Past May 15th, 2010 on a beautiful Saturday morning one hundred and ten educators met to discuss the future of Response to Intervention (RtI) Models and its potential to help bilingual children who are English language learners in Boston and the nearby New England area. Recently it was noted that the English language learners (ELL) have the poorest educational outcomes, the highest drop out rates, and a higher likelihood of being referred for special education services.
Claudia Rinaldi, professor in Special education at Boston College and educational consultant in collaboration with the New England Equity Assistance Center at Brown University responded to this need by coordinating this highly needed professional development event. Response to Intervention is a framework that guides schools to implement a multi-tiered system of academic and behavioral support. In this framework teachers plan collaboratively using universally collected data to prevent failure.
The event brought educators, administrators, researchers, national experts, parents, and MA Department of Education representatives to plan ways for this framework to be effectively implemented in schools. The event highlighted the work of three elementary schools, Gardner Pilot Academy, Dennis Haley Elementary, and Young Achiever K-8 who have been implementing this framework with great success. In particular, Gardner Pilot Academy under the leadership of Principal Erica Herman, has taken the school from having 50% of students making grade level achievement to 70%. For bilingual students the numbers have been even more significant. The event culminated on with a panel presentation representative of the schools that described in depth the RtI model for a captivating audience eager to follow their steps. We hope the district moves in the direction of adopting RtI models and that the current schools are used as model demonstration laboratories of innovative and culturally responsive models in education.
A big thank you to school panel participants for their wisdom, commitment, and authenticity in sharing their experience in light of this innovative school reform change model:
Gardner Pilot Academy, Allston, MA
Erica Herman, Principal
Abigail Brown, Curriculum Specialist
Claudia Morillo, 3rd Grade Learning Specialist
Young Achievers K-8 School, Mattappan, MA
Virgina Chalmers, Principal
Dennis Haley Elementary School, Roslindale, MA
Jennifer Morrison, Curriculum Specialist
Celina Quirindongo, 1st Grade Teacher
Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for Understood.org and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.
Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.