The Urban League's proposed charter school for youth of color has been at the forefront of the local education conversation in recent weeks. But Madison Prep isn't the only school in town making plans for a launch. Much more quietly, on the second floor of a nondescript west-side office building, another new Madison high school is looking to serve students struggling with dyslexia.
If all goes according to plan, the Wisconsin Institute for Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia Inc. (WILDD), a Madison-based nonprofit that specializes in academic therapy for dyslexic individuals, will open a nontraditional high school next fall. Called the Wisconsin Institute for Learning, or WIL, the private high school will become the first in Wisconsin to offer a curriculum specifically developed for students with reading-based learning disabilities. And with as many as 15% of the American population affected by dyslexia, WILDD executive director Ervin Carpenter feels this is an educational option whose time has come.
"The treatment of dyslexia isn't just about making accommodations," he says. "With proper interventions you can actually remediate it. This high school will be a natural outgrowth of everything we've learned about teaching people with learning disabilities and dyslexia for over 30 years."
For Carpenter and his wife, Kim, the Institute's cofounder, the Wisconsin Institute for Learning is a personal as well as professional calling. Ervin himself was diagnosed with dyslexia in 1982 at the age of 32. And three of their four children, as well as three of their grandchildren, struggle with the disability. This familial experience, coupled with extensive careers as special education teachers in the Dodgeville school system, taught the couple that traditional learning environments often can't meet the needs of dyslexic students. And this realization led them to open WILDD's first independent learning center in Madison in 2005.
The organization has grown significantly since then, including the opening of an additional location in West Allis in 2010. Between the two centers, the institute now employs over 60 people and has assisted over 300 clients, including many veterans. The Carpenters attribute their success to the proprietary multi-sensory teaching program they've developed, based on the Orton-Gillingham method.
"Many children learn to read by generalizing," says Kim. "For example, they will see the word 'cow' spelled out under a photograph of a Holstein in a picture book.... Eventually, when they are developmentally able, these kids will recognize that most other 'ow' words are going to sound the same."
But according to WILDD literature, individuals with dyslexia must approach reading phonetically, focusing first on the structure of language. They learn that letters make sounds, that sounds make words and syllables, and that words make sentences. Students see and write each letter as they say and hear each sound. This is the teaching model that the Carpenters and their staff plan to introduce to WIL's inaugural class of ninth-graders next fall.
"Our class sizes will be small, eight to 10 students at most," says Ervin. "Many of these kids will have felt very isolated in traditional learning environments. Being a poor reader can have a devastating effect on a child's self-esteem. But WIL will allow young adults with dyslexia to learn at their own speed in a group environment." Regularly scheduled one-on-one instructional sessions will take place as well.
Audrey Trainor, associate professor of special education at UW-Madison and an expert on adolescents with learning disabilities, believes there can be academic benefits to attending schools like the Wisconsin Institute for Learning, especially for students at risk of dropping out. But she believes the decision to attend one must be weighed carefully.
"In my research I've spoken to adolescents who don't like the label associated with going to a specialized school for kids with learning disabilities," says Trainor. "They also miss out on the enrichment opportunities a bigger environment can offer, things like playing in the band or participating in sports. Parents need to ask lots of questions regarding the costs, social as well as financial, of making the move."
The new school will be located inside WILDD's current west-side Madison learning center, 6400 Enterprise Lane. Many of the teaching positions will be staffed by the center's current instructors, but it is likely a couple more, who will be trained by the Carpenters, may be added next spring and summer. Applications are currently being accepted for enrollment in the program, and while tuition will be set on an individual basis, it is likely to be on the high side for area private schools due to the one-on-one therapy students will receive.
WIL's instructors will all have four-year college degrees and be certified in WILDD's instructional methods. This certification involves 45 hours of classroom instruction, 100 practicum hours, and 10 hours of mentorship in addition to continuing education and professional development coursework.
"Our teachers aren't just extremely well trained," says Kim Carpenter, "but also passionate about helping students overcome their difficulties to become independent learners."
The school plans to add a new class of freshmen each academic year until it reaches full capacity. A full academic curriculum that adheres to Wisconsin state standards and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction curriculum guidelines is in the works. But WIL staff will try to be creative in how certain requirements are met.
"For physical education, for instance," says Kim, "we'll try to offer tai chi or yoga. We believe these kinds of centering activities can have a profoundly positive effect on kids' attention."
"The ultimate goal is for our high school program to act as a catalyst to overcome learning differences," says Ervin Carpenter. "We want our students to move on to post-secondary educational opportunities."
For additional information about the WIL high school program, contact WILDD at 608-250-5130 or visit their website.comments powered by Disqus
Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?
If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.
I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.
On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.
You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.
If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.
At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).
My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.
"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.