Supporting Reading for All Students

    During the 2017-18 school year, the Directors of Special Education and Intervention Programs co-led a Dyslexia Advisory Team to develop a district-wide approach to supporting students with dyslexia. “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” (Lyon, Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2003).

    The team included:

    • Four special education and intervention program specialists
    • One school psychologist
    • One speech and language pathologist
    • Three parents
    • Three Safety Net teachers
    • Four special education teachers
    • Two general education teachers

    Advisory members reviewed research-based practices to address dyslexia. Research and resources from Dr. Jack Fletcher from the University of Houston; the International Dyslexia Association; the Consortium on Reaching Excellence; Sally Shaywitz from Yale University; and The Center for the Collaborative Classroom, were considered during the review, and were used to develop indicators for evaluating and identifying specific assessments and curriculum that are currently being piloted in schools.

    Nine screening tools were reviewed by our team, including our current district-wide screening assessment, DIBELS Next, which is used in grades K-2. The team selected DIBELS Next, which provides early screening for students with dyslexia or who are at risk for dyslexia, and is one of the screeners recommended by the International Dyslexia Association. This screener provides an early identification system to teachers from the beginning of kindergarten, and tracks progress through later grades.

    A subcommittee also reviewed twenty-eight curriculum programs. Three research-based programs met the majority of the criteria for further review by the team. These criteria were:

    1. Inclusion of content to specifically address dyslexia
      • Multisensory approach like Orton-Gillingham
      • Lesson plans that use a sequential scope and sequence
      • Instruction that is explicit, systematic and cumulative
      • Phonics: decoding syllables, morphemes, irregular words, and spelling
      • Phonemic awareness: segment works into component sounds
      • Fluency: phonemes, words, connected text
      • Reading comprehension: vocabulary, text comprehension, narrative, and expository
      • Written expression: word, sentence level, narrative and expository
    2. The availability of diagnostic and progress monitoring assessments that align with the curriculum
    3. Feasibility of the curriculum
      • Can be used effectively by teachers in small group and individual settings
      • Includes professional development to support effective use of the curriculum
      • Is cost-effective

    The curricula selected for piloting were:

    • Fundations: A multi-sensory, individual and small group, systematic and sequential language program for students with reading difficulties, including students with dyslexia. Published by Wilson Language
    • Rave-O: A multi-sensory, individual small-group, intervention curriculum for students with reading difficulties including dyslexia. Published by Sopris West
    • SIPPS (Systemic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Sight Words): A multi-sensory, systematic and sequential, individual and small group approach to decoding that supports students, including students with dyslexia in developing reading fluency and comprehension. Published by the Center for the Collaborative Classroom.

    The team further reviewed the program during vendor presentations in March. Special education, general education, and safety net teachers are in the process of piloting each curriculum and measuring it against our effective-practice criteria.  

    In May the team reviewed pilot data and made a final recommendation to use SIPPS as our intervention curriculum to support students with reading difficulties, including dyslexia. The recommendation was forwarded to our Instructional Materials Committee in May and was approved by the Board in June.

    Each level of SIPPS includes an Intensive Multi-Sensory Instruction for SIPPS Handbook, which includes student consumable materials and professional learning videos to support teachers in implementing the program. Multisensory routines incorporate student arm and hand motions as well as tracing and writing and additional vocalization. Phonological awareness is taught by simultaneous hand movements or by moving markers to correspond with sounds. Phonics and sight words activities for tracing and writing are included. In guided spelling, students spell aloud as they write, and they point to each letter while spelling back what they have written. Beginning Level includes air and finger writing for phonics. Challenge Level includes tracing and writing of irregular sight syllables.

    The Intervention and Special Services Departments are currently developing and delivering training for general education teachers, Special Education and Safety Net teachers. The first trainings for over 120 Safety Net and Special Education teachers occurred in April and May.

    Additional training for all district elementary teachers is scheduled to begin in August 2018. In this training, teachers will learn about dyslexia and how to identify struggling readers using our screening assessment. All our K-3 teachers will receive an additional half day of training on effective foundational literacy instruction and instructional routines used to teach phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency.

    During the 2018-19 school year our Safety Net and Special Education teachers will receive five full days of intensive training on teaching reading and delivering reading intervention to address dyslexia using the new SIPPS curriculum.

    In the fall of 2018, we will be communicating with teachers, administrators and families about our approach to dyslexia, the curriculum adoption, and professional development that will occur.

    Future work includes developing intentional supports for students in grades three through twelve who are at-risk for reading difficulties, including dyslexia.  


    Lyon, G. R., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (2003). Defining dyslexia, comorbidity, teachers’ knowledge of language and reading: A definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 1-14.

    Additional Information & Resources
    International Dyslexia Association