Tuesday, June 30, 2015

DC Circuit Court Affirms Parents Right to Counsel

The D.C. Court of Appeals issued a decision on June 25th, Price v. DC, affirming the rights of families to secure counsel.  The D.C. Court of Appeals agreed with the parent and COPAA’s Amicus positions and determined that the fee shifting provisions apply to court appointed attorneys in the D.C. Superior Court system and payment through the court appointed panel does not bar attorneys from utilizing the fee shifting statute at a prevailing rate for representation on behalf of families who otherwise could not afford to retain counsel.

COPAA’s amicus brief, written by Michael Kirkpartick from Georgetown University Law Center detailed COPAA’s position, and the Court largely agreed:  The IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., was first enacted in 1975, after Congress determined that children with disabilities were routinely denied educational opportunities afforded to children without disabilities. The IDEA ensures that each child with a disability receives a comprehensive evaluation of his or her unique needs, and a “free appropriate public education.” Id. § 1412(a)(1)(A). To further this goal, Congress added a fee-shifting provision to the IDEA in 1986, providing for an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees “to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability.” Id. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i). Congress made clear that fees awarded under the IDEA, as with other civil rights fee-shifting statutes, “shall be based on rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished.” Id. § 1415(i)(3)(C). Even with the IDEA’s fee-shifting provision, however, structural challenges still exist and prevent low-income families of students with disabilities from enforcing their rights under the IDEA.
Informational asymmetries also exist which render low-income parents less likely to recognize that their child’s school is out of compliance with the IDEA or that remedies are available. As a result, poor parents utilize the IDEA’s private enforcement mechanism less often than their wealthier counterparts, and poor students are less likely to receive the appropriate special education services required by the IDEA. Even when families are able to recognize that the IDEA enforcement mechanisms should be utilized, they are less likely to be able to locate and secure legal representation.  This is in part because private attorneys are sometimes reluctant to take IDEA cases on a purely fee-shifting contingency basis because school districts often make settlement offers which force clients client to sacrifice statutory fees in exchange for the educational services their children need. This problem is particularly prevalent in the District of Columbia, where more than thirty percent of children live in poverty and where the public school system has a long history of noncompliance with the IDEA.  This case is an important validation for families, many who live in poverty, and their ability to access counsel for special education cases. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

UW professor Dr. Berninger offers partnership with Seattle public schools

On June 18th Seattle school board candidate Michael Christophersen delivered  to Seattle public school superintendent Dr. Nyland and school board president Carr a proposal from University professor Dr. Virgina Berninger offering her and her teams services and expertise in professional development for teachers serving students with learning disabilities at no cost to the district.

As of today, we have yet to receive a response from SPS. Time is critical due to the grant involved.

I need your help in making this partnership a reality, please email Dr. Nyland at encouraging SPS to move forward and except Dr. Berninger's most generous offer.

If you need additional information please email candidate Christophersen directly at  

Some of Dr. Berningers recent books are relevant to translation of research into practice, with focus on prevention and serving more students with specific learning disabilities in inclusive general education (more cost effective and more effective for student learning outcomes).  See below. Teachers from the Seattle School District are featured in the Interdisciplinary Frameworks for Schools (APA Books) as exemplary role models.  

Berninger, V. W. (2015). Interdisciplinary frameworks for schools: Best professional practices for serving the needs of all students. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.  Companion Websites with Readings and Resources and Contributions of Advisory Panel. All royalties go to Division 16 to support these websites and develop future editions. 
Berninger, V., & Wolf, B. (in press, 2015). Teaching students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, OWL LD, and dyscalculia: Lessons from teaching and science, Second Edition. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes. Also available as e-book. 
Arfé, B., Dockrell, J., & Berninger, V. (Eds.) (2015). Writing development in children with hearing loss, dyslexia, or oral language problems: Implications for assessment and instruction. NY: Oxford University Press. Also available as an ebook.
McCardle, P., & Berninger, V. (Eds.) (2015). Narrowing the achievement gap for Native American students: Paying the educational debt. New York: Routledge. (All Royalties go to foundations supporting Native American students.) See To view the video recording of the co-authors' conversation for the Chapter by Iisaaksiichaa Ross Braine and Glaadai Tommy Segundo on Model for Narrowing the Achievement Gap for Native Students from Middle and High School to College Graduation , please access UW OMAD/College of Education Discussion:
Native American Outreach at:


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Study shows specific learning disabilities differ in unit of language affected

