During the 2015 legislative session, the general assembly passed new dyslexia legislation (SB 612) in Oregon that requires the Department of Education to develop a plan to ensure that all kindergarten and first grade students receive a screening for risk factors of dyslexia and that school districts ensure that at least one kindergarten through grade five teacher in each K-5 school has received training related to dyslexia. While the Department is still in the planning process to address SB 612 requirements, we want to provide the following information to our staff and community to address some frequently asked questions regarding implementation of SB 612 in our district.

What is the status of the plan for universal screening of K/1 students for risk factors of dyslexia?

This plan was developed by the Department and submitted to the interim legislative committees on education in September of 2016. Rather than creating a separate delivery system for students with dyslexia, the plan focuses on working within and strengthening existing systems of screening and instructional support already utilized by districts. As many as 90 districts across the state, including SFSD, are currently using universal screening systems like Renaissance Learning Assessments that have strong predictive validity and classification accuracy in identifying students who are at risk for reading difficulties and include the measures that are required in the legislation. ODE is currently working to identify which assessments will be approved as universal screeners.

When must the universal screening in K and 1 be completed?

While at a minimum, the plan calls for districts to screen kindergarten students in the fall, winter, and spring and grade 1 students in the fall, SFSD screens all K-8 students six times per year.

What about screening for family history of difficulty in learning to read?

SB 612 requires that the Department’s plan for universal screening of K/1 students for risk factors of dyslexia also identify screening tests that screen for family history of difficulty in learning to read. There have been conversations in the legislature that this requirement may be changing based on feedback from the field. This portion of the screening is currently on hold.

What if the universal screening process identifies a large proportion of the students as showing risk for reading difficulties, including dyslexia?

Many schools in Oregon serve a great number of students who will enter school with limited literacy experiences and are at risk for reading difficulties, but make good growth when provided with high quality instruction. Early intervention benefits the acquisition of reading skills for students who are at risk for reading difficulties regardless of the cause. Schools can use the information collected from universal screening to inform core reading instruction, matching instruction to student needs based on skill deficits.

Will district staff be able to diagnose dyslexia?

No, the district will identify whether a student has “risk factors” in certain areas of reading, which may indicate that a student has dyslexia. The school district does not diagnose disabilities. This screening process will serve to identify students who are at risk for reading difficulties, including dyslexia, in order to provide early intervention as it currently does.  Additional information, including a student’s response to evidence-based intervention, will need to be collected over time to determine if a child may have a specific learning disability in the area of reading and may require specialized instruction.

Will district staff be trained in Orton-Gillingham, Barton System, or the Slingerland programs?

No, currently these are not district adopted or approved curricula. The trainings our staff are attending are developed by PDX Reading–a state approved training organization. The training is geared toward teaching reading strategies in Phonics, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary and Comprehension; not one particular reading program.

What about students who are English Learners who show risk factors for reading difficulties based on the screening?

Many children with limited exposure to Standard English in their homes may manifest the same type of difficulties in kindergarten as those students who are at risk for reading problems for other reasons. Classroom instruction that utilizes evidence-based practices to explicitly and systematically teach reading and that focuses on English Language development are important for these children as well as specially designed instruction delivered in our ELD programs.

Won’t the required universal screening for risk factors of dyslexia lead to an increase in the amount of special education referrals?

No. In fact, the early screening may result in reduced special education referrals if evidence-based intervention is provided early to those students who show risk. Also, it is important to differentiate screening from identification. The screening in and of itself cannot indicate if a student has dyslexia. The screening is simply the first step to determine if the student may have risk factors for reading difficulties, not that the student may have the disability itself.

How will we support students who demonstrate risk factors for reading difficulties, including dyslexia?

In terms of best practice, all reading difficulties, including dyslexia, are best addressed through implementing multiple tiers of support that provide appropriate instruction. Within a multi-tier system of support, students who are at risk for reading difficulties are identified early through universal screening and the data is used to develop appropriate intervention that incorporates evidence-based practices. The plan does not identify specific instructional supports or interventions that districts must implement in Tiers 2 and 3, but rather outlines the standards for the support provided to students at risk for reading difficulties. The plan provides guidance for increasingly intensive and amplified instructional support to those students who are at risk and don’t improve as a result of initial support.  The decisions about the particular interventions that are provided to students will be determined by the same district specialists and teachers that have been guiding those decisions in our schools, but the decision will now include the additional support of a teacher trained in dyslexia.

Is it true that all teachers must receive dyslexia training?

No. SB 612 requires that one K-5 teacher in each K-5 school complete the dyslexia-related training. A K-5 school includes any public school that enrolls students in kindergarten and grade one.  All SFSD schools who serve grades K-1 will have a dyslexia-trained teacher by June 2018.

What will be the role of the dyslexia-trained teacher from each building?

The trained teacher in each building will have a good understanding of what dyslexia is and will learn to recognize signs of dyslexia manifested at each grade level. The trained teacher will act as a resource on dyslexia for others in the building as well as for parents and community members. This teacher can play an active role as a member of the building level problem solving team and can collaborate with designing Tier 2 and Tier 3 support for students identified as at risk for reading difficulties, including dyslexia. The trained teacher is NOT expected to directly provide services to all students who demonstrate risk for reading difficulties, including dyslexia. The trained teacher will NOT be trained to evaluate for/diagnose dyslexia nor will the teacher who completes the training be expected to come back to the building to train colleagues.

We are excited to have new resources and training to ensure our students have the best chance at learning to read, early. As the state releases new information and our implementation plan evolves, we will have staff trainings and continue to update the community with our initiatives.

If you have any questions please contact Jennifer Hannan, Director of Teaching and Learning for Silver Falls School District at hannan_jennifer@silverfalls.k12.or.us.