September 29, 2013

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"Equipping All Teachers to Reach Our Most At-Risk Learners"

January 16, 2013

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"Equipping All Teachers to Reach Our Most At-Risk Learners"


I truly believe every educator is trying to reach every child and help them be successful.  Unfortunately,  some times our toolboxes are limited.


Our story of success at Erie Elementary (Erie, CO) began with teachers seeing strong work and results from our literacy teacher, Leslie Kesson.  Teachers began to talk in professional learning communities saying, “We need to be able to do what Leslie does.”  They were looking for more tools in their own toolboxes. 


Our literacy teacher uses the Multi-Sensory Language/OG approach and had recently fine-tuned her skills with additional training from Ron Yoshimoto, a Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators .  She has Classroom Educator Level certification and is moving to the Associate Level of certification. 


Teachers came back from training with Ron, not only excited, but ready to implement.  When the next round of training approached, and it would require multiple days of substitute teacher pay, I again had to honor my teachers’ request for additional tools. At this point, we had groups of teachers working in professional study teams to support their implementation of MSL/OG.  I was hearing excitement and small anecdotal stories, but I also asked them to begin collecting data in order for us to make sure that we were seeing impact on student learning.  


Getting a group of teachers that already value data and collect various data points to come to a consensus on what data to track / collect took time, and often led to deep discussions of what they were trying to impact and what results they were seeing.  In the meantime our first bit of data came back from an outside source that pointed to the fact that we were doing something different and getting different results.


Two-thirds of our third grade team had been trained in MSL/OG and had just implemented the practices in small groups  to their most at risk students.  This was key in our building because our literacy expert  serves only grades K-2.  Some of these students had had intervention by the literacy teacher,  but to be able to connect to that learning for an additional year, had an impact.  Our school results came in on third grade reading state assessments (TCAP) and we had a definite shift in the data! 




Erie had gone from a typical rate of 4-10%, either at or above district/state norms, to ZERO unsats.  People starting asking, “wow, what did the teachers do differently?”  The only answer we had was that we implemented MSL/OG as a classroom intervention for our most at-risk students.


Our fourth grade does not have anyone MSL/OG trained and saw the usual at or above district averages for the most struggling readers.  Our fifth grade has one teacher trained & they flex group for reading to put the lowest level readers with the MSL trained teacher.  These students did not have intervention in MSL/OG for fourth or third grade.  The last real dose of intervention they would have had would have been in 2nd grade! 


Using this approach for only five months with the most at risk group in the classroom resulted in lower than average unsats, and lower than average partially proficient scores.  With this group we saw the largest impact in the shortest time with moving students that were marginal into the proficient category. 




It is great when the hard work of your team to help every child begins to show in data as well as in anecdotal stories.  People are asking, “What are we doing differently in literacy?”  Yes, we also became a STEM school at the same time and work to use science to engage students in other subjects including reading, but as far as systematic intervention, MSL/OG was also impacting our literacy scores.


The most powerful part of our journey is about to happen.  Most of the staff is trained (14 out of 19 key personnel preschool-5th) and students are now in year two of being supported in literacy in both the lit lab and in the classroom.  We call it “double-dipping” in MSL/OG   It feels as if we are at the top of a rollercoaster hill and have begun to gain momentum as we head down the track. 


This is just a quick sample of in-process data. We used data from two schools for this sample.  Our literacy teacher works at both schools and therefore the data we look at of just the at-risk students can show us the impact of implementing  MSL/OG in  regular education classrooms. These samples give us information that shows the results of double dipping after just a few months.   This was data is from  from students eligible for literacy lab services because of low initial screening scores. 


1st Grade Students Taught by Teacher Trained in OG/MSL & Lit Lab   - Phonics Survey          -

 Benchmark 36 out of 50        

student a = 38, student b =46, student c =44, student d =41, student e =30,  student f=42, student j =45, student k = 39

average score  40.6       range           30-46     % at or above benchmark    87.5%           


1st Grade Students with OG/MSL – only in lit lab           

student L =40, student M =30, student N = 44, student O=  37, student P= 36, student Q= 42, student R=24, student S =41, student T=32,

average score 36           range 24-44      % at or above benchmark   66.7%


Another indicator came from the district assessment benchmark.  The first trimester assessment had phonics items. 

Galileo Test Score - First Trimester 1st G Reading

Standard:  CO-01.RAP.3a.ii Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.(CC-RF.1.3b)  

Erie Elementary  (MSL/OG trained)           81.25% proficient    

St. Vrain Valley School District Avg.          48.03% proficient


Normally our first grade classes on the standards score at or slightly above district average.  For the phonics standard, we almost doubled the district average for proficiency.   These were students that had MSL/OG in kindergarten and then three months of first grade.


There are many anecdotal stories that accompany the data as well.  One severely dyslexic student who joined us late in his kinder year, was reading independently by mid first grade.  Both his kinder teacher, his first grade teacher and his mother had taken the MSL/OG training with Ron Yoshimoto.  The  mother kept exclaiming, “He can read, he can really read!” 


As an administrator, I support this intervention in my building because it reaches all types of struggling readers, supplements our reading/writing programs by improving writing confidence for all students, and is getting unprecedented results.  When you have teachers excited because they finally feel that they have tools in their tool belt to reach all students, it is a wonderful thing.  Success breeds success, and I would say that Erie ‘s story is just beginning and our data and student successes in literacy are about to go through the roof. 


We would like to say a special” thank you” to Ron Yoshimoto, and the Rocky Mountain Branch of the International Dyslexia Association for helping to make our trainings happen and more importantly for helping more students than ever before be successful at Erie Elementary.


Principal, Amanda Sauer

Erie Elementary School,

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