Jun 24 2015
A new study from the University of Washington shows that not all reading disabilities are the same and that tests and brain imaging can identify different kinds of specific learning disabilities.
These findings highlight the need to change how children with learning disabilities are diagnosed and treated, says lead author Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the UW College of Education.
The paper "Differential diagnosis of dysgraphia, dyslexia, and OWL LD: behavioral and neuroimaging evidence," recently was published in the journal Reading and Writing and co-authored by Todd Richards, professor of radiology, and Robert Abbott, professor of education.
Their study shows that three different kinds of specific learning disabilities (dysgraphia, dyslexia, or oral and written language learning disability) can be defined on the basis of tests that identify their underlying defining characteristics. These underlying characteristics can be diagnosed through tests of children's ability to process and produce different-sized units of language.
Individuals with dysgraphia have trouble with individual letters, both writing the letters legibly and automatically. Meanwhile, individuals with dyslexia have trouble reading and spelling entire words. Individuals with oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD) have trouble with using series of ordered words to understand through listening and reading and to express ideas through talking and writing.
In their study, UW researchers asked children in grades 4 through 9 diagnosed with different specific learning disabilities (SLDs) to do a common task like choosing a correctly spelled word during brain scanning. In reviewing those brain scans, researchers found the number and pattern of connections differ for students with dysgraphia, dyslexia and OWL LD.
"Both students with dyslexia and with OWL LD may have trouble with reading," Berninger said. "But those with dyslexia struggle in learning to decode unknown words and those with OWL LD in reading comprehension."
Compared to children in the control group, Berninger also said children with SLDs showed much greater activation of a structure in the emotional brain. That suggests those children are experiencing social emotional distress over their persisting learning difficulties.
The brain findings add to other recent findings by researchers at the UW Learning Disabilities Center that show white matter and gray matter brain differences between dysgraphia and dyslexia. Brain differences are also found between control group children without specific learning disabilities and those with dysgraphia, dyslexia and OWL LD.
Berninger said the finding is significant because children are currently qualified for services under an umbrella category of SLDs, yet the criteria for doing so vary from state to state and are not based on scientifically supported diagnosis of different kinds of SLDs.
"The reason these problems are persisting beyond third grade for many children is because they aren't being addressed properly," Berninger said. "We have shown that all three are treatable, but we need to tailor the treatment to the specific learning disability."
As many as one in five children may struggle with one or more of the SLDs that UW researchers studied, Berninger said, and differential diagnosis is critical to providing appropriate instruction. For example, other research by the Learning Disabilities Center has shown that computers can assist teachers in providing differentiated instruction for the various SLDs.
The center is now transitioning to move two decades of research into educational practice, Berninger said. Efforts are under way to rethink pre-service and in-service professional development for educators at all levels, from teachers to principals to district-level administrators.
"We need to implement assessment-intervention links across K-to-5 to prevent specific learning disabilities and optimize achievement of all students, including those living in poverty and those whose first language is not English," Berninger said.
In addition, changes to federal and state policy are needed to better identify, diagnose and treat SLDs.
"There's a lot of suffering out there that we can end if we address these learning disabilities earlier on," Berninger said. "We have evidence from our other research studies that specific learning disabilities are preventable if identified and individually tailored instruction is provided throughout early and middle childhood in general education."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A look at some of the SPS legal cost




Major Outside Service Contracts 2014-15

•Calfo Harrigan $35,000
•Curran Law Firm (Special Education) $245,000
•Dunlap & Soderland (Lawsuits) $85,000
•Freimund Jackson Tardif (Employment) $140,000
•Freimund Jackson Tardif (General) $50,000
•Freimund Jackson Tardif (Lawsuits) $300,000
•Half, Robert (Data Breach) $32,000
•Kaiser, Richard $20,000
•Karr Tuttle Campbell (Employment) $50,000
•Karr Tuttle Campbell (Lawsuits) $90,000
•Keating Bucklin (Lawsuits) $50,000
•Kenyon Disend $20,000
•Patterson Buchanan (Lawsuits) $200,000
•Perkins Coie $20,000
•Porter Foster Rorick $50,000
•Preg O’Donnell & Gillette (Employment) $120,000
•Yarmuth Wilsdon (Employment) $50,000

                                                          Total $1,557,000

                        Budget Overview - 2015-16 ($4,889,111)

          Category                            Amount                    Comment
General Counsel Office Costs    $ 51,554  (Printing, supplies, postage, dues, mileage reimbursement)
Department Staffing                 $1,272,716   Five lawyers, five support staff and one .6 FTE
.25 Admin/.35 GC (paid out of Capital)  ($102,222)
Judgements/Settlements               $ 770,000     personal injury, employment,special education claims
Legal Contracts                         $1,850,000      lawsuits, administrative hearings
Property Loss                               $ 17,952      Property loss under CBA provisions

Section 504 Staffing (7.8 FTE) $691,599 Nurses, interpreters and
(does not include 504 Coordinator) audiologists
Section 504 Certified Wrk/Shop $ 10,635 Substitutes/extra time
Section 504 Supplies $ 50,000 Assistive devices or software; special equipment
Section 504 – Travel Reimbursement $ 600
Section 504 Contractual Services $161,200 ASL Interpreters; Real-time captioning; tutoring.
Special Education Cert. and class $ 12,855


Closed Litigation and Other Contested Matters - 2014-15


•Administrative Appeals Under RCW 28A.645: 0
•PERC Hearings: 3
–Administrative Appeals: 3
–Arbitrations: 1
–Claims: 2 ($700,000 settlement)
–Lawsuits: 5 ($240,000 settlement)
•Special Education Due Process Hearings: 10
•Other Lawsuits: 5 ($249,999 settlement)
•Tort Claims: 25 (closed 20 with no payment)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ECCA Floor Debate Delayed

As for efforts to move the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act forward, rumors were plentiful and conflicting all week. On Monday, the education community was gearing up for House and Senate floor action on S. 1177 and H.R. 5 by week’s end. Now it looks like Senate debate is more likely to take place in July. There’s still a chance that the Student Success Act (HR 5) could be on the House floor before the end of next week and the start of a week-long July 4 recess, but early July seems more likely for House activity as well. It appears that July 4th fireworks will come before a floor debate of K-12 federal education policy. They will probably be more fun, too.

