In January, Learn to Earn Dayton and Montgomery County Educational Service Center teamed up to offer comprehensive training for staff and educators who work with students and families through Omega CDC in Northwest Dayton. Day one focused on the science of reading and day two focused on dyslexia.
This two-day training was provided to partners from Omega CDC who are interested in deepening their understanding of how students learn to read. Many of these engaged educators work closely with students and their families through wrap-around supports services, out-of-school time learning programs (summer or afterschool), and two-generation interventions for full family success.
Both trainings were led by Rebecca Conley -- Lead Literacy Supervisor at the Montgomery County Educational Service Center. Conley has years of experience in the classroom, and her dedication to ensuring literacy equity drove her to specialize in a way that allows her to bring these skills to districts, teachers, and the wider community. She shared her passion for the work, "Every child has the right to learn to read. There shouldn't be any child who leaves school and is not a fully functionally literate human being." She highlighted the emotional relevance of these tools and practices as well, "I don't want any student to feel like they're not good enough -- because they are. And through the science of reading and structured literacy and a better understanding of dyslexia, we can make sure ALL students have the ability to read."
Jane McGee-Rafal, Early Grade Literacy Collaborative team member, helped coordinate the event on behalf of Learn to Earn Dayton. She celebrated Conley's approach, sharing, "Rebecca is so talented at translating words on a page to explicit practices. Throughout the training you could see the moments when the lightbulb went on or the lessons 'clicked' for participants."
The first session dug into the interdisciplinary body of evidence known as the science of reading. The goals of the day were that each participant secures a basic understanding of the science of reading and how it impacts literacy instructions and that each participant secures a basic understanding of structured literacy. The professional development included an exploration of research articles, videos, common definitions, and small group conversation that helped to translate the catch phrases of the science of reading to identifiable areas of intervention where team members can provide support for struggling readers. With this expanded knowledge of HOW students learn to read and write proficiently, these educators and partners will be better able to serve students.
"It is WONDERFUL to know that most children are capable of reading at an early age if the science of reading is incorporated" ~ Reflection from participant
Participants came away with the working knowledge that the science of reading is not a one-size-fits all approach or a singular program of instruction, rather it's a research-driven understanding of how proficient reading and writing develop, why some learners struggle, and how we can more effectively assess and intervene to address reading difficulties.
One attendee expressed how helpful the day was in that it "thoroughly explained the WHY behind the process of learning to read." She continued that this better understanding of the many brain functions that have to come together at one time for a student to become a reader is critical as she works to recognize why a student might be struggling, which aspect may be causing trouble, and how she can better support them on their journey to reading proficiency.
The follow-up continued the focus on how to recognize and support learning challenges by offering the "Experience Dyslexia" simulation. Led by Conely, with table leaders from Learn to Earn Dayton and Omega CDC, participants dealt with multiple reading, auditory and visual-motor problems. The learning proved incredibly meaningful, albeit frustrating. One overhead statement included, "I can't do this for 5 minutes; if this is what students are dealing with it's no wonder they give up."
Participants had the opportunity to process the significant stress that exists based on challenges experienced in the simulation. As part of the day, participants were equipped with helpful information and gained first hand experience that leads to greater empathy for the young learners struggling to read.
This training opportunity emerged because of Learn to Earn Dayton's deep partnership with Omega CDC through the Northwest Dayton Partnership and Promise Neighborhood/HOPE Zone. Omega CDC has set a priority goal that a 45% of third graders living in the Hope Zone (Northwest Dayton Neighborhoods) will read at or above grade level by 2027. That aspirational goal is achievable with the commitment to partnership and matching high quality teaching with out-of-school time educators, tutors, mentors, and community partners, combining to better support the learning process for student success.
The training included the call to action that it is critical to provide support and encouragement at home, at school, and in the community. Learn to Earn Dayton is currently exploring how to provide this valuable experience to additional members of the Summer + Afterschool Collaborative.