The landscape of education and the students served in schools has changed over the last few decades and is becoming more diverse (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). Methods of special education evaluation in schools are also changing to meet the needs of a dynamic population. Best practices for specific learning disability (SLD) identification recommend the use of effective evaluation methods that inform educational decisions. Many models of SLD identification have been proposed throughout the history of SLD classification. Though many school psychologists have relied on the discrepancy model of learning disability identification, many alternative evaluation methods are coming into popularity. Best practices for SLD identification are changing to meet the needs of a culturally and linguistically diverse student population. Experts in administering culturally appropriate assessments for English language learners (ELLs) recommend that the areas of culture, language, and schooling be examined in order to ensure a valid and fair evaluation for this population (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). This study specifically examined current assessment practices of Utah school psychologists when assessing ELLs for learning disabilities by examining the most essential components of language proficiency, acculturation, academic skills, and intellectual functioning. This study additionally examined the barriers and recommendations of school psychologists when assessing ELLs. A sample of 84 Utah school psychologists completed a survey about assessment practices as part of assessing an ELL for a suspected SLD. Findings from this study indicate school psychologists' responses align with the guiding principles that surround the assessment of ELLs. Participants indicated the importance of standardized measurements when assessing all areas except acculturation. Additionally, participants identified time, lack of resources, incomplete assessment instruments, and limited training and competency as major barriers for professionals working with ELLs. Results from this study can be used to inform and improve practice based on the respondents' recommendations, which included more resources allocated to acculturation assessment and more training from school districts and university training programs in the areas of ELL assessment.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





specific learning disability, assessment, school psychologist, English language learner