SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A highly successful literacy pilot program will launch the 2018-2019 school year for students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) to tackle the long-standing issue of dyslexia and learning differences.
"The signs of dyslexia really look like a student who is struggling to read and is falling behind his or her peers," said Claire Krock, SBUSD Literacy Specialist TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment). "The student sometimes has difficulty remembering sight words that are new every time and has difficulty sounding out words."
Krock said she saw the signs in her daughter years ago, starting in kindergarten.
"We struggled to figure out what was going on with her and ended up needing to go outside the public school system to get her the help she needed," Krock said.
The former Monte Vista Elementary School teacher is now devoted to helping children with learning differences.
"The human cost of letting our students continue on without the appropriate intervention is unacceptable," Krock said. "We're doing targeted research-based, intensive instruction; three kids to one teacher ratio, 45 minutes a day. It's something that we really haven't done before in public education."
SBUSD put together a minute and a half video showing Krock and a trio of students going through their paces, in an effort to get the word out.
"We really make sure that we use multi-sensory methods to teach the children," Krock explained in the video. "We do everything visually, kinesthetically, auditorily and tactically and make sure they're getting the information through all of their senses."
Krock said the group often writes words in the air and carves out words in a tray of salt, using their fingers. She estimates 20 percent of local schoolchildren are dyslexic and said poor reading skills, if not addressed, can lead to negative outcomes including poor choices and behavior, well into adulthood.
"So many of our students that pass through the school system undiagnosed and without the appropriate help really struggle with their self-confidence, and it changes the course of their future," Krock lamented.
Krock credits SBUSD Superintendent Cary Matsuoka for bringing the Orton-Gillingham specialized, targeted training into the public school system.
Come Fall, the teaching method will be extended a second year at Harding Elementary, where the pilot program launched, as well as Monroe Elementary and to upper-level students already diagnosed with dyslexia at Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High School.
"Isn't that amazing?" Krock said with a huge smile. "I've had such amazing gains with one year of our pilot program. I've had students come up a year, a year and a half in reading levels. It needs to be in all schools."
Krock points out that SBUSD is not diagnosing elementary school students, but instead, looking for children with characteristics of dyslexia. She said the target grades that are life-changing for struggling readers are 1st through 3rd.
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