Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D.

claudia ELSP

Claudia is the Endowed Joan Wieler Arno 49 Professor at Lasell University. She is currently a full professor of education and chair of the Education Program. Claudia has been a teacher, researcher, consultant, and professor of special education. She is a published national expert on Learning Disabilities of English Language Learners and presents on these topics since 2000 at various conferences including the American Psychological Association (APA), the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), the Teachers for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) among others.

Her research addresses the implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) and Multi-Tier System of Support (MTSS) in urban settings with a focus on supporting English language learners. Her experience engages educators on how to improve systems and instructional practices for students with reading difficulties who may be at-risk for failure, or those who are English language learners and who may have mild and moderate disabilities. She recently published a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers: A Multi-Tiered Approach Using Hi-Lo Books by Saddleback Publishing and co-authored the RTI-Based Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) Identification Toolkit for Educators for the  RTI Action Network, a division from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. 

Claudia is also developed a https://www.lasell.edu/academics/graduate-and-professional-studies/programs-of-study/professional-studies-and-certificates/teaching-bilingual-learners-with-disabilities-certificate.htmlgraduate certificate in Teaching Bilingual English Learners with Disabilities at Lasell University to respond to the need for professional development for all teachers working with diverse students.

Claudia also served on the Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and is a member of the Professional Advisory Board for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.  You can follow her on Twitter @claudiamtss.

For a sample chapter of her book Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers: A Multi-Tiered Approach to Using Hi-Lo Books please click this link.

Most recently, Claudia is also an expert for the Understood.Org website for parents and teachers who support the 20% of students with learning and attention issues. She is regularly featured in online chats and webinars in Spanish dealing with issues about English learners and their struggles in schools with a focus on strategies for parents and teachers.

Research Interests

  • Bilingual special education students
  • Multi-tiered System of Support for Academic and Behavioral Supports (MTSS) Frameworks
  • Response to Intervention (RTI) Model implementation for English language learners (ELLs)
  • Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline (https://pathways-site-47f93.netlify.com/)
  • Pre-referral intervention process
  • Special education referral process
  • Reading and literacy of bilingual students.

Recent Articles and Presentations/Webinars

Rinaldi, C. & Kodak, S. (2019). Instructional practices that help all students: A focus on students with learning and attention issues and bilingual English learners. A review of research and timely recommendation for content development report to Understood.org, Understood for Teachers Project, New York, NY

Rinaldi, C. (December, 2018).  Helping English language learners succeed with a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). ColorinColorado.org, WETA, Inc. Washington, D.C. Retrieved Dec. 11, 2019, from https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/helping-english-language-learners-succeed-multi-tiered-system-support-mtss

Parsi, A, & Rinaldi C. (2018). Self-advocacy and self-determination for students with disabilities who are English learners.  Progress Report: Defending Equal Access to Quality Education, Unidos US. Washington, DC. Retrieve from https://progressreport.co/self-advocacy-self-determination/, 12/17/2019.

Rogers-Adkinson, D. & Rinaldi, C. (2017).  Assessment and instruction strategies to support bilingual English language learners.  In J. P. Bakken (Ed.), Classrooms. Volume 1: Assessment Practices for Teachers and Student Improvement Strategies (pp. 217-233). Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY.

Rinaldi, C. (2017). English language learners and strategies for instruction online course for Exceptional Child, Scenario Learning, Cincinnati, OH.

Rinaldi, C. & Parker, C. (April 2016). Breaking Silos, Joining Forces: A Priority for English Learners.  Journal of Communication and Education-Language Magazine. (can be retrieved http://www.languagemagazine.com.)

Ryan, S., Parker, C. E., Rinaldi, C., Avery, M.P. & Fournier, R. (2015). Supporting districts to Engage Families of English language learners who have or might have disabilities. A Report to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Malden, MA.

Parker, C., Ryan, A., Rinaldi, C., Fournier, R. (2015). Improving outcomes for English language learners with disabilities and their families. Commissioned report by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Malden, MA.

