Over 50 Facts about Dyslexia Services in Texas

Obtaining Learning Disability Services for DYSLEXIA under IDEA

  1. Speaking as an educational diagnostician, in this post I am writing ONLY about children with specific learning disabilities (including dyslexia and dysgraphia). In Texas, a student could be qualified for special education services if a “severe discrepancy” as between academic success and intellectual ability was identified. SE services were not provided if the student demonstrated low achievement because of low ability (as measured by IQ testing), but students whose low achievement was “unexpected” (those with normal or above normal ability, or IQ) were entitled to SE services.
  2. To differentiate between a academic deficit within an otherwise normal cognitive profile, and to determine the existence of a “severe discrepancy,” Texas generally administered standardized ability (IQ) tests and academic achievement tests, followed by a comparison of the standard scores of the tests. Texas schools, in recent years, used a cross battery assessment approach. If this comparison demonstrated that the student’s “achievement” was well below his or her “ability” in at least one academic area (such as oral expression, listening comprehension, reading fluency, reading comprehension, written expression, math concepts, math calculation), then the student became eligible to receive special education services under the category of “specific learning disability.”
  3. Dyslexia is the most common kind of specific learning disability in the area of reading fluency and/or reading comprehension. Dyslexia testing is mandated to analyze student skills in very specific areas.
  4. In determining eligibility for the school districts’ Dyslexia Programs administered through special education programs under the IDEA or under Section 504 students are assessed in the following areas: Reading real and nonsense words in isolation (decoding); Phonological awareness; Letter knowledge (name and associated sound); Rapid naming; Reading fluency (rate and accuracy); Reading comprehension; and Written spelling.
  5. In recent years, a new framework called Response to Intervention (RTI) has been initiated to eliminate the discrepancy model and ensure services for all students who struggle in academic settings. Proponents of RTI promote this system for its ability to provide help to a student by working with all students in a class, administering frequent assessments, and delivering interventions that are specific to an individual child’s needs. RTI, like any other educational program, only works if it is administered with fidelity.
  6. In the case of the Texas ISDs with which I am familiar, RTI has become a vehicle for denying needed services to children with dyslexia and dysgraphia. The most common verbiage used by ISD staff members is that the child doesn’t pay attention, likely has ADHD, and/or is a behavior problem related to parental over indulgence. Whatever the excuse used, the outcome is the same: the school is doing the best it can and the child isn’t learning due to bad behavior or an undiagnosed medical condition.
  7. Components of the RTI model require additional responsibilities for staff that are well beyond those of the SLD identification model that schools have used since the 1977 IDEA regulations were adopted. Schools are required to report to parents the exact interventions that were used with the child, the child’s response to specially designed instructional interventions, and the number of children in the child’s grade level who received RTI interventions and successfully learned the targeted reading or writing or math skill.
    Under no circumstances are schools to delay assessing for Special Education (provide a FIE) more than two grading periods if the child is not learning grade level curriculum using the alternate methods provided in the general education setting.
  8. At ECISD it is not uncommon to see a school convene 5 RTI meetings throughout an entire school year and ultimately pass the child to the next grade level without ever assessing for SLD. At the Atascosa McMullen Cooperative, none of the students whose records I have analyzed have contained any RTI documentation.
  9. From a theoretical standpoint, many aspects of Section 504 mirror the intent of IDEA. Section 504 provides additional protection to an individual whose impairment is not considered severe enough for special education services, but warrants physical, classroom, or testing accommodations. Very often, children with health conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), asthma, diabetes, etc. are covered under Section 504 (as is a child with a broken limb). Section 504 requires a school to make reasonable accommodations for children with special needs or health conditions.
  10. Basic rights covered by Section 504:
    -No person with a disability shall be excluded from the participation in, or subjected to discrimination, under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from the federal government.
    -No person with a disability will be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services or activities of a public entity.
    -The remedies, procedures and rights under ADA apply to Section 504. Any person alleging discrimination on the basis of disability is entitled to the same protection as stipulated in the ADA.
  11. To be eligible for protections under Section 504, children must have physical or mental impairments that substantially limit at least one major life activity such as walking, talking, seeing, breathing, hearing, learning, reading, writing, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks. Section 504 requires an evaluation be completed by many different sources.
  12. In the case of a child referred for dyslexia services, the ISDs have dyslexia assessment teams and an assessment model that they follow to determine if the student who has been unable to learn to read through general education services and through RTI services provided in the general education setting would benefit from an Orton-Gillingham reading program.
