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New Jersey Department of Education Offices of Special Education and Title I English Language Learners (ELLs) and Special Education Question and Answer Document

  1. Can students be referred and/or evaluated for special education services while receiving bilingual/ESL services?

Yes, neither federal nor state regulations prohibit a student who is receiving ESL services from being evaluated.  According to New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C.) 6A:14-3.4(f), "An initial evaluation shall consist of a multi-disciplinary assessment in all areas of suspected disability. Such evaluation shall include at least two assessments and shall be conducted by at least two members of the child study team in those areas in which they have appropriate training or are qualified through their professional licensure or educational certification and other specialists in the area of disability as required or as determined necessary.

For further information on referral and evaluation please refer to N.J.A.C. 6A:14.3.4(f).

  1. Can students receiving special education services receive bilingual/ESL services?

Yes, a student who is determined eligible for special education and related services or eligible for speech-language services can continue to receive bilingual/ESL services. Districts should consider embedding special education services in the existing bilingual/ESL classes in order to provide the services in the general education setting.

  1. Can bilingual/ESL students receive speech-language services? 

Yes, according to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.6, "eligible for speech-language services" means a speech and/or language disorder as follows: A speech disorder in articulation, phonology, fluency, voice, or any combination, unrelated to dialect, cultural differences or the influence of a foreign language, which adversely affects a student's educational performance.

  1. What should a school district do if they can't find a bilingual child study team member to complete a child study team evaluation?

N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.4(f)1 requires that evaluations be conducted in the language or form most likely to yield accurate information...unless it is not feasible to do so.  Therefore, a school district should make extensive efforts to locate a bilingual child study team member.  The school district may contract for services from another local school district or an approved clinic or agency.  A list of bilingual child study team professionals is available on the following website: Additional resources that should be considered by the school district include the recruitment of bilingual paraprofessionals and the use of bilingual community professionals and bilingual professionals in the district.  In all instances, the school district must train personnel in the assessment process and the role of interpreters at meetings.

  1.    If a bilingual/ESL student is referred for special education, how should the parent be notified?

Before a Meeting:
Parental involvement through the referral and evaluation process is important and districts should make every effort to ensure parental participation at meetings.

After a Meeting:
Written notice must be provided to the parents within 15 days following a meeting of the IEP team. According to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.4:

a) Written notice to the parent shall be provided and parent conferences required by this chapter shall be conducted in the language used for communication by the parent and student unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.

  1. Foreign language interpreters or translators and sign language interpreters for the deaf shall be provided, when necessary, by the district board of education at no cost to the parent.

b) If the native language is not a written language, the district board of education shall take steps to ensure that:

  1. The notice is translated orally or by other means to the parent in his or her native language or other mode of communication;
  2. That the parent understands the content of the notice; and
  3. There is written documentation that the requirements of (b)1 and 2 above have been met.
  1. How should special education eligibility be determined for limited English proficient students?

First, determine the dominant language of the child.  While the NJDOE does not mandate or endorse any particular assessment, examples include the Brigance Screening, Language Assessment Scale, IDEA Proficiency Test, Bilingual Verbal Abilities Test, or Woodcock-Munoz Test.  For additional resources you may consult the Center for Applied Linguistics Foreign Language Assessment Directory at

Once the dominant language is determined, evaluations should be conducted in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:3.4(f).  If it is determined that the native language is dominant, then testing should be in the native language.  If tests are unavailable in student's native language, then use informal assessment measures (language sample, oral story retelling).

According to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.5(b), "In making a determination of eligibility for special education and related services, a student shall not be determined eligible if the determinant factor is due to a lack of instruction in reading, including the essential components of reading instruction, or math or due to limited English proficiency."

Additionally, according to N.J.A.C. 6A:15-1.4(g), "…additional programs and services shall be designed to meet the special needs of eligible LEP students and include, but are not limited to, remedial instruction through Title 1 programs; special education; school-to-work programs; computer training and talented education services."

  1. If a limited English proficient student is determined eligible for special education services, what should the child study team consider when developing the individualized education program (IEP)?

N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(c)5 requires that when developing an IEP for a student with limited   English proficiency, the IEP team consider the language needs of the student as related to the IEP.  The IEP team shall determine the language needs of the student.

  1. What are some other areas to consider when providing instruction to students who have limited English proficiency and are either classified or referred for an evaluation?
  • Consider including bilingual or ESL professionals as part of the IEP team and solicit their input when considering the language needs of students with limited English proficiency.
  • Contact your district's parent advisory group to better understand the needs of parents whose children have limited English proficiency and are receiving special education services.
  • Utilize the district's pre-referral intervention system such as the Intervention and Referral Services committee (I&RS), Response to Intervention (RTI) or multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). For more information on providing interventions to ELL can be found at or