  • Rinaldi, C. & Higgins-Averill, O. (2014). Practical ways to engage all learners: A multi-tiered approach using hi-lo books. Saddleback Publishing: San Diego:CA.
  • Higgins-Averill, O., Baker, D. & Rinaldi, C (2014).  A blueprint for effectively using RTI intervention block time. Intervention in School and Clinic, 50(1), 29-38.
  • Higgins-Averill, O. & Baker, D., & Rinaldi, C. (2013). Research Brief: The nexus of response to intervention (RTI) and the identification of specific learning disabilities (SLD): Guidelines for district-level implementation. Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, Waltham, MA.
  • Rinaldi, C., Ortiz, S., & Gamm, S. (October, 2014). RTI-Based SLD Identification Toolkit Considerations for English Language Learners, RTI Action Network, New York, NY.
  • Cortiella, C., Gamm, S., Rinaldi, C. & Goodman, S. (October, 2014). RTI-Based SLD Identification Toolkit, RTI Action Network, New York, NY.
  • Stuart, S.K. & Rinaldi, C. (2012). Response to intervention for English language learners. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education, 7(4), can be retrieved from (http://www.wtamu.edu/journal/vulume-7-number-4.aspx)
  • Rinaldi, C., Higgins, A.O., & Stuart, S. K., (2011). Response to intervention: Educators’ perceptions of a three-year RTI collaborative reform effort in an urban elementary school. Journal of Education, 19(2), 43-52.
  • Rinaldi, C. (April, 2011). Response to intervention: Fidelity of implementation Webinar. New England Comprehensive Center, Newton, MA. (http://vimeo.com/23217456)
  • Rinaldi, C. (October, 2011). Keeping Special Education in Proportion: Experts Say Improvements in school instructional cultures can keep struggling minority kids out of special education, Education Week (October 12, 2011
  • Rinaldi, C., Higgins, A.O., & Stuart, S. K., (2011). Response to intervention: Educators’ perceptions of a three-year RTI collaborative reform effort in an urban elementary school. Journal of Education, 19(2), 43-52.
  • Rinaldi, C. [invited panel member- respondent] (2010, December). Capacity for the fidelity of implementation – What is needed to realize RTI’s potential? The RTI Leadership Forum, RTI Action Network, The National Center for Learning Disabilities

