New parent group Everyone Reads T/E pushes for change

A+push+for+change%3A+TESD+parent+Kate+Mayer+addresses+a+group+of+Everyone+Read+T%2FE+members+at+the+Education+Committee+meeting+on+March+14.+The+parent+group+is+advocating+for+the+district+to+form+a+committee+made+of+parents%2C+students+and+teachers+to+evaluate+reading+instruction+in+the+District.

A push for change: TESD parent Kate Mayer addresses a group of Everyone Read T/E members at the Education Committee meeting on March 14. The parent group is advocating for the district to form a committee made of parents, students and teachers to evaluate reading instruction in the District.

By Maddie Lamonica, News Editor

In response to concerns raised by parents about the district’s reading instruction and reading support program, a parent organization, Everyone Reads T/E formed in the district to advocate for a greater emphasis on the science of reading.

“We are working on bringing our entire community together around the topic of literacy instruction,” parent and Everyone Reads T/E co-founder Kate Mayer said. “We want to be a place where everyone has a voice.”

Mayer, along with parents Jamie Lynch and Wendy Brooks, formed Everyone Reads T/E in 2017 to advocate for all TESD students to learn to read to the best of their potential and that all teachers have access to professional development and curriculum rooted in the science of reading.

Since its formation, Everyone Reads T/E has drummed up support from not only TESD parents but also neighboring public school districts including Radnor and Council Rock. The group has an email list of over 400 names and has formally advised three dozen families during their special education meetings with the district.

In response to parent feedback, one of the district’s goals for the 2018-2019 school year was “to engage in a review of the reading support program in grades K-4 to ensure student needs and learning profiles are being addressed appropriately and that reading goals, objectives and student progress are being effectively measured and communicated with parents,” according to the District Level Goals report.

Because of the efforts made by the community, the Education Committee presented on March 14 a review of currrent reading support in the district. In addition, the review covered potential improvements to the program, including norm-referenced dyslexia screeners for kindergarten students and new data management tools that can enhance communication of important reading data.

“We are always looking for opportunities to enhance our instructional practice,” Director of Curriculum Dr. Wendy Towle said. “Moving forward, our teachers will continue to incorporate phonemic awareness and phonics as part of the five essential skill sets of reading instruction.”

In considering ways to further support struggling readers, the district is currently partnering with AIM Academy to teach 19 reading specialists and special-education teachers to be trained in the Orton-Gillingham method. The method is rooted in phonics and multisensory reading instruction. The training requires 35 hours of lecture instruction and 60 practicum hours over nine months.

According to Conestoga reading specialist and English teacher Melissa Pacitti, the Orton-Gillingham method will be an asset to the reading support program.

“This program is a great framework and an additional tool for teachers to use to meet the individual needs of students,” Pacitti said. “It is research-based, so it has been proven to be effective with students who have language-based learning needs like dyslexia.”

While Everyone Reads T/E sees the Orton-Gillingham training as a step in the right direction, the group advocates for the creation of a committee comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and outside experts to create a literacy plan and evaluate reading instruction and support in the district.  

“The thing about Orton-Gillingham that’s great is that when you get that training, you do get some of the foundations in the science of reading,” Mayer said. “But it’s just one way to teach. And it’s not for everyone.”

In attempt to inform teachers about their goal, Everyone Reads T/E sent an email out to district teachers outlining their platform and research on March 13.

“We have the opportunity to take decades of research saying there’s a better way to teach reading and put it into action by addressing this national literacy crisis,” Mayer said. “If our teachers had access to this information and these resources this change would happen.”