CSDNB Developing in-district dyslexia training

(New Britain, CT) - The Consolidated School District of New Britain is building internal capacity to train, certify, coach, and mentor its teachers in an intensive, multisensory structured language (MSL) program used to help students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities become fluent, independent readers.

This summer, Instructional Coach Allison Galin completed a yearlong internship with Wilson Language Training to become a Wilson® Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T.) for the district. As the primary component of her internship, Galin worked with Wilson Literacy Advisor Karen DeBari during the past school year to train and certify a cohort of 10 teachers in the Wilson Reading System® (WRS), an intensive structured literacy program used in schools nationally.

“This step is part of our overall literacy plan to certify at least two special education teachers in the Wilson Reading System in each New Britain school to help meet students’ needs,” Galin said. “During the internship year, we were able to make significant progress toward this goal and saw significant student growth and success. All of our practicum students and 10 teachers completed their instruction with fidelity. Some students even experienced over two years’ growth in reading based on Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) scores during this time.”

Galin is one of 14 educators in the country to become a Wilson® Credentialed Trainer this year. During the upcoming school year, she will present the WRS Introductory Course for the district and lead six additional special education teachers in WRS Level I Certification. Developed in 1988 for students with dyslexia, the program is based on the Orton-Gillingham method of instruction and is accredited by the International Dyslexia Association.

As part of the WRS Level I training, teachers are paired with a struggling reader for a 65-hour supervised practicum. Teachers gain knowledge, skills, and experience to effectively teach key pillars of reading instruction using an explicit, direct, systematic, highly structured, and multisensory method. They gain an in-depth understanding of dyslexia and its effect on the acquisition of reading skills, as well as how to teach diagnostically and appropriately pace students through the WRS program. The WRS Level I Certification earns the professional credential of Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner (W.D.P.).

Galin first became familiar with Wilson’s intensive program as a student teacher in Virginia. She continued to use the program when she began her teaching career in 2003 in Chicago. After moving to Connecticut in 2007, she worked as a special education teacher for 10 years before being appointed New Britain’s instructional coach in 2017. During this time, she became WRS Level I and Level II Certified, and has used the program consistently with students one-on-one and in small groups.

“I have witnessed firsthand how these reading skills can change a student both academically and behaviorally,” Galin said. “Through my in-district trainer role, I want to help other teachers and thereby many more students achieve these results.”

Additionally, Galin is pursuing credentials to train and coach district educators in Fundations®, a multisensory, foundational reading program for all students in grades K – 3. These efforts are part of the school district’s commitment to improving outcomes for all students by expanding the reading continuum in New Britain.

“Students who received Wilson instruction this year had great success,” said Superintendent Nancy Sarra. “New Britain is looking forward to building instructional capacity through Fundations and Wilson supports to continue meeting the reading needs of all our students.”

Structured literacy instruction has become a focal point in a national discussion about the science of reading. In recent years and across the country, parents advocating for effective instruction for students with dyslexia have paved the way for laws requiring early screening and intervention for struggling readers and dyslexia training for teachers.

Connecticut, which has passed several dyslexia laws since 2014, is working to strengthen teacher preparation and professional learning to improve student achievement in the area of reading. Most recently, legislators voted in June to establish a task force to analyze and make recommendations on issues relating to the implementation of earlier laws governing dyslexia instruction and training in the state. The task force will also examine and make recommendations on higher education institutions’ compliance with new licensure requirements regarding dyslexia training for teachers.