  13. Most O-G dyslexia programs such as MTA are designed to be completed in two or three years. Section 504 does not require that a meeting take place before a change in placement happens, thus many parents in Texas have been told that their child is getting dyslexia services but remain unaware that the O-G program they thought that the student was receiving is either not present at all in the SE or 504 setting, or if present, is not implemented with fidelity and therefore is unlikely to teach the child the skills that he or she needs to learn to become a competent, capable reader and writer.
  14. Unlike IDEA, Section 504 and ADA do not:
    -Ensure that a student with a disability will receive an individualized educational program (IEP) that is designed to meet the unique learning needs of a child with a disability
    -Have the same “procedural safeguards” that IEPs have such as a student with an IEP must receive a written notice before any change in placement occurs and a family has a right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if there is disagreement with what the schools have determined the students’s disability to be.
  15. The IEP meeting, required by federal statute, is convened at least once a school year to plan an educational program that is tailored to the needs of each disabled student.
  16. The student’s “team” attends the meeting: teachers, therapists, parents, school administrators, and any other invited parties.
  17. These IEP procedural safeguards are key legal provisions that ensure that parents and students are informed of their legal rights and that certain steps, procedures, and timelines are followed from start to finish.
  18. Parents are equal members of the IEP team. Under the IDEA and Section 504, parents must be allowed to assist in identifying their child’s needs and in the selection of appropriate services (research-based materials and methods) and placement (setting in which services are provided).
  19. By working as equal members of the IEP team, parents can listen to teachers’, therapists’, and administrators’ ideas about what a child needs to become a functional independent adult by age 18.
  20. School staff are also required to listen to parents’ information and requests and if a ARD committee refuses services requested by parents, to provide the parents with Prior Written Notice explaining why parental requests are deemed to be inappropriate.
  21. At IEP team meetings, parents can also report on whether the skills that the school says are or are not being demonstrated at school are being used at home and across all appropriate community environments and settings.
  22. Skills that are not generalized across all settings are not functional skills and cannot be considered to be “mastered”.
  23. When a child has a significant learning disability or delay, it is usually preferable to have an IEP, because IDEA is the federal law (with some funding behind it) that mandates that schools comply with specific standards and processes in implementing an educational plan.
    Section 504 is a civil rights law that is easily interpreted with a great degree of disparity, and differs by state, county, and school district.
  24. In essence, there tends to be less accountability by districts for 504 plans.
    However, when it comes to medical conditions, allergies, or physical limitations, and where there are no significant learning issues involved, 504 plans are often recommended as available information suggests that the child is able to attain meaningful and significant benefit from the general education program as long as the medical condition is accommodated for.
  25. One key point to think about is the difference between the words ACCESS and EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT when trying to understand exactly what the school proposes to do to remediate a child’s specific learning disability.
  26. ISDs in Texas schools will tell you that the federal law requires that all students be “exposed” to general education curriculum. This is not true, nor do the words become true no matter how many times they are uttered.
  27. The IDEA and Section 504 require that the child be provided with the specially designed instruction needed to provide him with all of the academic and life skills that he or she is cognitively and physically capable of mastering.
  28. A child with dyslexia can learn to read and write as well as his same-age peers, however he or she will always have dyslexia which is based upon a neurological condition. Dyslexia is considered to be a congenital medical condition, therefore it is not going to be cured, although the symptoms (inability to decode words or comprehend written language) can be successfully remediated.
  29. Dyslexia services through public school may be provided through Special Education under the IDEA either as an Other Health Impairment or as a Specific Learning Disability.
  30. Dyslexia is NOT remediated through exposure to general education TEKS aligned curriculum. As a parent, please understand that you don’t want the school to give your child ACCESS to the general education curriculum; you want the school to provide your child with REAL EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT by teaching him to read and write on grade level. This means that when your dyslexic child is 18 and ready to graduate from the ISD high school, he or she should be reading and writing at 12th grade level. No exceptions IF the school has done their job.
  31. Children with dyslexia, in order to be qualified for a dyslexia Orton-Gillingham program, have average or above average cognitive skills. They need specialized READING instruction that is demonstrated through years of research to teach kids to read and write as well as the child sitting next to him or her in the classroom who does not have dyslexia.
