Open Letter In Support of “Recognizing and Addressing the Educational Implications of Dyslexia in LAUSD Schools”

On June 20, 2017, the Los Angeles Unified School District will consider a resolution to "Recognize and Address the Educational Implications of Dyslexia in LAUSD Schools". The resolution states that the Superintendent would create a plan for teacher training in their district which would be a wonderful step in the right direction in terms of dyslexia support. The following is an open letter from Educator Learning Lab's founder in support of the resolution. Is your district in California or other states considering similar resolutions? We'd love to hear from you!

Dear LASD Board Members,

I want to thank you for considering the resolution: Recognizing and Addressing the Educational Implications of Dyslexia in LAUSD Schools at the LASD June 20 Board meeting.

I am a parent of a child with dyslexia, a former literacy intervention specialist at a public school district in Northern California, and founder of a company that creates low-cost, expert-led, online courses in dyslexia awareness and early literacy for teachers.  

Dyslexia affects roughly 15- 20% of students -- at LAUSD, this translates to about 100,000 students in your district. The wonderful news is that there is so much we now know about how to help them. If we screen and remediate early, we can save students from academic failure. In addition, with increased awareness and teacher training, we can remediate most student needs in the general ed classroom and save districts millions of dollars in Special Education costs ... and we all know that California schools could use all the help they can get with the budget constraints they are facing. 

The very fact you're discussing this important topic is exciting. Thank you on behalf of all the parents who advocate for their children, teachers who work hard for their students, and administrators who are seeking the answers for their districts. You are a model for our state and I'll look forward to following your innovative approach in the years to come.

Thank you for being a leader in support of literacy for ALL of our students in California.

Yours in education,

Jessica Hamman

Founder, EducatorLearningLab.com

Spotlight on Reading Fluency: Preventing Summer Slide!

School's out for summer! And after the dreaded 100 days of May, we know that teachers need the summer break more than anyone. But there is something heartbreaking about watching the student who's worked all year to make progress in reading and writing leave your classroom for the summer.

Although there is little you can do as a teacher to help your students keep their skills up during the break, you can tell their parents about some great tools available to them that can help them keep their skills up over the summer. Here are a few great free or low-cost resources to suggest for your students and their families:

  • Get to the library! Libraries in across the country have free summer reading programs that offer prizes for summer reading. You may need to support your students in getting a library card if they do not already have one. 

  • E-books & Audiobooks: If students have access to a computer or other device, many libraries have partnerships with Overdrive.com which allows members to check out ebooks or audiobooks to read on a Kindle or the Kindle app on your portable devices. If you have an updated device that has Amazon’s Alexa App on it, you can ask Alexa to read the kindle book out loud. Say, “Alexa, read my kindle book!” and she will ;).

  • Read Naturally's One-Minute Reader App: Many students work on building their reading fluency and one convenient way to keep the progress going by downloading the One-Minute Reader app. There is a free version that gives you a few stories per level and a full version for $20 which includes a complete set of books.

  • ReadTheory.org and ReadWorks.org: These are two great free websites for reading fluency and comprehension.

  • Newsela.com: This is a great website that offers free news stories written at student grade levels. It’s a fun way to keep up on current events and practice reading in the process.

  • Nessy's Summer Slide Pack: Nessy creates an Orton-Gillingham based intervention program. Their Summer Slide Pack is a relatively low-cost solution for summer break. For $30, this bundle includes 1 student license for three months for three of their intervention programs: Nessy Reading and Spelling, Nessy's Writing Beach, and Nessy's Numbers. This is a fun, research-proven way for students to keep up their progress and will take the pressure off parents.

These are some great ideas, but we know you have even more. Feel free to add some of your favorite summer slide prevention tools in the comments below.

Enjoy your hard-earned summer!

Spotlight on Reading Fluency: Making the Most of ORF Assessment Data

We as teachers use Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) data as one key indicator of reading success. ORF measurements like University of Oregon's DIBELS/DIBELS Next, Pearson Education's AIMSWEB, Read Naturally's Benchmark Assessor, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's EasyCBM, help us hone in whether students are hitting the mark in two succinct data points: rate and accuracy. This data is often used to report on learning progress, determine reading groups, and refer students to intervention.

While many students in a given general education classroom may read fluently, at grade level, with proper prosody, and reasonable accuracy (above 95%), other students will miss the mark. Their fluency rate and accuracy will be lower than expected and those assessments can provide powerful clues to the crux of their reading difficulty and serve as roadmaps for personalized reading intervention.

Here are four ways to use ORF data to improve reading fluency for struggling readers:

1.     Is rate the issue?  If a student’s ORF rate is accurate (95% and higher), but their rate is slow compared to the grade-level benchmark, perhaps all they need is increased oral reading exposure.

2.     Is accuracy the issue? If a student’s ORF accuracy is low (95% or below) even if students are reading at a rate that is technically at grade level benchmarks, this may be an indication that there is a problem.

3.     What types of errors are repeated?  Looking at the types of errors made can help us figure out the root of the problem. Is a student stumbling over the same sounds over and over again? Are the initial sounds, vowel sounds, or final sounds causing the most difficulty? Are students skipping words or inserting words that aren’t there? Are common sight words problematic and replaced by other sight words that don’t belong? All of these issues could point to trouble with decoding. When there are gaps in the basic ability to connect the proper sounds to their corresponding symbols, reading fluency will undoubtedly be affected.

4.     Is the rate of progress consistent with expected growth? Although this is perhaps the most often overlooked by us, it is one of the most important indicators of whether the student who struggles with reading is closing the gap with respect to their peers. Using fluency norms like Hasbrouck and Tindal or DIBELS as a guide, we can track whether students are progressing at the proper rate. Average expected growth is roughly a word a week, give or take. If students are making progress, but not enough to close the gap, their intervention should be increased or intensified.

Have other ways you use ORF data to personalize learning? Share them with us below! 

Spring Spotlight on Fluency

Reading is a skill that, when mastered, provides an immense opportunity for access to information and future academic success. But for many students, reading mastery is not easily attained and remains a struggle throughout their lives. Research from Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity estimates that 20% of all students in k-12 general education setting struggle with reading and that percentage goes up dramatically - to 60-70% - in English as Second Language students, economically disadvantaged communities, and among incarcerated adults. How can we as educators address this ever present need for struggling readers? By learning how to address all of the critical aspects of reading acquisition in the classroom to swiftly and effectively assess, intervene and remediate these difficulties in our students.

This month, in preparation the summer launch of our Building Reading Fluency online course with subject matter expert Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D., our blog will focus a spotlight on fluency and explore this key aspect of reading success that can sometimes be overlooked or taken for granted. Stay tuned for videos, assessment techniques, classroom tips, and technology tools to improve fluency with your students.