"For most students, but particularly vulnerable students, reading outcomes depend on the quality of reading instruction they receive. Nearly all students can learn to read words proficiently with science-based systematic and explicit instruction in foundational reading skills. Identifying and intervening early with the small number of students who may still struggle to learn to read words well, sets them up for future success in school, work and life."
Over the past half century, Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School in North Vancouver has dedicated itself to the premise that all students can read through science-based, systematic and explicit instruction in foundational reading skills. The KGMS programme is intensive, targetted and highly sucessful for students of all ages with a wide range of learning challenges. The answer for the school has been to effectively concentrate highly trained personnel on the task of meeting the needs of students with the greatest needs. In fact, Kenneth Gordon is a Ministry of Education designated Special Education School in which every single student has a specific, identified learning disability. While about 60 percent of students struggle with a language based learning challenge such as dyslexia, a further 30 percent are on the autism spectrum and the remainder have had their ability to read derailed by a wide range of other barriers to their learning.
Now this might sound to people as the antithesis of inclusion and, although the range of students is as diverse a group as you will find anywhere, they would be right in the traditional sense of inclusion as "mainstreaming". However, as many parents, teachers, and even school systems have come to realize, traditional approaches to inclusion (regardless of the fanfare with which they are introduced) basically do not work.
The secret, from both a logistical and financial standpoint, is to concentrate resources to ensure the most effective intervention possible. For most students, this means two or three years on this kind of intensive instruction before they transfer back to their local schools to proceed, as proficient readers, on a level playng field with their peers. As the Ontario Human Rights Commission Inquiry states, these students need "science-based systematic and explicit instruction in foundational reading skills" to be set up "for future success in school, work and life."
This intervention model, is not some magic formula. It is based on the science of reading, cognitive load theory, and distributed practice. And, it could be implemented tomorrow in every school district in the country through a redeployment of existing teaching and support personnel and concentration of students in dedicated learning centres.
In the next two posts we will look at the key research-based practices that make this approach work for kids.