Civil rights and education advocates continue to call for Fixes to ECAA, Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). A coalition of groups is coalescing around the four fixes to the bill, which include strengthening accountability for schools and districts to educate all groups of students, including students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners; improved data collection; mandates for states to close disparities in resources for high-poverty schools; and sufficient oversight from the U.S. Department of Education. Thirty-six groups signed on to a letter to the Senate this week urging these fixes. Read the letter here, and learn how to take action here.

Budget and Appropriations Not Good News for Education

This week, the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS-Education) Appropriations Subcommittee did something it hasn’t in three years—held a markup of an annual spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. The bill that was debated isn’t full of good news for education advocates. It proposes to cut funding for Department of Education programs by $2.8 billion and recommends no funding at all for more than 25 programs, including the School Improvement Grant program, the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, Pre-School development grants, the Math and Science Partnership program, Pell Grants, Teacher Quality program grants, Striving Readers and Safe and Drug-free Schools and Communities national programs, among others. Indian Education, Charter Schools, Head Start and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) State grants would see increases in the bill. The full table and report language aren’t available yet, so more details of the spending bill are coming—hopefully before the Appropriations full Committee’s debate of the proposal, which is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24th.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Message from the Special Education Services Executive Director

                                                                                             Wyeth Jessee

                                                                                            Executive Director of Special Education Services

Dear Families and Friends of Special Education Services in Seattle Public Schools,

We have made a tremendous amount of progress that isn't completely visible to people outside SPS Special Education. We are reworking our internal systems, including the creation of a three year professional development plan for school leaders and special education staff, publication of an internal special education procedural guide, articulated roles and responsibilities, proactive recruitment of highly qualified staff, and enhanced capacity for school and family engagement. These are a few examples of this year's work that will help us get to what all of us seek: learning environments where every child can thrive.

Over the last year, Seattle Public Schools has been working on the Revised Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (RC-CAP). The RC-CAP was developed in partnership with OSPI (the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) to bring the District's special education into compliance with state standards. During the last school year, the District has completed 39 of 40 of the required activities. With the development stage of the RC-CAP complete, the District is entering a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with OSPI to establish specific indicators for measuring the District's compliance.

Beginning in the fall of 2015-16, we will support our school sites through a process of ensuring that services are delivered in accordance with district, state, and federal expectations. OSPI will work with us in a verification process which includes on-site activities to assess: 
  • Central Office Evidence Standards, primarily related to data quality and reporting, knowledge of roles, responsibilities, and procedures, and presence of internal controls
  • Regional Service Delivery Standards, including file reviews, staff interviews, classroom observations, and parent focus groups in each region in the district
School visits to verify that special ed. services are meeting standards will occur one region at a time over the course of the coming year.

Seattle Public Schools is eager to enter in to this next phase to continue improving SPS' performance, and we appreciate your participation, input, and support!

We hope you and your family have a wonderful summer break and look forward to seeing you in September!

Wyeth Jessee
Executive Director of Special Education Services

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Debunking the Myths about Dyslexia