Previous Selected Publications and Presentations

  • Stuart, S.K., Rinaldi, C. & Higgins A, O (2011). Agents of change: Voices of teachers on response to intervention. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 7(2), pp. 53-73.
  • Higgins-Averill, O. & Rinaldi, C. (2011). Multi-Tiered System of Support: A Research Brief. Urban Special Education Leadership Cullaborative.
  • Higgins, O. A. & Rinaldi, C. (2011). Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS): The RTI and PBIS approaches invulve targeting specific areas in which students are struggling. District Administration, September 2011 Issue (Can be retrieved from District Administration Magazine).
  • Greenfield, R., Rinaldi, C., Proctor, P., & Cardarelli, A. (2010). Teachers’ perceptions of RTI reform in an urban elementary school: A consensual qualitative analysis. Journal of Disability Pulicy Studies, 21(2), 47-63
  • Chapman, L., Greenfield, R., & Rinaldi, C. (2010). Drawing is a frame of mind: An evaluation of students’ perceptions about reading instruction within a response to intervention model. Literacy Research and Instruction, 49 (2), 113-128.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Stuart, S. K. (2009). Whole schooling and response to instruction.
    International Journal of Whole Schooling, 5(1), 41-58.
  • Stuart, S.K., & Rinaldi, C. (2009). A collaborative planning framework for teachers implementing tiered instruction. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41(4), 52-57.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Rogers-Adkinson, D., & Arora, A. (2009). Language and behavioral competence in preschool children. International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education, 1(1), 29-41.
  • Madaus, J., Rinaldi, C., Chafouleas, S., & Bigaj, S. J. (2009). An examination of current assessment practices in Northeastern school districts. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 34 (2), 86-93.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Samson, J. (2008). English language learners and response to intervention: Referral recommendations. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(5), 6-14.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Paez, M. (2008). Preschool matters: Predicting reading difficulties for Spanish-speaking students in first grade. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal 6(1), 71-86.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Samson, J (2008). English language learners and response to intervention: Referral recommendations. In A Collection of Articles from Teaching Exceptional Children (pp. 119-134). Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.
  • Rogers-Adkinson, D., Melloy, K, Stuart, S., Fletcher, L. & Rinaldi, C., (2008). Reading and written language competency of incarcerated youth. Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 24(2), 192-218.
  • Watson, S. M, Rinaldi, C, Bianco, M, & Samson, J. (April 2007). Infosheet: What teachers need to know about culturally and linguistically diverse learners with and without disabilities. Council for Learning Disabilities. Practitioner Brief on the Identification of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
  • Paez, M. & Rinaldi, C. (2006). Predicting English word reading skills for Spanish speakers in first grade. Topics in Language Disorders, 26(4), 338-350.
  • Stuart, S. K., Flis, L.D., & Rinaldi, C. (2006). Connecting with families: Parents speak up about preschouls services for their children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(1), 46-51.
  • Rinaldi, C. (2004). [The Fluent Reader: Oral Reading Strategies for Building Word Recognition, Fluency, and Comprehension.] Education Review (http://edrev.asu.edu/brief/jan04.html#4).
  • Rinaldi, C. (2003). Language competence and social behavior of children with emotional and behavior disorders [Special issue]. Behavioral Disorders, 29(1), 34-42.
  • Montague, M. & Rinaldi, C. (2001). Classroom dynamics and children at-risk: A fullow-up. Learning Disability Quarterly, 24, 73-84.

Recent Presentations

  • MEDIA INTERVIEWS and Presentations

Rinaldi, C. (May, 2019). Special on Diversity and Equity in Education. Interview on diversifying the teaching pipeline and the Pathways to Teacher Diversity Program. Fox News Boston (aired in June 2019)

Rinaldi, C. April 2019). Interview on diversifying the teaching pipeline and the Pathways to Teacher Diversity Program. CEO Corner, New England Cable News, NBC Universal, Retrieved Dec. 11, 2019, from https://www.necn.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Pathways-to-Teacher-Diversity_NECN-509337842.html

Rinaldi, C. (September 11, 2018). Interview on diversifying the teaching pipeline and the Pathways to Teacher Diversity Program at Lasell. WBZ Radio

Rinaldi, C. (April 5, 2018). Interview for the article “Building Skills Outside the Classroom with New Ways of Learning. New York Times. Retrieved Dec. 11, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/05/education/learning/project-based-learning.html

Rinaldi, C. (October, 2017). Interview for the article “Addressing misidentification and Non-biased Assessment in the Evaluation of English Learners with Disabilities Today”, Special Education Connections, LRP Publication. Retrieved October, 30, 2017, from https://www.specialedconnection.com/LrpSecStoryTool/splash.jsp#

Rinaldi, C. (January, 2017). Addressing the Needs of Special Education:  An Interview of IDEA.  Doctor Radio Siriux Satellite Radio powered by NYU Language Medical Center. New York, NY.

Rinaldi, C. (2017). Interview for Career Girls: A Career in Teacher Preparation: The Role of the College Professor. Career Girls, Inc.(can be retrieved at https://www.careergirls.org/playlist/60-seconds-college-professor-claudia-rinaldi)

Rinaldi, C. (2016). Interview for an article on “How does Language Development Affect Bilingual Individuals”, BBC Mundo, Multimedia Reports.

  • Rinaldi, C. (May 31, 2017). Progress Monitoring Tools to Guide Instructional Planning for  English Learning with Disabilities, Massachusetts Association for Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL)(invited pre-conference workshop).

