Encouraged by the popularity and success of a unique program for dyslexic students at one of its elementary schools, Falcon School District 49 is creating an entire school geared toward youngsters struggling with reading and behavior problems.
The Academy for Literacy, Learning & Innovation Excellence, or ALLIES, will open in the fall for second- through fifth-grade students who have dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.
Students who have trouble reading or interpreting words and letters need to learn "in the way their brain works," said Teresa Hinote, a literacy interventionist therapist at Odyssey Elementary School.
In 2014, Odyssey launched Literacy Excellence, an intervention program to identify and provide remediation for students who had characteristics of dyslexia. It was the first elementary school in Colorado to do so.
Results showed "both unprecedented and uncharacterized growth" for students, said Rebecca Thompson, academic director for ALLIES. In the second year of the program, students were growing at an accelerated rate in district testing and state standardized assessments, she said.
"Once you find something that's working and working well, you try to expand that," Thompson said.
ALLIES will replace the Odyssey program and be located on the grounds of Odyssey Elementary School, 6275 Bridlespur Ave., in a Sprung fabric building that will be erected on the site.
It will operate as a tuition- free public school, with elementary school students from nearby neighborhoods given first access and then other students from Falcon D-49 and other school districts. It's not a charter school but an innovation program, D-49 spokesman Matt Meister said.
The school does not diagnose dyslexia, Thompson said, but looks for characteristics of the disorder, such as problems with rhyming, spelling, reading aloud, comprehension and sequencing letters and numbers.
An estimated 15 percent to 20 percent of students display such traits, Thompson said.
The school plans to enroll 150 students and employ seven teachers, who will be trained in working with children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties, as well as ADD and ADHD.
In addition to taking classes in core subjects, students will receive 50 minutes of reading intervention daily from "Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia."
It's the same program Odyssey Elementary has been using since 2014. Students with dyslexic tendencies learn to read and spell using multiple senses, Hinote said. Take Flight, which was created in Texas where Hinote previously worked, engages students in seeing, hearing, speaking and touching as they learn to read, using flash cards and other tools.
Hinote said the method builds language from the most frequently used sounds to the least frequently used and quickly capitalizes on student success.
Students also will have subjects they typically excel at, including art, music and technology.
Accommodations for the learning challenges will be made in classrooms, Thompson said, such as giving extra time for assignments, writing on an electronic device and testing for spelling on the words students have been taught in intervention class.
In other words, "Accommodations that allow them to be successful in the classroom."
For more information, go to d49.org/chooseALLIES.