On February 8th in Annapolis, Decoding Dyslexia Maryland held a panel discussion entitled: "How to Fix the Reading Failure Model -- Solutions that Work" which included Megan Shay, Interim Executive Director, Academics for Baltimore County Public Schools and Nancy Scharff, an Instructional Consultant for Philadelphia's Read by 4th Campaign.
Other panelists included members of Decoding Dyslexia Maryland: Winifred Winston, Baltimore City, Liz Hembling, Baltimore County, Marla Migdal, Frederick County and Diana Gough, Prince George's County.
All of the panelists spoke about the Big Problem in public schools: The gap between undergraduate teacher preparation in foundational reading instruction and the critical need for teachers who can deliver explicit, direct instruction in the foundational elements of language and the science of reading. Teachers are surprised when they enter the clasroomThis gap lies at the feet of teacher preparation programs across the country, including Maryland's teacher preparation programs.
To solve the teacher preparation gap, districts like Baltimore County are providing up to 60 hours of reading preparation to teachers so all students can learn to read.
Decoding Dyslexia Maryland applauds Baltimore County for its investment in teachers because teachers make all the difference #soallCanRead.
Decoding Dyslexia Maryland applauds Baltimore County for its investment in teachers because teachers make all the difference #soallCanRead
Fixing the Reading Failure Model: Solutions that Work
My Name is Liz Hembling and I’m here to report on Baltimore County’s efforts to identify and provide early interventions for struggling readers and students with dyslexia:
When I started this journey, parents were fighting to even use the word dyslexia in Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). I am happy to report that so much has changed.
BCPS has a head of English Language Arts who you will hear from later today. Her name is Megan Shay. They also have a head of Special Education (Rebecca Rider.) Those departments traditionally worked in silos. Ms. Shay and Ms. Rider decided to join forces and work together to address the dyslexia and reading failure issue in the school system. Together they developed a comprehensive plan to screen, identify, and remediate those children in early grades who have trouble with reading.
Ms. Rider and Shay decided to focus heavily on grades k-2. They wanted all classroom teachers to have a basic understanding of structured literacy so they can identify kids who may be struggling in their classrooms. They trained 807 teachers in LETRS, a course designed by expert Louisa Moats, to accomplish this goal.
They are using Dibels to screen all children early. All kindergarteners are universally screened for reading failure using DIBELS in Fall, winter, and spring. They will continue to screen in first grade if a problem is suspected. The idea is that any child flagged with an issue could receive appropriate instruction without delay.
Shay and Rider also started an ambitious plan to train certain educators in Orton Gillingham. They initially trained 61 teachers, and then expanded the program to 95 so that every elementary and middle school has an OG trained educator. They plan to expand even further. The person who has been training their staff is none other than Fran Bowman. Fran is a fellow in the Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and is considered one of the highly regarded experts in this field. The feedback from BCPS teachers who have taken her course is outstanding. We are hearing reports from teachers who are now making more progress with their students in several months after receiving her course than they have in several years with the same student.
This training has had an amazing impact on the students in our county. I want to read you a letter from one mom so you have an idea of how these investments are impacting families in our schools:
LETTER FROM A MOM: CHEYANNE’S PROGRESS LEARNING TO READ: THANK YOU BCPS
All through kindergarten, Cheyanne received special education and was pulled put for reading and math. After a year she could only read 4 words: The, A, And, and She.
We practiced at home and wrote words to memorize them; but she wasn’t learning. Cheyanne was severely behind all of the other kids in her class. I was so upset.
Fast forward to 1st grade. At the first IEP meeting of the year, our case manager agreed that Cheyanne wasn’t making progress. She suggested that we begin with an Orton Gillingham based approach to reading instruction. I had never heard of OG, so after researching it I noticed it was to go-to approach for students with dyslexia.
Cheyanne’s special education teacher invited me to observe a lesson. I was crying tears of joy because I had never seen my 6 year old read a sentence on her own. They were very focused on each other, it was one on one, and fast moving. Allowing me to watch was great because now I know how to help her at home. Thank you Baltimore County.
