What is a Dual Label Student?

Instructor: Heather Turner

Heather has taught for 10 years as a lead special education teacher and Educational Diagnostician for a district. She has a doctorate in Curriculum Studies.

This lesson discusses the educational labels of Students with Disabilities, English Language Learners, and Gifted/Gifted and Talented Education. Learn about how students could be categorized with two labels and how teachers accommodate these students.

Educational Labels

Have you ever organized a messy closet by labeling different items? The purpose of this act is to increase efficacy and overall performance of the space. The same is true in education.

Students can receive different types of labels in the educational setting. These are used to categorize students and understand their needs. Discussion exists on the purpose and overall success of labeling; however, it does allow teachers to consider student needs as a collective group. Labeling students is also important for funding of schools.

Types of Labels

Below is a list of student labels that are often used in educational settings:

Students with Disabilities (SWD): This refers to students who are identified as having a disability that negatively impacts their education. A committee has determined that these students meet criteria as having a disability in the school setting, and an educational plan to address the needs of each student is on file. Typically, these students receive special education services.

English Language Learners (ELL): This refers to students whose primary language is not English. The term English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) may also be used.

Gifted: This refers to a student who shows high performance in several domains, including intellectual, creative, artistic, and leadership. A student does not have to excel in all categories in order to be identified as Gifted; rather, students must excel in two or more of these categories. These students receive additional supports outside general education. Another term that is used with this is Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program.

Depending on the state, additional labels exist for students who receive extra academic support through federal and state funding. These programs include Early Intervention services and Title One. Students who are labeled under these programs may receive extra supports such as instructional materials or additional time with a teacher.

Students Who Have Two Labels

In some cases, students can qualify for support and services from more than one of the academic support programs. In these cases, the characteristics of both labels should be utilized in planning for the programming of the student. In addition, paperwork and documentation must be kept for both programs. 

Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners

A Student with Disability may also qualify as an English Language Learner. In this scenario, teachers should consider the disability and language needs of the child.

An English Language Learner qualifies as having a disability when the instructional team determines that the language barrier is not the determining factor for the student's low academic performance. Therefore, instruction would consist of strategies that meet both the student's disability and language needs. This student may receive support from both a special education teacher and teacher of English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

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