Congratulations to Wit & Wisdom implementation leaders Megan Faughnan and Jessica Boisen, whose article on teaching reading to students with learning disabilities (TEACHER VOICES: Help may finally be on the way for struggling readers) was recently featured in The Hechinger Report, a national newsletter serving educators and policymakers.
Pointing to the growing number of states, districts, and schools using the science of reading to teach literacy, the two longtime educators are encouraged by the movement to use programs that explicitly teach phonics and rely on materials that build background knowledge and help students acquire new vocabulary. They wished they had had such support when they were in the classroom.
For example, Jessica recalls that Brandon, a third grader and an eager learner who loved math and science, participated fully in classroom discussions but struggled to read beyond the kindergarten level. She didn’t have the specialized skills or supportive curriculum to help him and was unable to schedule a professional evaluation for what she suspected was a learning disability.
“After fourth grade, Brandon changed schools. Jessica thinks about him often. Did he get the support he needed? Did he continue to fall further behind in middle school and high school? Do his new teachers have the knowledge to support him?”
Meanwhile, Megan recalls working with Jazmine, a hard-working ninth grader who had gotten good grades through elementary and middle school, but who rarely raised her hand and scored poorly on reading assessments.
“After months of working in the classroom and after school with Jazmine, Megan still had many unanswered questions about Jazmine’s educational background. Why had seemingly no interventions been made to support her difficulties? Had no one noticed that she was struggling? … Megan’s interactions with the family were the first time any teacher had raised concerns about Jazmine’s ability to read fluently.”
The good news is that Jazmine worked tirelessly to complete her high school degree and went on to earn her undergraduate degree after many more years of hard work.
Nevertheless, Meghan and Jessica reflect: “Curriculum and instructional support grounded in the science of reading could have saved years of struggle for Brandon and Jazmine.”
They are encouraged by efforts in New York City, where they live and work. Mayor Eric Adams, who has struggled with dyslexia, plans to screen all students for language-based disabilities like dyslexia and provide them with support.
Hopefully, the next generation of Brandons and Jazmines will benefit from this wise investment.
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Katie Waters was a middle school English teacher, curriculum manager, and instructional coach for 12 years. She now works with K–8 literacy teachers as the lead facilitator for humanities professional development at Great Minds, the nonprofit developer of Wit & Wisdom and Eureka Math.