  32. If the child needs an individualized educational program that includes special services such as speech-language or occupational therapies, or a specially designed curriculum that is research-based when it is implemented with consistency and fidelity (such as MTA—Orton-Gillingham programs for dyslexia and dysgraphia), then an IEP will serve as the legal document outlining these services. If a child only needs to be placed in the front of the classroom, or requires an allergy-free environment, but the general education curriculum remains the same, then a 504 plan is adequate to detail these environmental accommodations.
  33. Historically, Texas parents have kept their children out of special education programs and in O-G compliant programs known as dyslexia classes provided under Section 504 due to concerns about the curse of low expectations evidenced in special education programs observed or perceived to exist in their ISDs.
  34. Texas schools are under state mandate to provide information about the dyslexia programs implemented in each ISD.
  35. One Texas ISD’s Dyslexia Program Instruction Overview provided to parents includes the following information:
    -The Instructional Program used in grades K-12 is Multisensory Teaching Approach (MTA).
    -Frequency of Instruction: Students identified with dyslexia and receiving services in this ISD will attend MTA small group instructional class for a minimum of 4 days/week @ 45 minutes/session or 3 hours/week.
    -Duration of Instruction: This ISD does not “exit” students from the Dyslexia Program once the student completes and demonstrates mastery of the MTA Kit’s 1-7 levels. Once a student has demonstrated mastery of skills taught in MTA Kit’s 1-7 levels, the committee of knowledgeable persons (ARD committee or 504 committee) may decide to place the student on “Monitor” status, and the student will no longer attend MTA small group—unless at some point it is determined the student needs additional support/intervention.
  36. In ECISD, Amanda Real, the Director of Special Education, administers the dyslexia program. The district website describes dyslexia services: East Central ISD Dyslexia Services are designed to provide short-term reading intervention for children who meet district criteria. Services are offered to qualifying students in kindergarten through grade 12. These services provide students with the skills and strategies to “unlock” the code of reading and to improve reading fluency. Students are instructed utilizing the Orton-Gillingham based reading programs and/or multisensory structured language approaches. Dyslexia teachers work with groups of children on a weekly basis.
  37. Dyslexia services in the Atascosa-McMullen Cooperative provided in the schools served by the Co-Op are described in exactly the same words.
  38. In schools served within the Region 20 service area, 504 Dyslexia Programs have traditionally been based upon Orton-Gillingham curriculums such as the MTA curriculum or Take Flight. (used by the SA Scottish Rite Center). Four day a week 45-60 minute classes are taught by trained reading specialists or general or special education teachers who have received training and been certified as competent in the specific curriculum (such as MTA) reading program adopted by the ISD.
  39. Historically, the O-G reading therapy programs used in Texas 504 dyslexia classes are taught by specially trained teachers who generally have 6-8 students in each reading classroom that meets 4 days a week for two or three years. Most O-G curriculums for children are designed to be three year programs but based upon the composition of each group and the amount of parent involvement and support, many children are identified in 2nd grade and complete all modules of the dyslexia program in two years (3rd and 4th grade). Instruction is typically not provided in the summer and the student’s need for extended year services is not considered under 504 as extended year services are mandated to be considered each year under a special education IEP, but are not a consideration under 504.
  40. In Texas, by state law, dyslexia reading programs are theoretically available for any student that exhibits reading difficulty, has not responded to intensive reading instruction, and through evaluation, meets state and district criteria for a student who exhibits the characteristics of dyslexia.
  41. Special needs students who receive specially designed instruction under 504 are not provided with a Full Individual Evaluation and an IEP under special education and schools are not required to involve parents when they change the methods and materials they are using to teach the children.
  42. Presently most Bexar County public schools appear to have adopted a SE dyslexia service model that waters down the research based reading programs such as MTA to the point where students no longer are actually attaining any meaningful and significant benefit from them. Reading programs for students identified as dyslexic in at least two ISDs (ECISD and Atascosa McMullen SE Cooperative) include unspecified modifications in the general education curriculum and setting and one visit per week for the student with a reading teacher who presents O-G interventions.
  43. At present, LSSPs and Educational Diagnosticians across the region are testing children for dyslexia at a rapid pace and ARD committees then approve a reading intervention program for children who qualify as dyslexic.
  44. Dyslexia programs are required to include the following components of reading:
    • Phonemic awareness which that enables students to detect, segment, blend, and manipulate sounds in spoken language;
    • Graphophonemic knowledge (phonics) that takes advantage of the letter/sound plan in which words that carry meaning are made of sounds and sounds are written with letters in the right order. Students with this understanding can blend sounds associated with letters into words and can separate words into component sounds for spelling and writing;
    • Language structure that encompasses morphology (the study of meaningful units of language such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots), semantics (ways that language conveys meaning), syntax (sentence structure), and pragmatics (how to use language in a particular context);
