Supporting students with learning disabilities is a priority of the Rapid City Area Schools. There were 17,581 special education students in kindergarten through age 21 in the South Dakota public school system in December 2015. Special Education students make up approximately 13.43% of the K-12 student population. South Dakota and Rapid City Area Schools recognize dyslexia as a type of learning disability; and in December 2015, public school districts identified 6,735 students with a specific learning disability.
It is important to point out in October of 2015, the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services released a Dear Colleague Letter to States clarifying that dyslexia is a specific learning disability, and it is acceptable to use the term and evaluate students with dyslexia. This letter was disseminated to school districts emphasizing the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia during IEP team meetings and other meetings with parents.
Dyslexia was also a topic of discussion during the 2016 legislative session in South Dakota. The outcome of the 2016 legislative session was to form a Dyslexia Stakeholders Group comprised of stakeholders concerned about students with dyslexia, K-12 educators, postsecondary representatives, and Department of Education representatives. The workgroup was tasked with meeting three different times to discuss the challenges facing students with dyslexia and how best to address their needs.
In 2017-2018, Rapid City Area Schools formed it's own Dyslexia Workgroup consisting of a diverse group of professionals from Rapid City Area Schools. The following priorities were established by the workgroup and continue to be the focus of their work.
Rapid City Area Schools Dyslexia Workgroup Priorities:
Research and identify dyslexia screeners and identification assessments;
Increase our knowledge of explicit instructional strategies and it’s relationship to dyslexia;
Develop a professional learning model for all teachers that maximizes outcomes for struggling readers and students with dyslexia;
Review the recommended material of the K-12 Reading Adoption Committee and provide feedback on Tier I,II, and III interventions; and
Provide regular communication of committee work to RCAS educators.
In addition to the Dyslexia Workgroup, a Dyslexia Community Stakeholders Workgroup was formed. This group of individuals consist of trained professionals in the area of dyslexia, parents/grandparents of the children/student verified with dyslexia, college professors with an understanding of dyslexia, and other individuals from Rapid City with an interest in discussing and learning more about dyslexia.