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Special Education and Multilingual Learners

Events and Opportunities

Multi-Level Systems of Support for Multilingual Learners: Title III/Special Education Collaborative Professional Development

The Title III/Bilingual-Bicultural Conference, in collaboration with the DPI Special Education Team, will be held on March 9 and 10 in the Wisconsin Dells. Participants will engage in a rich interactive training surrounding developing culturally and linguistically sustaining multi-level systems of support specific for multilingual learners who may have or have a disability. Please see the flier for details or visit the registration page.

Interpreters and Translators Connections (3-Day Series)

October 6, 2021 | November 23, 2021 | April 12, 2022
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Beginning during the 2021-22 school year, the Interpreter and Translator Connection Series will meet three times with ongoing online collaboration throughout the year. The goal of this connection series is to meet the needs of interpreters and translators in K-12 schools. Members of this series will have the opportunity to learn about and discuss current topics, in addition to connecting and sharing resources with others in the field. This series is intended for interpreters and translators across the state, and teams are encouraged to attend. To sign up, use the registration page for the Interpreter and Translator Connection Series.

Training for Home Language Interpreters: Supporting Families Through the Special Education Process

For those seeking training for home language interpreters for families at IEP meetings, Wisconsin DPI has partnered with WI FACETS, CESAs, school districts, and other organizations to develop a one day training for home language interpreters who interpret for families at IEP meetings. The training provides increased awareness of state and federal laws, regulations, and policies related to the educational rights of students who receive special education through an IEP and who may also be English Language Learners. The training also provides increased knowledge of legal responsibilities and requirements related to translation and interpretation of special education, terms, concepts, tools, and resources for interpreters. Finally, the training supports improved skills to handle common ethical considerations while interpreting IEP meetings. All of the resources for the training are found on this web page.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Resources

Resources for Families in Spanish (Temas de educación especial)


Special Education in Plain Language (Spanish)


Special Education in Plain Language


Wisconsin DPI Bilingual and English Learner Web Page

This web page from the Wisconsin DPI contains resources on a large variety of topics to support the education of bilingual and English learner students.

Assessing English Learners when Conducting Comprehensive Special Education Evaluations

The intersection of English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities requires additional considerations when conducting comprehensive special education evaluations.  This resource document provides guiding questions and resources to assist IEP teams with the special education evaluation process and decision making when considering special education eligibility for students also identified as English Learners.

Wisconsin DPI E-Learning Course: Creating Safe and Healthy Environments for Immigrant and Refugee Youth

This series of four e-courses from the Wisconsin DPI will help you plan and implement practices that create welcoming environments, learning engagement, and success for immigrant and refugee students in Wisconsin schools.

Wisconsin DPI English Learner Policy Handbook: Chapter 11: English Learners with Disabilities

This chapter from the Wisconsin DPI English Learner Policy Handbook outlines legal requirements, special education evaluations, students with specific disability category needs, and a checklist for IEP teams. The full handbook is available on the Wisconsin DPI English Learner Policy Handbook web page.

Wisconsin DPI ACCESS for ELLs Accommodations and Supports

This web page provides guidance from Wisconsin DPI for alternate access for ELLs and resources.

Providing Language Assistance to ParentsAsistencia a los Padres con el Idioma 

This resource outlines legal requirements for providing interpreter services to families who need an interpreter at an IEP meeting as well as requirements related to translation of IEP documents in a timely manner.

U.S. Department of Education Resources

U.S. Department of Education: English Learner Toolkit: Chapter 6: Tools and Resources for Addressing English Learners with Disabilities

From the U.S. Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition, this chapter reviews information related to assessment and IEP development. The complete English Learner Toolkit is also available on the U.S. Department of Education website.

U.S. Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition: English Learners with Disabilities Fact Sheet

This fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Education provides national disaggregated data from 2017-2018 relating to English Learners with Disabilities.

U.S. Department of Education: English Learners with Disabilities Infographic

This info graphic from the U.S. Department of Education contains some national data points about English learners with disabilities and presents many additional federal resources to aid in supporting English learners with disabilities.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for English Learners: Model Demonstration Grantees

This web page presents three models, produced through projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in 2016, that focus on tiered approaches to improving reading and language outcomes for English learners, including those with or at risk of having a disability.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for English Learners Resources

This web page, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), contains several briefs that highlight research to support students with or at risk of a disability. Research-based strategies for reading, culturally responsive practices, professional learning and coaching, and data-based decision making are features considered to support English learners within strong universal supports and inclusive environments.

