Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Education Week Webinar: Every Child Reading, with Dr. Margie Gillis
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Linking Knowledge and Practice to Support School Systems

To view an on-demand recording of the Oct. 28th live presentation, please register below:

Click here to register Margie Gillis, every child reading webinarHow can teachers ensure that all children, including millions impacted by dyslexia—the most common type of reading disability—learn to read and write proficiently? To close the literacy achievement gap, support measures must be embedded in schools and include all stakeholders—administrators, teachers, parents, and children. Acclaimed educator and researcher Margie Gillis shares her precedent-setting work with schools, districts, state departments of education, and policymakers to advocate on behalf of all children and protect their right to learn to read well. Her work centers around five essential school priorities:
  • Supporting school leadership
  • Using data transparently for accountability
  • Coordinating a multitier system of support
  • Providing embedded professional development based on best practices
  • Engaging parents and families
Margie Gillis Guest, Margie Gillis, president, Literacy How, Inc. and research affiliate, Haskins Laboratories and Fairfield University. Gillis partners with schools to provide embedded professional development for general and special education teachers, PreK through grade 12, with a primary focus on PreK-3rd grade. She has also worked extensively on literacy legislation to help close one of the largest achievement gaps in the country. Doug SpreiModerator, Doug Sprei, national director of communications, Learning Ally. This free one-hour webinar is presented by EdWeek and sponsored by Learning Ally, a national nonprofit providing resources, training and technology for teachers and schools; and 80,000 human-narrated audiobooks for students with learning & visual disabilities.

Register here to watch the webinar on demand.

The audience submitted many insightful questions during the live webinar, some of which Margie did not have time to answer. Here are her answers to those questions: Question: With respect to teacher expertise, how do we solve this problem that we see in many schools--those providing Tier II intervention are reading tutors often with no specific training and frequently no background in reading or education? Margie: We have to ensure that those individuals receive adequate PD; if the students have an IEP, it must stipulate that the teachers delivering the instruction have the requisite training or that they receive authentic training in the specified program. Where can we access the research you are referencing - e.g., regarding the brain? Take a look at the white paper on the Literate Nation website: The Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf. Also, read Proust and the Squid – a very detailed description of the reading brain. Does your organization come to schools to provide PD or do teachers need to come to you? Both. We offer a 9-month PD series at our offices (one day-long session per month) and we also provide embedded support in schools throughout CT districts. How can I convince a principal who is uneducated about dyslexia that research-based and evidence-based are totally different things? My son's school uses 'research-based,' which is doing nothing for him. Evidence-based means that the program has a record of success and that it has been evaluated in an experimental or quasi-experimental study. What counts as evidence of success? Many people use research-based to mean that it is based on research that says one thing or another. To your point and question, we must educate our administrators, in particular, about the differences between these two terms. A program that is evidence-based has been proven effective through a rigorously designed experimental study. Are the assessments you mentioned given to all students or just low-performing students? Most of the assessments that I mentioned in the webinar are given to all students. Each type of assessment serves a different purpose but all are important. Students who are not meeting benchmarks must be assessed more frequently than students who are on track and meeting proficiency goals. Those low-performing students also need diagnostic assessments that will identify the underlying problem. Is dyslexia something that can be "cured" or is it something that students learn to work around with strategies and accommodations? Dyslexia can not be cured – and by the way, most adult dyslexics will tell you that they don’t WANT to be cured. They realize as they get older and after they’ve survived school, that dyslexia can be a gift. They have talents that many non-dyslexics don’t have. Good reading instruction, delivered by a skilled practitioner, can get 95% of all children reading. The goal is to learn to read at least well enough to get by. After that, individuals with dyslexia learn how to navigate the system, including school, by finding organizations like Learning Ally and using assistive technology, UDL, and other tools to access what they need. How do you suggest documenting progress monitoring in order to communicate with parents who are concerned with their child’s progress? By using whatever technology you have access to: low-tech (Excel spreadsheets that can generate graphs to show trajectories) or high-tech programs like mCLASS that use technology to administer, score, and sync results to a database. I need a copy of the Reading Wheel. Where can I find one? On the Literacy How website. 


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