Students with Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities Need to Be Identified and Successful
Congress is presently racing to reauthorize what used to be No Child Left Behind and is now know as ESEA or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The present bills have three major flaws:
1- The RTI Trap (TM) is alive and not addressed. Response to Intervention is still treated as an integral part of the process before students can qualify for Special Education Services, and neither the House or Senate version puts any controls on how long the process takes. Too often students are in RTI for over a year, and we need some controls. My recommendation would be to limit the process to 24 weeks, and only extend it if a student is in Tier 3, the final leg, and is making solid progress towards getting back to grade level. Disability groups have been quiet on this point. In Florida, we have seen the percent of students identified with a Specific Learning Disability decline from 8.8% to 4.8% — with the new and much more rigorous Florida State Standards and Common Core Standards elsewhere, one would expect to see the percent of students identified to increase.
A 24 week limit could be used as follows:
– 4 weeks for the home room teacher to try some intervention, if that fails
– 8 weeks for Tier 2 so another teacher can try some other interventions, if that fails
– 12 weeks for Tier 3 for a pullout or other service to be tried
I would recommend the law allow 24 weeks and leave it up to the states on how to use the time
2- States need to have goals for reading and math proficiency for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities. Florida has not made a real attempt to achieve their reading proficiency goal. In Florida, the reading proficiency rate was 31% back in 2011 and we have slipped to 27%, versus a 2014 goal of 47%. The shortfall versus the goal is likely to exceed 30% when the new tests are given — and the predictions for the drop in passing scores are unchanged from when the goals were set. Other states have similar challenges.
Disabilities groups have correctly fought to keep the sub-group reporting and further disaggregation of data (e.g. to report Students with Specific Learning Disabilities separately, but they have not fought for a specific group goal — which is Florida has been 71% for students with disabilities by 2018.
At present, the Florida Commissioner of Education has overseen no growth for all students and no growth for students with disabilities. When asked about doing something special for students with disabilities she responded, “Why should I do something different for students with disabilities?”
3- We have focus on the end goals of graduation, but have put precious little focus on Success by Third Grade — with a sharpened focus on growth in 4th and 5th grade, we have inadvertently put 4 times as much focus on 4th and 5th grade reading proficiency and gains versus 3rd grade success. As a result, principals shift resources from 2nd and 3rd grades, and more of the students with dyslexia and learning disabilities suffer from less focus and more third grade retention
High School Graduation Rates is a Successful Effort
I will use high school graduation rates as a great example where the US Department of Education has focused the states on improving high school graduation rates for students with disabilities and Florida for one has done an excellent job of responding with new tests, waiver systems and different pathways to a high school degree.
We need to leverage that success with similar efforts on improving reading for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities and all other disabilities and success by third grade.
The challenge is that the passing rate for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities is at 11% and we need to find a way to focus our efforts on helping students with dyslexia and learning disabilities to succeed.
Let’s put some time limits on RTI
Let’s set a 2020 goal for reading proficiency for students with disabilities and for success by third grade.
Let’s leverage the success with high school graduation rates and help students with dyslexia and learning disabilities read better, with a special focus on Success by Third Grade.