  • Myth: Smart people cannot be dyslexic or have a learning disability.
    Fact: Dyslexia and intelligence are NOT connected. Many dyslexic individuals are very bright and creative and have accomplished amazing things as adults.
  • Myth: Dyslexia does not exist.
    Fact: There has been over 30 years of documented, scientific evidence and research proving the existence of dyslexia. It is one of the most common learning disabilities to affect children.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is rare.
    Fact: In the United States, NIH research has shown that dyslexia affects 5-10% of the population, with estimates as high as 17%. Some people may have more mild forms, while others may experience it more severely. Dyslexia is one of the most common causes of reading difficulties in elementary school children. Only 1 in 10 dyslexics will qualify for an IEP and receive the special education services in order to get the help in reading that they need.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is very uncommon.
    Fact: Similar to the above myth, the International Dyslexia Foundation states that between 15% and 20% of the population have a language-based learning disability, dyslexia being the most common of these. The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 15% of the U.S. population has dyslexia.
  • Myth: Dyslexia can be outgrown.
    Fact: Dyslexia is a lifelong issue; yearly monitoring of phonological skills from first through twelfth grade shows that the disability persists into adulthood. Although many dyslexics learn to read accurately they may continue to read slowly and not automatically.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a "catch-all" term.
    Fact: Research has shown that dyslexia is a specific neurological learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding abilities. Other secondary problems in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing may also arise.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is innate, incurable, and permanent.
    Fact: While dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability, early, intensive, and systematic intervention can help a student keep up and retain his grade level in school, as well as minimize the negative effects dyslexia can have, such as low self-esteem and poor self-concept as a learner.
  • Myth: The prevalence of dyslexia is estimated to be between 4-8% of the total population in English speaking countries.
    Fact: Statistics like these can never be certain, because each English-speaking country has its own identification criteria. All that can be known for certain is that in every English-speaking country, a significant percentage of the population has reading and spelling difficulties that range from mild to profound. For example, this percentage in the United States is between 5-17%. The most common of these learning disabilities is dyslexia.
  • Myth: There is no way to diagnose dyslexia.
    Fact: We can accurately identify those who are at-risk for dyslexia as early as preschool; and identify dyslexia as early as 1st grade.
  • Myth: Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until third grade.
    Fact: Professionals with extensive training in diagnosis can accurately identify the precursors to developing dyslexia as early as age 5. We can make a definitive diagnosis as soon as the child begins to struggle with learning to read, spell, and write. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the quicker the child can get help, and the more likely we are to prevent secondary blows to their self-esteem. A combination of a family history of dyslexia and symptoms of difficulties in spoken language can help identify a vulnerable child even before he/she begins formal schooling.
  • Myth: Dyslexia can be accurately diagnosed by an educational psychologist or a 'specialist dyslexia teacher' by using special tests.  Technically, yes. Although, depending which professional is doing the assessment, the diagnosis may differ. Often, specialists will use phrases in a written report such as “child has a specific weakness in phonological development” instead of saying "child has dyslexia." Additionally, many times the school personnel will say that they don't diagnose dyslexia. It's a matter of semantics -- in most states, dyslexia falls under the special education code. It is a specific learning disability (SLD) in reading, spelling, and/or writing and may be coupled with challenges in oral expression. Don’t give up hope, though! Dyslexia can be diagnosed and early, systematic and explicit intervention can help minimize its negative effects.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.
    Fact: Dyslexia is not characterized as a medical problem and is not tested by doctors because they don’t have training in oral language, reading, writing, or spelling assessment and diagnosis. There is no pill or medication that can heal dyslexia. Additionally, dyslexia is typically not covered by medical insurance (i.e., it is not a medical problem), although it does have lifelong negative effects that can encompass feelings of wellbeing.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a specific brain weakness. It is a genetically-based, neurological difficulty with phoneme awareness and processing skills (the ability to perceive and manipulate speech sounds).
    Fact: Phonemic awareness is only necessary when learning to read and spell, which involves using an alphabet code. Research has shown that this aptitude is not acquired often in children. Usually, students need systematic phonics instruction in order to become proficient in reading and processing. Some people find this ability to learn how to recognize and manipulate phonemes more difficult than others due to normal genetic variation, rather than a brain weakness. (Source:
  • Myth: fMRI brain scan studies show that dyslexics’ brains work differently from those of non-dyslexics.
    Fact: When a brain scan is done on someone who struggles to read while he is trying to read, the scan will look different than that of someone who has no trouble with reading. 
  • Myth: Dyslexia is caused by a lack of phonics instruction.
    Fact: Increased phonics instruction will not help a child with dyslexia. Children with dyslexia are able to learn phonics once they have the underlying phonemic awareness abilities; although they may continue having trouble applying it. This is why difficulty with phonics and word pronunciation is a good warning sign of dyslexia.
  • Myth: Children who fail to discover how to read from embedded phonics instruction by age 7 or 8 and remain phonologically unaware are likely to have dyslexia. Children who continue to struggle with reading despite receiving conventional remediation (‘treatment non-responders’) have the most severe form of dyslexia.
    Fact: Failure to read is often more to do with the nature of teaching rather than the nature of the child. A child will not develop dyslexia because he has trouble reading. There are many causes of reading difficulty. If a child is dyslexic, he will show many of the other warning signs. (Source:
  • Myth: Dyslexics are compensated for their lack of phonological ability by being gifted in the artistic/visual-spatial sphere.
    Fact: Systematic research and investigation has found little evidence to support this theory, comforting though it may be. Yet, there are many successful dyslexics who have gravitated towards fields of these types.
  • Myth: People with dyslexia cannot read.
    Fact: Incorrect. Most children and adults with dyslexia are able to read, even if it is at a basic level. Spelling is one of the classic red flags alerting parents and teachers of a serious underlying problem. The child may be unable to understand the basic code of the English language and cannot break down or reconstruct (with spelling) words using codes (letters).
  • Myth: Dyslexic children will never read well, so it’s best to teach them to compensate.
    Fact: Individuals with dyslexia can become terrific readers with the appropriate intervention (i.e., systematic, explicit, and research-based). It is important to test a child early in his/her school career in order to identify any problems and attempt to prevent major reading difficulties before they even start.
  • Myth: Every child who struggles with reading is dyslexic.
    Fact: Dyslexia is the most common cause of difficulties with reading, but it is by no means the only cause. Children with problems understanding spoken language also have problems with reading comprehension since oral language undergirds learning to read, spell, and write. Dyslexia does not only cause difficulties in reading, but may also be manifested in challenges in spelling, verbal expression, speech, writing, and memorization. If a child is dyslexic, she most likely will show other warning signs besides having trouble with reading.
  • Myth: If a dyslexic child reads out loud for 20 minutes per day, it will improve his or her reading.
    Fact: Reading out loud will not help a child sound out unknown words. Instead, he will continue to try to memorize the shape of a word and use pictures and context clues to try and guess it which will not help his reading development. That said, being exposed to the same texts that his or her peers are reading and learning from is very important, so a dyslexic child should be read to (or read along to audiobooks) every day.
  • Myth: If you don’t teach a dyslexic child to read by age 9, then it’s too late for them to ever learn how to read.
    Fact: It is never too late to improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of someone with dyslexia.
  • Myth: People with dyslexia see things backwards.
    Fact: Dyslexics do not see things backwards because dyslexia is not a problem with the eyes. The research has demonstrated that there is no difference between the letter reversals of young dyslexic and non-dyslexic children. Dyslexia may cause people to reverse certain words because of their confusion when discerning between left and right and their difficulties comprehending their reading.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a visual problem – dyslexics see words backwards and letters reversed.
