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English Learners with Disabilities

Information regarding support for educators’ identification, assessment, differentiation of instruction, and reclassification of English learners with disabilities (Assembly Bill 2785).

In August 2016, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2785 (Chapter 579, Statutes of 2016) calling upon the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop a manual that provides guidance to teachers and specialists in grades transitional kindergarten (TK)/K–12 to help them appropriately identify and support English Learners (ELs) with disabilities.

In response, the CDE developed the California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities (PDF; 3MB) to provide information on identifying, assessing, supporting, and reclassifying ELs who may qualify for special education services and pupils with disabilities who may be classified as ELs. The manual or guide will also assist leaders in developing and implementing policies and practices related to ELs with disabilities.

Using This Guide

The diverse languages and cultures that California’s students bring to the classroom are assets on which to build. This guide emphasizes the importance of respecting and being responsive to student and family culture and language when developing programs, services, and instruction for ELs in the state who may have a disability that impacts their ability to learn. Children, including children with disabilities, can successfully learn two or more languages, and multilingualism has linguistic, social, cognitive, academic, economic, and cultural benefits.

Since each child’s background experiences, language proficiency (in both their primary language and in English), and academic needs vary widely, this guide presents a variety of methods to assist practitioners in providing the highest quality, most culturally and linguistically responsive educational program to all students.

Specifically, this guide provides information on:

  • identification of ELs, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), and pre-referral interventions;
  • pre-referral and referral, assessment, and individualized education program processes;
  • educational programs and instructional strategies;
  • proposing exit from special education services; and
  • reclassification from English learner status.

California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities (PDF; 3MB).
A guide to identifying, assessing, supporting, and reclassifying ELs with disabilities as required by Assembly Bill 2785, Chapter 579, Statutes of 2016.

California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities – Long Descriptions
Long descriptions for complex figures that are included in the California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating ELs with Disabilities.

California Practitioners' Guide

California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities – By Chapter

To view individual chapters of the Practitioners’ Guide, use the links below. (Note: If you have difficulty viewing the text on your device, use the whole document link noted above.)

Distance Learning

Distance Learning Resources for Families

California Region Specific Distance Learning Resources

Family Empowerment Centers (FECs) External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Provides training and information to families of children 3–22 with disabilities. Services offered vary by region call or visit FEC websites to learn more.

General Distance Learning Resources

COVID-19 English Learner Resources and English Learner Updates Newsletters (Special COVID-19 Newsletter, Regular Quarterly Newsletter, and Distance Learning Parent Newsletters) from the California Department of Education (CDE) English Learner web page

  • Resources, models, webinars, newsletters, and guidance regarding English learner, immigrant, newcomer, and migratory students during distance learning and the transition to schools reopening during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times External link opens in new window or tab. from Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM) External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Coping with the unknown and navigating school closures, abrupt changes in routines, loss of connections with teachers and friends, and fear around contracting the virus- are burdens for all, and caregivers play an important role in helping children and young adults understand the changes and process their related feelings. Individuals with autism may need additional support to process the news and adapt to the many changes.

Distance Learning Resources for Families and Educators External link opens in new window or tab. from Imperial County Special Education Local Plan Area (IC SELPA) Content Lead External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Imperial County SELPA is committed to be of assistance to the statewide system of support by offering collaborative consultation services to SELPAs who have identified needs associated with improving outcomes for ELs with Disabilities, and provides statewide in-person and virtual training opportunities for teachers, teacher-leads/coaches, support personnel, general and special education service providers, and administrators.

Distance Learning Resources for Families External link opens in new window or tab. from Colorín Colorado:

California Department of Education Updates for Guidance on Special Education

Special Education Guidance for COVID-19

  • The United States is currently experiencing a pandemic emergency due to the threat of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 13, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-26-20 requiring the California Department of Education (CDE) to issue guidance on several topics, including ensuring students with disabilities (SWD) receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with their individualized education program (IEP) and meeting other procedural requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and California law. Initial guidance on services to students with disabilities was provided on March 20, 2020.

Resources

Resources for English Learners with Disabilities

California Department of Education & Partners Resources

Seeds of Partnership External link opens in new window or tab.

Family Empowerment Centers (FEC) External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Provides training and information to families of children 3-22 with disabilities. Services offered vary by region call or visit FEC websites to learn more.

Imperial County Special Education Local Plan Area (IC SELPA) Content Lead External link opens in new window or tab.

California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) External link opens in new window or tab.

United States Department of Education (ED) Resources

ED’s English Learner Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released joint guidance on January 7, 2015, reminding states, school districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that ELs have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential
  • Chapter 6 provides tools and resources for addressing ELs with disabilities

Resources from Other States

Colorado Department of Education External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Resources provided by the Colorado Department of Education for Learners who are Culturally and/or Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Suspected of Having Educational Disabilities

Florida Department of Education External link opens in new window or tab.

