CdA staffs over 1,200 educators serving a diverse community of over 9,000 students across 18 schools, spanning all socioeconomic statuses and learning capabilities. CdA’s rigorous standard for academic excellence keeps a keen focus on literacy, providing their students with a well-rounded learning experience, and preparing them for success at all points in their educational journey.

CdA’s journey begins back with its standing commitment to structured literacy teaching practices, integrating various research-based interventions into its core curriculum. However, a critical reassessment in 2015 led the district to pivot away from a more structured model toward one focused on fostering a love for reading through focusing on understanding, questioning, and community building. As students embraced their newfound love of reading, this change inadvertently led to a decline in a focus on foundational skills, and a subsequent decline in assessment scores on the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) benchmark and later the i-Station assessment.

District leaders, including Heather Somers, Director of Federal Programs and Assessment and former CdA elementary school principal, and Dr. Mike Nelson, Deputy Superintendent of CdA, recognized the need for a different approach that not only fostered a love of reading, but made sure students actually gained the foundational skills, like phonemic awareness and phonics, to learn how to read. Enter the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) and its Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach, a method designed to support struggling readers anchored in the Science of Reading.

From there, CdA embarked on a transformative journey. Ms. Somers organized training sessions for her teachers, bringing in trainers certified by IMSE to equip them with the essential techniques. Since 2017, CdA has trained over 87% of its staff, encompassing 247 teachers in the comprehensive OG program, including administrators, as well as 33 educators in Morphology Plus. 

Needless to say, the impact was profound. Student growth soared, with an impressive 146 students moving up two tiers in literacy instruction. One school in particular, Winton Elementary, a Title 1 school, stood out amidst this progress. Despite socioeconomic challenges, Winton showcased exceptional growth, attributing much of it to the dedication of their trained educators. The IRI data for these students revealed significant growth percentages across first, second, and third graders over three years, painting a picture of remarkable progress. The percent growth after using OG came out to 12% for first graders, 18% for second graders, and 18% for third graders. These successes mirror the district’s collective efforts to empower every student.

Individual triumphs underscored IMSE OG’s efficacy. Reflections from special education teachers tell the story of IMSE perfectly; recalling a child lacking in kindergarten experience making significant strides in literacy. Or another, initially requiring an Individualized Education Program (IEP), eventually testing out of special education. These stories are more than just successes, but an ode to the dedication of the educators of CdA and their widespread adoption of IMSE’s OG approach.

Dr. Nelson echoed this sentiment, citing “It’s easier for us as a system to have them look each other in the eyes and ask, “Why are your kids doing so much better?” Fairly organically, teachers started to attribute how kids were performing relative to their training and application of OG in their classrooms.”

As the district moves forward, CdA aims for critical mass training for K-3 teachers, cementing their commitment to district-wide literacy education. Their unwavering dedication ensures that every student, irrespective of background or learning capability, receives the opportunity to read and thrive within an exceptional learning environment. Coeur d’Alene School District’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of innovative teaching methods, collaborative efforts, and an unyielding commitment to student success.

You can download the full story here to learn how Coeur d’Alene School District is benefiting from the power of IMSE OG.

To learn more about how your school or district can improve literacy education with IMSE, call (800) 646-9788 or email to speak with a member of our team today!

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