First Advisor

Ann Fullerton

Date of Publication

Spring 6-12-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Special and Counselor Education


Special Education




Special education teachers -- Attitudes, English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, Culturally relevant pedagogy



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 129 pages)


Disproportionality in special education has been examined from various perspectives over a 50-year period. English Language Learner (ELL) students have been included in the discussion among researchers in the past two decades as a disproportionate number of ELL students are referred to special education. Though the problem of disproportionality has been acknowledged, documented and discussed over a period of decades, there is a lack of research from the voices of special educators. The purpose of this study was to describe special education teachers' experiences teaching students currently or previously enrolled in an English language learner program who are receiving special education services. This study explored teachers' views of what supports, resources and strategies contribute to student success and their views of the eligibility determination and referral process. In order to address this gap in the literature, an exploratory descriptive qualitative study was conducted by interviewing special educators. The results indicate the participants lacked support in all areas examined including professional development, resources, instructional strategies and the referral and assessment process. This study indicates structural inequity, a systematic bias in the form of a patterned and differential distribution of resources, contributing to limited opportunities for students who are English language learners who are receiving special education. Implications of the study to address structural inequity include the use of culturally responsive pre-referral strategies and knowledge of the acculturation process when considering the needs of an ELL student who is struggling academically and incorporating culturally responsive teaching methods in both general and special education.


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