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University of Utah Reading Clinic

In Utah, Michele Blake, Grace Craig, and Holly Dean are three in three million.

The trio of educators at the University of Utah Reading Clinic (UURC) are Wilson® Credentialed Trainers (W.C.T.) in the expansive state of three million residents. Together with UURC Director Dr. Kathleen Brown and other Wilson-trained professionals at the clinic, they are providing intensive multisensory structured language (MSL) instruction to teachers and students from the majestic mountain ranges to the vast desert regions.

Established by the state’s legislature in 1999 and housed within the university’s College of Education, the UURC provides assessment and intervention services to Utah children in grades K-12 as well as professional development for Utah educators. The clinic adopted the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) for its intensive Tier 3 instruction in 2003 and became a Wilson® Accredited Partner in 2007.

“Utah had a black hole for kids with dyslexia until this century. Just a handful of people in the state had structured language Tier 3 training,” shared Kathleen.

Michele, Grace, and, most recently, Holly, went on to complete the rigorous internship to become WRS Trainers, allowing them to provide WRS instruction to districts throughout the state. So far, approximately 300 educators have received WRS training through the UURC at its location in Murray, on-site at a dozen school districts, and online. Twelve of the clinic’s staff instructors, as well as several hourly tutors, have become WRS Level I certified.

“Now that we are serving districts, we’re seeing many that aren’t centered here in the Salt Lake Valley,” said Michele. “We’re doing quite a bit for those who are far away. We’re overwhelmed by how many educators want the Wilson training.”

The state’s per capita expenditure for students is routinely ranked among the bottom three in the country, which leaves many districts strapped for professional development funding, Kathleen explained. Scholarships awarded through the generosity of benefactors help support the professional learning programs for Utah educators. For instance, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and the Crawford Family Foundation provide scholarships for educators seeking WRS Level I Certification.

“There is a chasm between the need and what’s provided for teacher professional development, and the scholarships help us bridge that chasm,” Kathleen said.

Jennifer Smith, a Literacy Coach with the Iron County School District 250 miles away in southwestern Utah, has enjoyed the benefits of the online learning format, which includes real-time lessons with her WRS instructors via technology. Supported with the scholarships, she and three others in her district completed WRS Level I Certification last year. Jennifer, who is now pursuing WRS Level II Certification, is noticing the progress in her students. Within a year of instruction, her practicum student went from reading below to reading above grade level.

“I’m noticing changes in his reading, and in his confidence. It has given him so much self-esteem.”

Educator Amy Warren works with struggling readers at McPolin Elementary School within the Park City School District, which recently rolled out Fundations in its elementary schools. She completed her WRS Level I Certification and is now pursuing WRS Level II Certification and a master’s degree in reading and literacy at the university.

“The WRS training has given me a systematic approach to reading instruction. It has given me a clear plan of what to teach and how to teach it. The way the program is designed also gives me the opportunity to make sure that students achieve mastery of a concept before moving on in the program. Before, I did not have such a clear-cut plan, nor a way to progress monitor to ensure students were ready to move on,” she said.

“I am very thankful for the opportunities the UURC and Wilson have given me. Although I feel I have just begun my journey through the world of literacy and reading instruction, I also am empowered and excited to continue on this path.” 

Pictured, from left, Wilson Trainers Holly Dean, Michele Blake, and Grace Craig.

(This article was originally published in the spring/summer 2018 issue of The Decoder.)