Staff Focuses on Students’ Reading and Language Skills

Several years ago, student data showed that of the entire middle school population, only about 20 of the 100 students enrolled were reading at or above grade level. About 30 students were reading below a first-grade level. To address these students’ urgent literacy needs, the school decided to implement the research-based Wilson Reading System®.

Select staff members, including the school’s instructional coach, went to Wilson training and got certified in the program. They successfully piloted the Wilson Reading System, Wilson’s most intensive program, with 25 of the lowest-achieving students in grades three through eight.

One of Truesdell’s star students is an eighth-grade English-language learner who is dyslexic. Before the Wilson Reading System, the student had the lowest scores on the reading test. She earned the highest score in the eighth grade after the intervention. Overall, students made between 8 months and 2.5 years of progress in one year. Some students achieved a year’s growth in a four-month period.

Based on the success of the pilot and Wilson’s research-based track record, Truesdell now implements appropriate Wilson components at many grade levels and at various levels of intensity, depending on students’ individual needs. Staff assesses every student using Wilson pre-assessments to make sure they are placed in appropriate instructional groups. The school’s instructional coach works with teachers in an ongoing cycle to review student assessment data and ensure that students are still in the appropriate groups.

For primary students, Truesdell uses Wilson’s Fundations®, a phonics-based program intended to prevent reading problems. Grades 3–8 use Wilson’s JUST WORDS®, an early-intervention word study model that explicitly teaches the structure of the English language. For the small group of profoundly low-level readers, teachers use the intensive intervention Wilson Reading System, which includes kinesthetic components such as tapping out words and using the body to help students learn.

Truesdell groups students according to Wilson’s guidelines. Tier-one instruction happens at the whole group level. Tier-two instruction includes small group instruction. Tier-three instruction is intensive and is used for very small groups and individual instruction.

The Wilson program has been so successful that one teacher has begun to offer the students extra time on Wilson after school several days per week. In addition, some teachers have formed Wilson study groups during whole-school professional development time on Wednesdays to deepen their practice.

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