There has been much debate regarding how to best serve the 17,000 Boston Public Schools students for whom English is not their primary language (“Task force members quit over BPS plan,” Page A1, Nov. 1). What has not been considered is that more than 7 percent of these BPS students have been identified with a disability. Currently, special education is offered only in English, which many experts believe can disrupt communication with family members who speak only in their native language.
English-language immersion is offered in traditional classroom settings. However, when a student is identified with a disability, essential bilingual education support is often unavailable due to a lack of specialists and of the time needed by staff to coordinate both services.
Research confirms that using a student’s primary language in bilingual education programs is the most efficient and effective way for the student to learn English along with math, science, history, and other grade-appropriate subjects. Similarly, providing professional development to all educators teaching bilingual students with disabilities would foster greater collaboration and deliver better outcomes for multilingual students with disabilities.
Clearly, embedding bilingual education services into special education curriculums should be a priority for BPS, which is responsible for providing inclusive, barrier-free programming to all students who would benefit from this life-changing support.
The writer is a professor of education and chair of the education program at Lasell University.