    • Linguistic instruction directed toward proficiency and fluency with the patterns of language so that words and sentences are the carriers of meaning;
  45. Dyslexia programs are mandated to provide: Strategy-oriented instruction in the strategies students use for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency, and comprehension that students need to become independent readers.
  46. The instructional approach in O-G dyslexia programs is explicit, direct instruction is systematic (structured), sequential, and cumulative.
  47. Dyslexia Instruction is organized and presented in a way that follows a logical sequential plan, fits the nature of language (alphabetic principle) with no assumption of prior skills or language knowledge, and maximizes student engagement.
  48. Dyslexia instruction proceeds at a rate commensurate with students’ needs, ability levels, and demonstration of progress.
  49. None of the reading/dyslexia programs through SE in the two aforementioned ISDs are consistent with Orton-Gillingham methods and materials, level of teacher training, or duration of services.
  50. SE reading classrooms are described in Texas ARD meetings as TEKS modified general education curriculum and do NOT specify a specific research-based program such as MTA. SE Directors in ECISD and Atascosa-McMullen tell parents and advocates that districts are NOT required to specify methods or materials and that ISDs are state-mandated to remediate dyslexia and dysgraphia with materials and methods that conform to TEKS guidelines. This practice is not consistent with TEA’s most recent Dyslexia Handbook.
  51. From chapter 2 of TEA’s 2020 Dyslexia Handbook: Federal Requirements Child Find Update
    In addition to state and local requirements to screen and identify students who may be at risk for dyslexia, there are also overarching federal laws and regulations to identify students with disabilities, commonly referred to as Child Find. Child Find is a provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that requires the state to have policies and procedures in place to ensure that every student in the state who needs special education and related services is located, identified, and evaluated. The purpose of the IDEA is to ensure that students with disabilities are offered a free and appropriate public education (20 U.S.C. §1400(d); 34 C.F.R. §300.1). Because a student suspected of having dyslexia may be a student with a disability under the IDEA, the Child Find mandate includes these students. Therefore, when referring and evaluating students suspected of having dyslexia, LEAs must follow procedures for conducting a full individual and initial evaluation (FIIE) under the IDEA. Another federal law that applies to students with disabilities in public school is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as Section 504. Under Section 504, public schools must annually attempt to identify and locate every qualified student with a disability residing in its jurisdiction and notify them and/or their parents of the requirements of Section 504.
  52. From TEA’s Dyslexia Handbook 2021: Critical Evidence-Based Components of Dyslexia Instruction: Providers of Dyslexia Instruction
    In order to provide effective intervention, school districts are encouraged to employ highly trained individuals to deliver dyslexia instruction. Teachers, such as reading specialists, master reading teachers, general education classroom teachers, or special education teachers, who provide dyslexia intervention for students are not required to hold a specific license or certification. However, these educators must at a minimum have additional documented dyslexia training aligned to 19 TAC §74.28(c) and must deliver the instruction with fidelity. This includes training in critical, evidence-based components of dyslexia instruction such as phonological awareness, sound-symbol association, syllabication, orthography, morphology, syntax, reading comprehension, and reading fluency. In addition, they must deliver multisensory instruction that simultaneously uses all learning pathways to the brain, is systematic and cumulative, is explicitly taught, uses diagnostic teaching to automaticity, and includes both analytic and synthetic approaches. See pages 39 – 41 of Texas Dyslexia Handbook for a description of these components of instruction and delivery. A provider of dyslexia instruction does not have to be certified as a special educator when serving a student who also receives special education and related services if that provider is the most appropriate person to offer dyslexia instruction.
  53. ECISD Special Education Services are described: The East Central ISD Special Education Services supports students with disabilities in gaining college and career readiness, and independent living skills through active engagement in grade level curriculum. These services are provided in general education or special education settings with accommodations, modifications, special education supports, supplementary aids, and other arrangements.The special education team identifies and provides an appropriate education for all individuals from ages 3 to 21 who qualify for the district’s special education services.The team also supports the East Central ISD mission of ensuring children who receive special education services are provided with access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in order to receive a quality education that enables them to participate in future social, economic, and educational opportunities. Neither ECISD’s dyslexia or special education programs make any mention of specially designed instruction individualized to the child’s unique circumstances or reference providing meaningful and significant educational benefit to the handicapped student.
  54. The Atascosa-McMullen Cooperative serves students in Pleasanton ISD, Potent ISD, Jourdanton ISD, Charlotte ISD, and McMullen County ISD. No information about SE programing or 504 programing for students diagnosed with dyslexia is available on its website. Each of the schools appears to have a SE coordinator.

