Assessing Young Children for Whom English is a Second Language

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Abstract

The population of children and families in the United States who receive early childhood education or early childhood special education services is becoming increasingly diverse (Children's Defense Fund, 1989). It has been estimated that by the year 2000, there will be 5.2 million preschoolers from other than English speaking homes (Kagan & Garcia, 1991). The evaluation and assessment of young children who are culturally and linguistically diverse presents significant challenges to early childhood professionals. When the outcome of assessment is determination of eligibility for special education services, the cost of error is greatly increased. The fact that the number of children in special education who are culturally and linguistically diverse is higher than expected may be reflective of the potential for error in the assessment process (Yansen & Shulman, 1996). It is also possible, however, for children who need early intervention services to go unserved because of the difficulty of distinguishing between cultural and linguistic differences and the presence of a disability. Screening and assessment practices must be carefully evaluated in terms of cultural or language biases that could cause either over- or underrepresentation of children from various cultural and linguistic groups.

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