Santa Barbara Unified School District has identified literacy as one of its top three priorities. Each year students enter Santa Barbara classrooms who are dyslexic or have extremely low reading proficiency.

Until the third grade, students spend much of their time in the classroom learning how to read. After that point, students are expected to be able to rely on their reading skills to continue learning. Since classroom time is not typically dedicated to learning how to read in later grades, students with neurological learning differences like dyslexia continue to be at a disadvantage for all subjects throughout their academic career without intervention.

According to the California Department of Education, 90% of cases of students displaying characteristics of dyslexia can be remediated with early intervention. The Santa Barbara Unified School District has begun a pilot program at Harding Elementary to help students with low reading proficiency get back on track. The program uses research-based methods in a small group instructional setting to help students with decoding written word.

After just a few short months, the Harding reading intervention pilot program has yielded impressive results. Every student’s knowledge of phonics rules increased and mastery of sight words went from the lowest scoring student identifying zero words, increased to 20 words and the highest scoring student identifying 150 words, increased to 550 words.

Although the fight against dyslexia is a difficult one, as a community we cannot afford to continue to look away from the issue. The small group setting necessary for this early intervention demands a lot of resources from our public schools. However, it costs four times as much to deliver interventions to remediate after the third grade. In the long run, early intervention will benefit our students as well as the SBUSD budget.