    Fact: This was proven inaccurate by a study by Professor Frank Vellutino while at the University at Albany. He asked dyslexic and non-dyslexic American students to reproduce a series of Hebrew letters that none of them had ever seen before. The dyslexic students were able to perform the task just as accurately as the non-dyslexic students, showing that their dyslexia did not affect their eyesight.
  • Myth: Any child who reverses letters or numbers has dyslexia.
    Fact: Up to a certain point, it is considered normal for children to reverse their letters and numbers, and is actually quite common. However, if this does not stop after two years of handwriting instruction, it becomes a red flag for dyslexia.
  • Myth: Dyslexic children see things backward (i.e., writing letters and words backward) and reversals are an invariable sign of the disability.
    Fact: Many young children reverse letters when learning to write. While it is true that dyslexic children have difficulties attaching the appropriate labels or names to letters and words, there is no evidence that they actually see letters and words backward.
  • Myth: Mirror writing is a symptom of dyslexia.
    Fact: Backwards writing and reversals of letters and words are common in the early stages of writing development among dyslexic and non-dyslexic children alike. Dyslexic children have problems in naming letters (i.e., remembering and quickly accessing the letter names), but not necessarily in copying them. Because many people erroneously, and incorrectly, believe that letter reversals define dyslexia, the children who do not make letter reversals often go undiagnosed.
  • Myth: Intelligence and ability to read are related, so if someone doesn’t read well, they can’t be very smart.
    Fact: There is absolutely no relation between dyslexia and IQ. Dyslexics can have high, middle, or low IQ’s just like the rest of the population.
  • Myth: Children with dyslexia are just lazy. They should try harder.
    Fact: If there is ONE myth that we'd like to see disappear, it is this one. Lack of awareness about the disorder among educators and parents has ofter resulted in the child being branded as "lazy." What frequently happens is that these children learn that they are going to fail at tasks of reading, spelling, and writing; it becomes an attempt at self-preservation (i.e., rather than try and fail, it is safer to just not try or work laboriously to no avail). Research has shown, with the technology of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), that those with dyslexia use a different part of their brain when reading and working with language. Dyslexic people show an abnormal pattern of brain function when reading: underactivity in some regions, overactivity in another which, according to research, accounts for the difficulty they have in extracting meaning from the printed word. The findings provide evidence that people with dyslexia are not poorly taught, lazy, or stupid, but have an inborn brain difference that has nothing to do with intelligence. If students with dyslexia do not receive the right type of intervention and/or classroom accommodations, they often struggle in school -- despite being bright, motivated, and spending hours on homework assignments.
  • Myth: Gifted children cannot be dyslexic or have a learning disability.
    Fact: Many dyslexics have very high IQs and have gone on to accomplish outstanding things in their lives. Many famous authors, researchers, actors and actresses, politicians, athletes, and others from all different professions are dyslexic.
  • Myth: Retaining a child (i.e., holding them back a grade) will improve their academic struggles.
    Fact: According to several institutions (i.e., U.S. Department of Education, American Federation of Teachers, National Association of School Psychologists), there is no benefit to retention because it has never improved a student’s academic struggles. These students do not need another year of the same instruction -- they need differentiated intervention that is research-based, systematic, and explicit.
  • Myth: Accommodations are a crutch, and the student for whom they are made will become lazy.
    Fact: Accommodations are not an advantage; it is an attempt to level the playing field. To paraphrase Richare Lavoie, fair doesn't mean everyone gets the same thing; fair means everyone gets what he or she needs to be successful. Even with certain accommodations, such as extra time on a test, a slow reader will still feel the same time constraints compared to the ordinary reader.
  • Myth: Most teachers know the warning signs of dyslexia, so they can alert a parent if their child is showing symptoms.
    Fact: An individual with dyslexia often is confronted with challenges when attending school. Most classroom teachers have not had formal training in dyslexia. Since there are so many different types and severities of a learning disability that could potentially be in a classroom at a given time, it is difficult for one teacher to be an expert and identify all of the needs of the students. Therefore, if your child is struggling and not achieving, it behooves you to talk with your child's teachers and building principal to begin the steps toward requesting additional help, and, if necessary, a special education referral for a suspected learning disability (LD).
  • Myth: More boys than girls have dyslexia.
    Fact: Boys’ reading disabilities are indeed identified more often than girls’, but studies indicate that such identification is biased. The actual prevalence of the disorder is nearly identical in the two sexes. So why are more boys sent for testing than girls? Largely, it's because of their behavior. It seems when boys in first, second, or third grade can't do classroom assignments or homework, they get frustrated and act out their frustration. Parents and teachers notice that behavior and then try to figure out why they are behaving that way -- by sending them for testing. But often, when girls in the early grades can't do the work, they tend to get quiet, move to the back of the room, and try to become invisible. So they don't get noticed as early. Often, their dyslexia is not discovered until much later.
  • Myth: Public schools don’t admit that dyslexia exists.
    Fact: Some schools may try to deny the existence of dyslexia despite years of research and hard evidence, however, as more people including parents and educators are becoming aware of how common dyslexia is, some states are beginning to pass state-wide dyslexia laws. These laws may require schools to screen children for dyslexia. Other states require college courses intended to educate teachers about dyslexia.
  • Myth: Schools test children for dyslexia.
    Fact: Most public schools do not screen students for dyslexia because federal funding does not require them to do so. A school, however, may test a child with dyslexia to see if he qualifies for special education under the guidelines for specific learning disability (LD).
  • Myth: If a child is not eligible for special education services or an IEP, then that child doesn’t have dyslexia.
    Fact: Dyslexia comes in many degrees from mild to severe. Most children with dyslexia will not receive special education services unless they score very poorly, usually under the 10th percentile. Unfortunately, even children with mild dyslexia can easily fall behind in school.
  • Myth: Only children with an IEP can get classroom accommodations.
    Fact: Children with 504 Plans can get the same classroom accommodations as children with IEPs. Also, teachers can give classroom accommodations to any student, regardless of whether that student has an IEP or a 504 Plan or not.
  • Myth: There is not enough money in the education budget to pay for accommodations or additional teacher training.
    Fact: Most classroom accommodations don’t cost anything, nor do they require any special teacher training.
  • Myth: Teachers can’t make accommodations for a dyslexic child because they can’t change the curriculum.
    Fact: Accommodations do not alter the curriculum. Accommodations are a slight change in the way a teacher will present new ideas, has students practice new skills, or tests the new subject material. Accommodations change methods of teaching, not classroom material.
  • Myth: It isn’t fair for a teacher to make accommodations for one dyslexic child in a classroom when these accommodations are not given to every student.
    Fact: A fair approach to teaching means providing each student with what he/she needs in order to succeed. A student has to be willing to utilize the accommodations made for him in order to succeed so ultimately, a child with accommodations made for him still has to work just as hard to succeed as any other student.
  • Myth: If a teacher doesn’t count off for spelling for a dyslexic child, then that child will never learn how to spell.
    Fact: By virtue of a diagnosis of dyslexia, a dyslexic child has great difficulty learning to spell in the traditional way, so marking off for spelling will not teach him how to spell. They need to be taught spelling using alternative methods, such as the Orton-Gillingham approach. Unless it is specifically a spelling test (and then Dr. Pierson would recommend reducing the number of words that a dyslexic child would have to spell to demonstrate that he has learned a particular spelling pattern), a dyslexic student’s papers should be graded for content only, and not spelling.
  • Myth: Some schools are reluctant to use the “D” word and don’t allow their teachers to say the word “dyslexia” while on campus.
    Fact: Some schools are in fact reluctant to use the term “dyslexia” because it has become taboo by “over-zealous and demanding parents” and many consider it a medical versus an educational diagnosis; however, as more school personnel are learning about dyslexia and how common it actually is, more are starting to recognize it and look for the warning signs in students.

