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

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

Apps for Diverse English Language Leaners by Dr. Collier 2013

Thanks to Dr. Catherine Collier — I can share a list and catalog she composed that has more than 50+ apps that support English Language Leaners. My favorite is Language Builder which allows students to record themselves in any language. The students can then hear themselves or their teachers while learning new vocabulary words, phrases and sentences. Feel Free to check it

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.

Annenberg Institute’s Vue Journal- Issue on ELLs and Innovative Educational Programing

This great resource just came out this month (September 2013). The journal entitled “English Language Learners: Shifting to an Asset-Based Paradigm / Estudiantes del Idioma Inglés: Valorizando los Aportes Que Brindan” focuses on seeing the education of English language learners not as a problem, but an opportunity for innovation and valuing of biculturalism and bilingualism.
Three articles in particularly are worth reading:
1. Innovations in Educational Equity for English Language Learners
By Rosann Tung
Rather than view educating English language learners as a problem, the innovative practitioners, scholars, and policy analysts writing in this issue of VUE urge us to embrace and value ELLs as bicultural, bilingual leaders of the future.

2.Educación Bilingüe a Nivel de Escuela Secundaria / Dual-Language Education at the High School Level
By Dania Vazquez
A dual-language program at one high school aims to send the message: “We value all of who you are – both languages are equally important.”

Early Literacy, Family Engagement, and Cultural Competence: District Priorities in Clark County, Nevada
By Lucy Keaton
Engaged families and community members, along with culturally competent and data-savvy teachers and principals, are key goals in a district with a burgeoning English language learner population.

Feel free to share by forwarding the link

New Article from Penn State on the Benefits of Bilingualism

Think twice, speak once: Bilinguals process both languages by Victoria M. Indivero is one of the articles on the benefits of bilingualism. The study conducted by Judith F. Kroll, a distinguished professor, provides some new interesting new views:
1. Bilingual speakers can switch languages seamlessly showing a sign of higher level of mental flexibility than monolinguals
2. Switching languages all the time strengthens your mental muscle and the executive function processes in your brain
3. they found evidence that both languages are activated at the same time, even when only speaking one and without the need to be translating between the languages– a skill monolinguals don’t have.

Here is the link to read a summary of the article and an additional link to the study itself

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

Essential Concepts in Reading for Bilingual Students by Maria De Lourdes Serpa

This is a definition of reading I can live with as a bilingual myself and as a teacher and teacher trainer of reading. Dr. Serpa in 1982 developed the following definition of reading.

Reading is a language-based process that uses written symbols as a means of communication (Serpa, 1982).

The SIX elements of Reading for bilingual English Language Learners (ELLs) from the National Reading Panel and the National Literacy Panel (2006)

1. Phonemic Awareness – understanding that spoken words are made up of particular sounds

2. Phonics and biphonics -The interaction of the phonics system from two interacting languages in reading or spelling (

3. oral reading fluency– Reading text accurately and with a natural verbal speed (that resembles spoken language)

4. vocabulary (written and oral)- knowing and understanding the meaning of written/oral words and related concepts

5. Text comprehension- understanding of text at word, sentence, paragraph, passage, chapter and book levels

6. Oral language proficiency– understanding and speaking the language used in reading at a level of native speaker

Despite of language, what type of ability grouping should teachers use?

Sharon Vaughn answers that in the International Reading Association blog site -the following question from a teacher.
What Type of Literature Circle Grouping Works Best—Same Ability or Mixed Ability?

Click here to read what latest research says about ability, mixed, pairing, small group and 1 to 1 instructional grouping. Basic summary use it all!– find your purpose, identify the standards you are addressing, look at your data and provide a lot of high engaged opportunities in the classroom. The wonderful opportunity here is that this recommendation can be done in any language and it will not only support learning of core tier 1 instruction but also provide opportunity for additional options for interventions.

Teacher Blog– Her Journey in a Dual Language Classroom

Through SpanglishBaby once again, we get a great link to a teacher blog. LearningIn2 is a blog by a teacher who teaches in a dual language classroom. She shares information on reading in two languages and what she does in her Dual Language classroom. Would be fun to have her build a network of other teachers in Dual Language classrooms so that they can capitalize on:

Teaching experiences
Exchange in materials
Websites of interest
and many more issues during their very critical and important journey.