff development program included a combination training

and implementation phase, and in 1988 it won an award for exemplary services to

language-minority children in special education. * The field of bilingual special education is an emerging discipline with a brief history. In the early 1970s, the first references to bilingual special education were made in the educational literature. The first major U.S. conference related to this topic was sponsored by The Council for Exceptional Children in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1973. The first topical issue of Exceptional Children dedicated to this area of concern was published in 1974.

The single most important catalyst in promoting the concept of bilingual special education was the federal legislation authorizing and establishing bilingual education (Public Law 90-247) and the landmark legislation on behalf of the handicapped known as P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1974. This legislation, along with subsequent litigation such as the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lau v. Nichols, laid the foundation for the development of bilingual special education.

The emerging field of bilingual special education can be divided into three periods. The first period, from 1970 to 1975, can be referred to as the awareness phase. The second period, from 1975 to 1985, can be called the program development phase. The third period, from 1985 to 1989, can be referred to as the program refinement and institutionalization phase. In the first phase, a great deal of energy went into raising the issues and calling attention to the need for the program. During the second period, as the initial programs were being developed, the emphasis was on nonbiased assessment in the native language of the student. During the latter part of the second period, the emphasis began to shift to the provision of appropriate bilingual services to students with limited English proficiency as well as disabilities. It was during this second period, and into the third, that bilingual special education teacher training began receiving significant attention.

The critical importance of bilingual special education teacher training has been emphasized by several authors (Baca, 1980; Baca & Cervantes, 1989; Fuchigami, 1980). In the early years, researchers discussed the need for the bilingual special education "interface"--the use of elements from both bilingual education and special education in the training of bilingual special education teachers (Baca & Cervantes, 1989). A few years later, Collier (1989) pointed out that the interface approach was not sufficient; bilingual special education teacher training requires more than the borrowing of courses from each of the parent disciplines. What is needed is the carefully articulated and planned convergence of these two approaches, to result in a new and unique body of knowledge (Collier, 1985).

This article describes bilingual special education teacher training at two levels, preservice and inservice. The first section chronicles the development of preservice programs over the past 10 years. The second section gives a specific example of a school district's successful inservice program on bilingual services to students with both limited English proficiency and disabilities. …

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