U.S. Department of Education: Serving All Students: With a Focus on English Learners and Children with Disabilities

This slide deck from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2018 National Title I Conference covers a data snapshot of students in the nation, ways to use federal funds to support English learners and students with disabilities, and how to utilize multi-tiered systems of support to support struggling students.

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Resources

Regional Educational Laboratory: Identifying English Learners with Disabilities

This brief 2 page info graphic from the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) provides practical tips for the evaluation of English Learners suspected to have a disability.

Regional Educational Laboratory: Resources for Determining Special Education Eligibility of English Learners

The Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) developed several additional resources for determining special education eligibility for English Learners.

Regional Educational Laboratory: Identifying and Supporting English Learner Students with Learning Disabilities: Key Issues in the Literature and State Practice

This review of research and policy literature from the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West provides key elements of processes that can help identify and support English learner students with learning disabilities, discussing current guidelines used by the twenty states with the largest populations of English learner students.

Regional Educational Laboratory: Processes and Challenges in Identifying Learning Disabilities Among English Language Learner Students in Three New York State Districts

This study from the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) examines practices and challenges in the processes utilized in three New York State districts in identifying learning disabilities among students who are English language learners. The study aims to provide information helpful to districts in accurately identifying students who are English language learners and also have learning disabilities.

Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Resources

CCSSO English Learners with Disabilities Guide

This guide from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), developed for State Educational Agencies, includes many important messages about how school districts should identify and provide services for English Learners with disabilities.

CCSSO Framework on Successfully Exiting English Learners with Disabilities from English Learner Status

This framework from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) aims to facilitate support for educators to prepare for and successfully exit English learners with disabilities from English learner status. The resource contains considerations for exiting English learners with disabilities from English learner status and considerations for providing technical assistance to districts serving English learners with disabilities who are not yet able to exit English learner status.

Restart & Recovery: Meeting the Assessment Needs of Students with Disabilities During Times of Interrupted Schooling

This report from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) offers recommendations and strategies on how to best meet the assessment needs of students with disabilities, including English learners with disabilities and students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, during times of restart and recovery associated with interrupted education due to extended school closures. The report highlights guiding principles to restart and recovery, data needs, logistical considerations for assessments, collection and evaluation of data, and interpretation and use of data.

Restart & Recovery: Supporting English Learners with Disabilities During Remote Learning & School Reopening

This report from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) provides recommendations for creating and expanding policy guidance addressing the needs of English learners with disabilities during remote learning and school reopening. The report also contains recommendations to address challenges schools face in supporting English learners with disabilities in addition to suggesting state leadership actions to help strengthen the collaboration between English learners and special education departments

Colorín Colorado Resources

Colorín Colorado: Special Education and English Language Learners

This Colorín Colorado web page contains information on how schools and families can collaborate to ensure English Learners, including those with special needs, have the appropriate support and services to meet their unique needs.

Colorín Colorado: English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities

This Colorín Colorado webcast examines effective assessment and instruction strategies for English learners with learning disabilities, in addition to discussing ways to help encourage the active involvement of parents of English learners with learning disabilities in their children’s schools.

Additional Resources

WIDA Focus Bulletin Identifying ELLs with Specific Learning Disabilities: Facts, Advice, and Resources for School Teams

This May 2017 article from the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) provides practical recommendations for school teams in identifying and supporting English Learners with Specific Learning Disabilities.

WIDA Accessibility and Accommodations Web Page

This web resource from the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) provides accessibility and accommodation tips for English Learners.

Providing ELLs with Disabilities with Access to Complex Language

This document from WIDA provides educators "an approach for providing meaningful access to content area instruction to ELLs with disabilities." One can note that the key uses of academic language on page 4 has been updated from “Recount, Argue, Explain, Discuss” to “Narrate, Inform, Explain, Argue” in the 2020 Edition of WIDA’s framework that was adopted earlier this year.

RTI-Based SLD Identification Toolkit: Considerations for English Language Learners

This web page from the Response to Intervention (RTI) Action Network, a program of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, provides information to guide the instruction of culturally and linguistically diverse students and to make decisions for determining special education eligibility.

National Deaf Center: Deaf Students and English Learner Services

This resource from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) contains an overview of English language proficiency, how it is measured when it comes to eligibility for English learner services, and what this can mean for deaf students.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: ELLs (English Language Learners) in the Schools

This American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) web page provides a list of resources from ASHA and beyond, including policy documents, articles, and videos, that contain information about supporting English language learners in schools.

English Language Proficiency Assessment: Decision Making Considerations for English Learner Students with Disabilities

This document from the state of Oregon provides the definition of an English learner, the definition of a student with a disability, and subsequent considerations for IEP teams in regard to English learner students with disabilities and the English language proficiency assessment.