Please provide an overview on the work MCPS is doing to provide support to students with dyslexia.

Question#: 43


The offices of Special Education (OSE) and Curriculum and Instructional Programs (OCIP) collaborated to ensure that reading specialists, general educators, and special educators are trained to provide instruction to students with specific learning disabilities.  In the 2016–2017 school year, elementary school reading specialists and special educators were trained in using data for early detection of learning difficulties, a structured approach to teaching foundational reading, and the elements of structured literacy.  Participants reviewed reading screening and assessments as predictors of literacy success and described the process for selecting and implementing reading interventions in alignment with structured literacy.  On November 16, 2016, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) published a Technical Assistance Bulletin (TAB) to assist Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams with the evaluation and identification of a specific learning disability.  The document includes a supplement, Focus on Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia, that affirms the conditions that may underlie a learning disability.  In collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, OSE developed a 30-minute webinar, MSDE TAB on Specific Learning Disability: Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia, for special education teachers, reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, pupil personnel workers, counselors, and other school-based leaders to develop an understanding of how information about dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia can be considered for instructional planning and IEP implementation.  Additional guidance was shared with schools in the fall of 2018 to support identification of dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia.  This guidance was presented to lead special educators at the elementary level and resource teachers at a monthly meeting.  The guidance was followed by an October 11, 2018, memorandum to all principals, Technical Assistance Bulletin:  Specific Learning Disability & Supplement (Focus on:  Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia) and Educational Assessment Guidance:  Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia

All primary grade elementary school teachers attended a mandatory one-day training during summer 2018 on the foundations of reading.  The training focused on structured literacy and was based on the components of effective reading.  Teachers heard an overview of the components of effective reading instruction identified by the National Reading Panel—phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, guided-oral reading, vocabulary instruction, and reading comprehension.  Teachers were provided an overview of the multisensory techniques required for effective reading instruction.  Follow-up during the school year will include information on how teachers gather data through the MCPS Assessment Primary Reading (MCPSAP-PR), the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA), the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), the Monitoring Instructional Reading Level (MIRL), and the Words Their Way instruction of orthographic knowledge (mapping print to sound and meaning) for early detection of reading difficulties. 

OCIP and the Department of Special Education Services have collaborated to provide the five-day Orton-Gillingham Methodology training to one special educator and one reading specialist in each district elementary school.  Additional staff members are being trained based on the data needs at each school. This initial training will be completed by May 2019.  Two cohorts of reading specialists, and special educators at 45 elementary schools completed the five-day training provided by the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education that focused on explicit, direct instruction that is sequential, structured, and multisensory.  The approach incorporates the five components of effective reading in teachers’ daily lesson plans.  The remaining schools will be trained in spring 2019.  Central office specialists in OCIP, OSE, and the Office of School Support and Improvement will be trained to offer Orton-Gillingham Methodology support to schools.  Additionally, two central office staff members will begin the Orton-Gillingham practicum in April 2019.  They will support teachers in the use of proven instructional practices.  For example, a structured literacy approach to teaching foundational reading skills is done through meetings, small-group collaborative planning, resource development, modeling instruction, providing feedback on instruction, and helping teachers use data to inform and improve instruction.

MCPS supports evidence-based reading interventions for students with learning disabilities.  Professional Learning Opportunities (PLOs) and job-embedded coaching are provided for reading specialists, special educators, and focus teachers who teach reading interventions.  Staff members have been trained to use data to determine the need for an intervention and select the intervention that best fits the needs of the student.  When staff members need help determining which intervention to use to support a student, they will request an academic consult; the Department of Special Education Services has a cadre of content specialists trained in interventions who can help schools examine data and make recommendations.  These content specialists also will provide additional training to staff members.  Specialists conduct fidelity walkthroughs to ensure that interventions are implemented to the publisher’s standards.

In 2018, a survey was administered to schools to ensure that all schools had access to the recommended interventions and training.  Early Intervention in Reading, Phonics for Reading, Read Naturally Live, and REWARDS interventions employ direct instruction for mastery of skills/concepts and built in assessment for reporting progress at the elementary level.  System 44, READ 180 Universal, FLEX Literacy, and iLit are evidence-based interventions utilized at the secondary school level.  System 44 is a comprehensive intervention that addresses the foundational elements of the English language, providing a strong base in phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, morphology, and orthography.

Early Interventions in Reading is a research-based intervention program that provides instruction in foundational reading skills including phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, and fluency.  Students learn how to manipulate sounds in speech and segment phonemes with letters to apply it to spelling.  Phonics for Reading supports students who struggle with reading comprehension from weak phonemic awareness and decoding skills building phonemic awareness, decoding, and fluency skills to strengthen reading comprehension.  Phonics for Reading offers systematic, explicit instruction and builds confidence and motivation for struggling readers.

MCPS is piloting System 44 in five middle schools and five high schools this year to meet the needs of students who require intensive support with foundational skills.  System 44 provides the elements of a structured literacy instruction model recommended by the International Dyslexia Association.  Phonological support, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax, and semantics are woven throughout the program guided by principles of how these critical elements are taught and enhanced with support for students’ noncognitive needs.  System 44 accomplishes this by providing systematic and cumulative instruction, ensuring that the organization of material follows the logical order of the language with each step being based on concepts previously learned.  System 44 provides direct, multisensory, interactive teaching of individual words, independent word-learning strategies, morphological syllables, and high-frequency sight words.  The READ 180 Universal program is a comprehensive intervention that uses an instructional model that supports multiple tiers by balancing whole-group instruction with small-group instruction targeted to different skills based on students’ needs.  A multisensory instructional approach allows for multiple means of representation of learning materials.  Teachers are provided PLOs prior to implementing the program and will receive coaching throughout the school year to continue developing instructional expertise.

FLEX Literacy is a comprehensive reading intervention built on a research-based instructional model to reach students of various reading levels.  SRA FLEX Literacy combines the best of computer-adaptive and teacher-led instruction with opportunities to provide struggling readers and writers the skills needed for college and career readiness.  Teachers are provided PLOs prior to implementing the program and will receive coaching throughout the school year to continue developing instructional expertise.