GAO Report: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

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GAO Report: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

This month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report, Distance Learning: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19.  Specifically, this report overviews a review of relevant online learning plans, synchronous and asynchronous teaching policies (i.e., live and non-live teaching sessions), individualized education plans (IEP), and semi-structured interviews with administrators from 15 geographically diverse school districts with high proportions of English language learners (ELL) and Students with Disabilities (SWD) populations to highlight the logistical and instructional challenges of providing federally mandated services to these students in the context of the current pandemic. 
 
While these findings are not generalizable to all districts, GAO's report does provide evidence of the challenges LEAs faced in delivering services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) free appropriate public education (FAPE) provision. Additionally, the report's findings around the impacts of student lack of access to internet connectivity and its implications on ELL's academic progress also provides evidence for the need for more funding to the E-rate program. Key highlights from the report are listed below. However, if you would like to skip ahead, click here to access the full report.  

 

  • GAO found that students had fewer opportunities to practice their language skills during distance learning, as they would during a typical school day. 
  • GAO found that limited English comprehension also affected the ability of families to assist students with the distance learning curriculum.
  • GAO found that LEA's attempted to address issues with ELL instruction by increasing internet connectivity and access to devices, using creative communication Strategies (e.g., smartphone communication and teacher home visits), and adapting materials and instructional methods.
  • GAO found that school districts faced many challenges in providing distance learning to SWDs due to the range of student needs and services and parental capacity to assist.
  • GAO found that districts addressed challenges of distance learning for SWDs by modifying instruction, holding IEP meetings virtually, and encouraging parent-teacher collaboration. 
 
 
 

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