By Linda Dillman
When it comes to being ahead of the curve, the Canal Winchester School District fits the bill regarding structured literacy at the elementary level, which benefits students with aspects of dyslexia.
District Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning Craig Lautenschleger told the Canal Winchester Board of Education at its Oct. 16 meeting that Canal Winchester adopted structured literacy—a method of teaching foundational skills involving vocabulary, comprehension and writing—long before it was part of Ohio’s dyslexia law.
According to Lautenschleger, the state legislature passed a law addressing screening for children with dyslexia. District instructional coach Alyssa Walker said dyslexia affects approximately one in four students in the general population in one form or another.
Lautenschleger said according to the law—signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2021, but which did not take effect until this year due to the pandemic—dyslexia is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor spelling and decoding abilities.
“As a result of these new laws, we will screen grades K-3 for characteristics of dyslexia,” said Lautenschleger. “We’re looking for students at risk on the screener. We are not diagnosing students with dyslexia. We will send a letter home to the parent to let them know. We can only say they may be at risk.”
After the screening, the district will provide six weeks of intervention and progress monitoring, then administer a tier 2 screener.
“At that point, we will have met compliance with the law and let the parents know we have a structured literacy approach in Canal Winchester,” said Lautenschleger.
Structured literacy at the elementary level teaches basic phonics, syllable instruction, words and how they are formed and used (morphology), and word sequence and function in a sentence (syntax and semantics).
“Word recognition is what we really do at the primary level,” said Walker. “We’re building that fluency.”
Lautenschleger said the district began working on the program four years ago and in 2020 trained Walker in its instruction in order to share the skill with other teachers. In 2021-22, second grade and intervention teachers were brought into the program.
“Last year we trained kindergarten, first grade, third grade, intervention and title team teachers,” said Lautenschleger. “This year we’re training our gifted, ELA, new teachers, fourth and fifth grade teachers and middle school intervention teachers. This shift has been going on for years.”
Lautenschleger said teacher training will continue in the 2024-25 school year, during which the district is only required to screen kindergarten students for dyslexia. He said the current school year is the only one in which multiple grade levels are screened.