I wanted to share an interview I participated in last week with Rachel Kramer Theodorou, Senior Lecturer in Education and Elementary Faculty Leader at Brandies University. Rachel invited me to this interview to share with her pre-service teachers how to teach English Learners in a sheltered English immersion and bilingual programs. The focus was on how MTSS can support bilingual English learners.
In the first part of this interview, I discuss my own background as an English learner and how my personal experiences led me to become a teacher. In addition, I talk about how mentoring at the graduate level helped to grow as a researcher and future teacher preparation faculty in special education and bilingual education.
In the second part of the interview, I discuss how my line of research has focused on what drives teachers to refer students for special education and in particular, what drives them to refer bilingual English learners for special education. I also speak about my expertise in consulting with school districts who implement a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) and how to address the needs of bilingual English learners with and without disabilities in the MTSS model.
Below are key takeaways for teachers to ensure that they address and advocate for the needs of bilingual English learners.
- Ensure and advocate that English Learners with Disabilities access the general education curriculum and that they are not taken out during the time of literacy and math class. ESL supports happens before and/or after. Tier 1/Core instruction is the general education curriculum with ESL.
- If implementing MTSS and you are developing a Tier 2, ensure that the ESL teacher is included in the selection and modifications needed in the intervention so that the bilingual English learners can access the content of the intervention.
- Ensure that you deliver the Tier 1 and Tiered interventions are delivered as intended. Many times we don’t measure whether if we projected 3 times 20 minutes each week for six weeks that the students is getting 18 interventions. Sometimes we remove interventions too quickly or leave them too long before checking that they are working for the particular students
- When does special education come in? Any student can be referred to special education at any time there is a concern either by a parent or teachers. MTSS nor ESL can NOT be used to delay a referral to special education. It is also true that you cannot remove ESL supports even when the students need special education. Removing ESL violates language and civil rights law. Delaying special education evaluation because they are still learning English is also in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Here is also a link to the article that Rachel and I refer throughout the interview found at ColorinColorado.org Helping English Language Learners Succeed in Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/helping-english-language-learners-succeed-multi-tiered-system-support-mtss
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.