Friday, October 18, 2019

Helping students become successful readers

A column by Secretary of Education Dr. Ben Jones

We cannot overstate the importance of reading proficiency for all South Dakota students. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and I wanted to take this opportunity to spotlight the things we do at the state level to support educators in providing kids high quality reading instruction.

At the state level, the Board of Education Standards adopts content standards on a cyclical basis. South Dakota’s English language arts standards were last updated in 2018, and full implementation of those standards is now underway.

Since the standards were adopted, department staff have worked with educators to disaggregate, or “unpack” those standards, so that they are easier for classroom teachers to use effectively. This past summer and continuing into this fall, we are offering trainings on how to use the unpacked standards.

Additionally, Department of Education staff facilitate a variety of professional development opportunities aimed at training educators on the five foundational reading skills of fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, phonemic awareness, and phonics. When teachers use strategies focused on these five foundational skills, those strategies can help all readers, including struggling readers, like students with dyslexia.

This fall, we have also worked with Dr. Kari Oyen and Dr. Daniel Hajovsky from the University of South Dakota to offer trainings (which filled quickly) for district/school teams to learn about helping students with dyslexia. The trainers will then provide follow-up consultation on a suspected case of dyslexia in the team’s district to help ensure the training transfers into effective practice.