    Rinaldi, C. (March 10, 2017). Supporting English learners in a Multi-tier System of support (MTSS).  32dn Annual Learning Differences Conference, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (invited session and panel)


    Rinaldi, C. (February 7, 2017). Consolidating Silos, Joining Forces: Redefining Engagement and Supporting Bilingual English Learners with Disabilities. El Students with Disabilities (ELSWD) Guide for States National Review Meeting, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Washington, D.C. (Keynote)

  • Rinaldi, C. & Koochek, C. Supporting English Learners in Public Schools: What are my rights? (July 21, 2016)  Invited panel presentation at the National Council for LaRaza (UNIDOS US) Conference, Orlando, FL.

  • Rinaldi, C. and Brown, J.E. (April, 2015) Invited     Session:  Multi-tiered System of Support: Addressing a Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Model for English Learners.Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) International Conference, San Diego, CA

  • Rinaldi, C. (February, 2015).  Assessment and Data Collection in Dual Language Program, Massachusetts Association of Bilingual Education (MABE), Dual Language Leadership Meeting, Newton, MA.

  • Rinaldi, C. (August, 2011). Teaching in an Urban School District. Invited Keynote for Boston Public Schools Orientation to New Teachers. Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA
  • Rinaldi, C. (2011, September). Implementing a multi-tiered system of academic and behavioral supports in an urban school district: Lessons learned from year 1. 9th Biennial International Council for Children with Behavior Disorders Conference, New Orleans, LA.
  • Starr, M. & Rinaldi, C. (2011, March). Accelerating Achievement in Boston Public Schools: Social, Emotional and Behavioral Principles of the Academic Achievement Framework Aligning Efforts to Ensure Proficiency for All Learners: 3rd Annual Bridging the Gap Conference, Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Putnam, B. (2010, June). Multi-Tier Systems of Support (MTSS): What is it? How is it done? Presentation at the Boston Public School Leadership Conference, Boston, MA.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Putnam, B. (2010, June). Using a Coherent Multi-Tiered System of Academic and Behavioral Supports to Realize the Potential of Somerville Public Schools. School Leadership Retreat, Somerville, MA.
  • Stuart, S.L. & Rinaldi, C. (2010, April). Response to Intervention and Whole Schooling. Invited Workshop for the International Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Annual Conference, Nashville, TN.
  • Rinaldi, C., Higgins, O. A., & Estabrook, S. (2010, March). Implementing a Response to Intervention Model with ELLs: An Urban Case Study. Teachers of English as a Second Language Conference (TESul’s) 2010 Dream Day for K-12 Educators: Hot Topics Strand, Boston, MA.
  • Watson, S. & Rinaldi, C. (2009, Oct.). Confronting and resolving challenges of teaching ELL students with LD. Paper presented at the 31st International Conference of the Council for Learning Disabilities, Dallas, TX.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Greenfield, R. (2009, Oct.). Teachers’ perceptions of RTI reform in an urban elementary school. Roundtable presentation at the 31st International Conference of the Council for Learning Disabilities, Dallas, TX.
  • Rinaldi, C. & Pizzo, L. (2009, February). RTI and school reform: Impacting ELL special education referrals. Paper presented at the National Association of School Psychology (NASP) 2009 Annual Conference, Boston, MA.
  • Rogers-Adkinson, D., Rinaldi, C., Stuart, S.L. (2008, November). The impact of a response to intervention model (RTI) on LD/EBD students. Invited presentation at the 32nd Annual Teacher Educators for Children with Behavior Disorders (TECBD) Conference On Severe Behavior Disorders of Children and Youth, Tempe, AZ.
  • Rinaldi, C., Greenfield, R., & Mc Eachern, K. (2008, April). The Special Education Process for Minority Students in Sheltered and Bilingual Programs. Paper presented at the Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo 2008, Boston, MA.

For a complete listing of publications and presentations please email me.

