Celebrate Dyslexia Schools Will Educate Dyslexic Kids and Serve as a Center of Excellence

visual dyslexia conceptual image, letters trailing behind paper cutout of person's head

We are proud to share this guest post by Jasmin Dean, board chair of Celebrate Dyslexia Schools, about their plans for a proposed charter school that would better serve students with dyslexia and serve as a community center of excellence.

“Dyslexic.” It was a moment that my husband and I had anxiously awaited for four months. We had requested an evaluation because we had watched our nine-year-old son suffer, but didn’t know from what. A casual mention at a birthday party began the final pursuit, and now we knew what it was called. Once we had the diagnosis, we felt relief, and so did our son . . . teachers would finally believe he was trying his hardest, or so he thought and we hoped.

My husband and I felt so alone at that school’s conference table. We knew we had so much to learn and so much we needed to do—we just didn’t know what. In our pursuit of finding out what to do, we met so many others who were navigating a similar journey. The third grade daughter who was so smart, and no matter how much time spent at the dinner table with sight words, was still barely reading at a first grade level, and now there was something called STAAR that gave her nightmares and she couldn’t sleep. The seventh grade son who couldn’t keep up with Latin, so he wrote an essay describing the way he learned from the characters in The Office, knowing that despite his thought process, and attention to detail, was going to fail the class, for the third time. Then there were the parents who solemnly told us that their 15-year-old son committed suicide right after they asked him for his report card.

Making Sure Dyslexic Kids Know They Are Not Alone

Nationally, the current statistics tell us that up to one in five people have dyslexia. However, the problem we have discovered is that signs of dyslexia are woefully under-identified. This is especially so in Bexar and surrounding counties that make up the ESC Region 20 service area, where the under-identification is at an unacceptable and disproportionate rate. Using reporting data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) from a cross section of the school districts, we have found that San Antonio school districts fall significantly below the national average in this area. According to PEIMS data for 2020–21, the percentage of students with a dyslexia diagnosis who are receiving services range from 0 to 11 percent, with the average being 4.84 percent—whereas the national average may be closer to 20 percent. House Bill 1525 also stated that Texas Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are “experiencing a critical shortage in credentialed and highly trained dyslexia therapists and practitioners to provide services to students with dyslexia.”

It is part of the mission of Celebrate Dyslexia Schools to make sure these kids know they aren’t alone. It is our mission to give them a safe place to learn. It is our mission to make sure parents and teachers know all they can about best practices and the latest science available to support these learners. Our partner organization, Celebrate Dyslexia—the non-profit organization—launched in 2019 and brought the community together through an exhibit and the development of a play to create awareness for dyslexia. The community has shown an overwhelming amount of support for the work that we do, which now has expanded to this proposed school model and extended mission. With the dyslexic community, as well as community leaders coming together, this has become an example of what’s possible through the collective power of the community saying yes to driving solutions.

Supporting Dyslexic Students and Serving as a Center of Excellence

The State of Texas has pioneered this conversation with the development of the TEA Dyslexia Handbook and evolving legal frameworks and expectations, as well as obligations placed on public schools. It is a love letter of sorts to parents, breathed out of the same pain—and the recognition that it is our responsibility to close the action gap for every dyslexic learner. It has been revised with the new research, new accommodations, and guidelines to identify and support dyslexic students. It is in sharing the same sentiment, shoulder to shoulder, that we propose and will put this charter school model into service for students in desperate need. Towards that goal, we will offer not only a solution to dyslexic students, but a place of solutions for every stakeholder: training, teaching, and removing barriers to education through explicit structured literacy education and approaches; pathways to pursue dreams by harnessing the strengths of students while giving them the skill of literacy; and confidence through academic success and support for families.

It is our goal to bring concrete pathways to definitive and accessible solutions to all families with dyslexic students by disrupting the barriers and providing access to education, ensuring provision of evidence-based educational interventions. With this charter, the goal is to provide a positive life changing impact on the educational opportunities for dyslexic children. We do this with an outward facing collaboration with our community, setting the example to our students of opportunity and service to those that live around us. Offering these distinct solutions to dyslexic thinkers isn’t enough. Specifically placing the campus in a near proximity to the families that represent our lower socioeconomic class and minority families is essential to begin combatting the cultural perspective and addressing the equity and social justice aspect that has yet to be achieved.

Design Elements and Pedagogical Approaches at Celebrate Dyslexia Schools

The Celebrate Dyslexia Schools campus will achieve our mission through focusing on the following design elements.

  • Structured literacy centered education,
  • High quality classroom teacher training,
  • Student-centered emotional support through assuming first that the student wants to learn and can do so through fidelity in implementing the IEP and accommodations,
  • Self-driven, strength-based education, and
  • Community enrichment.

In addition, Celebrate Dyslexia Schools will employ a range of pedagogical approaches that are research based and clearly support the Celebrate Dyslexia Schools design elements:

  • Structured literacy,
  • Multi-sensory, explicit classroom instruction,
  • Small group, personalized instruction,
  • Multiple methods to demonstrate mastery, and
  • Social emotional learning grounded in conscious discipline and positive behavior intervention supports that follow research-based practices.

Support for Students, Teachers, Families, and the Community

Every student will get the crucial intervention prescriptive to their needs so that the effect of the intervention can be measured in the rest of the school day. Each student will develop the skill set necessary to know how to self-advocate for the accommodations that equalize the reading process.

Teachers serving on our campus will not only be trained in dyslexia services through a university partner and unique dyslexia-centered professional development on campus, but also have the opportunity to use their experience towards credit hours for their own graduate degree opportunities. ESL and reading classes will also be offered to caretakers of students enrolled at our campus. By harnessing the power of collaboration in our community and lifting family members through literacy, students will have the opportunity and ecosystem to learn so much about our community, its needs, demonstrative service and concrete opportunities for work in the future.

So many have shared their stories with us. Thus, the idea is not to provide this to the few who can enroll in our proposed charter school. The idea is that we offer this campus as a hub of dyslexia success and excellence to our entire San Antonio community, while offering solutions and meeting the immediate needs of families with students in grades 4–8 on the Southwest Side of San Antonio.

Charter Moms Chats

Watch Jasmin Dean, board chair of Celebrate Dyslexia Schools, and Flor Gutierrez, advisory board member, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on February 24, 2022 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

Jasmin Dean is the board chair of Celebrate Dyslexia Schools and the Executive Director of Celebrate Dyslexia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a community that celebrates, educates, and empowers those with dyslexia.

Flor Gutierrez was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Her family immigrated to the Rio Grande Valley for economic and educational opportunities. After graduating from high school, she attended Arizona State University and later transferred to San Diego State University. She graduated with a BA in Linguistics. In 2007 she transferred to UTSA and pursued a Texas teaching certificate. Her teaching career started in the Southside of San Antonio where she worked as a dual language teacher grades in grades PK-8 for 11 years. After her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia, she pursued her Certified Academic Language Therapist license at the Scottish Rite Learning Center. She has worked as a dyslexia therapist/evaluator for the past four years. In 2021 she graduated from Lamar University with a masters in Special Education and an Educational Diagnostician Certificate. Flor is currently enrolled in the Principal Certification Program at Lamar and plans to graduate in the fall of 2022. She loves building community and bringing people together.

Read More About Celebrate Dyslexia Public Schools

Read More About Proposed Charter Schools

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