Winner of the “Standout Tools for Professional Development” Teachers Choice Award

I am proud to announce that my co-authored book “Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Learners” has won the “Standout Tools for Professional Development” Teachers Choice Award by from the Learning Magazine.

Here is the description of the book and you can even access a sample chapter. This professional guide was written to instantly address today’s challenging classrooms. Using educational data to identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses is critical to planning appropriate core instruction plus tier 2 and 3 strategic interventions. You will learn how to implement the multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework; how to pinpoint a student’s basic reading skills; and how to continuously monitor their progress so that you know when to use targeted curriculum materials(e.g., hi-lo books) that support reading success. http://www.sdlback.com/practical-ways-to-engage-all-struggling-readers

I feel excited and humbled that teachers reviewed and selected it. I hope more find it helpful as it will be publicized in their publications which reach over 75,000+ registered teachers.

Here is the official announcement link as well https://www.themailbox.com/learning/tca-professional-development

Top 15 Reasons Why You Should Use Peer Mediated Learning in All Classes

In the past I have posted about one of my favorite education strategies to increase fluency and comprehension. Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University (http://kc.vanderbilt.edu/pals/index.html) is an educational strategy that was developed to support fluency and comprehension in grades K-12th (of course, it looks different across the grades). I have been supporting schools in the implementation of PALS and I know from the data and observation that is one of the most effective strategies with the most versatility to adopt and embed in regular education classrooms, dual language two way programs, and special education programs. Reading Rockets is non-profit organization that disseminates strategies in reading has just posted a great summary of one of the aspects of PALS and I wanted to share it with my readers. Here is the link to their summary and resources surrounding it. So click here http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/paragraph_shrinking. If you are curious of the whole approach Vanderbilt university also has online professional development modules that are wonderful and provide you with all the research, how-to, resources and student handouts to adopt this strategy in English and Spanish.

Fro K and 1st grade click here
For 2nd to 6th grade click here
For Secondary grades click here

Here are the top 15 reasons as to why I feel is so highly effective!!!
1. It engages students in ACTIVE LEARNING vs passive learning.
2. It enriches your core or basic reading instruction.
3. It embeds differentiate instruction as a default of how the strategy is implemented.
4. It is a strategy that uses real books!
5. It is a strategy that can be used in dual language programs because the students can use the strategy in English and Spanish (or any another language).
6. It addresses the 6th area of effective literacy instruction – oral language development!! (August and Shannahan, 2006).
7. It can be used as a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention if you are doing Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-tier System of Support (MTSS)
8. It is easy to monitor progress and complexity as the students use the strategy.
9. It can use fiction and non-fiction texts so that you can address Common Core State Standards in your classroom.
10. It requires students to use multiple modalities- oral, visual, tactile, kinesthetic,
11. It encourages students to work as teams!
12. It encourages social interaction for English language learners in the use of interpersonal and academic language.
13. Students Love it!!!
14. It encourages the teachers to facilitate learning rather than stand in the front of the classroom and lecture.
15. Allows teachers to capitalize on time and work with students who may need extra help while others are actively engaged in learning!!!
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16. It uses principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Its a win-win for teachers and students!

Free Webinar- Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) and English Learners

Are you curious about the link between Response to Intervention (RTI) and MTSS? Do you want to know how to do it when you have large numbers of English learners. Join Julie and I at our next webinar:

Bridge Webinar
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: Toward a Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Model for English Learners

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support that deliver high-quality, research-based instruction and interventions can support the growing English language learner population in general and in special education. On this Bridge Webinar, Claudia Rinaldi, Assistant Director of the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative at EDC, and Julie Esparza-Brown, Assistant Professor and Project Director for Portland State University’s Bilingual/Special Education Program, present research on a culturally and linguistically appropriate model for MTSS and provide examples of instructional planning, assessment, and intervention across the tiers. Rinaldi and Esparza-Brown will present concrete examples of preventive assessment measures, collaboration structures, data-informed problem solving, and instruction and intervention planning and delivery to support ELLs. The presenters will highlight the importance of collaboration and joint responsibility among ELL, special education, and general education educators in meeting the needs of all English language learners, including those with disabilities. Practical application and identifying first steps will be presented.

Who Should Attend?

