It was a leap of faith, but in the end it was a success.

After working with his own son to overcome his struggles with dyslexia, Brian Mormino, executive director of environmental strategy and compliance for Cummins, Inc., collaborated with local education leaders to implement a new kindergarten reading curriculum known as Read by 3 in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

Read by 3 is a multi-sensory, explicit teaching method that aims to ensure all students are reading on grade level by third grade, when students take the statewide IREAD-3 assessment.

Kindergarten students at Taylorsville Elementary School and Columbus Signature Academy – Lincoln campus learn a new letter every day starting with the second day of school, said Therese Haas, the BCSC Read by 3 coach. As the year progresses, they also learn a new word every two days. The students are divided into reading groups based on their skill levels.

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Students write out letters, speak sounds, tap word syllables on their arms and use other learning methods that tap into each of their sense, Haas said. Every student learns differently, she said, so a multi-sensory curriculum is the best method to ensure every child can connect with the lessons.

“People say they learn things really fast, but they review everything,” Haas said.

Although kindergarten teachers at the two schools were trained in the Read by 3 method just days before the start of the 2014-15 school year, there was marked improvement in the students’ performance after the program was implemented.

While only 81 percent of kindergartners at the two schools were reading on grade level at the end of the 2013-14 school year, that number was up to 89 percent of the 140 students included in the Read by 3 pilot program by May.

At Taylorsville specifically, the number of kindergartners reading on grade level rose from 48 percent to 82 percent — a 70 percent increase.

Even students who already were reading on grade level before beginning Read by 3 showed signed of improvement because of the new program.

At CSA – Lincoln, 60 percent of kindergarten students ended the year performing at a “well above benchmark” level at the end of the 2014-15 school year, compared to only 44 percent the previous year.

“We didn’t screw anything up,” Mormino said with a sigh of relief.

Students’ progress through the Read by 3 program was measured through DIBLES, which is the literacy skills assessment BCSC administers three times a year to its kindergarten students.

Education leaders around the state have taken notice of the district’s efforts to improve students’ reading skills.

Representatives from the Rooney Foundation, as well state Sen. Rod Bray, who has identified education as one of the main causes he wants to advocate for in the state legislature, visited Taylorsville to observe the kindergarten lessons.

Based on what he observed, Bray hopes to develop new ideas he can bring to lawmakers to improve education across the state.

Because of the success of the first year, Taylorsville Elementary School expanded the Read by 3 program to its first-grade classrooms to test its effectiveness at a higher grade level.

Like in kindergarten, Taylorsville teachers will test students at the beginning, middle and end of the year to determine if Read by 3 is improving their literary skills.

If the first-grade results show signs of improvement, the program could be expanded into second grade, as well as into other BCSC schools.

“We want to grow broadly across the district,” Mormino said.

Read by 3 background

Columbus Beginnings: Read by 3 was originally piloted in the Indianapolis Public School system by the M.A. Rooney Foundation. Brian Mormino, who leads the READS — Recognizing, Educating and Advocating for Dyslexic Students — group in Columbus approached the Rooney Foundation to learn how the program could be applied to local schools.

How it works: The program follows a systematic, explicit, multi-sensory instruction model. The systematic element means teachers follow the same schedule in the Read by 3 lesson every day. Explicit means each step in the learning process is directly explained so that learning outcomes are predictable. Multi-sensory means students are using all of their senses to learn, allowing each student to find a learning method that works best for them.

How it’s used: Right now, kindergarten classrooms at Taylorsville and CSA – Lincoln and first-grade classes at Taylorsville use the Read by 3 program. There is a 45-minute lesson every day. Prior to the beginning of the school year, teachers are trained to use the curriculum.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.