"Waiting to Fail" Instead of Teaching a Child to Read

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February 24, 2009

ISSN: 1538-3202

Issue: 475
Subscribers: 67,560

In This Issue:

Preventing the Downward Spiral in Reading

Another Year in the Same Grade is NOT a "Gift"

Get an Evaluation by an Expert

Teaching Your Child to Read

Wrightslaw Way Blog

The Wrightslaw Way Blog

No Offense: But It Is Alarming That So Many Children Are NOT Learning to Read


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ATTN! VA Parents
& Advocates

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What Happens Next on Special Ed Regs?


Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043



Copyright 2009, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved. Please do NOT reprint or host on your web site without explicit permission.

Your child has difficulties early, with red flags especially in language areas - reading, spelling, writing.

Often the school's solution to this problem is to retain the child while they continue to do the same thing with him, waiting for a different outcome.

"Waiting to Fail" Has Been Discredited For Decades

Retaining kids in hopes that "maturity" will cause them to learn to read, write and spell is not the answer. 

In this issue of the Special Ed Advocate, Pam Wright addresses a mother's concern when the school wants to retain her son. Pam answers this mother's questions about retention by focusing on the real issue, teaching a child to read.

The Bottom Line: Don't allow the school to retain your son. This will damage him. Insist that the school use a research based reading program that is implemented by a highly skilled, trained reading teacher

Please don't hesitate to forward this issue to other families, friends, and colleagues.

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Sign up free today!  l Read previous issues

Preventing the Downward Spiral in Reading

First, read this article: Preventing Early Reading Failure

The only way you can prevent the downward spiral described in this article is to:

  • educate yourself
  • try to educate the educators (although you should expect resistance from some)
  • get a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation on your son by an evaluator who has expertise in dyslexia.

Please read articles about learning to read and teaching children to read on these pages:

Reading at Wrightslaw

Doing Your Homework

Retention is not an Appropriate Intervention

Despite clear evidence that retention does not work - and that it damages children - some school districts continue to use this outmoded policy. 

You need to educate yourself before you can advocate for your child.

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Another Year in the Same Grade is NOT a "Gift"

Go to the Retention and Social Promotion page. Download and read these articles:

Position Statement on Student Grade Retention and Social Promotion from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes by Gabrielle E. Anderson, Angela D. Whipple, and Shane R. Jimserson, published by the National Association for School Psychologists.

"Often it is thought that the 'gift' of another year in the same grade will give the child reinforcing instruction as well as provide another year for the development of grade level educational skills. However, educational research fails to support grade retention as an effective intervention. In fact, grade retention has been associated with a host of negative outcomes on a variety of levels."

  • Research: Retention is Ineffective, Maybe Harmful
  • Impact of Retention on Student Mental Health
  • Why Retention is a Failed Intervention
  • Alternative Actions

Make copies of these articles for the members of your child's team. They support your position that retention is not an appropriate intervention, and often damages vulnerable children.

Pam says, "I am shocked that schools are still proposing to retain children when they haven't evaluated the child to determine why the child is struggling in reading, writing and spelling - the classic signs of a language learning disability."

Read the complete article "Waiting to Fail" Instead of Teaching a Child to Read." 

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Get an Evaluation by an Expert

You don't want to insist that the school test him - the outcome of a school evaluation is predictable. Some staff don't want to evaluate him because they can see the writing on the wall. Others still believe in the discredited "Wait to Fail" theory.  

A comprehensive evaluation is the only way to proceed.

A thorough evaluation by an expert in the private sector will give you a roadmap to use for years. The evaluation will describe your child's strengths and weaknesses, specifically what needs to be done to address his problems, and what will happen if the school continues to drag their feet.

What will happen if the school doesn't take appropriate action?

You child will continue to struggle and will fall further behind. In a year or two, the school will finally evaluate him - he'll probably be in third or fourth grade. After this belated evaluation, they will propose a special ed program that will not remediate his problems, will not teach him to read, and will not help him catch up with his peers. He is likely to be emotionally damaged by the process. 

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Teaching Your Child to Read

Assume you get this private sector evaluation and the evaluator concludes that your son does have a language learning disability and needs a specific program of remediation. Your problems are not over, and may have just begun. 

Do not assume that special educators know how to teach children to read. Most special education programs do not teach aspiring teachers how to teach reading. A special educator may have graduated with an "overview" of reading but no real training in any research based reading program

Speech language pathologists and reading specialists write to us, saying how sad they are when a student goes into special ed because they knew that child will NEVER LEARN TO READ. After all these years, I am still astounded by these emails.

I checked the curriculums at several schools that teach special educators. I found very little emphasis on teaching children to read, although this problem is shared by most students in special ed.

You also need to be strong, determined and persistent. Your child cannot advocate for himself - he needs you to take on this job.

Bottom Line: Don't allow the school to retain your son. This will damage him. Insist that the school use a research based reading program that is implemented by a highly skilled, trained reading teacher.

No Child Left Behind: Emphasis on Reading  

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