Classrooms at Calhan High School on March 15, 2022. Calhan High serves upward of 400 students from preschool to 12th grade. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

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As the state’s dyslexia screening pilot program enters its second year, several Colorado districts are rolling out their own screening programs to flag children at risk for the learning disability. 

The 29,000-student Boulder Valley district will screen all kindergarteners for dyslexia this spring, after piloting the screening tool at some elementary schools for two years. The tiny La Veta district in southern Colorado will begin screening all kindergarten and first grade students at its only elementary school this year.

The pair are among a growing number of Colorado districts poised to go beyond state requirements in the hopes that universal screening will help teachers better tailor instruction and give families more information about potential learning challenges. 

Their efforts come as the state continues a small dyslexia screening pilot program that will likely yield recommendations in the second half of 2023. That program was delayed a year because only one school applied initially.

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that makes it hard to identify speech sounds, decode words, and spell them. It can interfere with the ability to read and learn for a lifetime, but with the right instruction, students can do as well as their peers. Dyslexia affects 15-20% of the population, according to the Colorado Department of Education. 

Michelle Qazi, Boulder Valley’s literacy director and a member of the state’s Dyslexia Working Group, believes universal screening is more equitable than the old system where a family with a struggling reader would often pay for an expensive outside evaluation for dyslexia. 

“We are screening every single kindergartner that comes in,” she said. “It’s a really important piece of data.”

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Ann Schimke

Senior reporter — Chalkbeat Colorado. Email: aschimke@chalkbeat.org Twitter: @annschimke