My Story as an Bilingual English Learner

My Story,

My name is Claudia Rinaldi and I came to the US when I was 10 years old.  I moved to Miami, FL after my parents divorced and both my brother and sister wanted to go to college in the US.  I went to a Catholic school in Miami Beach.  It was a big change and I didn’t speak a word of English.  Even though I had just finished 3rd grade in Bogota, Colombia, the school placed me in 5th grade because I turned 11 right before the school year started.  During that summer my mother also put me in a summer camp where no one spoke Spanish.  It was a fun but really hard summer.  I learned English fairly quickly despite not getting any ESL support mostly because I had a very strong academic background and literacy skills in Spanish.  That said, I would say that in high school my teachers never recognized that I was still a bilingual English learner and instead of showing me how Spanish and English connected in writing, all I got was the message that I was a poor writer because of my vocabulary and sentence structure (run-on sentences, ackward sentences, etc).  If you have ever seen a written text in Spanish you will see that although the languages are so similar, the structure/syntax and semantics of the language are written and expressed very differently.  In fact, one paragraph can be over a page long and a sentence can have various commas throughout and be multiple lines of text.   I wish Grammarly existed back then.  Despite this continuous and negative message about being a bad writer and having trouble reading Shakespear, etc, I did graduate 7/108 in class in high school.  I like to be a good student.   It wasn’t until college that a professor asked me if I was bilingual and English learner.  Being asked that made me aware that none of my teachers from 5th through 12th grade ever asked.  After college, I also ended up working for a company called Lindamood Bell as a reading tutor and in their training, I learned that there are 14 vowels sounds for the 5 vowels in contrast to the 5 sounds of the 5 vowels in Spanish.  After that, I began to explicitly look at the differences in the languages in order to understand how to be a better communicator and writer.    By that time, I had been in the US for 12 years.  I wish I would have been taught this much earlier rather than having to figure it out after I became a teacher.  

My most successful story of working with a bilingual English Learner was when I was working with a second-grade girl from Cuba. I was in charged teaching her how to read by taking her from the self-contained classroom for children with cognitive disabilities.  I quickly realized that she was bilingual and that in fact, she read at grade level in Spanish.  No one had asked her or noticed.  I was so excited that I shared that with her special education teacher and principal who decided to look at her file and realized she had only been tested in English.  This little girl have been in a self-contained classroom since K.  It made me very sad to know how much instruction she missed and how bored she must have been.  They quickly had her retested and placed her out of special education.  At the time I was just happy for her but little did I know, that the experience will stay with me and piqued interest during my master and doctoral program.    Since then, I have developed my area of research – what motivates teachers to referral bilingual English learners to special education including the reasons and process and how we can change it.

My most challenging case was a little girl from Guatemala who was in my fourth-grade classroom back in 1993-1994.  I was in my first year teaching and I didn’t know much about what ESL was or how to support this little girl who came in the middle of the year and didn’t know any English.    She was also half the size of all my fourth graders and didn’t come consistently to school.  After building a close relationship with the ESL teacher I learned who I could connect Spanish and English to help her learn more in my class.  This made me and her much happier and able to connect.   I quickly also got her to speak to me in Spanish and I learned that she was one of five kids and the second oldest.  Her mom worked two jobs and so her older sister and she took turns to take care of the younger siblings while the mom went to work.  This was the reason she was absent so often.  I started to also see she would say she was not hungry and pack her food.  I decide to explore further and learned that she was taking her food home for her little brother and sisters so I decided to get multiple lunches to ensure she ate and packed the rest.  When I think about her she must now be 30+ and I hope she is still as loving and warm as she ever was with her siblings.  She moved and I didn’t get to see her finish the first year.  It made sad that I didn’t have enough time to be with her and connect with her mom.  I feel if I would have known more about how to teach English learners and connect with families that year, I could have helped the family much more.  

Enough about me, I can’t wait to learn about each of you!

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