In three months using Orton Gillingham methods, she has learned to read more words than she learned over the entire year on Kindergarten and the first few months of 1st grade. Cheyanne can now read words like mat, mop, mob, and with.
I don’t know how else she would learn to read without this knowledgeable teacher. I am grateful for her special educator – we finally have hope; we finally have something that works; we finally have identified dyslexia! Structured literacy programs, like Orton Gillingham, saved my daughter’s life.
On Sunday, November 19, parents and teachers listened to presentations at the Chelsea School to learn more about dyslexia. The Next Steps for Dyslexia Networking Forum featured experts and informed parents who know the challenges of trying to “figure it out.” Just as every learning difference has its unique elements, each family’s journey is also unique. However, there are laws and resources that can help educators and families find the best path forward.
The Next Steps Forum featured Attorney Nicole Joseph, with Nicole Joseph Law who provided attendees with an overview of special education law and rights under both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). Ms. Joseph covered the special education process including identifying a disability; school system and outside evaluations; developing IEPs; reviewing progress; and options when there is disagreement and also included specific advocacy strategies for students with learning disabilities like dyslexia.
The next presentation, by Laura Schultz, Parent and Decoding Dyslexia Maryland State Leader, provided an overview of the Maryland State Department of Education Technical Assistance Bulletin on Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia. She provided information on how interested families and teachers can use this document to ensure that students are identified and receive instruction and accommodations for success in school. See the Facts Sheets page for more resources for families and schools.
Amy Siracusano, Literacy Integration Specialist, Calvert County Public Schools explained to attendees exactly what early effective instruction should look like. Ms. Sircusano is a firm believer in making sure teachers are trained using structured literacy to teach all students how to read using diagnostic and prescriptive approaches to teach foundational reading skills.
Laurie Moloney, CALT, DCIDA President explained what effective instruction would look like for a student with dyslexia and said that the more severe the dyslexia, the more comprehensive and intensive the intervention typically must be. She provided an overview of the specific elements of instruction that can dramatically improve outcomes for severely dyslexic students who struggle even after receiving a targeted intervention, including those considered to be Orton-Gillingham-based.
About the Presenters:
Nicole Joseph: Nicole provides legal representation for children with disabilities in the special education process from eligibility and IEP development through administrative hearings. She is also the proud parent of an amazing dyslexic child.
Amy Siracusano is a Literacy Integration Learning Specialist in Calvert County Public Schools and a teacher member of Decoding Dyslexia
Laurie is an academic language therapist in private practice serving moderately to severely dyslexic students.
Maryland student reading performance is subpar -- 60% of students read below grade level -- that is 6 out of 10 students. 93% of special education students read below grade level (9 out of 10 students) and these students are not only capable of learning to read, they also supposedly receive "specially designed instruction" to get them to grade level proficiency.
Many Maryland school districts acknowledge that they have a problem with reading and writing literacy and are making changes to inservice teacher training, curricula choices and program purchases for reading. Other Maryland school districts deny there is a problem and continue to be happy with their students' poor reading performance and high rate of required college remedial reading coursework.
The Kirwan Commission -- an Effort to Change MD Education & Funding
Jeanne Brady Saum w/ Decoding Dyslexia MD waited her turn to speak at the 10/25 public meeting and was presenter 58/61. The microphone broke at speaker #56 but she persevered and spoke without a microphone at the end of a very long day. Her remarks are included here to ensure that she is heard. #saydyslexia #soallcanREAD
Pamela Guest, a state leader for Decoding Dyslexia Maryland, and her son Dayne, were recently featured in a documentary by APM Reports on dyslexia. The documentary features an in depth podcast on dyslexia and the problems parents and students face in Maryland public schools. Interviews are conducted with Baltimore County Public Schools officials and their responses to questions about dyslexia identification and interventions point to a change in efforts to help students with dyslexia in the school system.
Please listen to the podcast, read the articles and watch the videos. This is a very thorough evaluation of the problems and solutions that exist today. If you have a comment on the podcast or article, APM reports would like to hear from you. Links to all of the documentary parts are listed below.
APM Documentary on Dyslexia: Links to Podcast, Videos & Resources