 

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What Texas Parents Need to Know about Dyslexia Programs

Overview of Federal Law Governing Special Education

  1. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets specific standards for the education of children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. IDEA serves to provide protection for handicapped children by making sure that each state (through its local school districts) provides a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to children who have specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.
  2. FAPE reflects the requirement that each student with a disability is entitled to a publicly-funded education that is designed to meet the individual needs of that student.
  3. IDEA provides overarching laws and regulations regarding special education, but states are allowed to “interpret” these laws as long as the basic standards of IDEA are met.
  4. In Texas, children with dyslexia have historically been served outside of Special Education Programs in public schools under the category of 504. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability according to the IDEA—this is not new–the word “dyslexia” appears in the IDEA. Therefore, if the disability that qualifies a child for special education services under an IEP is dyslexia, the correct disability “code” is Specific Learning Disability (SLD). In most cases, the child with dyslexia is better served under a SE IEP rather than a Section 504 program for reasons that will be articulated below.
  5. When the U.S. Department of Education crafted the regulations to implement the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-142), now known as IDEA, it needed to provide a process and criteria for identifying students in the category of “specific learning disability”, which is how most children with dyslexia will be identified for services in the public schools. This has not been true in Texas, as parents of children with dyslexia have been unwilling to have their children labeled as special education services. Thus, historically, most of the Orton-Gillingham consistent programs for reading instruction for children with dyslexia have been provided under Section 504.
  6. In 2004, IDEA was re-authorized to align closely with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. NCLB was enacted as federal law in 2001, calling for school accountability, supplemental services to under-performing schools, and the eventual restructuring of schools that continued to fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP specifies that 100% of students will maintain a passing grade in reading and math by the year 2014. Texas schools have circumvented this requirement by awarding passing grades to struggling students based upon general and special education modifications and accommodations thereby allowing Texas schools to graduate scores of children each year who are unable to talk, read, write, or compute above the third grade level.
  7. NCLB also requires that all core curriculum teachers be highly qualified and that role of the parents in education should be valued and strengthened. The current IDEA of 2004, as well as NCLB, directed schools to focus more on helping all children learn by addressing the problems that are brought about by the eligibility requirements to receive special education services. Students with SLDs are routinely disqualified for meaningful services through a Full Individual Evaluation that determines that they do not have an intact cognitive profile or a mixed ability profile, but diagnoses these children as slow learners who are doing the best they can in the general education program based upon their low ability overall cognitive profile.
  8. In Texas schools, parents have been shut down and excluded from educational and programming decisions as teachers, therapists, and school administrators consider themselves to be the experts. Decisions about materials, methods and settings are made by school staff. Parents’ outside testing and reports are discounted with the phrase that schools are not required to provide clinical level services and/or schools are not required to allow parents to dictate specific educational materials or methods. Parents are told that schools are mandated to be TEKS compliant and consistent—and that ONLY state guidelines and materials are permitted regardless of the child’s ability to gain meaningful and significant benefit from the general education curriculum and program.
  9. There is a pattern of deliberate deception in the IEP reports provided to parents. What we now see in Texas at special education annual reviews are parents routinely being told that the child has made more than a year’s worth of progress, has mastered all his SE goals, and is therefore passing all general education coursework and will be promoted to the next grade.
  10. Present levels of performance are presented in such muddy words as to render the schools unaccountable for documenting significant and meaningful progress in light of the student’s unique circumstances.
  11. When the parent attempts to file a special education complaint with TEA regarding the child’s continued inability to read, write, or compute, they learn that even if the school didn’t implement the IEP as delineated in the district’s contract with the parent, this is of no consequence as the student “passed to the next grade.”
  12. Parents are NOT being told that their children’s actual reading, writing, and math skills, in comparison to same age peers, are significantly below grade placement and that the rate of progress in regards to student competency to read and comprehend grade level material becomes less and less likely with each school year that passes. TEA appears equally disinterested in this information.
  13. In December of 2008, new regulations specific to Part B of the IDEA were issued. IDEA is divided into two main sections: Part B and Part C. Part B: specifies all services provided to children and youth with disabilities, ages 3 – 21 while Part C: specifies services provided to infants and toddlers with disabilities, from birth to age 2.11 years.
  14. In Texas, the Part C programming is known as Early Childhood Intervention. ISDs are required to convene Face to Face meetings with the child and parents to discuss transferring the student from ECI to the ISD. Children who receive ECI services are considered to be already enrolled in special education and Texas public schools are required to evaluate these children to determine their continued eligibility for public school services as 3 year olds and to transfer them into school or to evaluate (Initial FIE) and determine that the previous disabilities under which the child received services have been successfully remediated through the ECI services.
  15. During the years of 2004-2016, so many ISDs simply refused to evaluate or enroll students in early intervention programs that ECI specialists simply quit referring their children to the school district when they aged out of ECI programs.
  16. These public school educational programs for 3 and 4 year old children are known as PreSchool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD). In Bexar County, PPCD programs are available in all school districts and fall under the special education umbrella of services. Many of these early intervention children qualify for special education services as speech and language impaired and/or autistic (by definition all children with autism have language processing difficulties).
  17. In Texas, between the years of 2004 and 2016, TEA imposed an 8.5% cap for SE services on individual districts. During those years, the number of children qualified for SE services as speech impaired dropped 74% across the state, causing irreparable harm to many children.
  18. Language delays, remediated prior to kindergarten, typically prepare the child to successfully move through grades K-12. Children who can’t listen and talk well or at all rarely are going to be able to learn to read and write from general education educational reading, writing, and math programs.
  19. Two other key pieces of legislation parents need to be aware of are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was re-authorized in 2008, and Section 504, which is a section of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both ADA and Section 504 address the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, with extensive regulations related to discrimination, equal access to programs, services or activities, especially those receiving federal assistance. The ADA’s language mirrors that of Section 504. The key points of Section 504 as it relates to public education are: Section 504 expands the definition of disability under the original Americans with Disabilities Act, preventing discrimination in employment and in public and private settings; protects children and adults with disabilities; applies to all public and most private schools and colleges, testing agencies, licensing authorities, and state and local governments.

 

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The Value of an Education

The attached article is re-posted from Governor Mike Huckabee’s March 14, 2022 newsletter. Everything that Gov Huckabee writes is consistent with what I have learned during my over 30 years of involvement in the Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico educational systems. Just as the car I drive today is NOTHING like the car I learned to drive on, the public schools available to children today are NOTHING like the excellent public school that I sent my son during the years 1996-2009.

Working as an educational diagnostician and special education advocate in 2022, my recommendation to parents and grandparents seeking a quality classical education in which children learn language, develop literacy, and acquire critical higher order thinking skills is to avoid ALL public and MOST charter schools. Schools funded by our tax dollars are, at this point in time, broken. They ALL know that they MUST acquiesce to WOKE philosophy to obtain needed tax dollars to stay in business. Thanks to Gov Huckabee for:

#3 Homeschooling is on the rise (Adapted from the book ‘The Three C’s That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution‘ by Mike Huckabee and Steve Feazel.) The links are also found in Governor Huckabee’s newsletter.