District-level ELL, special education, and response to intervention (RTI) directors and coordinators, as well as teachers with English language learners in their classrooms.
For more information go to http://www.relnei.org/events/mtss-developing-a-culturally-and-linguistically-appropriate-model-for-ells.html

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 2014 Conference in Philadelphia will have a RTI/MTSS & ELL Workshop

CEC will be supporting a number of pre-conference workshops at the 2014 conference Philadelphia so mark your calendars for April 9. Julie and I have been invited to present on the following multi-tiered instruction, supports, and assessment for English Language Learners (ELLs). For more information and registration please visit their website at www.cec.sped.org

WORKSHOP 6: Multi-Tiered Instruction, Support, and Assessment for English Learners: Making Appropriate Decisions
Leaders: Julie Esparza Brown, Portland State University, OR; Claudia Rinaldi, Education Development Center, Newton, MA

Since the passage of NCLB, schools are charged with educating all groups of students to achieve at high levels. Given the varying backgrounds and diversity of English learner students, schools are challenged to provide appropriate and effective instruction that leads to grade level achievement. Using interactive presentations and case studies, review the critical student characteristics that must guide instruction and interventions in all bilingual program models (from ELD only to dual language models). Learn about progress monitoring tools that are effective with ELs, a unique framework for enhancing interventions, and a framework for least biased Tier 3 assessment.

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Consider the unique factors in EL students’ background and make appropriate adjustments to instruction and interventions.
  • Choose progress monitoring tools with demonstrated reliability and validity for ELs.
  • Make decisions on appropriate growth for each EL student in consideration of their unique context.
  • Determine appropriate language of intervention in all bilingual program models (early-exit to dual language).
  • Apply a framework for least biased assessment in Tier 3 that systematically considers the cultural loading and linguistic demand of assessments.

Who Should Attend?

Special and General Educators (all levels), Administrators and Supervisors, Team Leaders

What are we missing when we look at data to improve instruction?

Great visual report from the Data Quality Control Campaign on “Data: the Missing Piece to Improve Student Achievement“– this report provides guidance on how to use data for student improvement. The visual present how things were done in the past and what the future should look like guided by the questions:
What is data?
How will it help?
What do we do now?

The visual chart address how this process directly relates school administrators, teachers, parents and families, business and philanthropic leaders, state policy makers.

Response to Intervention (RTI) and the role in the Referral of Learning Disabilities

As par tof my current role in the Urban Special Education Collaborative we have just published a new research brief entitled “The Nexus of Response to Intervention (RtI) and the Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD): Guidelines for District-Level Implementation.” This brief summarizes current research in the field and describes guidance that states have been developing for districts, schools, and educators on the special education referral and eligibility practices for students with potential disabilities in the context of RtI.

Below is short description.

This brief:
1) provides a concise history of RtI;
2) outlines current guidance on the special education referral and eligibility; processes across many states in the context of RtI;
3) describes how several districts and schools have operationalized guidance from their states; and
4) offers specific district-level implications and considerations around addressing the role of RtI practices in the identification of students with SLD.

RtI refers to a preventive framework that incorporates universal screening, multiple tiers of instruction and intervention, collaborative, data-driven problem solving, and integrated and ongoing data collection at each tier of service delivery for evaluating responsiveness to the intervention. RTI provides a vehicle for responding to a number of persistent challenges, including significant achievement gaps among and between student groups, high drop-out rates, a disproportionate representation of students identified as having special education needs, and inconsistencies between existing curricula and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Increasingly, districts are adopting the RTI framework as a systemic reform with which other educational reform initiatives can be aligned (Murawski & Hughes, 2009; Sailor, 2008; Wixson, 2011). However, the uptick in RTI implementation is occurring amid ongoing controversy and ambiguity around its intended use (Castillo & Batsche, 2012)—specifically, how it intersects with the identification of students with SLD.

Consequently, states have started to develop guidance on how to operationalize the use of RtI data in special education referral and eligibility processes. This brief reports on RTI guidance documents from 12 states as well as a qualitative study of districts and schools in three states, revealing tremendous variability in terms of guidance and practices. Differences exist in terms of (a) the incorporation of RTI data in pre-referral and referral processes, (b) the use of RTI data in determining eligibility for special education services, and (c) the operationalization of (non) responsiveness to intervention (Rinaldi, Baker, & Sallis, 2013).

