These are exciting times at IDA, and the last two months have been no exception. Much of our work has been centered around launching our coalition to advance Structured Literacy reading instruction.
IDA’s number one mission is to change reading instruction in our classrooms. To that end, we have formed a coalition that includes twenty-five organizations that are advocating for reading reform to benefit not only students with dyslexia but also other struggling readers. In this way, we advocate for changing reading instruction as a general education issue, not as a special education issue. Click here for a full list of the organizations that, as of this writing, have joined with us in this landmark effort.
The Coalition for Universal Reading Excellence held its first meeting in Philadelphia to map strategy, to prepare our work, and to formalize bylaws and other matters necessary for incorporation. Thirteen of our then sixteen members traveled to Philadelphia to participate. In addition, two organizations considering membership attended. We had presentations from Bob Sweet of the Right to Read Foundation on the history of reading instruction and efforts to bring it into alignment with best practices. Our new IDA board member, Monica McHale-Small, Superintendent of the Saucon Valley School District in Pennsylvania, spoke to us about decision making inside school districts and how to approach the superintendents themselves. Liz Woody of the Learning Alliance in Vero Beach, Florida spoke on their successful and innovative implementation efforts.
We advanced our knowledge in a number of ways:
- Top down strategies involving legislation and mandates have often failed.
- School superintendents are especially responsive to parent opinions, and getting an audience on reading issues, based upon parent requests, may be easier than we expect.
- Implementation is hard. It requires solid training, coaching after the training, and sound strategies to win over teachers and principals who are often skeptical of new education initiatives.
We also learned, based upon feedback from our superintendent, that “evidence-based reading” is an ineffective term. It seems all brands of reading instruction are labeled “evidence-based.” Therefore, we renamed our organization the “Coalition for Universal Reading Excellence,” or CURE.
We left the meeting with clear strategies to identify interested school districts and to engage them in a conversation with ideas to help those districts implement a sustainable program.
We have a lot of work ahead, but we left with clear ideas about how to approach our mission of bringing Structured Literacy into classrooms across America. Our meeting was just a beginning, a great beginning, and all participants left with enthusiasm and a strong commitment to the task ahead. We are actively raising money to fund this effort, and fundraising is going well.
IDA has a parent membership that has grown to almost 2,000 members over the past two years. As we continually strive to improve our services for parents, we also need to think about how to better partner with Decoding Dyslexia, a grassroots parent movement now in fifty states. Decoding Dyslexia is advancing legislative initiatives in states all across the country. They are attracting attention and making a difference. Due to their great work, IDA is establishing a Parent Committee to offer advice to our parent community and to review and improve our parent publications. Most of the members will come from the Decoding Dyslexia movement. Hopefully, this committee will help IDA to do a better job of connecting with parents and to build a stronger relationship with this remarkable movement.
The development of the IDA Certification Exam is progressing on schedule, with a completion date in early 2016. There was an excellent response to the survey that was sent out in December. The survey asked the respondents to rate how important different tasks are to the teaching of reading. The tasks were based on the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. In a meeting in Kansas City last week, the final survey results were presented to the IDA Exam Advisory Committee and were used to determine test specifications and types of items for the exam. The next step is the writing of the items, which will happen in late April. I want to thank Suzanne Carreker for her outstanding leadership and all of the participants who are making this exam possible.
That was February and March. Thank you to all of the IDA community for your support in the progress we are making.