An analysis of dyslexic students at the elementary level

While research abounds regarding what encompasses the reading disability known as
dyslexia, there is a gap in the knowledge regarding success rates specifically for students who
have been diagnosed with dyslexia (Fawcett, 2001; see also Lyon, 1995; Slavin & Madden,
1995). A need to find out if dyslexic students are progressing is imperative. If dyslexic students
are in a regular education class, the program should address all of their areas of need and ensure
that these students overcome the educational hurdles they face every day. The Texas Dyslexia
Guidelines mandate that every school district must implement a program to assess and serve
students with dyslexia (Texas Education Agency, 2007). Several programs are available for the
dyslexic student. The school district that was examined in this study utilizes the basic language
skills program, which is a multisensory structured program, based on the Orton-Gillingham
approach. Programs that have shown to be the most effective are those programs that are based
on the Orton-Gillingham approach (Fawcett, 2001). Most seem to be personalized in nature and
based to fit the specific needs of the children to ensure their future success.
Not all children with dyslexia are alike. These students' intellectual capacity is average to
above average and they can be labeled as gifted. There is not a simple formula for treating a
dyslexic child. Each one requires their own customized plan (Harrie & Weller, 1984). Reading at
a significantly lower level than is typical of children of their age and intelligence when standard
classroom reading intervention programs are used is one of the only traits they share.
Once the district has determined that a student has dyslexia, the district needs to provide
an appropriate instructional program for the student. Then, a team who is knowledgeable about
the student needs to make instructional decisions for the dyslexic student. The school must also
provide each dyslexic student with access to services by a trained teacher in dyslexia and related
disorders. Each student's parents or guardians must also be informed of all the services and
options available to his or her child and the district must also provide the parents/guardians with
a parent education program.

