When a Community Takes a Stand for Literacy

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When a Community Takes a Stand for Literacy
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By Claire Krock, Literacy Specialist, Santa Barbara Unified School District

Equity is the latest buzzword in education. These conversations revolve around closing the achievement gap, racial equity, and utilizing technology to level the playing field.

Yet, there is a deeper and historical equity problem facing education that is rooted in the ability and opportunity for all students to read. It’s been said by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, that 1 in 5 people worldwide have dyslexia. Dyslexia affects 20 percent of the population and represents 80–90 percent of all those with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, this topic is largely ignored in schools across the United States.

Dyslexia is not a new problem. Students have been struggling with dyslexia for hundreds of years. What is different, is the evolution and pronunciation of the struggle alongside the Information Age. For example, we often take for granted that learning to read is like learning to speak.  Meaning, we practice the skill and then we become fluent readers. This is not the reality for dyslexic students. They must first learn how to solve the puzzle of reading to access everyday knowledge that we take for granted, like reading to answer questions on a standardized test, working on written assignments using an ipad, or applying for a job.

Not surprising, we have a clear, explicit recipe to teach a dyslexic student to read. It is not a new technique; but a systematic, explicit method of teaching phonics and phonemic awareness that helps students organize learning to read into manageable blocks of information.

If we know how to address dyslexia, why aren’t schools providing this method?

Well, some have begun to address dyslexia, but for many a systematic approach is cost prohibitive. One could argue that it is even costlier to allow dyslexic students to fail time and time again. Students need early intervention, daily instruction from a highly qualified teacher that understands dyslexia and this explicit method of reading instruction.

Indeed, this solution is a commitment to provide systematic, research based instruction with curriculum that is appropriate for all students.

Locally, Santa Barbara Unified School District took the first step toward addressing dyslexia. The district piloted an intensive reading program entitled the Literacy Project, at one of the district’s elementary schools in the 2017-2018 school year. The results demonstrated significant gains not only in reading scores of most students, but also within an individual student’s experience and recognition of their own self worth.

Santa Barbara Unified expanded the Literacy Project to three elementary schools this year, in the 2018-2019 school year. This was made possible thanks to local philanthropists such as the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, Walter J. and Holly O. Thomson Foundation, and numerous individual donors who have contributed to help cover the costs of establishing the Literacy Project. While we can all agree on the need to do more, the future looks brighter for dyslexic students in Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Learning to read should not depend on where a student attends elementary school or a family’s socioeconomic status. Our society can no longer afford to ignore a fifth of our students. The economic and human cost is much too high when there is a clear path toward a solution.

It truly takes a village to raise a child. In Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation is poised to support the advancement of the Literacy Project; a systematic, research based instruction. What’s next is for community to take a stand for literacy. Together, we can support all students and break down barriers to education.


Claire Krock is a mother of a daughter with dyslexia, elementary school teacher for 17 years, and the co-creator of the Literacy Project in Santa Barbara Unified School District that provides intensive reading intervention to students with characteristics of dyslexia.  

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lovesbalot Feb 22, 2019 11:48 PM
When a Community Takes a Stand for Literacy

Dr. Sally Shaywitz also talks about an "action gap". "We have the knowledge but it is not being put into policy and practice and far too many children and adults too are suffering needlessly." In SB people of means with students with dyslexia take them to private school because there they will get intensive one on one intervention and early assessments with properly trained professionals. SB district has a wait and see policy which is detrimental and out of compliance. Ms Krocks program only served about 20 students. 1 in 5 have dyslexia so 20% of 15,000 total enrollment in district is 3,000. Are 2980 students invisible. In a board meeting last year 8/28/18 ( still on district site) a group of parents shared their struggles with our non compliant district. A father was in tears that his daughter is only beginning to get some help after asking for years. For him it really was too little way too late. Mr. Matuoka response to parent advocates who requested action was that he "did not have the capacity and needed more time”. Ms Krock understands how important getting her daughters needs met in a timely manner and sent her to one of our fabulous private schools. Her confident, happy daughter told me that she thinks dyslexia is a gift. Learning to read should not depend on where a student attends elementary school or a family’s socioeconomic status but it does in our town.

ESL_teacher Feb 22, 2019 01:01 PM
When a Community Takes a Stand for Literacy

As a parent who has had experience of dyslexia within my family, I am glad to hear of the establishment of this new literacy program in our school district. I am sorry to see however that it has taken private philanthropy to set this up, when it should be the duty of every school district to provide appropriate and necessary reading instruction to ALL the students. With this in mind, I sincerely hope that this program will be extended to all our elementary schools as quickly as possible. Given the statistics, the district should find the funds to do this.

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