This brief concludes by offering specific district-level implications and considerations around addressing the role of RtI practices in the identification of students with SLD. Among these recommendations are (1) establish specific guidelines around what constitutes a comprehensive evaluation, with deliberate consideration toward if and how RTI practices intersect with the referral and identification of students with SLD; (2) develop a coherent system, integrating school and district practices, for the use and management of assessment data; and (3) conduct a yearly RTI self-assessment of both district and school rollout plans that reports on how these plans are impacting systems, processes, practices, and outcomes. For more detailed information and additional implications for practice please read the entire brief, available at www.urbancollaborative.org.

English Language Learners with Disabilities? A Great Resource for Districts, Schools, and Families

IMPACT Newsletter, a new resource from the University of Minnesota. The newsletter presents 18 short practitioner/teacher friendly articles focused on the needs of English Language Learners with disabilities. Articles include critical issues like ELLs with disabilities in a Response to Intervention framework by our own Dr. Julie Esparza Brown, issues related to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), resources for parents and professionals from a variety of fields including regular education, speech and language therapists, teachers of hearing impairments and the deaf, transition planning into adulthood, collaboration and school transformation efforts, accommodations and differentiation, and of course a great definition of who are English Language Learners with disabilities.
English language learners with disabilities latest newsletter IMPACT– excellence guide for districts. For the University of Minnesota link to the website click here.

Multi-Tiered Instruction, Support, and Assessment for English Learners-

Come to the National Council for Exceptional Children 2013 Conference in San Antonio, TX on April 2, 2013.
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Come and hear Julie and I speak about this critical issue. For registration please visiti http://www.cec.sped.org.

Leader: Julie Esparza Brown, Portland State University, and Claudia Rinaldi, Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, EDC, Inc.

MTSS and ELLs– Bridging the research to practice divide with examples from Dual language programs, Sheltered ENglish programs, and transitional bilingual programs.

Since the passage of NCLB schools are charged with educating all groups of students to high levels. Given the varying backgrounds and diversity of English learners (ELs), schools are challenged to provide appropriate and effective instruction that leads to grade-level achievement. Through interactive presentations and case studies from different states, this workshop will review the critical student characteristics that must guide instruction and interventions in all bilingual program models AND English-only programs. Progress monitoring tools with demonstrated effectiveness with ELs will be reviewed and a unique framework for enhancing interventions (in English or another language) will be presented. Finally, a framework for least biased Tier 3 assessment will be analyzed and discussed. Do not miss this opportunity to become familiar with examples of work is working to increase the success of your English Learners!

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

Consider the unique factors in EL students’ background and make appropriate adjustments to instruction and interventions.
Choose progress monitoring tools with demonstrated reliability and validity for ELs.
Make decisions on appropriate growth for each EL student in consideration of their unique context.
Determine appropriate language of intervention in all bilingual program models (early-exit to dual language).
Apply a framework for least biased assessment in Tier 3 that systematically considers the cultural loading and linguistic demand of assessments.
Who Should Attend? K-12 General and Special Educators, Higher Education Educators

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What do you do if a student who is still acquiring English is not making progress?

Do you have this question–
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We have a student who is a formerly Limited English Proficient (FLEP) and is now failing. He has already been retained. Looking at his data, we are concerned that there may be issues that are beyond language with which he is struggling. In the mean time, as we transition to the WIDA MODEL and have no assessment program here at the school, what do I use and where do I get it?
I understand the challenge you are having and it seems as though you are going down a checklist of what would be an appropriate referral to special education. I am assuming this student is not a student receiving special education services right now.

Here are a few questions that can help guiden your problem solving process

If you can help me answer a few questions:

What grade is the student?
What is his/her background?
How long has he been in the US?
What is the family composition? Which language is spoken at home?
Has the child received interventions with fidelity (as intended for two cycles of 4-6 weeks?)
Does the student, as a FLEP, have average and age appropriate vocabulary in social situations? In academic situations?
Has there been a traumatic experience recently (i.e. Death in the family, shooting, family violence, divorce, loss of shelter, etc)?
What is the students reading level? Is there a history of DIBELS scores and what are they?
Was the child showing growth academically as he gained English and now he is not or has he/she been brought up for special education evaluation before and been denied?
Are there records of the assessments from previous years?
Is the SEI classroom, if in one, using category strategies consistently?

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