School News from the Superintendent’s Office
Laguna Beach Unified School District
Dyslexia: Closing the Gap
LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — At the October 22 regular meeting of the Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Board of Education, the board reviewed and adopted Resolution 19-10: Support of Dyslexia Awareness Month. The resolution recognizes the significant impact dyslexia can have on academic achievement and emphasizes the district’s commitment to creating the conditions and culture that support world-class learners.
Dyslexia is one of the most common language-based learning challenges students face. Between 5 and 10 percent of the population is estimated to have dyslexia, while 70 - 80 percent of those with reading difficulties are likely to have some form of dyslexia. Although the causes of it are varied and not fully known, scientists believe that there are genetic components predisposing certain individuals for dyslexia.
In 2015, former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1369, requiring schools to assess struggling readers specifically for dyslexia. The law also required that the California Department of Education post information on its website to help teachers find a proven, evidence-based approach for teaching reading to students with dyslexia. In anticipation of these guidelines, LBUSD formed a Dyslexia Workgroup comprised of regular and special education teachers, reading intervention staff, school psychologists, principals, and the director of special education, among other instructional administrators. The workgroup developed a preliminary plan focused on evaluating current practices, specifically, early reading instruction, and districtwide assessments used when suspecting dyslexia.
In 2017, the California Department of Education introduced the California Dyslexia Guidelines1 to assist general education teachers, special education teachers, and parents in “identifying, assessing, and supporting students with dyslexia.” The LBUSD workgroup carefully examined the document and created a comprehensive action plan focused on four key areas: screening and assessment, instruction, training, and parent education.
Now in the third year of implementation, school psychologists, special education teachers, and specialists have developed a sophisticated understanding of dyslexia and how to assess for it. In K-5, general education teachers and reading specialists have the skills and tools to complete universal screeners and targeted diagnostics to identify students at risk and implement various interventions based on research.
Last year, all kindergarten and first-grade teachers were trained in the Orton Gillingham Approach, a multisensory approach specifically designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds. A multisensory approach means that instructors use sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help students connect language with letters and words. This approach has proven to be essential in building teacher skills to improve reading instruction for our early learners.
This year, our kindergarten and first-grade teachers will undergo Orton Gillingham refresher training, while receiving coaching support from Orton Gillingham experts in their classrooms. Special education and intervention teachers will attend training, to improve their understanding of Orton Gillingham methodology specifically designed for upper elementary and older students who continue to struggle in literacy development and require foundational reading skills. Further work at the secondary level includes the introduction of universal screening at the 6th and 9th-grade levels and the development of specific interventions and accommodations for identified students.
LBUSD has taken great strides to understand and address the needs of our students with dyslexia, however, there is always more work to do. We will continue to focus on increasing the awareness of dyslexia and to implement research-based practices so that every child has an equitable opportunity to be a successful learner.
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1 The guidance contained in California Dyslexia Guidelines is not binding on local educational agencies or other entities. Except for the statutes, regulations, and court decisions that are referenced, the document is exemplary, and compliance with it is not mandatory. (See Education Code Section 33308.5.)