Pre-referral interventions for English language learners

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Martinez, Catalina Ana

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This study investigated the academic interventions developed by elementary school pre-referral teams for English language learners (ELLs), the profiles of ELLs referred to these teams, the background and experience of pre-referral team members, and the impact of the interventions. The participants were pre-referral teams at six elementary schools in a large, urban school district with high ELL enrollment. The study focused on the pre-referral process for 40 native Spanish-speaking ELLs experiencing academic difficulties who were referred to one of the six participating pre-referral teams. A descriptive design was utilized. Content analysis of existing written records, as well as data recorded on researcher-developed forms, comprised most of the data in this study. Teacher interviews provided additional contextual information. The findings revealed that all of these ELLs’ classroom teachers were knowledgeable in ELL instructional best practices, compared to about half the pre-referral team members. Furthermore, the prereferral process in this district seemed most effective at the first stage, in which ELLs’ teachers collaborated with their equally knowledgeable fellow teachers to develop classroom interventions. The ELL group was divided into three subgroups to facilitate the analysis of trends related to the outcomes of the pre-referral process. These groups were: ELLs who were referred to special education by the pre-referral team and who qualified for services as students with learning disabilities (LD) (SEQs, n=13), ELLs who were referred by the pre-referral team and did not qualify for services (SEDNQs, n=7), and those ELLs who were not referred to special education by the completion of this study (NSEs, n=20). Similarities in attendance and teacher profiles were noted for all three groups. Differences existed amongst the three groups in Spanish and English language proficiency, language program placement and academic failure histories. Further research is needed to determine the appropriateness of the specific interventions developed for failing ELLs. Further investigation on pre-referral team models used for addressing ELL needs is also needed to determine the effectiveness of these teams.