Region 4—Trans4ming Education

What They Need, When They Need It

Laura Dowdy Northcutt, Director of Responsive Services for Humble Independent School District, advocates for implementing tools to help students conquer educational challenges. “My philosophy is any time you think you know everything, you're probably in trouble. There's always more to know about any topic, and there are always more tools to have to support our students.” The tool she’s talking about is Reading by Design (RBD), a five-volume professional learning system designed to help teachers at every grade level help students with dyslexia and related disorders at every literacy level.

Humble ISD used other dyslexia intervention programs before Reading by Design, but the district needed a program that offered efficiency in training and costs and could meet students where they were on their path to literacy. The district had an opportunity to pilot Reading by Design at about the same time her son, a second grader, was identified with having dyslexia.  So not only was she reviewing its performance from an administrative level, but she was also reviewing it on a more personal level.



Right away, she noticed the repetition of routines. “That’s one of the things I love about it. It’s constantly spiraling and repeating previously learned concepts. That’s such an essential part of the program for mastery. In the 2019–2020 school year, Humble ISD rolled out RBD as the district’s evidence-based dyslexia program.


Teachers can’t teach a program until they are proficient in the program’s implementation. “Thank goodness Reading by Design is a 5-day training program,” Northcutt explains that students need interventions now and can’t wait for teachers to complete a 2-year certification. According to her, the teachers using Reading by Design love seeing how the students progress in their skills. The review lessons and embedded mastery checks mean the teachers can always see how the students are doing and can make adjustments along the way.

For the past two years, teachers have also been using the RBD app, and the district is exploring ways to leverage the app to support compliance and fidelity. It helps administrators to examine district and campus trends which is essential, Northcutt explains.

Northcutt, herself a parent of a student with dyslexia and dysgraphia appreciates how family-friendly the app is, too. “They can see the growth and skills.” Parents can view the scope and sequence, the overview of the program, what students are studying, and progress reports which enhances parental engagement.

“It’s really been a partnership with Region 4 as we’ve adopted the program. They’ve been great about supporting us. Each district has unique challenges based on different needs, and Jan [Cook] is always willing to customize with us. That support is essential. I can’t imagine moving to another program without that support. We can call her for any training needs, even if it’s a custom session. Jan has helped me so much.”

And what about Northcutt’s son? She volunteered him when the district decided to pilot RBD because she felt the program was tailored to his needs. RBD provided ways for his teacher to keep in contact and worked on his fluency skills. Now, in eighth grade, he is reading on grade level. “He did not think that he wanted to go to college, and this year, he’s really started talking about college and his plans. That’s been great to see his skill growth but also his confidence grow, and that’s what I can say about Reading by Design as a parent. “I appreciate Jan, not only for my district, but for my son. He’s better because of you, so thank you.” 

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Region 4 Education Service Center
7145 West Tidwell Road Houston, Texas 77092-2096
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