During the pandemic, homeschooling doubled to nearly 11 percent. Many thought it would fall once schools reopened, but with the continuing abuse of children with unnecessary and cruel COVID measures – plus the fact that Internet classes allowed parents to see how their kids were being bombarded with divisive and racist Critical Race Theory, anti-Christian and anti-American messages, inappropriate sexual and gender indoctrination and other leftist propaganda – plus all the news stories about a public school board covering up for rapists and girls being forced to accept boys in their locker rooms, bathrooms and sports, in the name of “trans rights” — the trend has continued and is expected to keep growing. Continue reading

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ARD Meetings Aren’t Supposed to be Run by Lawyers

12 THINGS TO PAY ATTENTION WHEN DEALING WITH SCHOOL DISTRICTS

“I’m retiring,” my friend said.

“You aren’t old enough to retire,” I replied.

“Yeah, I am. I’ve been a teacher in this district for nineteen years and I’ve never lied to a parent; I’m not going to let the district force me to do so now.”

That conversation occurred in March 2013. “I was just up at TEA last week, I’ve got to work  a minimum of three more years,” I said. “I wish you’d reconsider, selfishly, I’m going to hate it here without you.”

Our campus, ECDC, had a nice retirement party for Bernadette on her next to last day, May 29th, a Wednesday. I made a movie for the occasion, one of those testimonial sort of things that celebrated her years in the district, almost all of them spent on the early childhood campus. I got written up for it too, playing with my camera at work. Technically, I’d used the camera on my personal iPad, but what the heck, I signed the form and shoved it back it my principal’s face. “You know the drill, please make me a copy and put it in my box,” I said. I had no idea how I was going to carry on without Bernadette, for over ten years, she’d been the key player on my early childhood assessment team. She also happened to be hands down the best teacher of children with autism that I’d ever seen.  Continue reading

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Let’s Roll!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:   Christians should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

For the purposes of today’s discussion, I’m going to define the “strong” as our government officials industriously imposing restrictions upon the “weak,” American taxpayers, with no consideration provided for the costs borne by those of us who must live with the results of what our progressive leaders are calling our “new normal.” The “possible right of the strong” will be the justifications given for the imposition of harsh governmental control of individual freedom and liberty such as: flattening the curve and solving systemic racism in our police departments.

One fact for us all, liberals and conservatives alike to keep in mind, is that none of the government employees, even those who haven’t been out of their houses in three months, have lost one dime of salary or benefits during this government imposed shutdown. You and I have kept right on paying our taxes and our elected representatives and bureaucrats have kept right on drawing their salaries. For these officials now to assert that they are “in this with you” and that they “have skin in the game just like everyone else” is both a blatant lie and insulting to boot. As my Aunt Lillie would have said, “When San Antonio mayor Ron Niremberg tells you he’s protecting the innocent against discrimination with an edict such as his hate speech proclamation, he’s lying to you with his own teeth in his mouth.” Resolution voted on by San Antonio City Council labels terms “Chinese Virus” and “Kung Fu Virus” as hate speech and “all persons are encouraged to report any such antisemitic, discriminatory or racist incidents to the proper authorities for investigation”.

This is all so very wrong. Last Thursday I visited my chiropractor, whom I generally see once a month, for the first time in three months. I didn’t cancel my appointment March, April and May appointments, he did, as he was forced to do by the petty tyrants that we’ve allowed to take control over our lives.

Except for the doc, the entire office suite, consisting of an outer office/waiting room, a secretarial station, and four treatment rooms was empty. You know how a house can start to feel once the family has begun packing boxes to depart, that’s how the office felt. Not desolate, or depressed, just sort of empty, as if the life had gone out of the building.

My doctor’s office reminded me of the way my classroom felt the day that I left my first teaching job after working for two years as an inner city school’s journalism/English teacher. The school was in the midst of change when I got there, but it was all new and exciting to me. The neighborhood that the school building sat in had gone down, no nicer way to state this, changing from affluent old Orlando families to poor working class if they were lucky families. The educational attainments of the students had also deteriorated. Howard Junior High School rarely received any accolades.

Of my one hundred and twenty English students, one third of the ninth graders read at below the second grade level. When I arrived, the ink on my Florida teaching certificate still wet, half of the staff consisted of first and second year teachers. The other half of the faculty were old timers, hanging on until they could retire and bemoaning the fact that the kids who came to Howard Jr High these days not only couldn’t read their textbooks, most of these kids didn’t even pretend to try. Continue reading

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Without a Paper Trail, We’re Toast!

PARENTS, YOU MUST CREATE A PAPER TRAIL BEFORE YOU HIRE AN ADVOCATE, OTHERWISE YOU’RE JUST SPINNING YOUR WHEELS

Lots of things that school districts get up to these days don’t pass the smell test but few of the actions taken by school district employees and special education lawyers are so egregious, so blatantly against the law, and so obvious as to produce a paper trail of criminality that can be utilized in legal proceedings. This is an important point for those of us working as advocates to remember. The fact that an action, or a refusal to act, is clearly wrong doesn’t make it illegal. And, if what the school has done or failed to do for a child is illegal (the district has committed one or more procedural violations of the child’s right to a FAPE), then we, as advocates, have got to do more than simply rail against the injustice of it all. We’ve got to be prepared to go into court and prove our allegations, piece by piece, step by step. To accomplish this goal, we’ve got to have the child’s parents working cooperatively with us.

