Clinton School graduate Chandle Devor Carpenter (‘07) was hired by the Little Rock School District as their Dyslexia Specialist in December 2018.
“About one out of every five students has some form of dyslexia, whether it is diagnosed or not,” Carpenter said. “As educators, our job is to teach so that all students can learn, but many of us didn’t know how.”
Carpenter’s duties include building systems to address the needs of dyslexic students, providing professional development that addresses dyslexia awareness, proving support to dyslexia interventionists, and collaborating with the literacy team develop and implement a district-wide literacy plan.
Carpenter, who taught special education at the high school level for nine years, said she took the first steps toward her current position when she noticed that her older students had more difficult time developing reading skills, even when using the same methods that exhibited success with younger students.
She was discussing the issue with her father, who described to her his own struggles as a dyslexic student.
“My father is an intelligent man, and he is dyslexic,” Carpenter said. “He spent most of his time in school feeling stupid and inadequate. He hated school so much he almost dropped out. Although he has owned several successful businesses, he still has insecurities about reading and bad memories of school.”
Carpenter eventually connected with Kim Head, founder of The Dyslexia Project, an organization that aims to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children, and inform policy-makers on best practices to support students with dyslexia.
Head told Carpenter about dyslexic students at Little Rock Catholic High School who were improving their reading skills by multiple grade levels in a single year. Those students were using the Orton-Gillingham Approach – a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling.
“I studied everything I could find on dyslexia,” Carpenter said. “I read books and articles about the effectiveness of multi-sensory learning. Multi-sensory reading instruction works for all children, but it is one of the only things that works for children with dyslexia. It has become my mission to help every student learn how to read.”
She observed Kim’s classrooms and enlisted in training to improve her instruction. She dedicated her summer to researching how to implement Orton-Gillingham into her teaching. In 2016, she started a reading intervention class at Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School, utilizing kinesthetic, visual, and auditory instruction.
“It was my favorite and most hard-working class,” Carpenter said. “In less than a year, all of them grew multiple grade levels in reading. I saw self-confidence, work ethic, and fortitude that were not there before.”
She took her training a step further after her oldest son was identified as having characteristics of dyslexia. “After his diagnosis, I decided to enroll in the Dyslexia Therapy program at UALR, which I completed last December.”
When she saw that the Little Rock School District wanted to hire someone to expand dyslexia intervention and support, ,she immediately knew she was interested.
Now more than six months into her position with the Little Rock School District, she has much to be excited about. The Little Rock School District recently adopted new reading curriculums that allow for a multi-tiered system of support for students in K-12. The new curriculums will employ and support R.I.S.E. (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) strategies. Starting this school year, LRSD schools will be implementing Heggerty Phonological Awareness, all three levels of Wilson Language Training, and Great Minds: Wit and Wisdom, ensuring each student in the Little Rock School District is given multi-sensory, systematic, evidence-based instruction in reading.
“I believe in the science of reading because I’ve seen it work with our most challenging students,” Carpenter said. “The new curriculum allows teachers to easily put science to practice so every student has access to consistent, quality, evidence-based reading instruction. It’s a game changer, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
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