The Principal's Primer
Research-Based Supports for Early Learning Classrooms
This bi-monthly newsletter is designed specifically for Principals and Assistant Principals with early learning classrooms on their campus. In an effort to strengthen your understanding of instructional strategies and developmentally appropriate perspectives, the Children’s Learning Institute is pleased to provide you with the latest research, best practices, resources for supporting early learning on your campus, and innovations in technology that support collaborative leadership. Past issues can be viewed in the archive on CLI Engage.
Student struggling with reading
April 2021

In this issue:
  • Dyslexia Defined
  • Grades K-2: Dyslexia Referral Checklist (DRC)
  • Unique to Kindergarten: Dyslexia Screener
  • Intervention Tools 
Dyslexia Defined

Understanding the Basics of Dyslexia (2020) states:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. The condition can best be described as an unexpected difficulty learning to read. Students with dyslexia struggle with phonology, or the recognition and manipulation of sounds in language. Dyslexia affects a student’s ability to decode words — to break them down into constituent sounds, or phonemes, and then to sound out novel words. That makes it hard to recognize words, to retrieve words, to read, write and spell.
According to the Dyslexia Center of Utah, dyslexia is the most common language based learning disability that impacts 1 out of 5 students or 15-20% of the population. 
Dyslexia can occur in students across a range of cognitive abilities. Students identified with dyslexia may not be academically falling far behind their peers in early elementary school, but because of their learning disability, they must exert a greater amount of time and effort. At around third grade, the expectations around reading fluency begin to impact other areas of learning and these students fall behind. Students with dyslexia tend to compensate for their struggles with reading. While these compensation strategies often enable them to become readers, dyslexia is not something learners outgrow. Sometimes this causes teachers, specialists, and administrators to think no intervention is necessary until third grade, which research tells us is not true. The earlier educators recognize reading deficits, the sooner they will be able to close learning gaps with appropriate intervention strategies.
What Happens in Dyslexia?

  • In early elementary school for kindergarten through second grade, characteristics of dyslexia might include the following:
  • Difficulty breaking words into smaller parts, or syllables (e.g., “baseball” can be pulled apart into “base” and “ball”)
  • Difficulty identifying and manipulating sounds in syllables (e.g., “pat” sounded out as /p/ /ă/ /t/)
  • Difficulty remembering the names of letters and recalling their corresponding sounds
  • Difficulty decoding single words in isolation
  • Difficulty spelling words the way they sound (phonetically) or remembering letter sequences in very common words seen often in print (e.g., spelling the word said as s...e...d)
Dyslexia is Not:

  • reading and writing letters backwards
  • due to a visual impairment
  • a lack of intelligence
  • because the child is not motivated to learn
  • related to families not supporting reading at home
  • extremely uncommon
Early literacy and reading skills are the foundation of academic success. Texas House Bill 1886 legislation requires that beginning with kindergarten, all students will be screened to receive appropriate dyslexia services, as needed. This will provide screened students then diagnosed with dyslexia an opportunity to progress in reading skills despite their learning differences. 
Educators Key Role in Early Identification and Intervention

Educators play a key role in determining at-risk students for possible reading disorders even before young children learn to read. Many reading difficulties and disabilities can be prevented through explicit and systematic instruction and concentrated intervention. Prevention studies commonly show that 70-90% of at risk children in K-2 can learn to read in the average range. Early screening and systematic interventions can have significant impact for their future academic success. 

In the book Straight Talk about Reading, Hall and Moats (1999) state the following:
  • Early identification is critical because the earlier the intervention, the easier it is to remediate.
  • Inexpensive screening measures identify at-risk children in mid-kindergarten with 85 percent accuracy.
  • If intervention is not provided before the age of eight, the probability of reading difficulties continuing into high school is 75 percent.

Grades K-2: Dyslexia Referral Checklist (DRC)

A comprehensive Dyslexia Referral Checklist (DRC) is available to support teachers with determining those students who may need a further diagnostic referral. CLI Engage offers the Dyslexia Referral Checklists for kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade in English and Spanish. It is a questionnaire that builds a link between direct assessment of early reading skills (e.g., universal screening and progress monitoring measures) and classroom observations.

