Parents of Students With Dyslexia Have Transformed Reading Instruction
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Parents of Students With Dyslexia Have Transformed Reading Instruction

– But first, the reading
gap among school children in this country is disturbing. Fewer than 40% of fourth and eight graders are considered proficient readers. There’s a push now to change how students are taught to read, and it’s being led by parents whose children have dyslexia. Special corespondent Lisa
Stark of our partner, Education Week, reports from Arkansas for our education
segment, Making the Grade. – This is Scott’s son. – [Lisa] Meet the families
who changed how every child in Arkansas will learn to
read because they know what it’s like for kids to
struggle with reading. Here’s Kim Head. – My kid is crawling under the table, stomach aches, doesn’t wanna go to school. We’re in tears. – [Lisa] Amber Jones. – The psychological damage
that happens to them when they cannot figure out reading. – [Lisa] Scott Gann. – He said, “I told you, I can’t read. “Nobody believes me.” – [Lisa] These families have
spent thousands of dollars on educational testing
and tutoring to discover their children have dyslexia,
a learning disability that makes it difficult to spell and read. It affects one in five individuals. Here’s Dixie Evans. – Not being able to get
the help from your school, the people that are supposed to know, that are supposed to have the
answers, not being able to get that help and having to go
out and find it on your own. – The sense of urgency with
us is while the schools are trying to figure their way, these kids, they don’t have time to wait. – [Lisa] Audie Alumbaugh has led the push to pass new state laws
on reading instruction. She has a niece with dyslexia. – She is not a strong reader
still because of our delay in figuring out what’s going
on, but she will be a success, and I saw how it impacts every fiber of the family which is
what everybody here says, and there’s just no need. We have a system in place to fix this. – [Lisa] That system includes explicit instruction in phonics. Teaching students how letters
and sounds go together to help the brain
process the written word. – If we have the word, brush. Buh-er-ush. And we wanna take away the buh, we are left with. – [Students] Rush. – Very good. – We absolutely know
that this is the best way to teach children to read. – [Lisa] Sarah Sayko
with the National Center on Improving Literacy says this approach works well for all students,
not just those with dyslexia. – We know without a doubt that reading is not a natural process. Reading has to be taught, and it needs to be taught systematically. – [Lisa] Here’s what that looks like at Springhill Elementary
in Greenbrier, Arkansas (Students sounding out word) where students with
characteristics of dyslexia get intensive reading instruction. (Teacher sounding out word) – [Students] Rang. – Rang. I tried to trick you all on that one. Very good. – [Lisa] Why are you in those groups? Do you know? What’s that for? Dani, do you wanna say
something about that? – To help us spell better I think. – [Lisa] What about you, Cord. – Read better. – Write better. – [Lisa] Ace, Cord, and Dani are taught to use their senses of
touch, feel, and movement to help imprint words into their brains. – And pounding and
tapping helps me write it. – So it helps to pound the
word out and tap the word out? – Yes. – [Lisa] Why is that do you think? – Because you’re sounding out each letter. – [Lisa] And letters become words. Words become stories. Reading is no longer something to avoid. – And then now I know a lot
about reading, and when I go to a chapter book, I won’t
get stuck on big words. – I would like to see words, and I would like to just see ’em and say, oh I know that word, and
then just keep on reading. – [Lisa] Are you able
to do that at all yet? – Some words. – [Lisa] For those who can’t read well by the end of third grade,
there are lifelong consequences including higher school
dropout and poverty rates. Arkansas ranks in the bottom
third of states when it comes to reading, and this group
is determined to change that. They have fought for laws to
transform reading instruction, often battling an education establishment resistant to change, says Dallas Green. – They didn’t want us around. They would see us at educational things, and it would be like,
oh Lord, here they are. – [Lisa] But perseverance paid off. Seven years and at
least eight bills later, Arkansas is revamping everything
from dyslexia screening to reading instruction to
teacher training and licensing, costing the state six
million dollars a year. – Statewide we’ve embraced
this, and it’s not been easy. – [Lisa] Not easy, but a
watershed moment, says Stacy Smith who oversees curriculum and
instruction in Arkansas. – When we saw schools
who started implementing dyslexia programs kind
of more school wide, and all of a sudden their
reading literacy results were improving, it was
kind of that moment of, wait a second, not all
these kids are dyslexic. (students sounding out word) – Good. – [Lisa] This type of reading instruction is the most beneficial for early readers. That was the conclusion
of a federally-appointed national reading panel
nearly two decades ago. – There’s actual scientific evidence about how students learn to read, and it’s largely been ignored. – [Lisa] Ignored partly because of years of ideological fights over
how best to teach reading. Should lessons be heavy with phonics, or steeped in good literature? Smith says kids of course
need time with good books, but from what she’s seen in Arkansas, the first step is comprehensive
phonics instruction. That’s why the state is moving to teach every student this way. – Golly, you think well what have we done? What have we done for generations to kids that we didn’t really teach to read? – [Lisa] Arkansas is now
retraining thousands of its educators who were never
taught this method of teaching. – When I first started teaching, I honestly didn’t know
how to teach kids to read. I didn’t. I taught them some sight words. I taught them the letters,
and what sounds they make, and I hoped that they put it all together. – [Teacher With Students] Rush. – Pound, tapping right. Rush. – [Lisa] Teacher Miranda
Mahan no longer has to hope. She knows kids are learning to read. – I know that we’re sending better readers to first grade now than
we did, and first grade’s gonna send better readers to second grade, and I feel like there’s not gonna be as many students fall through the cracks. – [Lisa] This is happening
around the country with parents leading the way. Over 40 states have laws, pilot programs, or bills ready to be signed
around reading and dyslexia, but the requirements and
mandates vary widely. In Arkansas, by the school year 2021, all elementary and special
ed teachers must show that they know how to teach
reading based on science. At Springhill, they’ll beat that deadline. For Principal Stephanie
Worthey, this is personal. Remember that student, Ace
Newland, that’s her son. – I was an educator, and I
struggled with my own child, and had this not come out, and I was able to learn about dyslexia, I wouldn’t have been even
able to help my own child rather less a whole
building full of children. – [Lisa] So is this new approach working? Let’s go to the source. – Reading is kind of fun for me now that I know how and stuff. – The efforts are still so new they haven’t yet moved
the needle on state tests. For those pushing for the changes, there’s little doubt they will. Would you say that teaching your children a different way has made a
difference for your child? – [Parents] Yes. – [Lisa] How much of a difference? – Life changing, completely. – [Lisa] Life changing, when children are truly learning to read. – Now add Sl. – [Students] Sleen. – Good, good job. – [Lisa] For Education
Week and the PBS News Hour, I’m Lisa Stark in Greenbrier, Arkansas. (soft music)

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