Improving Reading Instruction – $3,000
The Community Foundation understands the importance of a solid educational foundation that includes strong reading skills. With struggling readers present in every school across the nation, the Foundation fully funded the School District’s competitive grant to improve reading instruction. As teachers and school systems work to meet the needs of all of their students, having a strong toolbox of strategies and methods to tackle learning challenges is of the utmost importance. This project will provide special education teachers with training in the Orton-Gillingham method for teaching phonics. This method is proven to help struggling readers, particularly those with dyslexic tendencies.
Teton School Distrtict #401 works diligently to provide students with the instruction and support they need to be successful in school, as well as in life after twelfth grade. An area of the greatest importance is reading. Reading is tied to every academic subject – we read in math, science, history, health, and even PE. Most professional jobs require reading and writing skills. Only 19% of our kindergarteners entered the 2018-2019 school year with adequate knowledge of letters, while 38% show adequate overall reading skills. An ongoing challenge of teachers is addressing the needs of a growing number of students with reading difficulties. The number of students qualifying for special education services is growing, this year 19% of our students K-12 have an individualized education plan with special education services as compared with 15% five years ago.
More and more we are seeing dyslexic tendencies in our students. Dyslexia is not a new term in education, but a lot has been learned about dyslexia recently. We have not kept up-to-date on all of the new information and training geared towards dyslexia. As the principal of the 4th and 5th grade school for 8 years attests, “there have been innumerable times that we have worked super hard throughout a school year to improve a student’s phonics skills only to find that as we enter the next year, the student is back where we started.” This is one of the tendencies of dyslexic students. Typical phonics interventions may show progress in the moment, but they just don’t stick. We need to learn a better way. Of our special education teachers currently in the district, we do not have anyone on staff who has Orton-Gillingham training or specific dyslexia training.
Through this project, three elementary special education teacher will attend a 50day training to learn the Orton-Gillingham method for teaching phonics. The Orton-Gillingham method is a multi-sensory approach to teaching phonics. In addition to multi-sensory techniques such as touching, seeing, hearing and moving as we learn about letters and sounds, the Orton-Gillingham method also includes a systematic, sequential approach for teaching phonics. We have Barton, an Orton-Gillingham based phonics curriculum in our district, however specific training outside of how to implement the program has not been received. Without training in the method behind the program, the impact has been limited. The Barton system is designed to be used with students, preferably one-on-one, or at most in a group of 3. We believe that a stronger knowledge of the method behind the Barton program will help to transfer to larger literacy instruction and therefore allow us to meet the needs of more students.
The Orton-Gillingham method can be integrated into any literacy instruction; from the special education classroom to the typical grade level classroom. It doesn’t have to be a purchased curriculum, rather a technique used when teaching about letters and sounds. The bigger picture of this training is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Orton-Gillingham method and this particular training as we ready to look at our K-5 reading curriculum in the 2019-2020 school year. As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I am interested in phonics instruction at the K-3 level. The necessary literacy skills for reading success are taught before 3rd grade. Research has shown that students who are not reading at grade level by 3rd grade are at a distinct disadvantage and less likely to catch up. This is known as the Matthew Effect. This puts a lot of pressure on our K-3 teachers to effectively teach reading. Although teachers take classes in reading instruction in order to earn certification, they are not necessarily early literacy experts. I would love to consider a district-wide instructional approach to phonics instruction in addition to an aligned reading instruction program. The
Orton-Gillingham method is research-based and schools have seen fantastic reading improvement after implementing Orton-Gillingham methods in their core reading instruction. Before committing to a specific method or bringing a training to our K-3 staff, it is important to evaluate the training and its impact. Beginning with our staff that work with our most struggling readers provides a “pilot” opportunity to learn more and see the impact of the training first hand.
The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education offers 5-day Orton-Gillingham workshops throughout the school year. The cost of registering for the 5-day training is $1,174 per person. The closest