Well, here we are, living in bizarro world, and at the end of the school year (what school year?) we say good-bye to elementary school. No fanfare, no hugs, no nothing, just leave.
Honestly we might prefer it this way.
No one in my family is overly sentimental. I’ve told many people that my husband would willingly own as little as humanly possible because he hates “things,” but of course he’d need his quickly growing vinyl collection since he’s an audiophile at heart.
At some point in my life, for reasons I cannot explain, I grew unattached to the things around me. I’m the mom trying to digitize all photos, all art work, etc. so I can get rid of the paper. What’s in the attic are holiday decorations, and yes, while I have way too much kitchen stuff, I have very little that doesn’t serve a purpose.
What our child chooses to be sentimental about is strange to me. He never misses stuff when I pitch it without his knowledge, but if you ask about an object you want to pitch then that thing, whatever that thing is, is essential to life and cannot be thrown away. He was very sad to leave his friends at the end of 1st grade, and asked me to set up play dates through 4th grade, which I never did. It was hard to explain to him that play dates were challenging when we were at that school, which is one of the reasons we left; so setting up play dates after moving away was going to be even harder. Over the four years that have passed he has grown less attached to friends in general as they ebb and flow in his life.
It’s sad to think that it is in our youth when we learn the lesson of friends for a reason, a season or for life, but maybe I’m the jaded one on that front.
The challenge now, other than the obvious e-learning environment, which is probably going to be it’s own post, is that my child has an IEP, and that IEP is being violated in this environment.
When we last left our ARD on January 27th, the ask to the team was simple. After not moving in his F&P reading level in thirteen months, the team had six weeks to move his level in the appropriate direction.
Now, let me explain a few key points. The ARD took four sessions because:
- They never allowed enough time for us to conclude.
- We had a new evaluation which took the entirety of meeting #1.
- I requested Occupational Therapy and Executive Functioning evaluations, which we needed to wait for.
- There were fundamental issues we could not agree on, primarily that the goals were wholly inappropriate because,
- The benchmarks were inappropriately low.
- The definition of success was still in the F range.
- The goals were not geared to achieving grade level success, which I’ve been asking for since 3rd grade.
The amusing thing is that in the last ARD, the lead district diagnostician attempted to intimate that the delay was my fault. Isn’t that extremely amusing??? Inwardly when she made that intimation, I nearly fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard, but on the inside.
Anyway, I digress.
So, yes, the Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) measure is disastrously awful, but I have a reason for using it as their goal benchmark.
You see, there are two ways by which one moves up in their F&P level, and both must be achieved. It’s not a one or the other sort of thing.
- So many words per minute must be read, and
- The child is only allowed so many mistakes, if memory serves at three mistakes they are not allowed to progress.
So, while balanced literacy is deeply entrenched in teaching children to guess at the words they are reading, the sick side of it is that the bar by which they can move up is dependent on them getting the words correct and reading them quickly. Yet another highly amusing detail.
Here’s another one. The F&P scale is a meaningless one. As you are well aware, Balanced Literacy does not adhere to the #ScienceOfReading in any way shape or form. Leveled readers do not reinforce the foundations or concepts of phonics or the rules of language. Nothing in a reader is reinforced therefore the child is never given the opportunity to master the concepts of reading. Then, to add insult to injury, they’re judged on grade level reading by a meaningless scale that in essence sets them up for complete and utter failure. If that’s not a knee slapper I don’t know what is.
So, while the F&P scale is wholly and completely pointless, my brain goes to a place that says, well, a child who HAS been taught the rules of language and how to read via the #ScienceOfReading will have no trouble reading one of these completely pointless scaled readers right? Well, yes and no.
See, the issue is that my son struggles with orthographic processing, which means that he may likely always be a slow reader. He reads quite well, and has comprehension at a grade equivalent of 7th grade, 5th month. That was the goal we were working towards all along, strong comprehension. Yes, fluency and accuracy and rate are important, but one must understand how they properly relate to each other, and use the proper methods to reinforce them, but I’m not focusing on that here. I’m focusing on F&P.
The failure is that my son is not reading fast enough to move upward in their scale. If he reads for speed, he makes mistakes. If he reads for accuracy, he reads slower. He makes choices when he reads. This is why we use the GORT (Gray Oral Reading Test) annually to measure how he’s doing and how we need to modify his remediation.
So, is the demand that they shift his F&P measurement in the right direction, that the target of grade level mastery by the F&P scale fair? Well, I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I want grade level mastery, and in a deeply entrenched balanced literacy district, I needed to put it into terms they could understand, because they were definitely not understanding it in the scientific terms I was putting it in.
Yet, none of his goals are written to achieve grade level mastery, at least, not in the timeline in which I was demanding they be achieved in.
I’m so glad you asked.
It boils down to a some key fundamental issues, which we all face.
- Within our educational system dyslexia is treated as a disability which is cognitive in nature and cannot be remediated; and yes, this is despite the science and all of the evidence to the contrary.
- With the deeply established and entrenched position of balanced literacy in our educational institutions, convincing the establishment that there is a better way, a more effective, efficient, less costly way, is falling on deaf ears.
- In many states, despite having dyslexia laws on the books, having a law on the books doesn’t guarantee that it is going to be enforced. There are such things as unenforced laws, which are essentially laws which are ignored. If the law is not mandated (whether funded or unfunded) then no one is necessarily going to enforce the law.