The checklist evaluates areas considered to be important for early reading: language-based skills, letter and letter-sound knowledge, phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, decoding, and spelling. 

View the Dyslexia Referral Checklist Manuals to use along with TX-KEA, TPRI, or Tejas LEE in combination with other assessment tools to satisfy the full scope of skills outlined in the Dyslexia Handbook. The DRC can comprehensively pull multiple sources of screening, observations, and documentation to consider if the student may have reading difficulties and may require further referral.

Unique to K: TX-KEA Dyslexia Screener
TX-KEA evaluates many skills considered to be important for early reading. The TX-KEA Dyslexia Screener found in Wave 3 (EOY) is comprised of seven TX-KEA measures that directly align with the seven required criteria in accordance with the State Dyslexia Handbook.

Below are the TX-KEA measures that meet TEA required criteria.  
TX-KEA dyslexia measures
TX-KEA Dyslexia Screener Scoring on CLI Engage

CLI Engage automatically calculates scores when you complete all of the required measures, which are sequenced in the same color in Wave 3 (EOY) as seen below. The student will show a results score of red if the students are at risk for reading difficulties and can benefit from targeted interventions. 
TX-KEA dyslexia measures sample scores
Intervention Tools
Intervention for dyslexia directly, explicitly, and systematically teaches an awareness of the sounds of language, letter-sound associations, vocabulary, and strategies for understanding written language. Guided, repeated practice enables the student to apply what they have learned efficiently. Intensity (e.g., smaller group size, extended length of small group times, and more individualized lessons) is what distinguishes dyslexia intervention from Tier 1 reading instruction.
The CIRCLE Activity Collection and the CIRCLE Activity Collection: Family consists of intervention lessons in English & Spanish for PK-2nd grade students. Teachers are provided with hands-on instructional resources for the classroom and can support families in extending these interventions at home with their own children. This extensive collection of teaching strategies and lessons support cognitive, social, and emotional learning along with exemplar videos of real classroom teachers, scaffolds, as well as extension activities for small and whole groups. These activities are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.  
CIRCLE Activity Collection webpage
Family CIRCLE Activity Collection webpage
The Small Grouping Tool provides both a grouping report and recommended targeted interventions for struggling readers. The grouping tool breaks students into groups for teachers based on their assessment results. The groups contain students that have not yet reached the satisfactory level for each skill and fell below the benchmark for the measured learning domain. These students need more practice with certain skills and will benefit from small group instruction. 
Here is an example of the Grouping Tool suggested groups based on scores. 
Example from Small Grouping Tool
The grouping report automatically generates intervention lesson plans that are directly tied to the progress monitoring results; they are related to the skills with which the students need support. These interventions can also be found in the CIRCLE Activity Collection on the CLI Engage platform.
With this approach and these tools in hand, teachers can best address targeted intervention for students with possible reading difficulties. However, if the student is identified as at risk, then follow TEA’s Universal Screening and Data Review for Reading Risk flowchart as seen below for further diagnostic analysis and/or evaluation.  
Universal Screening and Data Review for Reading Risk flowchart

Moats, L. C., & Hall, S. L. (1999). Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years. Contemporary Books.

Statistics. (n.d.). Dyslexia Center of Utah. Retrieved March 30, 2021, from

Understanding the Basics of Dyslexia. (2020, September 10). Scottish Rite for Children. Retrieved from
CLI Engage Resources
Learn about our dyslexia referral and screening resources on CLI Engage by watching the video. 
Access the Dyslexia Referral Checklist manuals to use with any progress monitoring tool or universal screening for teachers to document student data to determine if a student might be at risk. Versions available in English and Spanish for grade levels K-2.

The TEA’s handbook contains guidelines for school districts to follow as they identify and provide services for students with dyslexia. In addition, information regarding the state's dyslexia statutes and their relation to various federal laws is included.
CLI Engage is part of the Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth