Table of Contents

  • VICTORY! Vermont Legislature Mandates K-3 Reading Assessment, Instruction and Educator Training
  • The Interview: School Leadership to Improve Reading 
  • A Teacher's View: Finding My Way to Structured Literacy
  • New Voices with High School Junior Julia Calias
  • Professional Development Opportunities
  • READ for Parents - Special Education Advocacy - June 12, 2024
  • Maine Science of Reading School Leadership Summit with Natalie Wexler and Brittney Bills - June 20, 2024

VICTORY! Vermont Legislature Mandates K-3 Reading Assessment, Instruction and Educator Training

By Brittany Lovejoy, M.Ed., IDA-NNEA Board Member

On Friday, May 10, 2024, the Vermont Legislature voted by straw poll and approved S.204. An act relating to supporting Vermont’s young readers through evidence-based literacy instruction. The bill now awaits the signature of Vermont Governor Phil Scott who, in his January 2024 Budget Address, stated the need for improved reading instruction. Governor Scott said, “We’re proposing new strategies and more tools to improve reading levels, strengthen training, and refocus on proven techniques to help teachers and students.” 

The Vermont State Legislature answered his call. This extraordinary act of bipartisanship is the culmination of years of advocacy. Dozens of Vermont educators, parents, and community members raised awareness of the thousands of VT children unable to read – making phone calls, writing letters and emails, joining a petition that gathered 800+ signatures, and initiating 1:1 conversations with state lawmakers. Several leaders testified, sharing their own perspectives and the opportunity to change students’ lives with evidence-based literacy instruction. They included psychologist Abby Roy, literacy tutor Cynthia Gardner-Morse, thirteen-year-old dyslexia advocate Aliyah Ivey-Leake, longtime educator Dorinne Dorfman, and Mississippi State Literacy Director Kristen Wynn. Officials from professional education organizations and the Vermont Agency of Education also weighed in during both the Senate and House Education Committee hearings. 

Seven Days reporter Alison Novak created a watershed moment publishing Reading Reckoning last October, one of the paper’s most read articles of 2023. IDA-NNEA members were at the forefront of providing testimony to the legislature and information to media outlets, setting the stage for scientifically based curriculum, instruction, and assessment to become law. 

Initially, the bill unanimously passed by the Senate included screening for dyslexia characteristics and a ban on the three-cueing system (which teaches students to guess words based on the first letters and context in lieu of teaching decoding). Next, the House engaged in discussion and gathered more perspectives. Their version had distinct differences from the Senate’s, including language that implicitly supported the disproven approach – “Strategies such as the three-cueing system shall not be used in a manner that precedes or supplants decoding instruction” – allowing the three-cueing system to continue. Further, several state representatives firmly believed that the role of government did not extend to classroom instruction. In this view, teachers make the best decisions for their students, whom they know best, without government interference. This criticism first emerged when Senator Martine Gulick introduced S.204 to the Senate Education Committee in January with the testimony of Jeff Fannon, Executive Director of the VT-National Education Association. In response, Gulick countered, “Where is the line? At what point do so many students have to fail before the government steps in?” Fannon gave no answer. Differences in opinion were stark and compromises were needed to reconcile the Senate and House versions of S.204. The risk of no literacy legislation passing grew.

Three-cueing became the focal point. A massive email campaign ensued on May 8, two days before the legislative session was scheduled to end for the year. The message, “Pass S.204 & Either Ban Three-Cueing OR Remove Three-Cueing Language,” was sent across the state. Senator Gulick replied, “Yes. I’m on it. We’ll have a conference committee and I will stand strong.” 

And strong she was! Compromise was reached in the conference committee. In the final bill, all three-cueing language was removed but screening for dyslexia characteristics remained. Before the floor vote, Senator Gulick explained the evolution of the bill, which had seen some ten drafts between January and May. When referring to the differences of opinion around three-cueing, she chuckled, “I bet you all got emails on three cueing!” and laughter rose from the chamber. 

How will S.204 improve student reading in the years to come? While not perfect or failsafe, the sixteen-page Act “supporting Vermont’s young readers through evidence-based literacy instruction” includes the requirements listed below. Sections are omitted where regulations already on the books are unchanged.

  • Statement of philosophy: A strong focus is needed on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension for all students, and needs-based tiers and layers of support are critical for struggling learners.

  • Recommend valid screeners: The Agency of Education shall review and publish guidance on universal reading screeners based on established criteria that are based on technical adequacy, attention to linguistic diversity, administrative usability, and valid measures of the developmental skills in early literacy, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

  • Screening procedures: Each public and approved independent school that is eligible to receive public tuition shall screen all students in kindergarten through grade three, at least annually, using age and grade-level appropriate universal reading screeners. The universal screeners shall be given in accordance with best practices and the technical specifications of the specific screener used. 

  • Response to intervention: If such screenings determine that a student is significantly below relevant benchmarks as determined by the screener’s guidelines for age-level or grade-level typical development in specific literacy skills, the school shall determine which actions within the general education program will meet the student’s needs, including differentiated or supplementary evidence-based reading instruction and ongoing monitoring of progress. 

  • Parent notification: Within 30 calendar days following a screening result that is significantly below the relevant benchmarks, the school shall inform the student’s parent or guardian of the screening results and the school’s response.

  • Dyslexia screening: Additional diagnostic assessment and evidence-based curriculum and instruction for students demonstrating a substantial deficit in reading or dyslexia characteristics.

  • Effective instruction: Evidence-based reading instructional practices, programs, or interventions provided pursuant to subsection (c) of this section shall be effective, explicit, systematic, and consistent with federal and state guidance and shall address the foundational concepts of literacy proficiency, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

  • Reporting requirements: Each supervisory union and approved independent school that is eligible to receive public tuition shall annually report to the Agency, by school: (A) the number and percentage of students in kindergarten through grade three performing below proficiency on local and statewide reading assessments, as applicable; and (B) the universal reading screeners utilized.

  • Teachers trained in reading instruction: All students need to receive systematic and explicit evidence-based reading instruction in the early grades from a teacher who is skilled in teaching the foundational components of reading. Students who require intensive supplemental instruction tailored to the unique difficulties encountered shall be provided those additional supports by an appropriately trained education professional.

  • Effective literacy plan and implementation for private schools: Approved independent schools that are eligible to receive public tuition shall develop a grade-level appropriate school literacy plan that is informed by student needs and assessment data.

  • Reading intervention for all in need: A public school or approved independent school that is eligible to receive public tuition that offers instruction in grades kindergarten, one, two, or three shall provide systematic and explicit evidence-based reading instruction to all students supplemental reading instruction to any enrolled student whose reading proficiency falls below proficiency standards for the student’s grade level or whose reading proficiency prevents progress in school.

  • Professional educator learning: Each supervisory union and each approved independent school shall provide professional learning activities provided pursuant to this section shall be evidence-based, effective, explicit, systematic, and consistent with federal and State guidance and shall incorporate the foundational concepts of literacy proficiency, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

  • Higher education for tomorrow’s teachers: The Agency of Education shall submit recommendations to the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Educators on how to strengthen educator preparation programs’ teaching of evidence- based literacy practices. 

While it is not possible to thank everyone who contributed to the development, defense, and passage of S.204, some people have gone above and beyond to achieve this success. Many thanks to these extraordinary members of the Vermont community: Cindy and Mack Gardner-Morse, Charlene Webster, Dr. Brenda Warren, Dr. Dorinne Dorfman, Dr. Bud Meyers, Abby Roy, Jeff Leake, Aliyah Ivey-Leake, Hilary Paquet, Barbara Borowske, Jared and Holly Weiss, Julie Brown, Alison Novak, Grace Pazdan, Melissa King, Kathryn Grace, Katherine Barwin, Katie Ballard, Peggy Price, Dr. Bruce Rosow, Sandra Murphy, Elyse Preambo, Sandra Chittenden, and all the people who supported this bill via written testimony. 

From the depths of our hearts, we thank Senators Martine Gulick, Brian Campion, Nader Hashim, David Weeks, Anne Watson, and Andrew Perchlik, as well as to Representatives Sarita Austin, Tesha Buss, and Christopher Taylor.

When we know better, we do better! We can teach ALL STUDENTS TO READ WELL and LOVE READING FOR A LIFETIME! Congratulations, Vermont! Finally, we have a K-3 dyslexia screening and evidence-based instruction bill, plus so much more!

A Note from the IDA-NNEA Newsletter Chair: A huge thank you goes to Brittany Lovejoy, longtime IDA-NNEA board member and literacy instructor, for all her efforts – vision, encouragement, networking, and moral support – in rallying the troops and passing S.204.

School Leadership to Improve Student Reading 

Interview with Katherine Barwin, Teacher and former Administrator

In this new feature, IDA-NNEA Board Member Dorinne Dorfman, Ed. S., Ed. D., OG/A interviews reading researchers and other professionals devoted to the goal of literacy for everyone. She would like to acknowledge IDA-NNEA member Kathryn Grace for her contributions to this interview.

Katherine Barwin has been in education for over 40 years. She served as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach, curriculum director, principal, and leadership consultant. Currently, she is a Tier II reading specialist for grades K-2 at Allen Brook School in Williston.

Dorinne Dorfman: Welcome, Kathy! Would you please describe the program you attended where you learned to teach reading?

Katherine Barwin: I was lucky enough to get my Master’s Degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where the Reading, Language, and Learning Disabilities Department was headed by Jeanne Chall.

DD: What led you to attend the program?

KB: Originally, I earned my undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont in education and psychology. I taught middle level reading/language arts in Dorset for one year and in Middlebury for 17 years. Within five years of starting my teaching career, I realized that I didn’t have the skills to differentiate my instruction for the wide range of students in my class, nor did I have the skills to help those kids who still didn’t have basic reading skills. That’s why I applied to Harvard’s reading program. When I returned to Middlebury, I had learned how to differentiate my regular classroom instruction and, when the schedule was eventually adjusted, I was also able to run a one-block supplemental reading lab at the end of the day. This was an additional block for kiddos on my team who were struggling to read, but who didn’t have an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Click here to continue interview with Katherine Barwin

Finding My Way to Structured Literacy 

By Charlene Webster

Arlington, Vermont

As a newly hired third-grade elementary teacher with a dual license in special education in the early nineties, I embraced Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, bought the books, and shared with colleagues. You know the process. Eventually I realized that it wasn’t me failing at the implementation of this theory, it was the theory itself. Today I chuckle reading De Bruyckere’s (2018) article, “Myth-Busting: Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences,” in which Gardner admits that if he had theorized about “multiple talents,” instead of “intelligences,” his work, published in Frames of Mind (1983), would have received far less attention from psychologists. These included the following abilities: visual-spatial, linguistic-verbal, logical-mathematical, body-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and (in 1999) naturalistic.

However, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory did not uphold the empirical methodology of measuring intelligence as a predictive power. Today he admits his theory “is no longer current” and that he is “no longer wedded to the particular list of intelligences that I initially developed.”

Click here to continue interview with Charlene Webster

New Voices...

In this feature, we share stories of inspiration and hope to the wider community that also empowers the interviewees in the journey to address challenges and achieve goals.

Julia Calias is currently a junior at Exeter High School (NH). She plays softball year-round and is looking into furthering her academic career by studying business in college. Julia hopes to inspire children with dyslexia to never give up and always follow their dreams. 

Dorinne Dorfman: Would you please tell us about yourself as a reader, writer, and learner? 

Julia Calias: I’m a really dedicated student. Although reading and writing has always been a challenge for me, in middle and high school, I figured out which genres I like and read more and more. In high school, I fell in love with poetry and creative writing. That helped me become a better writer. But all my life I have had difficulty with reading and spelling longer words. When I’m reading out loud, especially when I feel like I’m under a lot of pressure, I will mess up the words, say different words, or even mess up the tiny words. 

