ELLRD Classification Project

ELLRD Project


This website details research conducted as part of the “Distinguishing between low English proficiency and language-related disabilities: Developing a valid classification“ project, led by Dr. Jamal Abedi, University of California, Davis School of Education.

The mission of the project is centered around three main goals:

  • Finding out the current classification system of English learners with language-related disabilities directly from teachers, state assessment directors, and researchers
  • Testing for differential performance across English learner groups and students with and without disabilities on a math test that varies in terms of math content difficulty and language complexity
  • Testing for differential performance across English learners with and without language-related disabilities on a series of tests that measure language ability in the students’ first (Spanish) and second (English) languages

The researchers of this study define language-related disabilities to include the following three disabilities:

  • Autism
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Speech and language impairments

The rationale behind selecting these three disabilities as “language-related” is that the researchers define language-related disabilities (LRDs) as disabilities that include oral language difficulties, deficiencies in language processing, and deficiencies in speech and word recognition. Specifically, LRDs include autism, specific learning disabilities, and speech or language impairments from the 13 disability categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The US Department of Education (2017) found that within a group of students with disabilities in 2015, 49.7% were ELs with specific learning disabilities, while 37.5% were non-ELs with specific learning disabilities. Similarly, 21.2% were ELs with speech or language impairments, while 17.2% were non-ELs with speech or language impairments. On the other hand, the US Department of Education (2017) found a higher incidence of autism in non-ELs (9.1%) than ELs (6.3%). Although autism is less prevalent in ELs than the other two disability categories, autism may impact language skills which is why it is included as an LRD.

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