The impact of English language learner status on screening for emotional and behavioral disorders: A differential item functioning (DIF) study

Matthew C. Lambert, Allen G. Garcia, Stacy Ann A. January, Michael H. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There have been significant changes in the racial/ethnic and linguistic background of students attending public schools in the United States. The number of public-school students who are English language learners (ELLs) participating in programs of language assistance has more than doubled over the past two decades. In 1993–1994, 5.1% of public-school students in the United States were ELLs, or an estimated 2.1 million students. As of 2014–2015, 9.4% of students were ELLs, or an estimated 4.6 million students. It is estimated that by 2030, upward of 40% of school children will speak English as a second language. Meeting the needs of students who are not proficient in English is challenging for school professionals and even more so if they are identified for special services. Researchers have found that ELL students live in situations with numerous high-risk factors, including poverty, inadequate schools, poor and violent neighborhoods, and limited access to adequate health care, mental health services, and schools. As a group, these students are more likely to underperform academically, have a lower grade point average, and drop out of school compared to non-ELL Latino students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology in the Schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018



  • Emotional and Behavioral Screener (EBS)
  • behavior assessment
  • differential item functioning
  • universal screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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