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Doing Your Homework:
How Can I Get a Reading Reading Program That Works?
by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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"My son was diagnosed at 4 years old with multiple learning disabilities. He is currently in the 6th grade but reading at a 3rd grade level. boy readingAt his triennial IEP meeting, I asked for a reading program to help him learn to read.

"The school did some testing and recommended he stay with his classroom SRA reading program. He would receive 1 hour of reading instruction a day with the SRA program together with his class.

"The school monitored his progress with weekly reading fluency tests. He went from 54 words per minute to 71 words per minute in 6 weeks. Is this improvement large enough?

"I have been reading all the NCLB material presented on the Wrightslaw website and did not even see the SRA program listed as a good program for intervention. I would like to call an IEP meeting and ask for a better reading program to help my son. What's the best program?

Sue Answers

The Hasbrouck and Tindal oral reading fluency norms (2006) rank 71 words per minute as a first grade level.

Find out what research based fluency program is being used. Fluency falls later on the continuum of reading skills. Working on fluency to raise his levels by three years is an unworkable strategy.

Get an Evaluation

You need to look at his evaluations to see what his primary reading needs are.

IEPs must be based upon evaluations. Is there an evaluation that says your son cannot learn grade level material "even with the very best instruction"? This is 'federal wording'.
URL: http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/finrule/2003-4/120903a.pdf

If there is, was the determination made by someone who is qualified to make such a determination? What are the person's qualifications? A Ph.D or Master's degree?

There is nothing about your child's current reading instruction that will get him to a 12th grade level by the time he graduates.

You need an outside evaluation to determine what your son needs for reading instruction. Find an evaluator in the private sector who has expertise in language learning disabilities and dyslexia. If you don't know where to start, contact the International Dyslexia Association and ask for a list of evaluators. You can also check the listings for your state on the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities.

Have you signed anything agreeing that your son will be placed in classes that are not designed to teach him grade level material? Find out.

Review Your Child's Records

An attorney will want to see you son's complete file. You may as well get copies of all of it now. Read 14 Tips: Reviewing Your Child's Educational Records.

You need to be able to understand everything there is to understand about the existing evaluation and the future evaluation.

Your Required Reading

Read these articles.

Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Educator, Advocate & Attorney

Reading Tests: What They Measure, and Don't Measure

After you read these articles (and you will need to read them more than once), you will have the knowledge to be an educated, informed participant on your child's IEP team. You will also have a current evaluation that you can trust.

Consult with an Attorney About a Unilateral Private School Placement

If there is a private school anywhere near you that will be able to provide what your child needs, consult with an attorney about doing a "unilateral placement".

Do not attempt a unilateral placement without consulting with an attorney.

But if you have a school in mind that would work, and the public school has not done what needs to be done, a unilateral placement may be the perfect solution. An attorney will be able to tell you if this will work for you.

These sites have directories of attorneys who may be able to help.

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)

Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids - listings of attorneys by state.

National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems (NAPAS)

Good Luck,

Sue


Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.


Copyright © 2002-2014 by Suzanne Whitney.

Her articles include:

A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind

What Teachers, Principals & School Administrators Need to Know About NCLB

Getting Help for Children with Reading Problems

Research-Based Reading Instruction

Exit Exams Can Be Optional If You Plan Ahead

10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention Policies

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Revised: 03/18/08
Created 11/20/07

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