The Provision of School Psychological Services to Bilingual 1 Students

National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, October 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Provision of School Psychological Services to Bilingual 1 Students


According to the National Center for Education Statistics (Aud, Hussar, Kena, Bianco, Frohlich, Kemp, & Tahan, 2011), 21% of school-age children ages 5-17 speak a language other than English at home. Although English language learners (ELLs), inclusive of those that are exposed to two or more languages, are the fastest growing subgroup of students within our nation's public schools (NEA, 2007), typically they do not fare well in the U.S. educational system. Samson and Lesaux (2009) found that bilingual students were underrepresented in special education in the primary grades, but overrepresented beginning in third grade. Furthermore, ELLs are underrepresented in gifted education (King, Artiles, & Kozleski, 2009). Inadequate or inappropriate psychoeducational assessment practices, restricted access to effective instruction, lack of understanding about language acquisition and prior academic experiences in one or more languages and associated impact on academic achievement and grade level expectations, inappropriate special education referral practices, and limited training all have been found to contribute to these phenomena (Sullivan, 2011).

Given the increasing diversity of the nation's public schools, NASP recognizes the critical importance of establishing best practices in the provision of school psychology services when working with English language learners. This includes supporting students with diverse backgrounds by using culturally and linguistically appropriate methods, including delivery in the language that best meets the students' needs. Schools are expected to provide effective and comprehensive supports and services to help these students succeed in all domains: academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. School psychologists should ensure that prevention, assessment, consultation, intervention, advocacy, and family-school collaboration services for bilingual students are implemented effectively.

THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST

NASP affirms the critical role that culturally and linguistically responsive school psychologists play in helping to close achievement gaps and decrease overrepresentation and underrepresentation of ELLs in special and gifted education, respectively. Best practices require training that includes, but is not limited to, the developmental processes of language acquisition and acculturation, their effect on standardized test performance, and the effectiveness of instructional strategies and interventions. All school psychologists are responsible for providing equitable and culturally responsive services to students and families.

Assessment. NASP promotes the standards set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) that require the use of reliable and valid assessment tools and procedures. NASP supports the rights of bilingual students who are referred for a psychoeducational evaluation to be assessed in their native languages when such evaluation will provide the most useful data to inform interventions. It should be noted that the use of nonverbal" tools or native language instruments are not automatic guarantees of reliable and valid data. Nonverbal tests rely on some form of effective communication between examiner and examinee, and may be as culturally loaded as verbal tests, thus limiting the validity of evaluation results. Furthermore, the norms for native language tests may not represent the types of ELLs typically found in U.S. schools, and very limited research exists on how U.S. bilingual students perform on tests in their native languages as opposed to English. Thus, collaboration among school, family, and community stakeholders will help improve evaluation practices and may assist in reducing potentially discriminatory assessment practices and inappropriate interpretation of test results.

Given the relative dearth of bilingual school psychologists, particularly in languages other than Spanish, it is important to recognize that monolingual, English-speaking school psychologists will likely conduct the vast majority of evaluations with bilingual students. …

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