The purpose of this study was to investigate if there was any pattern in the types or frequencies of errors made within writing samples produced by English Learners (ELs) in special education and whether those patterns differentiated them from ELs not in special education or whether there was commonality between the types or frequencies of errors made by ELs in special education and native-English speakers in special education. The intent is that once a pattern is recognized that the written work of ELs can help aid in determining placement in special education. The quantitative method was applied in this study. Written samples produced by ELs in special education and those not in special education as well as native-English speakers in special education and native-English speakers not in special education were analyzed to determine patterns in their errors. In total 74 writing samples from 74 different learners were analyzed and scored. All errors were tabulated under one of four categories: spelling, word choice, verb use, or punctuation. Word counts and numbers of errors were used to determine frequency of errors. Then the total number of errors and each type of error were used to determine the frequency of each type of error. The results of the study showed that an average of 50% of ELs in special education made spelling errors compared to all other errors. All of the other three subgroups had the greatest number of errors in spelling, as well, but the number of spelling errors was much closer to other types of errors. Therefore this differentiated ELs in special education from ELs not in special education. The results also revealed that ELs in special education also made far more frequent errors than the other three subgroups. The author recommends that writing samples may be used as one of many measures to aid in the decision of whether or not to place students in special education by first comparing the overall frequency of errors to their fellow EL peers. If there were a far greater frequency of errors, then looking at the frequency of spelling errors would be the next step. If approximately 50% or greater errors are made in spelling then it may be an indicator, along with other curriculum-based measures, that special education may be appropriate.


Nancy L. Drescher

Committee Member

Jessica Schomberg

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Arts and Humanities

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License