As our nation’s classrooms become more diverse, how to best educate all of our students is of paramount importance. The educational placement of students of racial, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity in classes for students with special needs at a disproportionate level is well documented. This paper addresses the issue of disproportionate representation of English Language Learners (ELLs) in special education programs. Teacher beliefs, cultural bias, lack of culturally responsive professional development opportunities, and assessments contribute to inappropriate referrals and identification. Preparing preservice teachers to understand disproportionality and why it exists can help reduce the inappropriate referrals and placement of ELLs in special education programs.



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