- The slippery slope of “average.” What does average mean? It’s actually a mathematical measurement by which the norm across a group is identified. That’s average. Within education across the last 30+ years, average has been declining. There’s a lot of debate around this, but I’m on the side of yes, average is declining. Bear in mind too, that I have it on recording that it’s ok in my district, that it’s average, for any given child to be a grade and a half to two grades behind before it is necessary to intervene. When I was in school, that would have been a disastrous opinion. Oh wait, it still is.
- The lack of investment in good dyslexia programs, nor applying them to true fidelity. Cheap programs that allow the maximum number of students possible, for the shortest duration possible is the norm.
- The lack of investment in quality teacher training. The average dyslexia teacher has 3-days worth of training and are supposed to be experts after that in dyslexia and how to remediate dyslexia, at least in my state. I don’t know a single person who is an expert in any subject after three days. I just roll my eyes at this one.
- When you believe that it is a cognitive disability that cannot be remediated, the belief then takes hold that grade level achievement is not only impossible, but that asking the child to work towards grade level achievement is too much, it’s cruel, it cannot happen. They do not understand that the brain can literally be rewired and that with quality programs applied properly, gains can be made QUICKLY.
- Let me add an important clarification here – I’m not the biggest fan of boxed programs. I believe in the proper training of a skilled professional in multiple methodologies so that they may be PRESCRIPTIVE with the child in order to properly address the child’s needs, and therefore give the best remediation possible, in the shortest amount of time, to mastery! I defer to the IDA on both programs, trainings and certifications.
So, when you believe dyslexia is a cognitive disability, leading you to invest in poor programs, not invest in proper training, falsely believe that, according to the expensive, fancy, feel good balanced literacy program, everyone should be succeeding otherwise they’re just lazy, then why don’t you just pretend that the kids don’t exist, brush off the parents, give them just enough to keep them quiet and push them through school to the end so you can be rid of them because really, what parent has the money to sue a school district when the average ticket for due process is $50,000. School districts laugh knowing most parents cannot afford that so the bean counters tell them to just keep doing what they’re doing. It will all be fine.
So, back to where we are.
The ARD is tomorrow where we were supposed to learn what the new F&P level was. They had 8.5 weeks (Spring Break was in there) to calculate the new level, when my demand was 6 weeks. Nice of me wasn’t it to give an extra 2.5 weeks, well, really 1.5 because of Spring Break. Sadly, COVID happened and guess what? That assessment was never performed. Why may you ask? Because the ARD was going to be a Wednesday which meant they were waiting until the two days before the ARD to actually take the measurement. This is procrastination at it’s finest, but I can sort of understand wanting to wait until the last minute to judge a reading level if you’re constantly working on it (giving a lot of grace in that statement).
However, I need to pause for a moment and take stock of a few key issues.
- He is almost finished with his private remediation, a program by Neuhaus which he has been on since August, 2016. We couldn’t manage four days a week so it’s taken us longer to get through it, but in a few short weeks he will finish the program.
- Annually he is administered the GORT and the scores this March were phenomenal which show that four years of remediation had yielded amazing results and despite the school benchmarks, he is almost done with his dyslexia remediation.
- At school they have had him on a program which is only designed to be used for twenty two weeks, yet he’s been on it since the 3rd grade, so for three years. Hmmm….
- Yes, the last evaluation confirmed dysgraphia, but they have no clue how to remediate dysgraphia and denied him OT services claiming it was not educationally necessary. Somewhere in the last forty years a child barely able to print is now educationally acceptable so long as it is still moderately legible.
- Their big plan for 6th grade is to put him on a program called Reading By Design which frankly is the Neuhaus program significantly watered down. Why? Because the school district has not invested in a single quality program and the programs they have are all cheap, they don’t understand dyslexia, and have no concept under God that having a child essentially repeat a program he has already completed will be emotionally devastating.
- They are a deeply entrenched balanced literacy district and while I knew it was horrible, I’m now witnessing it first hand in his literacy lessons. I am appalled at his assignments and have come to understand that I have to teach him about writing because no one has actually ever taught it to him. This is other than the handwriting, OT and general writing strategies that he needs to be taught as part of his remediation, but truly about both creative writing and the concepts of how to write a paper. Thank heavens my undergraduate is in English / Creative Writing. There is no one better suited to teach him how to write than me.
- I had to push the AT agenda for him. They put it into place without actually teaching him about it, or even understanding it themselves. I had to engage the district staff to go to his school and sit with him and set up both his iPad and his computer and teach him how to use it. Then I had to ask questions after the teachers implied he was just being lazy with the speech to text to understand the situation and application to learn that it couldn’t be used properly because of the environment, so they came up with an isolating solution which was ostracizing so I had to buy $400 headphones that allow him to be in the arena when the Super Bowl is being played and he can still do speech to text and the only thing the app will hear is my son’s voice, not the game and cheering. Crazy, right?
- We employ two tutors. One is Neuhaus and the other is to help him break his bad balanced literacy habits (because he’s always been in a balanced literacy environment), and teach him concepts of language that he has never had explained to him properly, e.g. adverbs, prepositions, adjectives, etc.
So, given that they take credit for the gains he makes in the private remediation he has been given, given the fact that his GORT is through the roof, given the feedback from his two tutors, given the fact that he will return to Lindamood-Bell for two weeks to tie the ropes of his remediation together into a good strong knot, given the fact they want him to repeat his remediation, given the fact that they do not have a clue on how to deal with dysgraphia, why are we going to stay on this monkey made merry-go-round?
Am I in a position to file complaints? You bet your bippy!
Has IDEA been violated since COVID-19 began? Yes, on two distinct points. Oops!
So why? Seriously. Why? Big questions exist for mom and dad.
More to come….