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The Problem with Sorting:  Putting ELL Kids into Low-level Programming

Hispanics have recently surpassed African Americans as the largest minority group in the United States.  Immigration has accelerated, and larger numbers of children in U.S. schools come from homes where English is not the primary language.  Students referred to as English Language Learners (ELL students) are the fastest growing segment of the student population.

The National Council of Teachers of English points out that ELLs are a highly diverse group, made up of different nationalities and backgrounds, some with English language knowledge and use at home, some with virtually no English language support at all, and all of these students have different educational needs.  Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of ELL students are placed in special education classes because most assessments are unable to distinguish between disability and linguistic differences.

Nanette Koelsch posits that ELL students who are placed in higher level courses develop higher levels of literacy than those ELL students who are tracked in remediation or special education courses.  In his blog, Larry Ferlazzo encourages focusing on the assets that ELL students bring to the learning table instead of recognizing only their deficits.  In order to prevent low expectations of students based on incorrect assessment, ELL students need to be assessed for competency in their native languages.

DORA Spanish/EDELL allows teachers to compare Spanish-speaking students’ first language reading strategies with their English reading strategies.  This comparison enables teachers to determine whether the ELL student is specifically lacking English language skills or requires special education instruction.


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