Parents, you must document every communication that occurs with your child’s educational providers. Get yourself a three-ring binder, a three-hole punch, a printer that makes copies, and log and file your child’s educational records every single day. Period, full stop, end of sentence. Regardless of any child’s unique circumstances, parents cannot employ an advocate to help them obtain a FAPE for a child if the parents are unable to provide the advocate with the material that she needs to work with.

I’m not just talking report cards and the parent copy of the FIE and the Initial ARD and mom and dad’s recollections of all the things that this or that teacher said at some time in the distant and not so distant past. The report cards and SE progress reports will get the parents in my front door. The parents and I will talk for one, two, or even three hours as I learn all about their child’s situation. At the end of our meeting, no matter how much we connect and how sympathetically I feel toward a child’s school situation, I’m going to say this to the parents: “I need documentation collated by date in a binder before I can do anything at all for you. When you have these materials ready, call me and we’ll look over them together, still without charge. After that, we’ll decided how to go forward.”

I’m not going to even guess how many times that I’ve walked a parent to my front door saying some variation of this spiel, not to ever hear from them a second time. I don’t think this is because the parent can’t be bothered, if that were the case, I’d never have heard from them in the first place. I think most parents just become as beaten down by the corrupt system as their kids do. They give up and I don’t blame them. Fighting city hall has never, in my experience, been more difficult.

Bringing a school district to account for FAPE violations becomes increasingly difficult with every year that the child sits in public school classrooms. Kids having trouble learning to read and write are almost invariably labeled by the school system as behaviorally troubled. That way the child’s failure is on the child, not the school. We saw this very clearly in Aleczander’s case.

From the first FIE, to the IEE, and lastly to the REED/EVALUATION just completed (8.14.19) ECISD continues to write that Aleczander has “no known medical condition that would indicate a need for SE” even though they have an 11.1.16bOHI eligibility report from Dr. Tomasovic documenting the fact that Aleczander has a congenital medical condition–developmental coordination disorder–that causes his dyslexia, dysgraphia, and oral motor disfluency. At ECISD’s most recent assessment appointments (March 2020) they once again evaluated him for ADHD and ignored Dr. Henry’s September 2019 OHI Disability report noting developmental coordination disorder NOT ADHD. This has got to be deliberate, surely they aren’t this stupid. Or are they? You decide. Even if they are, we certainly are not.

Aleczander’s first IEP goal, written at the end of kindergarten after he had been qualified for SE services in the area of speech, was: “Aleczander will keep his hands and feet to himself.” The takeaway here: if he’d start talking and quit running away and kicking and hitting when pinned down, the school would be real happy with him. Nine weeks into his special education program, the SE teacher documented this progress on the behavioral goal that Aleczander would keep his hands and feet to himself: “Aleczander is making progress on this goal. He no longer screams and runs away, he just sits at his desk and cries.” If this doesn’t turn your stomach, then I don’t know what else I can say to you. In my mind, SE and ECISD are documenting actual institutional child abuse. Bear in mind that Aleczander, at that time, was unable to produce a single word that anyone other than his mother could understand. Yet they continued to yammer at him to “use his words” and to plop him into time out when he “refused to do his work.” Continue reading

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Just the Facts, Ma’am; Just the Facts

Today I’m going to talk to you about special education law, specifically special education case law. Case law isn’t all that interesting, however it is much less boring than I previously believed it to be. The trick, for me, has been in learning the language that lawyers employ to make their legal code impenetrable. Once you’ve mastered the vocabulary used by these scoundrels, which they do NOT wish you to do, then you’re more than halfway home. If, as an advocate, you have acquired the ability to read published cases and understand exactly what a judge has already ruled regarding a certain school district providing SE services to a certain handicapped child, then you’ve significantly upped your advocacy game.

All of us have many lessons to learn in the advocacy arena. Short of going to law school yourself, you’re going to have to adopt strategies employed by inmates who hang out in the law library and turn themselves into jailhouse lawyers. Lesson # 1 for today: the ability to recite the provisions of IDEA isn’t going to take you nearly as far as you hope to go. You have to be able to reference specific cases and provide details about what federal and state judges have written in response to some other parents’ due process claims. You read and internalize case law, particularly 5th circuit case law, in order to be able to quote what some judge said about the educational entitlement of some other child in circumstances similar to the situation of the child for whom you advocate. Continue reading

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Granddaddy’s Favorite Cow

Macy Rose: I dreamed of Claire Louise last night. She was speaking to me, saying that she feels much more alive since her passing than she ever did back when she was alive. Death is nothing more than another dimension, Macy Rose. Nothing more, nothing lessThink of it this way, a person who dies doesn’t go away, she exits the body she’s in and emerges in a newer, nicer, and extremely toned if I do say so myself, body. I’m in the best shape ever, and I’m not alone. I’m having a great time. Showstopper One, Two, and Three are here, and Old Bessie, she’s here too.

Grandma chimed in at that point, although I’m not clear on whether Claire Louise could actually hear the words that Grandma was saying. During the night time, things aren’t as clear to me as they are during the day. During the daytime for sure, both of them can be speaking to me at the exact same time and I know that Grandma hears Claire Louise’s words because Grandma will respond to them. But Claire Louise, from the things that she says, you can tell that she doesn’t hear a word that Grandma is saying. Come to think of it, Claire Louise never was all that good a listener so this habit of hers shouldn’t come as all that much of a surprise to me.