DD: How did you learn about dyslexia? 

JC: I was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade. Throughout elementary school I would be brought into this small, closed-in room that was surrounded by walls of words. I felt abnormal and mad about having to leave the classroom. In fourth grade, my mother explained to me that I had dyslexia. After that, I learned that I just learn differently than others. 

DD: Did you feel like this instruction helped? 

JC: I definitely feel that they really helped me. All the techniques they used, especially all of the extra writing support, helped me become a stronger student.

Click here to continue interview with Julia Calias

But is this really a good reading program? The Reading League publishes Curriculum Evaluation Guidelines

At last, educators and parents can now use The Reading League’s (TRL) Curriculum Evaluation Guidelines to help make informed decisions about reading curricula.

A “red flag” system is used. Elements of reading programs that do not meet the science of reading guidelines are listed. If a curriculum deals with that element in a satisfactory manner a green strip is provided. If it does not address this area, then a red strip is shown. In this way, both aligned and non-aligned practices are noted, and consumers can check publishers’ claims of alignment with reading science.

TRL has reported an analysis of seven popular reading programs: Aprendo Leyendo, Amplify CKLA, Education: Expeditionary Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Into Reading, Open Court SRA, PAF Reading Program, and McGraw Hill’s Wonders Curriculum

Five publishers invited to participate in TRL’s study either declined or did not respond. These companies include American Reading Company, Benchmark Education, Heinemann’s Fountas & Pinnell, Savaas’ MyView, and Heinemann’s Units of Study by Lucy Calkins.

Professional Development Opportunities

IDA-NNEA is happy host READ for Parents. READ stands for Research, Education, and Advocacy on Dyslexia. We host free 60-90 minutes virtual webinars for parents and educators every other month focusing on a topic from the IDA Dyslexia Fact Sheets.


In addition to our board member panelists, each session includes a guest speaker with deep knowledge of the topic. See below to register for our free June Zoom webinar.

Register here for: Upcoming READ for Parents on June 12, 2024 at 7 PM

  • "Special Education and Advocacy" with Allison Wiest and Dylan Campbell of the Maine Parent Federation

Come Join Your Colleagues!

Come join your colleagues, professionals, and those interested in literacy. Are you a service provider or organization? Special rates are available.

If interested in serving on the board and expanding your leadership repertoire, contact IDA-NNEA president Susan Hourihan to learn more about our exciting volunteer positions.

Join IDA



IDA-NNEA's Board of Directors consists of up to 17 individuals who serve on a volunteer basis for 2- or 3-year terms. Many previous Board Directors now serve on our Advisory Board providing guidance and assistance.

2024 Board Officers:

President: Susan Hourihan, ME

Immediate Past President: Brenda Peters, NH

Treasurer: Karyn Hubbard, ME

Secretary: Jennifer Cyr, ME

2023 Members at Large:

Dorinne Dorfman, VT

Nancy Kring-Burns, NH

Brittany Lovejoy, VT

Elaine Miskinis, NH

Amy Phalon, ME

Andrea Pollock, NH

Holly Weiss, VT

Brenda Warren, VT

Heidi Zollman, NH

Rachel Brown-Chidsey, ME

Marcia Davis, VT

Advisory Board:

Jayne Beaton, NH

Bebe Casey, NH

Aileen Cormier, NH

Anne Eaton, NH

Anne Ehret, VT

Beth McClure, NH

Caryl Patten, MA

Michael Patten, MA

Melissa Farrall, VT

Claudia Golda-Dominguez, NH

Renee LeCain, Sandown, NH

Susan Morbey, NH

Shannon Dixon-Yandow, VT

Michelle Stinson, NH

Dale Vincent, NH

Jacqui Kelleher, VT

Kristine Reilly, NH

Become a Member
Join Our Mailing List
Donate to IDA NNEA
Facebook  Instagram  Twitter