The inspiration for Wilson Language Training® began with Barbara Wilson over 30 years ago. After several years as a special educator in public schools in Massachusetts, Barbara completed training in the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach to literacy instruction at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Language Disorders Unit. She remained there for five years working with adults with dyslexia, which inspired the eventual launch of Wilson Language Training several years later.
For two plus decades, Wilson’s support of teacher preparation and professional learning has been conducted in classrooms across America. After spending the 80’s and 90’s formalizing and refining its training model, Wilson has grown to become one of the best known names in literacy professional learning.
It is this commitment to teacher support that makes Wilson stand out. For over 20 years, Wilson has worked collaboratively with school districts to implement achievable and sustainable plans for teacher and student success. We have trained nearly 220,000 teachers across all 50 states. Approximately, 25,000 are Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Level I certified. And, in 2016, we worked closely with well over 200 districts to develop comprehensive implementation plans that include professional learning to support teachers’ use of the programs with fidelity. We are pleased that WRS is used in public elementary, middle, and high schools, private schools, private clinics, community colleges, and adult education settings across the United States as well as in the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland, and Qatar.
Here are some significant points in our history:
Barbara and her husband, Edward, founded the Wilson Learning Center, a private center for students with reading disabilities.
The first edition of the Wilson Reading System (WRS) was published, based on Barbara’s O-G training and her work with the adults at MGH and students at the Wilson Learning Center.
WRS Second Edition was released and Wilson launched an in-depth model of professional learning to accompany the program. Due to the success of the students at the Center, local school districts sought out assistance with their most challenged readers. As a result, Wilson created the WRS Level I Certification, a year-long certification process, to support and guide teachers who worked with students unresponsive to previous instruction and who had often experienced years of frustration.
Due of the success of WRS in public school settings, the primary focus shifted to professional learning for educators and Wilson Language Training® was incorporated in Massachusetts. From the beginning, the goal of the company was to make WRS specialized instruction possible and successful in a public school setting.
WRS Level II Certification was created to support teaching in small groups and instruction in advanced concepts of language structure.
WRS Third Edition was published, adding two levels of vocabulary: one for older students and one for younger students. The Trainer Development program was also established to support districts in developing a qualified Wilson Trainer able to deliver WRS certification programs within the district.
Wilson offers its first blended learning Level I Certification program that includes the in-person practicum combined with an in-depth online course. Wilson courses become available for college credit. Today, Fitchburg State University offers 10 graduate credits for Level I Certification and 10 graduate credits for WRS Level II Certification.
Fundations® First Edition is published. More than ten years of data from school districts experiencing success using WRS informed the creation of Fundations®, a research-based program designed to bring explicit, cumulative, systematic, and multisensory reading instruction to K-3 general education classrooms. Fundations has been implemented as a prevention (Tier 1) and early intervention (Tier 2) program in school districts across the country.
Wilson Academy® is launched. Today our online learning communities provide online courses, material resources, and support for Fundations®, Just Words®, and Wilson Reading System® teachers, with a separate community just for school administrators. In this year, the partner program is also launched, growing to accredited partners across the country today.
Wilson Language Training moves into its new campus in Oxford, Massachusetts. The campus includes offices and learning rooms as well as the 20,000 square foot Materials Distribution Center that is well equipped to handle large scale material requests.
Demand for a program that targeted older students (grades 4-12 and adults) with literacy challenges not requiring intensive intervention led to the development of another program: Wilson Just Words®. Just Words addresses the explicit decoding and spelling instruction needs of students with word-level deficits through an accelerated delivery of the content of the Wilson Reading System. Just Words is implemented as a Tier 2 intervention in schools or as a stand-alone program in adult learning centers.
Wilson adopts the principles of implementation science at the core of its planning with and support of districts, called COMPASS – Comprehensive Plans to Achieve Student Success and Sustainability. This work with districts is now held up as a model of implementation science in the field of literacy.
Fundations Second Edition was published incorporating teacher feedback and best practices to enhance instruction and teacher and student materials. Alignment demonstrates that Fundations thoroughly teaches the Foundational Skills of the Common Core State Standards, and strongly supports the reading, writing, and language standards, providing mastery instruction for many of the goals in each of those areas.
Wilson applies for and receives accreditation from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). This designation recognizes that Wilson Reading System certifications align with the IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. Wilson Reading System also endorsed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE).