When and Why English Learners Receive Special Education
North Cooc

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Texas at Austin

Primary Discipline

Special Education
The overlap between learning difficulties due to limited English proficiency and disability poses critical questions about when English learners (ELs) should receive special education, if at all, and whether disproportionate representation of ELs within special education in later grades reflects greater need or inappropriate identification. Unfortunately, there is limited research on what predicts the timing of services and why some ELs receive special education and not others. In this study, I will (1) determine what grade ELs first receive special education by disability, (2) assess whether early English language skills predict the timing of special education and (3) analyze whether the labeling of students as ELs or not increases the probability of receiving special education. I will examine special education for ELs with longitudinal data on cohorts of students from a school district using an analytical approach that combines discrete time survival analysis and regression discontinuity. From my study, educators will understand the extent to which the timing of special education for ELs is related to academic challenges versus other student or institutional factors. At the policy level, understanding whether EL classification impacts special education participation has implications for changing current practices that rely on labels to provide students with instructional supports.
About North Cooc
North Cooc is an Assistant Professor of Special Education and a core faculty affiliate in the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on inequities at the intersection of disability, race/ethnicity, and language within special education and schools. In particular, he examines unequal opportunities and outcomes for children with disabilities and families navigating the special education system and the challenges of preparing a diverse and culturally responsive teacher workforce. North earned his Ed.D. in quantitative policy analysis in education and Ed.M. in international education policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and B.A. in history and Japanese from the University of California, Berkeley.

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