In May 1998, the State Board of Education revised the guidelines for serving dyslexic
students in Texas. The Texas Education Agency published The Dyslexia Handbook: Procedures
Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders to provide school districts and parents with
additional information regarding the state's dyslexia law and its relationship to federal laws,
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
The information in the handbook was designed to help both educators and parents to provide
appropriate accommodations for dyslexic students. The dyslexia handbook was revised in 2007
by the Texas Education Agency.
The State of Texas has passed legislation that mandates every student's academic
achievement through the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) on or above grade level
by third grade and throughout their schooling. The Texas Student Success Initiative (SSI), which
was passed by the 76th Texas Legislature in 1999, is the guide that educators will follow to
ensure that the public school children in Texas can complete the requirements set forth by this
legislation (Texas Education Agency, 2007).

Is English Making Us Dyslexic?

Why it might be time to revamp our native tongue

As anyone who’s lost a spelling bee or failed a spelling test will affirm, the English language is more ornery than most. About 25% of its words employ irregular spellings, and many of these terms are among the most frequently used in the language. Cross-cultural research demonstrates that the trickiness of English affects how quickly American children learn to read and write. After just a few months of instruction, for example, children living in Italy are able to read and write any word they encounter, because their language is almost perfectly regular: each letter or combination of letters maps reliably onto a particular sound. Children in the U.S., on the other hand, must endure years of drills before they have mastered the intricacies of bough and bow, weigh and way. (American pupils can console themselves with the knowledge that kids in China have it even harder: there, lessons on reading and writing the thousands of symbols in the Chinese language extend into students’ teenage years.)

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Difference Our Teachers Make, very impressive!

Docere, Delectare, Movere. To teach, To delight, To move. That's what we do.  All of our teachers are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and committed to classical education.  As such, our teachers are not focused on education as mere technique or simply the employment of certain methods.  Of course, methodology is important, but framing education exclusively in terms of technique evades the issue of what education is.  Education is more than mere technique.  Education is the architecture of the soul, not mere 'data-transfer'. Because of this, rather than seeking out teachers who specifically and only have training and degrees in education, we seek out teachers who already have extensive knowledge of the subject that will be taught.  In keeping with this, we think the following is important when we choose a teacher for the Memoria Press Online Academy:
1. We look for a good working knowledge of the subject matter.
This might seem like a patently obvious consideration, hardly worth mentioning.  Yet, in the current climate, in which education is defined primarily in terms of progressivism and pragmatism, this cannot be overemphasized.  A teacher actually needs to know what they are teaching.  For example, many of our English teachers have formal training in this area, often holding a degree in English or Literature.  It is not always the case that our teachers hold a degree in the exact same area they are teaching, but all teachers have relevant training and experience in their subjects.  Another example is Latin.  All of our Latin teachers have had formal training in Latin, and some hold degrees in Latin and Liberal Arts.  But some of our Latin teachers have formal training in Latin and hold degrees in other areas like Biblical Studies, Theology, or Classics.  These disciplines are relevant and all of this is considered when we choose our instructors.
2. An enthusiastic, confident teacher who enjoys the subject is essential.
Many of us have had a teacher who was less than enthusiastic, sometimes even bored with what they are teaching.  A student is not above his teacher, and a teacher bored with what they are teaching encourages students to be bored with it as well.
3. We look for clear communicators who will carefully lead students through the subject.
Necessarily, an enthusiastic teacher who really knows the material will know more than the student, but has the added responsibility to present the material clearly, define terms, and to use memorable illustrations.  It sounds simple but it is an often neglected aspect of education; students need the material presented to them - the more explicitly the better.  In modern permissivist education theory, teachers are supposed to use "discovery" learning.  Teachers in training are told not to be the "sage on the stage" but to be the "guide on the side."  Cheryl Lowe, Headmistress of Highlands Latin School, points out that this amounts to saying that the best way to teach students is to withold information from them.  This is about as effective as it sounds.
4. We look for a teacher who embodies the knowledge and virtue he or she is teaching.
Students not only need to know what truth, goodness, and beauty are, they need to see it in the teacher.  And it's not only with things like the great transcendentals (truth, goodnes, and beauty), the same is true of individual subjects.  Children will place the same value on subjects that we place on them.  If a teacher tells them what to learn but does not conduct themselves in a manner that exemplifies knowledge and virtue, they will fail.  Remember, a student is not above his teacher.

Can a creative approach school solve the dyslexic dilemma in SPS

The Hamlin Robinson School (HRS) is an independent school in Seattle offering a specialized program specifically for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. We understand the interdependence of the educational, social, and emotional needs of dyslexic students. These children have a common need for a great education and to be taught in a way in which they can learn. Students are accepted at their instructional level, and respect is a fundamental value at HRS. Our students acquire self-advocacy skills as they learn what makes them successful.

Believing that all children can learn with confidence and success, Hamlin Robinson School provides an engaging, multi‐sensory academic program within a vibrant urban setting. Founded as an elementary school and now serving grades one through eight, HRS aspires to establish a  comprehensive institute for dyslexia education, research, training and information – a nationally recognized resource center for language and
learning issues.

So what's Seattle public schools solution?