Last night provides an excellent example. Right after Claire Louise told me that she now resides in a presumably eternal location where all three of her horses, all dead, and our dead Longhorn cow also reside,  Grandma said, “You know your grandfather and me, we never did hold with that New Age lunacy that Claire Louise used to spout. My best advice to you, honey, just ignore her.

Carlton wasn’t real impressed with what either one of them had said when I reported in over breakfast in the morning. “Doesn’t sound like she’s made it to heaven if all she’s got to say is that her body’s in better shape than it used to be and she’s living with animals,” constituted his take on the matter. It was seven-thirty and we were eating breakfast. He planned to leave for his office in Molly’s Point, five minutes away by car,  in thirty minutes. Continue reading

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PLAAFPs are supposed to be the Foundation of every IEP

Today’s lesson to parents and advocates: No matter how many times the members of your child’s IEP team tell you that “they’ve got your child’s best interests at heart,” you are advised not to believe them. At best, go ahead and trust, but always verify. By their deeds, not their words, will you know them.

I should have known this long before I began advocating for Aleczander. Shirley, a friend of mine, now deceased God rest her soul, retired as an elementary principal from NEISD. After serving as administration representative for no telling how many ARD meetings, she’d finally had enough of hearing SE directors reassure parents in this manner. After an ARD meeting one day, out of the hearing of parents, Shirley said to the NEISD SE Director, “I’m sick of listening to you lie to parents. You don’t care about what’s good for the child, you only care about what’s good for special education. So I’m putting you on notice; if you ever utter those words in my presence again, I’m going to repeat to you at the meeting exactly what I’ve just said.” Shirley had already announced her retirement so there wasn’t anyway for the district to retaliate against her directly, however her daughter, a 25-year veteran NEISD teacher whose annual reviews had always been exemplary, didn’t fare as well. Her contract wasn’t renewed. Quick update, we truly do serve a risen Lord. Shirley’s daughter immediately found another job, one which paid her more, provided improved working conditions at a charter school. Praise God!

I learned this lesson, don’t trust what public school officials, most especially SE lawyers tell you, the hard way, after I filed a mediation request, a SE complaint, an OCR complaint and a 2nd mediation request during the summer after Aleczander’s disastrous first grade year at ECISD. For any of you who’ve been advocating for more than ten minutes, you can likely guess what happened with that SE complaint. TEA investigated by asking the district for documentation of the special education services provided to Aleczander for the 2014-15 school year. As an aside, I filed that complaint upon the advice of a lawyer who said, “file away, the districts hate it when you do, it creates all sort of paperwork problems for them.” What the lawyer didn’t tell me was that SE complaints are futile and a waste of time. Consider this a word to the wise. If they’ve got a jugular vein, which I seriously doubt, the way to go for the jugular is to file a due process. And don’t even bother with an OCR complaint until after you’ve filed and lost a due process claim. If you do, OCR will treat you really nicely, consume a lot of your time asking for evidence, and then tell you that you have a great case, but that they can’t help you until you’ve exhausted all administrative remedies, which means you have to have gone to due process and lost.  Continue reading

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Don’t Let Anyone Rent Space in Your Head

Sample Letter from Parent to District Articulating Specific Concerns
and Referencing Evidence to Support Parent’s “asks.”
This letter contains three parts: an identifying information opening, a salutation, and a summary of your case. I suggest that you send a letter/email after every encounter with the school district. This becomes the paper trail of your case, and is what you will provide to the TEA hearing officer in the event, highly likely that you end up filing a due process claim against the district. The earlier you start, the easier the summarizing becomes. Don’t worry about how literate or articulate you sound; just write down your understanding of the conversation or meeting and remind the district NICELY of what you are asking them to provide for your child.

Plato was right, I was letting the district intimidate me . . . no more!

Identifying Information: Start with the date, the parents’ name, the child’s name and date of birth, your address, email, and phone number, think inside address to a business letter. Make this information front and center of every document that you create in your pursuit of a FAPE, as it will likely become evidence in a due process case. From personal experience, parents are going to have to demonstrate that they have both the tenacity and the capacity to file one due process claim after another if they want to obtain meaningful SE services from a Texas school district in this post 8.5% cap era. File this fact under the heading of, so very sad, but so very true.

 

SALUTATION: Dear Ms. Pugh, ECISD SE Director & Eric Rodriguez, ECISD SE Lawyer is the greeting that I used for this plus or minus 3000 word email that I prepared for the parents to send to the district on May 14, 2020 as the school district, led by the SE Director and the SE Lawyer continued to deny Aleczander services due to, are you ready for this, the global pandemic? As many of you well know, my advocacy for Aleczander began over 4 years ago. When I started down this road, I thought that the district was terrified that I’d call TEA and “tell on them.” Now I realize that they lie with impunity. To coin a phrase from a former White House official, “we must never let a good crisis go to waste.” Continue reading

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