IDAHO FALLS – Educators in eastern Idaho met in Idaho Falls this week for a training aimed at helping students overcome reading challenges.
Idaho S.M.A.R.T. (Striving to Meet Achievement in Reading Together) is a key part of the State Department of Education’s efforts to make sure all Idaho public school students can read proficiently by the end of third grade. It launched with a reading summit in 2021, with many teachers across the state opting to join a two-year training program focused on the science of reading and how to detect and address students’ specific needs or disabilities.
A second group launched earlier this year and about 150 teachers were in attendance at Tuesday’s training held at the Hilton Garden Inn.
“Teachers are learning best practices aligned to the research for all students, whether they have a reading disability, characteristics of dyslexia or they’re just learning to read. The instruction is explicit and systematic and will support any and all students,” one of the people hosting the training, whose name was not specified, told KPVI.
Those in the day long S.M.A.R.T. sessions were able to collaborate with other teachers.
Each participant is supported by a coach they can meet with virtually each month throughout the school year for additional help and resources. That coach also involves school administrators.
“Ultimately, it ties back to that goal and our state comprehensive literacy plan and just brings it together for teachers,” one of the hosts said.
A similar training was held last month at Thunder Ridge High School. It was hosted by the Institute of Multi-Sensory Education in Southfield, Michigan. The $1,300 training attracted 53 participants.
These trainings come months after the Idaho Legislature passed a bill requiring dyslexia screenings for K-5 students and professional development for teachers. How that legislation rolls out and is applied in Idaho schools is yet to be determined.
Robin Zikmund, the founder of Decoding Dyslexia-Idaho, a nonprofit aimed at increasing awareness of and access to educational resources for dyslexia in public schools, worked closely with legislators in drafting House Bill 731.
Though it was signed into law earlier this year, the proposal was met with backlash initially because of related legislation proposed by State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra.
In an email to EastIdahoNews.com, Kristin Rodine with the state department of education, explained that House Bill 731 combines elements of two separate dyslexia bills that were introduced early in the legislative session. House Bill 655, co-sponsored by Superintendent Ybarra, and Senate Bill 1280, supported by Decoding Dyslexia.
“Both initial bills died, and the objectives of both were included in HB 731, which is now law,” Rodine says.
Rodine says Ybarra supported the final bill because it addressed her desire to provide teachers with the support and training they’d need to meet the law’s requirements.
“The department is currently vetting teacher training around instruction for students with dyslexia,” Rodine explains.
The State Department of Education will be holding another session in Twin Falls soon.