By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock, CO) The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) will expand its dyslexia screening pilot program to more schools for the upcoming school year. The state originally planned to end the pilot this year and present its findings to the state legislature when it meets in January.
But, Floyd Cobb, Ph.D. and CDE’s executive director of teaching and learning, said the program will continue for another year due to the effects of the pandemic.
Currently, three schools are participating in the pilot – Ignacio Elementary in Southwestern Colorado, Singing Hills Elementary in Parker, and the Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning, a charter school for gifted students in Colorado Springs.
Schools received training and support for K-3 educators on identifying and screening for markers of dyslexia in early readers.
The CDE plans to announce which schools will join the pilot program later this month.
Prevent children from falling through the cracks
Proponents of the statewide program say universal screening will keep children from falling through the cracks until the later years, when interventions take longer and are less effective.
According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), “It takes four times longer to intervene in fourth grade than in late kindergarten due to brain development and increased content that students need to learn as they are getting old.”
In an interview for American Newschildren with dyslexia are often exceptionally bright, Dr Sally Shaywitz said, allowing them to do just well enough not to be detected. They could meet some criteria and miss others by a wide margin.
My daughter did poorly on the assessments, but did well enough in class that her teachers thought she was just a bad candidate.
It wasn’t until the pandemic forced us to go to school remotely that I noticed my third-grade student’s reading difficulties were more severe than I thought. I was lucky to be at home with her and witness her challenges. Busy parents who work outside the home may not be able to sit with their children while they do homework, and they depend on the school to detect serious learning problems.
Early screening of all students, not just those below a reading assessment threshold, will catch more children who are just above the automatic cut-off requirements.
According to the IDA, “Kindergarten screeners perform best when measuring phonological awareness, including phoneme segmentation, blending, onset, and rhyme; rapid automatic naming, including naming fluency letters; letter-sound association; and phonological memory, including non-word repetition.”
Screeners do not diagnose dyslexia but rather identify children at risk. Instructors then monitor these children more closely to determine if further intervention is needed.
Fighting the expectation of failure approach
Traditionally, schools wait until a child is failing or struggling to read for a long time before intervening. However, the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) said parents and educators can spot the warning signs as early as kindergarten.
“Although a diagnosis of dyslexia is usually not given until late second grade or early third grade (after the required period of failure), intensive interventions are most effective in kindergarten or first grade” , explains the IDA.
Dyslexia is also very common, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativityaffecting 20 percent of the population and representing 80 to 90 percent of all people with learning disabilities.
From 2020, the Education Commission reported that at least 21 states have statutes or codes that address screening of students between kindergarten and third grade.
Colorado Dyslexia Pilot Program
The 2019 legislature unanimously passed legislation creating a dyslexia pilot program by Internal Bill 19-1134.
The law also created a Dyslexia Task Force evaluate state and nationwide dyslexia screening programs and recommend a statewide plan to identify and support students with dyslexia.
Once the pilot is complete, the CDE will “evaluate the effectiveness of screening and interventions, refine the resources used, and distribute the resources used to all local education providers across the state.”
“The ministry should also provide technical assistance in implementing resources at the request of a local education provider.”