Special Education and ELLs: Expert Interviews & Webcasts

The following interviews with experts in the field of English language learner (ELL) education, bilingual education, and special education offer excellent guidance for educators who serve ELLs who may have disabilities. Many of these clips would make excellent additions to professional development sessions on this topic.

Interviews with Featured Experts

Dr. Alba Ortiz

Dr. Alba Ortiz is one of the nation's leading experts on questions of special education for ELLs. In this in-depth interview, Dr. Ortiz discusses challenges related to special education identification, ideas for making ELL families an integral part of all decisions related to students, and best practices for instruction.

Dr. Nancy Cloud

Dr. Nancy Cloud is a specialist in ESL, bilingual and dual language education. In this interview, Nancy discusses best practices in reading instruction for ELLs, gives guidance on choosing appropriate literacy benchmarks and interventions for ELLs, and talks about ways to understand and approach ELLs' reading difficulties.

Dr. Lynn Shafer Willner

Dr. Lynn Shafer Willner is a researcher on ELD Standards and EL Accessibility at the WIDA Consortium. In this interview, she discusses the ways that assessment accommodations are changing with technology. She also offers guidance on how to effectively implement accommodations for ELLs, adjust instruction for ELLs with disabilities, and focus instruction on students' strengths rather than the areas where they struggle.

Dr. Debbie Zacarian

Dr. Debbie Zacarian is an expert in the fields of ELL education and special education. In this interview, she discusses what sound identification, instruction programs, and parent engagement look like for ELLs who may have special education needs, as well as steps to achieve effective collaboration on behalf of ELLs with disabilities.

Webcasts & Facebook Live Events

Special Education and English Language Learners

Featuring Cristina Sánchez-López, this archived Facebook Live event includes discussion of culturally and linguistically responsive environments for dually-identified students, as well as best practices for ELL support and determination of special education needs. (YouTube link coming soon!)

English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities

Featuring Dr. Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, this webcast from Colorín Colorado discusses effective assessment and instruction strategies for English language learners with learning disabilities.


RTI for English Language Learners: Appropriate Screening, Progress Monitoring, and Instructional Planning

In this webinar from the Center on Response to Intervention, Dr. Julie Esparza Brown, Dr. Amanda Sanford, and Erin Lolich focus on improving educational outcomes for English Language Learners (ELLs) through culturally and linguistically responsive implementation of an RTI framework in the area of elementary reading.


These videos were made possible through our partnership with the National Education Association. Additional support was provided by our founding partner, the American Federation of Teachers.