School Committees

Understanding your Important Role in Literacy Instruction

Image used with permission by Dr. Fumiko Hoeft

The costs are too high when schools do not align core reading instruction with cognitive science and establish RTI/MTSS systems for early intervention to assist all struggling readers, especially those born with dyslexia. Use this section to learn more about the important role of school committees to ensure all students have the opportunity to read and write to be successful citizens.

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Action Steps

  • Explore the three issues listed above impacting literacy outcomes for students

  • Poverty is a barrier for many students, but it is the job of school districts to focus on supporting ALL students. To learn more listen to Literacy- The Civil Right of the 21st Century by Dr.Tracy Weeden - TRL Conference Morning Keynote).

  • How is your district going to comply with the Right to Read Act 2019? How is your district going to revise their comprehensive literacy plan to align?

  • How are students being screened for possible reading struggles? Are the sub-skills of reading being monitored. Assessing & Addressing Dyslexia Section. Utilize the guide to assessments and decision making document created by the AIM Institute posted by RIDE. Students struggle with reading for different reasons. It is important to identify the individual needs of students.

  • Create an anonymous teacher and parent survey to determine areas of need or concern. It is common that teachers are told not to openly discuss concerns that a child shows characteristics of dyslexia with parents.

  • What training have teachers received in scientifically-based reading? Dyslexia? Developmental Language Disorder? Contact Kari Kurto at RIDE for recommendations

  • How is your district incorporating the resources on dyslexia and structured literacy posted on RIDE's website?

  • Ask about your district's RTI/MTSS System. How are these systems serving students who are struggling with decoding or word-level reading? How are middle schools and high schools identifying students who were missed in elementary school?

  • Are literacy specialists and special educators certified in Structured Literacy/Orton-Gillingham approach to reading? Ask for evidence of certificates. Note: a three-day training is not the same as being certified. Buying boxed programs will only be as effective as the training and knowledge of the teacher implementing the intervention.

  • Does the core curriculum for English Language Arts align with cognitive science (reading struggles will be exacerbated when core instruction is weak, especially the most vulnerable populations of students).

  • Ask how many students in your district are currently receiving services for dyslexia or word level reading programs (RTI/MTSS or Special Education)?

  • Ask what training the district staff has been provided for emergent bi-lingual students and literacy needs?

  • Analyze your data to evaluate if racial biases exist (ex. more Black students identified for Emotional Disturbance on their IEPs versus Specific Learning Disability).

  • Most importantly, ask how the school committee can support educators to meet the needs of all struggling readers.

What is Needed?

  • High quality literacy curriculum that covers phonemic awareness, direct instruction in phonics that is taught in a systematic sequence, explicit vocabulary instruction, explicit teaching of syntax and semantics. We cannot assume students will learn these skills independently or by seeing a brief mini-lesson.

  • An understanding that the purpose of phonics skills is for a child to achieve mastery of the skills to automatically recognize words and read them fluently. It is not enough to just teach the lesson or mini lesson and move on to other forms of instruction. Teachers must also understand the significance of phonemic awareness in the early stages of reading. (Note: Phonics is only one component of reading, but is often misunderstood).

  • Avoid curriculum that places children in leveled books. All students need access to grade-level texts (and above grade level texts via read alouds to build background knowledge and vocabulary skills). When students struggle, the teacher needs to build in scaffolds (instructional practices that advance mastery of skills as needed until a child can do the skill with automaticity). Too often struggling readers are placed in low-level texts. "Leveled texts lead to leveled lives"--Alfred Tatum.

  • Reading teachers and special education teachers formally trained in structured literacy.

  • We need schools to evolve. Instead of promoting a wait to fail model (the belief that kids will grow out of their reading struggles with time), schools need to instead embrace a preventative model to identify and address the needs of students who struggle with word-level reading and spelling.

How does your district's RICAS Scores Compare to the Ladder of Reading?

(Image used with permission)

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