July Newsletter

In the July edition of our newsletter, hear about our summer reading program, Portland Timbers in the classroom, and more:

No Summer Slide for Shadow Kids
Portland Timbers Team with Shadow Project
Higher Standards for Students in Special Education
We Appreciate Our Donors!
Perseverance Leads to Middle School Readiness
View the full newsletter.

Supreme Court Ruling on Students with Disabilities Raises Bar for Oregon

The following op-ed, written by Executive Director Christy Scattarella, appeared on Portland Tribune online on Thursday, April 06, 2017. See the original article here.

Currently, our system does not prepare diverse learners for success. One quarter of our capable children with conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD and autism are chronically absent, which leads to low reading performance, discipline issues, and dropping out. Students with disabilities have among the state’s lowest on-time graduation rates.
Johnny Fernandez was worried. He sat at his desk each day, hoping nobody noticed he was only pretending to read. “I felt like I was cheating,” he said. The Portland fifth grader has dyslexia, and thick chapter books were a jumble of words for a student two years behind in reading. His mother wondered how he would survive middle school.

A landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (on March 21) just raised the bar for how schools educate students like Johnny. The court ruled that educational programs for children with disabilities must be “appropriately ambitious,” wisely overturning a lower-court standard of “merely more than de minimis” (Latin for “too minor to merit consideration.”)

What will “appropriately ambitious” look like for Oregon’s nearly 77,000 students with disabilities?

Currently, our system does not prepare diverse learners for success. One quarter of our capable children with conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD and autism are chronically absent, which leads to low reading performance, discipline issues, and dropping out. Students with disabilities have among the state’s lowest on-time graduation rates.

Most of these children spend at least 80% of their day in general education classrooms, where educators frequently don’t receive the training or tools to support them. In fact, Portland Public School teachers rank these children their #1 unmet professional development need.

No one clears the bar with a rickety pole. Children who struggle to read, write and fit in need solid tools to achieve standards. We must (1) equip teachers with tools that engage diverse learners; (2) provide effective strategies for using those tools, and (3) elevate school climate to normalize what it means to learn differently. Children should not be embarrassed to squeeze a fidget (a stress-relief toy) or don headphones to help them stay calm or focus while reading.

As executive director of Oregon’s only nonprofit that partners with schools to make learning more accessible for children with disabilities, I’ve seen what ambitious standards can accomplish for determined kids like Johnny.

The Shadow Project develops SuperSensory Literacy Spaces, compact, multisensory libraries filled with tailored books, sensory tools that strengthen self-regulation and focus, and audio libraries that make books come alive. By ‘reading with his ears’ and following the highlighted text on a screen, Johnny advanced nearly two grade levels in under a year. Now a sixth grader, Johnny recently brought home his first “A” in English and plans to go to college.

Let’s raise expectations and show we mean it. With supported teachers and appropriate tools, more Oregon children like Johnny can soar to new heights.

Perseverance Leads to Middle School Readiness

Perseverance Leads to Middle School Readiness

Fifth grade graduate Eric, who has dyslexia, used to “hate reading” because the words moved around on the page. But this fall, Eric heads to Jackson Middle School as an avid book lover who is reading at grade level.

During silent reading, while the rest of the class quietly read to themselves, Eric would slip a piece of paper into his book to draw squiggles.

“It’s hard to see the words, and I mixed up my B’s and D’s,” said Eric. “I didn’t like reading, so I decided to do something else in class.”

But after Eric was assigned to the learning center with LaShell Holton in third grade at Portland Public Schools’ Markham Elementary, he learned perseverance as he worked toward small reading goals.

“Eric was so frustrated when I first met him because he was behind his peers,” said LaShell. “The Shadow Project gave Eric the daily opportunity to be acknowledged for his effort, and he really looked forward to the opportunities to shine, which made a difference in his learning and behavior.

“This year, Eric had a major turnaround.”

Eric constantly raises his hand to read aloud, and is devouring books at home. Said Eric, “When my mom says go to bed, I say “okay,” but when she’s gone, five minutes later, I turn my light back on and start reading again!”

Jackson leopards, here comes Eric!

###

Higher Standards for Students in Special Education

Higher Standards for Students in Special Education

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on students with disabilities raises the bar for Oregon children, according to Shadow Project Founder and Executive Director Christy Scattarella, M.A., in a Portland Tribune op-ed.

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that educational programs for children with disabilities must be “appropriately ambitious.” This decision wisely overturned a lower-court standard of “merely more than de minimis” (Latin for “too minor to merit consideration”).

What does this mean for Oregon’s almost 7,000 students with disabilities?

“Our system does not prepare diverse learners for success,” said Scattarella. “One-fourth of our capable children with dyslexia, ADHD, or autism are chronically absent which leads to low reading performance, discipline issues, and drop out. Students with disabilities have among the state’s lowest on-time graduation rates.”

Christy said struggling readers need solid tools with effective strategies for using them, and that school climates must be elevated to embrace diverse learners.

“Children should not be embarrassed to squeeze a fidget or don headphones to help them stay calm and focus while reading,” she said. “I’ve seen what ambitious standards can do for determined kids, and raising expectations will show Oregon means business in helping our children soar to new heights.”

Read Christy’s Portland Tribune op-ed at: http://portlandtribune.com/pt/10-opinion/353269-232405-my-view-supreme-court-ruling-on-students-with-disabilities-raises-bar-for-oregon#disqus_thread

###

No Summer Slide for Shadow Kids

No Summer Slide for Shadow Kids

After struggling students at Woodmere Elementary increased reading proficiency by as much as 1.7 grade levels last school year, The Shadow Project was asked to pilot a Summer Reading Program, using an audio library that makes books come alive for children with learning challenges.

The Shadow Project’s reading program combines an audio library specially designed for children with print and related disabilities, with one-on-one and small group reading support. Children made strong gains in reading proficiency, set and met reading goals, and began reading at home. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Beth Brod, M.S., Woodmere special education teacher.

Shadow’s Summer Reading Challenge, hosted by the SUN Schools program at Woodmere, is intended to offset the “summer slide,” when children can lose as much as 25% of their reading skills. Eric, who will be in fourth grade next year, signed up for the challenge, even though he “doesn’t like reading much” because it is a lot of work. Eric didn’t read at all last summer.

However, he enjoys the audiobooks and support provided by The Shadow Project and, because he likes chocolate, selected Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from amongst the 80,000 titles available.

“I like to listen to the story and, with headphones, no one can distract you,” said Eric.

Goal Setting in the Classroom

Woodmere students who signed up for the challenge set a reading goal—Eric’s is to read 30 minutes a day, six times a week either at school or home—and then download books to read from a laptop, iPad, or phone. Each student’s progress is monitored daily.

“Our students with disabilities are seeing themselves as readers,” said Katherine Polizos, Woodmere principal. “I see them perform at higher rates, and take part in extra reading activities. They’re so excited when they meet their goal. They feel like they belong in the school community.”

###