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Doing Your Homework
Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor

Suzanne Whitney, Wrightslaw Research Editor Suzanne Whitney writes Doing Your Homework, a series about reading, research based instruction, creative advocacy strategies, and school improvement.

Sue is the co-author of the 2001 book, Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind. In 2015, Congress reauthorized the No Child Left Behind Act and replaced it with the Every Student Succeeds Actso NCLB is no longer good law.


Worried About Your Child's Regression? Loss of Skills? Is it Time for a Different Plan for Your Child's Education?" - Sue reviews what we know about remote/virtual instruction; helps you establish instructional goals in reading and math for your child and set up a different educational program so your child is on grade level when school reopens.

Can the School Terminate My Child's Eligibility for Special Ed? Evaluations, IQ Scores, and Grades - If the school's criteria for determining a child's eligibility for special education are IQ scores and grades, this is incorrect and inappropriate. Sue explains how eligibility decisions must be made and other legal requirements for determining if a child is or is not eligible for special education.

Struggling with Dyslexia AND French 101. Sue Whitney, Research Editor at Wrightslaw, answers a parent's question about dyslexia and studying a foreign language. Sue explores a number of issues that must be considered for a child with a reading disability.

Reading Fluency - How Can I Get a Program That Works? Sue provides advice about how you can get appropriate reading instruction that will meet your child's needs. She offers a plan to obtain the knowledge you need to be an effective, educated member of your child's IEP team.

One Reason Kids Aren't Learning to Read. If we were graduating and certifying people who could teach reading they would be doing it. I can't find any state that requires a candidate for a certified education position to have training/certification in even one research based reading progra..

Why Use Research Based Reading Programs? Sue explains the reasoning behind the requirements in NCLB for research based programs and answers more questions about reading and research based reading programs.

My Son Has LD. How Can I Get the School to Teach Him to Read? You are on the right track, but you do not have enough information. Find out what else you need to know and do.

Are Any Schools Using Research to Improve Reading? Jimmy Kilpatrick, publisher of EducationNews, asks: "Do you know of any school in the nation that has adopted and used successfully the NIH research in reading?" Sue Whitney explains how things are changing and why.

Preventing Reading Difficulties and Reading Failure: Early Intervention and Prevention - Sue responds to a teacher's request for information about research on teaching children; includes a comprehensive list of free publications, articles, research - and a free video.

Interpreter as Teacher? Not in IDEA. Interpreters are not teachers. It is ridiculous that an IEP team would design an education plan that does not specify a teacher. It needs to be a teacher who speaks the same language as your son.

Genes & Dyslexia: A Simple Test to Identify Dyslexic Children at Birth is Less Than One Year Away - The ease with which we can learn to read is governed by our biological make-up. A genetic test for dyslexia should be available within a year or less. Pediatricians will be able to accurately identify children with dyslexia at birth.

How Can I Get a Trained Certified Reading Teacher?
"I want my daughter to receive instruction from a certified, trained instructor who can bring her up to grade level. What can I do?"

Mom Needs Help: Child Can't Read - "My son cannot read. The teachers and principal at his school are wonderful. They want my son to have an aide during the day. The school board will not approve this. As a single mother of three children and a college student myself, I feel like I am being ignored."

Getting Help for Children with Reading Problems - You have to ensure that your child learns to read, with or without help from the school. If you wait until you convince the school, you will miss the window of opportunity your son has to learn to read fluently

Reading is NOT "One Size Fits All". A reading program needs to be chosen based upon the unique and individual needs of a particular student. One reading program will not work for all students, even if the reading program is research based.

Reading Recovery & IEP Problems
 - Unless you have an independent evaluation that tells you that Reading Recovery is appropriate for your child, do not invest time in the program just because it is available, or just to see if it will work.

Research-Based Reading Instruction - Are there experts in this field? Is there a way to find tutors for children with reading problems and independent evaluators? Is there an organization that can answer questions that educators, school board members, and parents have about effective reading instruction? -- Yes to all these questions.

