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Crossing the Chasm, Part 2

Continued from Crossing the Chasm, Part 1,

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For The Dyslexia Initiative I contribute to their blog (well, I’m a co-founder so I just do it), and I wrote a piece called What Does 80% Mean? (  In the piece I state that the percentages listed in the proposed goal (see Part 1) are unacceptable.  Let me extrapolate further, and show why 80% is insufficient.

First, bear in mind your own education.  What is 80%?  It’s a B.  What is 60%?  It’s an F.  Think of the percentages as grades.  That’s got your attention now doesn’t it.

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Now, my district, like so many others, is a deeply entrenched Balanced Literacy (BL) district.  One core BL theorem is called Fountas and Pinnell.  You might know them as leveled readers, or even see reading levels as letters come home on your child’s report card or progress reports.  Well, those letters are the F&P system of judging reading ability.

Well, the Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) reading level bench marking system requires a rate of 91% accuracy for Accuracy/Fluency/Comprehension in order to be considered at an instructional level (in F&P’s letter-based system) and 96% accuracy across the same measures to be considered independent and therefore able to progress onto the next level, e.g. move from leveled reader K to leveled reader L.

If reading level benchmark criteria is set at 91-96%, then goals need to be at 95% at a minimum for reading to achieve grade level standards. They also cannot set the benchmark at 3/5 of all trials because that’s equal to 60% which is equal to failure (3 divided by 5 is .6 or 60%).  Independent means that success is 100% of the time, not 60%.  At 60% the child cannot progress upwards in levels.

Now, before a few people I know start screaming, yes, 80% in 3/5 of all trials is the gold standard for clinical services.  Clinical services include things like speech and occupational therapy.  I’m not arguing to change that standard at all.  I am arguing that bar is insufficient for dyslexia remediation and all related goals.  One cannot be considered a successful reader or read on grade level if one is only succeeding to a bar of 80% and only 60% of the times tried.

If the school district is using the 91-96% criteria to pass to the next reading level, then the goals for the child cannot be set at 80% because the child’s skill sets will not be at the level of automaticity necessary to move up in the levels. The school district is required to develop standards based IEPs that reflect grade level expectations. F&P predetermines and dictates the percentages for determining student’s levels. The district cannot change the publisher’s criteria used for establishing a student’s baseline levels.

Well, my district did change the publisher’s criteria, but they just call it district expectation, and after 2nd grade, it is a watered-down version of the F&P levels; so I hold them to the F&P levels for measuring grade level achievement.

So, how is a child whose goals are set at 70% achievement in 60% of the opportunities supposed to be achieving grade level standards?  Bear in mind this is, in all ways other than dyslexia, a talented and well functioning child with an above average IQ.  If you were not measuring his reading you would have no idea that he struggles in any way.

The answer is they can’t.  This is a child being set up to fail, being dismissed as unworthy of an education, of FAPE, and never being offered the opportunity to achieve grade level standards.  It is a violation of Endrew F.


Having invested in almost four full years of remediation, at quite the dollar and time investment, in doing all we can to assist our child, how can we possibly accept that as ok?  While it was challenging to obtain the knowledge to get here, from an advocate point of view, to break it down to this level of simplicity, because at its core it is simple mathematics, how can we ever accept this?

Further, bear in mind that at the beginning of fourth grade my child was reading at a F&P level L independently and should have been at a P/Q.  By end of year he was reading at an O independently, but should have been at a S/T.  At the beginning of fifth grade (current year) he is stalled at a P/Q which is an END OF 3RD GRADE / BEGINNING OF 4TH MEETS EXPECTATIONS LEVEL.  He is now half way through fifth grade which means he is reading 1.5 years behind grade level expectation.  According to the F&P scale, his reading level is flagged as “Does Not Meet Expectations: Needs Intensive Intervention.”


Yet, because from the beginning to the mid-year point in fourth grade he made a reading level jump from an L to an O, his services were cut in half.  He went from one hour of instruction a day to thirty minutes a day.  They took his resource room teacher from him, the only place where he was getting anything close to 1:1 instruction (it was 2:1), leaving him only with his GenEd dyslexia teacher in a ratio of 6:1 and using a program meant to be completed in 22 weeks, which he is still being instructed in 3.5 years later.  Granted, like the general education dyslexia intervention, what the SpEd teacher was using in the resource room was a crap program, not truly designed for dyslexia remediation, but a focused hour a day, four days a week, on top of his private tutoring yielded gains and because gains were seen it was taken away.

A friend of mine called it the equivalent to tripping a sprinter right before the finish line yet somehow expecting him to win.


(Note in the image the gray coloring which means Approaches Expectations, FOR GRADE 4.  Services were cut in half when, by the F&P scale, the child still did not meet grade level expectations, and was in fact still considered by the F&P scale to be so far below expectation as to be classed that way with the note that the child “Needs Intensive Remediation.”  The P/Q is not on the scale for grade 5 noting that since below R it is flagged as DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS, NEEDS INTENSIVE REMEDIATION.)

So why?  Why would this happen?  What is the purpose?

Turns out the district position is that a child must be two or more grade levels behind in reading to warrant the resource room.  It doesn’t matter that this child has an IEP and is in fact a special education student, the powers that be within the special education hierarchy of the district do not want a child that isn’t more than two grade levels behind in reading to have access to a special education teacher.

Yes, you read that correctly.


I wrote another piece on why the programs are such poor quality called Reading Below Grade Level and you can find it here,

The sum of all of that is why I was angry and therefore procrastinating.  3.5 years on this merry-go-round and we had achieved nothing, no one had learned anything.  My desire for grade level achievement wasn’t even being discussed anymore.  It was all a rosy picture of isn’t everything great, yet the truth is it wasn’t.  Clearly my tactics were NOT working.

Ok, well they were working in so far as I am a thorn in the side of the district and they do not want to deal with me, but for my CHILD, it isn’t working.  While I had gained ground, that ground had been stripped away from my child due to a crap mathematical equation that in the mind of the district justifies not reading on grade level as being acceptable.

Where and how did that become ok?

Bearing all of this in mind, how do I cross the chasm?  I was two ARDs in with one in front of me, and everything above was the constant gremlin eating away at my mind, so how do I cross?

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Continues in Crossing the Chasm, Part 3,

2 comments on “Crossing the Chasm, Part 2

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