  • The Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services administers programs for students with disabilities. Additionally, the bureau coordinates student services throughout the state and participates in multiple inter-agency efforts designed to strengthen the quality and variety of services available to students with special needs
  • Policies for Students with Disabilities & English Language Learners External link opens in new window or tab.

Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction External link opens in new window or tab.

Outside Resources

Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM) External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Housed within the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. AFIRM offers access too free online modules and resources for 27 evidence-based practices identified by the National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence & Practice on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). AFIRM is an extension of the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on ASD
  • Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times External link opens in new window or tab.

Alternate English Language Learning Assessment (ALTELLA) External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Housed within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, the ALTELLA project aims to apply lessons learned from research on successful instructional practices, accommodations, and assessing ELs and students with cognitive disabilities to inform alternate English language proficiency assessments
  • Resources for ELs with Learning Disabilities

Colorín Colorado (In English) External link opens in new window or tab.

Colorín Colorado (En español) External link opens in new window or tab.

Resources for Students with Disabilities

California Department of Education & Partners Resources

California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN) External link opens in new window or tab.

CAPTAIN is a multiagency network developed to support the understanding and use of Evidence Based Practices for individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder across the state

Family Involvement & Partnerships Resources

  • Resources and support for parents, guardians, and families of children with disabilities.

California Parent Organizations

  • List of California agencies providing resources for families of children with disabilities.

Resources for English Learners

California Department of Education Resources

The California Department of Education (CDE) English Learner web page

  • The overall goal of the various programs included on this web page is to improve the English language skills of English Learner students, Immigrant students, Migratory students and provide information to their parents about services available.
  • Resources for English Learners
  • Quarterly newsletters with the latest information and resources regarding English learner education from the California Department of Education English Learner Support Division.

COVID-19 English Learner Resources

  • Resources, models, webinars, newsletters, and guidance regarding English learner, immigrant, newcomer, and migratory students during distance learning and the transition to schools reopening during the COVID-19 outbreak

English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework (ELA/ELD Framework)

  • The State Board of Education adopted the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework (ELA/ELD Framework) on July 9, 2014. Curriculum frameworks provide guidance to educators, parents, and publishers, to support implementing California content standards

English Learner Roadmap

  • Guide to assist local educational agencies to implement California's 21st century college-and-career-ready standards, curriculum, instruction programs, and assessments

English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC)

  • The English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) is the required state test for English language proficiency (ELP) that must be given to students whose primary language is a language other than English.

Reclassification Guide

  • Information on how a district determines whether or not an English learner student has sufficient English proficiency to be reclassified as a fluent English speaker

ELPAC Resources for Parents

  • The ELPAC Resources for Parents web page to learn more about the ELPAC

Initial ELPAC Fact Sheet (PDF)

  • The Initial ELPAC is used to identify students as being either an English learner or fluent in English. It is administered only once during a student’s time in the California public school system, based on the results of the home language survey

Summative ELPAC Fact Sheet (PDF)

  • The Summative ELPAC is given only to ELs in grades K–12. These students will take the assessment every year until they are reclassified as fluent English proficient
  • Students with disabilities who cannot take one or more domains of the ELPAC with approved accessibility resources are eligible for a domain exemption. Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who cannot access the ELPAC with approved accessibility resources are eligible to take an alternate assessment, as noted in their individualized education program

Alternative ELPAC

  • California’s statewide alternate assessment for English language proficiency (ELP) for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Partners Resources

Californian Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) External link opens in new window or tab.

  • CABE is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1976 to promote bilingual education and quality educational experiences for all students in California. CABE has chapters, members and affiliates, along with partnerships with other state and national advocacy organizations working to promote equity and student achievement for students with diverse cultural, racial, and linguistic backgrounds
  • Resources for Biliteracy, Multicultural Competency, and Education Equity External link opens in new window or tab.

Californians Together External link opens in new window or tab.

  • Californians Together leverages the recognized expertise of our members to promote the use of students’ linguistic skills as a positive asset contributing to their success. Californians Together advises state and national policy makers and mobilizes communities to protect and promote access to quality education for the state’s ELs
  • List of Future Events External link opens in new window or tab.
  • Resources for English Learners and Other Areas of Focus External link opens in new window or tab.

WestEd External link opens in new window or tab.

  • A nonpartisan, nonprofit research, development, and service agency working with education and other communities throughout the United States and abroad, WestEd aims to improve education and other important outcomes for children, youth and adults
  • List of Future Events External link opens in new window or tab.

Laws, Policies, and Rights

Laws, Regulations, & Policies

  • Federal and state legislation, laws, regulations, policies, legal advisories, and guidance.

Special Education Rights of Parents and Children Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B - Notice of Procedural Safeguards (English)

Parents’ Rights

  • A brief summary of Procedural Safeguards for students with disabilities receiving special education services.
Questions:   Patrick Garcia-Smith | PGarciaSmith@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-5101
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, June 16, 2021
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