Over -identification of English language learners in special education during COVID-19


  • Eunjoo Kim Indiana University Northwest
  • Jeongae Kang Illinois State University




English Learners, COVID-19 pandemic, Special Education Referrals, Teachers’ Perspectives


This study surveyed teachers’ perceptions of English learners (ELs) and their referrals to special education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited social interactions during the pandemic greatly affected ELs’ language and social development. Using an online survey, the study identified how teachers perceived the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ELs, particularly changes in their areas of struggle before and after the pandemic, and the connection between their struggling due to the lockdown and special education referrals. This survey was distributed to Indiana public schools and targeted K–3 teachers. The results indicated that almost 25% of the teachers reported an increase in ELs’ referral to special education referrals after the school lockdown. Further, the teachers indicated an increase in reports of Els with behavior issues and emotional struggles compared to the pre-pandemic period.