Teaching a Child to Read: Special Ed or Reading First? - Is my son prohibited from being in Reading First because he's in special ed?

What Are the Criteria for Remedial Reading Programs? This article defines three reasons for reading failure, six qualities of effective reading programs, requirements for research based reading programs - and the price children pay when we do not teach them to read. Sue also describes the federal model reading program (90 minutes of instruction, 5 days a week) with frequent objective assessments, and provides you with questions you should ask about your child's reading program.

My Child is Making Progress - WHY Would the School Switch Reading Programs? Sue discusses the puzzling question of switching from one reading program to another program that is not interchageable and how making the change will require starting at a lower level in order to fill in gaps.

ADHD Diagnosis Should Not Mean Academic Failure. Does it make sense to you that distractibility and organization are the only problems? Children do not fail unless there is a reason for it.

Reading Comprehension Programs and Assessments. The most research-based and proven reading comprehension program on the planet is only useful when the comprehension issue is at the print level of language. Time for an evaluation.

High Test Scores, Disruptive in Class...Academic or Discipline Issue? Unless your daughter has had a very recent private sector neuropsychological evaluation, you probably do not know specifically what she needs.  Without knowing what she needs, it is more than likely you will not be successful in finding an appropriate school or program.

Advocacy Strategies

Can the School Retain an Honor Student Because of Health Needs? Sue recommends requesting eligibility under IDEA and explains why. She also provides a sample letter to request an eligibility meeting.

Can We Include a Health Care Plan in My Child's IEP? There is no need to write a separate Section 504 Plan.  You should be able to include all needed accommodations in your daughter's IEP.

Are These Good IEP Goals? When IEP goals make no sense, you need to know your child's present levels - that is the starting point for writing good IEP goals.

Migraines, Medication, and Missed Instruction. Requesting Eligibility. How to write a letter to request an eligibility meeting under IDEA, and a sample letter.

What Type of Training is Required to Become an Advocate? Sue Whitney, explains what you need to learn to become an advocate and where you can get training. You'll also find a reading and resource list.

Parent Volunteers are NOT a Substitute for Trained Teachers - Answers to a parent's questions about volunteers in the classroom. Sue explains the need for formal accommodation and treatment plans for students with disabilities that are implemented by trained teachers, NOT parent volunteers.

Teacher Says, "I Don't Care if He Has an IEP," - Mother Asks for Help
 - Background of the story; two questions; excellent advice about IEPs, IEP meetings, goals and accommodations, and one-on-one paraprofessionals from Suzanne Whitney.

All Wound Up With No Idea Where to Go. It's time focus on your son's needs and learn the skills you need to make things change for the better. how to focus your energy. It will help you "unwind" and turn your emotions into skilled advocacy.

Can a Child Be Punished for Not Meeting IEP Goals? If the teacher fails to meet the instructional objective, it makes no sense to punish the child. It is the teacher's failure. She has not taught your child what he needs to be able to do in order the reach the goa..

Our School Says the IEP has Expired: Now What? IEPs do not expire. An IEP remains in effect until a new one is written or you agree that an IEP for specialized instruction and related services is no longer needed.

Behavior Problems and Discipline: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know
- Learn about the child's right to a free appropriate education, the role of the IEP team, functional behavior assessments, behavior intervention plans, and alternative educational settings.

Transition from Special Ed Teacher to Special Ed Advocate. You are wise to prepare for becoming an advocate when you retire What's next? Sue Whitney offers 13 tips about what you need to do.

Behavior Problems: It Isn't Okay Just to Teach the Easy Kids - Sometimes schools discipline - even suspend or expel - students with disabilities for behavior caused by their disabilities. What should a parent do after the principal unilaterally moved her child from one class to another? Sue provides advice about how to deal with this "teacher problem" and how to avoid similar problems in the future.

How Can I File a Section 504 Complaint? - A parent is distressed when his child is dismissed from a sports team. Sue offers a plan to deal with the immediate crisis, provides information about how to get an appropriate 504 Plan - and to ensure that the school implements the plan.

