From The Desk Of The President…

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Hal Malchow

By Hal Malchow, President, IDA

The summer has been incredibly busy for IDA. We are making great progress in building a bigger, better, and more effective IDA.

Structured Literacy

When you pull back and look at the challenges facing children with dyslexia, one problem towers over all others. Despite laws to ensure that students with dyslexia have an individualized education plan (IEP) to provide them with an “appropriate education,” few of our public schools are providing appropriate reading instruction. Why? The vast majority of teachers do not receive adequate training in how to teach reading.

IDA’s mission is to change reading instruction in our schools. Our work is supported by research showing that our systematic and explicit phonics-driven approach is more effective for all students. IDA has defined what the evidence shows to be the most effective reading instruction. We are accrediting universities that are preparing their teachers to bring evidence-based reading instruction into the classroom, and we have begun work on a certification exam that will provide credentials for teachers who are already trained in our approach.

The IDA Board of Directors made a landmark decision designed to help market our approach to reading instruction. The board chose a name that would encompass all approaches to reading instruction that conform to IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. That name is “Structured Literacy.” The next steps are reaching out to educators and preparing for the campaign to market our approach.

Throughout our education system, awareness about the success of our approach to reading instruction has been hampered by a problem. The approach to reading instruction described in IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards goes by many different names: Orton-Gillingham, Multisensory Reading Instruction, Explicit Phonics, and many others. When organizations (e.g., Wilson, Neuhaus, etc.) train teachers, our approach often is referred to by the name of that organization. All of these programs belong to one family of reading instruction, but there never has been one term to refer to all these programs.

If we want school districts to adopt our approach, we need a name that brings together our successes. We need one name that refers to the many programs that teach reading in the same way. A name is the first and essential step to building a brand.

So IDA began a process. We reached out to 300 professional members and asked them to suggest names. Based upon that input, we prepared a list of ten names and asked more than 700 professionals to select the three they preferred. After that input, we chose the three names that had the most support and polled both parents and teachers. Taking all of that input into consideration, we conducted a long discussion of the merits of each choice at our April board meeting.

On July 1st, the IDA Board selected the term “Structured Literacy” to designate the family of programs with many different names.  We are not attempting to remove terms like “Multisensory” or “Orton-Gillingham” from our vocabulary. We are creating an umbrella term, a brand that can tie all of these beautiful teaching approaches together with a single name. Now, when we speak to educators about our more effective approach to reading instruction, we can speak of one brand that encompasses the work of our entire community. “Structured Literacy” will help us sell what we do so well.

Executive Director Search

While we are working to advance Structured Literacy, we are busy with a second critical initiative. We have begun our search for a new, permanent Executive Director for IDA. We have hired Sterling Martin Associates in Washington, DC to lead our search. Sterling Martin specializes in recruiting for non-profits like IDA. In the coming months, we will be identifying and interviewing prospective Executive Directors and Sterling Martin will be a great asset in that effort. We should all be aware that we face a critical, and in some ways, difficult task in finding a first-rate Executive Director. IDA has had six different executive directors during the last twelve years. We must find and hire the right candidate and then put our new Executive Director in a position to succeed.


Our current website does not adequately reflect the growth and vision of our organization. In fact, our website can make a poor first impression and does little to encourage support for our work. I am happy to announce that we are optimistic that an initial version of the new website will be launched before our annual conference in November.

Leading our effort has been John Mayo-Smith who has given us an extraordinary amount of time and wisdom in shaping our new website. John has advised organizations like Google, Facebook, NIKE, and AARP on their web communications, and we are fortunate to have his involvement with this project. I have no doubt that all our community will be impressed with the end product and that the work and vision John has brought to this project will result in still more membership growth and a stronger reputation for IDA.

I want to thank our Board of Directors for helping move IDA forward on so many fronts. I want to thank our excellent staff who is doing great work to advance our mission. And I want to thank the many IDA volunteers who help create our content, support our mission, and move our work forward. It is a great honor to help lead this work.

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