The Seattle school district's legal department officially admitted back in September 2014 that they can find no evidence of services or programs for dyslexic students. The achievement gap for dyslexic students is well documented and still there has been no visible movement at SPS to serve these students. Remember we are talking about up to 8,000 students those already diagnosed and those that have fallen through the cracks.

I believe the time has come for strategic intervention in the form of a publicly funded creative approach school for students with dyslexia.  Can a creative approach school solve the dyslexic dilemma in SPS? I think if you look at HRS you can see what's possible when there's a will to serve.

I believe this type of school should be an option available to our families, that families should not have to sell their homes, empty their savings accounts or hire a lawyer for their child to be served in our public school system.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Right to Compensatory Education for Denial of Child Find, an IEP and FAPE

The DC Court of Appeals issued a decisive decision last week in the case: Boose v. District of Columbia.  The Court of Appeals determined that the violations of the IDEA's "child find" requirements, or the  failure to offer a student  an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and if that failure affects a student's education then that student has been denied a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  Furthermore, the Court delineated the responsibility to rectify that denial with compensatory education:

"And when a school district denies a child a FAPE, the courts have “broad discretion” to fashion an appropriate remedy. See Florence County School District Four v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7, 15–16 (1993). That equitable authority, this court has held, must include the power to order “compensatory education”—that is, education services designed to make up for past deficiencies in a child’s program. Reid ex rel. Reid v. District of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 522–23 (D.C. Cir. 2005). If compensatory education were unavailable, after all, a child’s access to appropriate education could depend on his parents’ ability to pull him out of the deficient public program and front the cost of private instruction—a result “manifestly incompatible with IDEA’s purpose of ‘ensur[ing] that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education.’” Id. at 522–23 (quoting 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A)); see also School Committee of the Town of Burlington, Massachusetts v. Department of Education of Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 359 (1985) (compelling reimbursement for private instruction to avoid the same harm). Worse yet, “students who remained in public school [without an appropriate plan] would lack any effective redress for FAPE denials, even those extending over many years.” Reid, 410 F.3d at 523. To be sure, such students could seek a satisfactory IEP. But because the Supreme Court has held that IEPs need do no more than provide “some educational benefit” going forward, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 200 (1982), an education plan conforming to that standard will speak only to “the child’s present abilities,” Reid, 401 F.3d at 523. Unlike compensatory education, therefore, an IEP “carries no guarantee of undoing damage done by prior violations,” id., and that plan alone cannot take the place of adequate compensatory education."

Stanford study on brain waves shows how different teaching methods affect reading development

Stanford Professor Bruce McCandliss found that beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading.


Full story 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Announcing COPAA's 4th Cohort of SEAT, Apply Now!

COPAA is proud to conduct a year-long Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT)TM , the only nationally developed and recognized year-long course that provides participants with training to become a special education advocate. The course is based in part on the SEAT Curriculum TM  developed through a partnership between COPAA and Children's Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) University Center for Excellence, University of Southern California on a three year demonstration grant funded by the U.S . Department of Education in 2005. The grant funded portion of the project ended in 2009, resulting in development of a model curriculum for advocacy training that was vetted through 3 cohorts under the direction of a 10 member National Advisory Board, and several members of the COPAA Training Committee, all of whom are nationally recognized special education advocates and attorneys.

This session is the fourth cohort for COPAA, using a web-based curriculum and distance learning.   This is an exciting adventure in training a diverse group of special education advocates, and we are looking forward to another rich and rewarding experience.
This training is the equivalent of two very challenging college courses.  The course is being offered as a combination of self-paced web learning, readings, group and individual assignments as well as live virtual classrooms.  The course schedule lays out the assignments required for each topic and the time/dates of the virtual classes.   Participants must have a computer, web access, frequent access to email and be comfortable with distance learning.

Participants are expected to complete work before the virtual classes to be able to participate fully in discussions. Typically, 5-6 hours per week is required to complete course assignments, attend online classes, and optional discussion groups. If an issue arises that prevents this from happening, participants should contact the instructors to discuss options.

* All Applications are subject to approval of the course instructors.
Please note that individuals participating must be eligible for COPAA membership.
SEAT Tuition: 

COPAA Members - $1,150.00 ( $345 due with application, $805 due upon acceptance)
Non-Members – $1,300.00 ( $390 due with application, $910 due upon acceptance. Includes one year of COPAA membership).
**30% of the tuition will be due when applying. Application deposit is fully refundable if not accepted the SEAT program. If accepted it is applied to course tuition.

*** Balance Due upon acceptance

Scholarship Discount:

A limited number of qualified individuals whose family income is at or below 2 x the federal poverty level or who have extenuating circumstances may apply for a SEAT registration fee discount. The discounted tuition amount is 30% of full tuition rate. Requests will be considered on first come basis. To apply for consideration you must complete the online application for SEAT and note in the comments box you are applying for a scholarship. Then send a letter of request with proof that you meet the poverty guidelines (i.e.,the first two pages of your federal tax return) to   A COPAA Representative will contact you to confirm eligibility and availability. Federal Guideline can be found here:

Deadline for scholarship discount applications is August 25, 2015. However, there is a limited number and they will be considered and awarded on a first come basis. 
Best wishes,
COPAA's Training Committee