Must Colleges Waive Course Requirements for Students with Disabilities? Should We File a Section 504 Complaint? In this article, Sue answers this question, "My son's disability diagnosis prevents higher math and the Disability Services office at his college denied a waiver for a higher math class requirement. How do we file a Section 504 complaint against the school?"

How to Organize a Successful Parent Group - In response to a parent's request for advice, Sue explains how to develop a communication network, build a simple website, publicize events, team up with other groups, and more. "The key to success is to empower others by providing quality information."

How to Work Effectively With Your State Advisory Panel. This is good place to be if you would like to encourage change. Here are some more tips that will be helpful as you serve.

Child's Test Scores Dropping, School Doesn't Care - What Can I Do? - Although it is normal to feel angry and frustrated when your child needs help, this won't help your son in the long run. If you focus on who is to blame, you are likely to burn out before you . . ."

Your Child's IEP & Progress in the General Curriculum - Your child's IEP should be based on information from current evaluations (present levels of educational performance) and your state's curriculum and standards .

Making the Transition from School to Work - Parents need to start thinking about transition to adulthood when their children are toddlers. Schools do not need to address this issue until the child is 16.

Model Section 504 Plans - You can download excellent model 504 plans and health plans from the American Diabetes Association site. These forms can be modified to cover other medical problems. Tip: Consult with your child's pediatrician to make sure the plan is complete and covers all your child's health needs.

Most Powerful Advocacy Tool in IDEA 2004: Your State Advisory Panel - Sue Whitney explains why your state advisory panel is a powerful tool for change, and asks you to get involved.

Child Has Health Problems, School Reports Him Truant - Sue Whitney explains, "You need to take steps to document that your child's absences were due to illness. You also need to prevent this from happening again. Here is your plan . . .". This article includes links to sample Section 504 and medical plans.

What Can I Ask the School to Do? - Advice for parents who have questions about what they can ask the school to do and how to prepare for meetings. Learn about IEPs, research-based reading programs, retention, and other thorny issues.

What Can One Person Do? (Do YOU have a free hour?) - Realistically, what can one person do? Isn't it expensive and time consuming to make any changes? Don't you have to know a lot before you can teach others? Don't you need a base to start from? I don't think so . . .

Why You Should Request a "Paraprofessional," Not an "Aide" - It's time to stop using the term "aide" - and time to stop writing "aides" into IEPs. The No Child Left Behind Act provides the federal definition of "paraprofessional.

Using Flyers to Educate Others (includes huge list of informational flyers) - Many organizations publish information about disabilities, resources, and advocacy opportunities in the form of flyers. Look over this collection. You'll flyers that will be useful to your community.

Retention & High-Stakes Testing

Retention! Special Ed Teacher Needs Ammunition - Retention is not an educationally sound practice for any student, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

Why Retain? It Didn't Work the First Time. Sue responds to a parent's fear that her son will not learn to read. She explains that redoing the same unsuccessful reading instruction all over again for a second year is ineffective.

Retention is Not a Form of Specialized Instruction. Meeting your child's needs through an effective IEP would be the logical approach. Since his instruction in second grade the first time through did not meet his needs, it does not seem logical to repeat that again.

What Diploma Path is Your Child On? Will Retention Push Him Off That Path? Don't bet the farm on the elementary school teacher's understanding of state and federal law. You need to be very sure that you understand which diploma you have agreed to.

The School Just Told Me They Plan to Retain My Son. You will need to educate yourself before you can get the school to educate your son. This article will tell you where to start.

Exit Exams Can Be Optional If You Plan Ahead - Describes a simple strategy that allows students who complete high school coursework but do not pass the state exit exam to graduate with a high school diploma - with or without a graduation ceremony.

10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention Policies - Since High Stakes! Can the School Use a Single Test to Retain My Child? was published, many people have written about Florida's "mandatory retention policy" that third graders who do not pass the FCAT must be retained. So far, no one has been able to provide anything in the law that backs this up.

