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Steve Gill’s Training Manual Improves ELL Education

Steve Gill
ELL Critical Data Process
Steve Gill and his training manual, “The ELL Critical Data Process: Distinguishing between disability and language acquisition.”
Five years ago, approximately 650 students in KSD were receiving both English Language Learning (ELL) and special education support. But thanks to Steve Gill’s revolutionary process for distinguishing between disability and language, and the hard work of many staff members across the district, this number has been reduced by more than 39 percent.
Because ELL students are often referred to receive special education services when other interventions might be more effective, Gill, an educational staff associate coach, created a data analyzing protocol for teams to evaluate students based on a 16-point matrix. This led him to write a training manual, “The ELL Critical Data Process: Distinguishing between disability and language acquisition,” with the help of his wife, Ushani Nanayakkara.
Gill has also begun to train other educators, and so far he’s taught the 16-point evaluation process to more than 3,000 people from approximately 50 school districts around the state.
“Steve took on the development of this project while he was working on his ELL endorsement course work,” said Rona Popp, director of categorical programs and former lead of the district’s ELL program. “This work aligned beautifully with his background in school psychology and his ability to speak several languages.”
Dr. Collier Virginia and Dr. Wayne Thomas, two leading ELL researchers, reviewed the manual and are now spreading the word about the process nationally. They said in an email to Gill that the book “has a system for appropriate assessment that is much more comprehensive than anything else we have seen to date.” Gill said he is surprised by all the attention the evaluation process is receiving.
“It really has been a journey that I did not see coming,” said Gill, who was a teacher before becoming a school psychologist more than 20 years ago. He joined the Kent School District in 2010 and received his ELL endorsement from Heritage University.