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Texas District Enters Second Decade of Defying Dyslexia

Eleven years ago, when the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) in El Paso, TX, implemented the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) as its Tier 3 intervention program for students with dyslexia, it also created a new department in anticipation of the classroom and professional learning that would follow.

Aptly named the Dyslexia Department, this team identifies, instructs, and serves more than 700 students each year, providing a high-quality education that includes effective, research-based instruction and best practices that meet the students’ academic and social needs. Wilson is proud to be a part of this effort since 2006.

The district’s Wilson® Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T.), Nora Centeno, has led the department for the past 10 years, working with team leaders and teachers to support districtwide instruction in WRS, Just Words®, and Fundations® with fidelity.

The successful implementation of Wilson programs comes from strong support and alignment throughout the system, from the central office and school board, to principals, teachers, and parents. All are committed to making sure that students at all levels learn to read and continue to improve.

“Wilson works for our K-12 students, including the population with dyslexia, our struggling readers, and our dual language learners, because we are consistent and are always ensuring implementation with fidelity,” says Nora.

“It takes awareness, high-quality training, research, and the right people. It takes support from the school board, the superintendent, associate superintendents, directors, the leadership team, all of us working together in collaboration. Everybody needs to be part of the process. We all have to be connected, because every teacher will eventually have a student in their class with dyslexia.”

One of El Paso’s largest districts, Ysleta is comprised of 63 campuses and serves 42,500 students. In the early 1990s, the district operated at state minimum achievement levels. By the end of the decade, it began a turnaround that is succeeding well into the 21st century.

Ten of the district’s schools have been named national Blue Ribbon Schools and eight others are national Title I Distinguished Campuses. The district has twice been a finalist for the national Broad Prize for Urban Education for its overall performance and improvements in student achievement, and is consistently recognized by the Texas Education Agency, which oversees primary and secondary public education in the state.

YISD initially began its path to becoming a sustainable Wilson district under the guidance of Wilson Senior Literacy Advisor/Literacy Specialist Anne Treadwell. Ruth Stern, Wilson Senior Literacy Advisor, and former Literacy Specialist Lynn Mulrooney, also provided support toward the district’s success.

In addition to Nora, the district has been served by a second Wilson Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T.),  as well as six Fundations Facilitators, five Fundations Presenters, two Just Words Facilitators, and one Just Words Presenter. Campuses implementing WRS in grades 2 to 12 include 10 high schools, 12 middle schools, 35 elementary schools, and two K-8 schools.

In addition to 18 Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioners (W.D.P.) on staff, nine more are pursuing Level I certification this year. Two teachers are Wilson® Dyslexia Therapists with Level II Certification, and two more are pursuing their certification this year. Barbara and Ed visited several years ago and Barbara says, “It was quite clear that this district has both the leadership and enthusiasm to do great things.”

Pictured: Natalie Reyes, Interventionist with the Ysleta Independent School District, a Wilson Dyslexia Therapist and Level 2 Fundations Facilitator, leads students in Block 3 of a WRS lesson.

(This article was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of The Decoder.)