Answers to Questions about Accommodations on High-Stakes Tests  - If the IEP or 504 plan calls for these accommodations in other school situations, they may be called for on a state test where the score is reported for accountability under NCLB. However, if . . . "

High-Stakes! Can the School Use a Single Test to Retain My Child?  - "Florida's high stakes test is the FCAT. If a child does not pass with a certain percentile, the child is retained. This year, the rules are being applied to students with disabilities. My son has PDD. He he is more likely to have an off day, not pass the test, and have to repeat his current grade. What can I do?

* * * * * * * * * *

Note: In 2015, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the statute formerly known as No Child Left Behind. The new statute, Every Student Succeeds Act, was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015.

* * * * * * * * * *

No Child Left Behind

An Interview with Suzanne Whitney: About Parents, Laws and NCLB - This article, by Michael Shaughnessy of, is a compilation of questions and answers by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor for

A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind - No Child Left Behind is a comprehensive plan to reform schools, change school culture, empower parents, and improve education for all children. NCLB applies to all children who attend public schools - kids with disabilities, kids with behavior problems, and other kids who have often been written off - minorities, immigrants, and English as Second Language (ESL) youngsters.

Do Legal Definitions in NCLB Apply to General Ed Programs?
Suggestions about how to frame the debate in your community. Do you want your school board to provide an education that does not meet national and state minimum standards?

NCLB Complaint Ends Confusion about Highly Qualified Special Education Teachers - The New Hampshire Bureau of Special Education issued a policy memo stating that special ed teachers who were not certified in core academic subjects could teach children with disabilities. The policy violated NCLB and discriminated against children with disabilities. This article describes the complaint filed by Suzanne Whitney with the NCLB Regional Representatives and the Office of Civil Rights ... and the outcome.

What IDEA 2004 Says about Paraprofessionals. When the IEP requires "resource room" as a supplemental aid or service funded by special education, can it be run by a paraprofessional? If the IEP requires "consultant teacher services" can these services be provided by a paraprofessional? Find out what IDEA says.

Parent Volunteers are NOT a Substitute for Trained Teachers - Answers to a parent's questions about volunteers in the classroom. Sue explains the need for formal accommodation and treatment plans for students with disabilities that are implemented by trained teachers, NOT parent volunteers.

Answering Questions about Support for NCLB - Up until now, schools continued to get federal money, whether they taught kids or not. Now we are requiring results in exchange for the money. As a taxpayer and a parent, that makes sense to me.

NCLB, School Choice and Tutoring - Children who attend schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) may be able to transfer to better performing schools or receive free tutoring and other supplemental services. Parents need to plan ahead to make this happen.

NCLB: Measuring Annual Yearly Progress  - Confused about AYP? You aren't alone. In this article, you'll learn how AYP is calculated and how progress is measured toward the goal of teaching all children to read at grade level by 2014.

NCLB: How Will Kids Be Tested in NCLB?  A psychologist writes: "I have a question about NCLB. As I read it, all kids need to be on grade level as measured by the statewide assessments. As a psychologist, I don't get it.

School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services - If you do your homework and plan ahead, you can take advantage of opportunities in No Child Left Behind when they arise.

Something Fairly Amazing Happened on December 9 - NCLB - "Several critical elements in title I as amended by the NCLB Act ensure that schools are held accountable for educational results, so that the best education possible is provided to each and every student (emphasis added).” (Federal Register December 9, 2003)

What Teachers, Principals & School Administrators Need to Know About NCLB
- The No Child Left Behind Act affects virtually every person employed in the public school system.


An Interview with Suzanne Whitney: Parents, Laws and NCLB ( - "Is the educational process becoming more complex?" Sue Whitney answers questions about IDEA, IEPs, No Child Left Behind and Section 504. (11/14/05)

States Send Millions Back to Feds! Lack of Federal Funds? Not Really

States Sit on 5.7 Billion in Federal Education Funds - How Does Your State Rank?

Response to "NCLB Weapons of Public Education Destruction"

To Top

Last Revised: 2/14/2021

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

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

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.

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