Seymour students screened for dyslexia


[email protected]

The Seymour Community School Corp. board of education recently learned about dyslexia screenings.

Catherine DuBois, assistant principal at Emerson Elementary School and dyslexia coordinator and reading specialist for the corporation, said in May, House Enrolled Act 1514 changed the timeline for administering the universal and Level 1 dyslexia screener.

That states when giving the universal screeners for dyslexia, schools would then commence with their Level 1 dyslexia screener within 90 days of that date.

“I wanted to create an outline of what that would look like for Seymour Community Schools,” DuBois said. “The law also states schools are able to locally determine when the universal screener is given, and that does not need to be within the first 90 days of school.”

The definition of dyslexia is characteristics typically resulting from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction, she said.

DuBois said a Level 1 dyslexia screener will be provided to any student who is found to have characteristics of dyslexia following the universal screener.

The universal screener shall be provided in the fall for second grade, winter for first grade and spring for kindergarten.

“However, if a school’s population is 20% or more (on the screener), I would present that is likely due to missed instruction for those students and potentially our at-risk populations,” DuBois said. “So it would not be in the best interest to identify them as individuals who are at risk or at some risk for dyslexia.”

She said instead, see those as opportunities for SCSC to make a more robust Tier 1 instructional opportunity.

“I am presenting to our teachers they either use the Level 1 by the state or use our dyslexia program, which would lessen the workload for our teachers,” DuBois said.

Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 217 was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2018. It’s a bill aimed at identifying students who may be affected with dyslexia and getting them the resources and accommodations necessary to be successful in school and beyond.

“From that, schools are required to do screenings in grades kindergarten through second grade to identify if a student has characteristics of dyslexia,” DuBois said. “Then local norms are set to identify those individuals who are at risk and an intervention program is provided for students.”

According to the Indiana Youth Institute, a child’s third grade reading level correlates with future educational performance. Early literacy has a significant relationship with graduation rates across a variety of contributing factors.

Another critical academic milestone for children is proficiency in math at eighth grade, which is one of the most significant predictors of students’ progress and success in high school, college and beyond.

DuBois said testing is just the tip of the iceberg, and reading is the gateway for all learning.

“While we’re looking to find students who may have characteristics of dyslexia, we’re really taking this as an opportunity to look at our reading instruction and our reading curriculum and what adjustments we can make within that,” she said.

DuBois said looking at national data, about 40% of students are not on grade level at fourth grade.

“As a corporation, we’re seeing those same statistics with students not performing at grade level,” she said. “That was prior to COVID, and now, it’s just bigger.”

During the latter part of the 2019-20 school year, Hoosiers schools were closed due to the pandemic. Because of that, SCSC dyslexia screening data are incomplete.

Seymour schools, however, provided virtual learning March 23 through May 7, 2020. Each school corporation is required to report screening results prior to July 15 each year, according to Indiana SEA 217.

The number of students at Seymour schools who were administered the universal screener in 2019-20 was 378 second-graders, 438 first-graders and the data was incomplete for kindergartners.

Results showed 23 second-graders were at risk and 17 at some risk and 19 first-graders were at risk with 12 being at some risk.

Due to COVID-19, interventions were suspended until the 2020-21 school year. SCSC identified a total of 71 students with characteristics of dyslexia.

Data for the 2020-21 school year showed 433 second-graders, 388 first-graders and 395 kindergartners were given the universal screening.

Based on the universal screener cut score data for second grade, 108 were at risk and 81 were at some risk; for first grade, nine were at risk and 43 at some risk; and for kindergarten, 36 were at risk and 27 were at some risk.

When including English language learners, 197 second-graders, 36 first-graders and 93 kindergartners were at risk.

The total number of SCSC students identified with characteristics of dyslexia during the school year was 304.

“Our norms are locally set, and during that first year, we used an assessment called NWEA and then we transitioned as a corporation to iReady,” DuBois said. “We found looking at the data, teachers determined where that cut score needed to be set, and I believe we are seeing some COVID impact, too.”

She said one of the five components of reading acquisition is vocabulary.

“The isolation that occurred from the time our youth were quarantined to being able to go back to school was in a very high developmental period for students,” DuBois said. “Another impact is, and there’s no research, but I think a lot of what our students heard was muffled and they didn’t see how we were forming words through the mask.”

She said there may be some opportunities for acceleration in the school for students who weren’t able to intuitively make that leap because phonological awareness is part of reading development.

“We’re not identifying any students with dyslexia, rather we are looking for the characteristics of dyslexia and then responding to that to get out in front of it,” DuBois said. “Because reading is so multifaceted, an individual who hasn’t acquired foundational reading skills will look very similar to a student who has dyslexia.”

So the intervention for both of them is the same, and the advantage is if the student does have dyslexia, then the intervention being provided is best practiced for those individuals.

“The screening accesses phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, sound and symbol recognition, encoding and decoding,” DuBois said.

According to, phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, whereas phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of sentences and words.

“If I’m a parent and have a struggling reader, what can I do?” DuBois said. “By reading to your children, you expose them to different types of vocabulary, and nothing can replace that parent/child read time.”

Parents can go online to SORA, a free app through the Jackson County Public Library that the schools are partnering with, to find reading materials to share with their kids. This might be useful for when they’re on the go and don’t have any books with them.

“Reading nursery rhymes and having your child say a word that rhymes with a word starting with the same letter, that’s building the phonemic awareness,” DuBois said.

Even at the dinner table, parents could ask their kids what are some foods that start with the letter B, like broccoli and bread. That’s another opportunity for learning at home.

DuBois said there is a book called “Reading is Rocket Science,” and it truly is. Literacy is our greatest equalizer, and when we can read, the world opens up, she said.

“Our elementary teachers who teach reading are rock stars because it’s amazing the instruction they have to provide for our students in order for them to acquire reading,” she said.

No posts to display