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The Special Ed Advocate
Is It Time to Consider a Different Plan for Your Child's Education?
by Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw.com


Anxieties about COVID-19 have made it unlikely that schools will return to a normal schedule during the 2020-2021 school year.

In meetings around the country, school boards are asking parents to make choices for their children's education: remote instruction only or remote instruction with possible partial in-person education for a semester or for the entire 2020-2021 academic year.

Is it time to consider a different plan for your child's education?

In this issue, research editor Sue Whitney ...

  • reviews what we learned about remote/virtual instruction;
  • describes what we know about challenges families face;
  • establishes an instructional goal for the different plan- on grade level in reading and math;
  • examines what we have to work with;
  • identifies "What If's";
  • explores issues related to re-framing schools and building models from scratch;
  • evaluates solutions to day care nightmares; and
  • considers the role of charter schools.

In March 2020, governors issued executive orders to close school buildings. School districts and families had very little time to prepare. Districts pulled together their technology, organizational systems, and delivery models and worked to get students through the rest of the school year.

Schools and parents worked hard under trying and stressful circumstances for months. Entire industries shifted to accommodate parents who needed to work from home. The educational results of these efforts were mixed.


a girl and boy reading while sitting on a porch

We are now in August with more information and with some experience.

We know families continue to have many challenges.

  • Some families are not comfortable returning to indoor spaces under the guidelines their school districts are using.
  • The remote learning model used in the spring was not a successful replacement for in-person academic instruction by a teacher.
  • Few students mastered the curriculum with remote learning.
  • Some districts, teachers. parents, and children did not have access to devices (I-Pads, laptops, computers) and reliable Internet connections so schools were unable to provide these children with academic instruction. The lack of devices and reliable Internet continues to be a huge problem.
  • Many remote learning models proposed for the coming school year require an adult to be with the child when remote lessons are provided to help the child access the lesson.
  • If a district adopts a full remote, or split-week model, children will be in school for part of the week and at home or in day care for part of the week.
  • The need for day care for large numbers of school age children is urgent. As the demand for day care surges, the supply of new day care spots is limited.

Instructional Goal: On Grade Level in Reading and Math

The goal of this different plan is to teach children core academic skills so when they return to school, they are on grade level in reading and math.

What Do We Have to Work With?

Many districts use I-Ready assessments for progress monitoring. In addition, I-Ready offers instruction to teach areas that students have not yet mastered.

Any school district can purchase the I-Ready program and use it as their remote learning model. (I-Ready advised me that they do not sell to individuals, only to school districts.) I-Ready is expensive but it is not as expensive as a child' failure to master basic academic skills and meet instructional objectives.

LexiaCore5 is the digital research-based version of theLexia program for Prek-Grade5 reading. LexiaCore5 also offers a math program.

Lexia offers variations of this reading program for older students.
Lexia PowerUp is designed for non-proficient readers in grades 6 and above. Lexia Reading Plus is for children who can read but who need more extensive practice in learning to read faster, recognize new words, and comprehend what is read.

The cost for a full year of Lexia unlimited reading instruction and progress monitoring reports is $175. A cost for a year of unlimited math instruction and progress monitoring reports is $75. These are costs per child. Additional siblings receive a substantial discount.

I know five children who are using the LexiaCore5 elementary age reading program. They like it. They do it willingly. They can log themselves on and off independently. They are closing the gap in their reading skills. That was not the case last year with their classroom educational experience or their Zoom experience.

If you were reading too fast to do the math at the same time, $175 for reading + $75 for math = $250. Divide that sum by the 180 days in the school year = $1.39 per day.

I am not saying you can replace a reading specialist and a math teacher with remote instruction in a program that adapts to your schedule for $1.39 a day. I am just doing the math.

Khan Academy has increased its free online instructional offerings and -- Khan Academy offers programs in 40 languages.

Read Theory provides remote personalized reading comprehension exercises for students in grades K - 12 and children learning English as a second language. Read Theory provides an initial assessment to determine the student's starting level and provides supplemental worksheets, and progress monitoring reports. Read Theory is free.

There are other options. I am familiar with some of them, but really, what else do you need to teach your child the basic academic skills to mastery?

School is valuable. Teachers are valuable. Children are the most valuable. Mastering the curriculum is critical.

The "What-Ifs"

If you purchase the LexiaCore5 reading and math programs for $250 per year, it will not matter whether the school district's learning model works for your child. You can work the LexiaCore5 instruction into your family's week, your work schedule, and day care (or a network of caregivers). Day care is a separate nightmare. We will discuss day care shortly.

If you can convince your school district to purchase the I-Ready system, that program could be made available as the remote learning option for your district. Or, you can tell your school board that you want them to use the LexiaCore5 program for remote instruction in reading and math.

Since We are Re-framing School and Building Models from Scratch

Assume we had the solution to remote learning all along in I-Ready or LexiaCore5. We can use these programs as our model. These programs can fix our current instructional problems and can catch kids up to grade level in core academic subjects.

I know some families do not have devices, are not stable, or have significant unique issues. Yes. Some children will fall through the cracks. Yes. This model is aimed at getting 70% of children to grade level, or close to it, in reading and math, during a pandemic.

Day Care Nightmares

Because schools had our children for full days, we depended on schools when we made our day care plans. Today, the demand for day care is different from what existed before COVID-19.

All states added surge capacity to their hospitals last spring. How can we add surge capacity to child care when parents are at work?

What can your church do? What can your neighbor with an empty business building do?

Where does your state put the information about what is needed to start a day care program? What are the daycare guidelines for your state?

Alternative Child Care Programs

What if we can meet the day care demand for just some kids? Can we meet the needs of kids in grades 3-6 in camp situations and in after-school programs located in churches, YMCAs, community centers and empty storefronts?

What are your state requirements and guidelines for alternative daycare programs?

What is your state willing to contribute in financial incentives to help alternative child care businesses get started? Need a job, want to start a business, a co-op, a new idea? Fix it yourself, do it your way.

Charter Schools

Do you operate an online charter school? Since you are a school, you can purchase the I-Ready program. You can offer I-Ready to parents who want it for their children but cannot get it from their school district.

These parents may be happy to enroll their children in your online charter school to get the I-Ready instruction. The transfer of tuition to your charter school might pay for the purchase of the I-Ready system.

Do you run an on-site charter school? You can purchase the I-Ready program as your online instructional model for the duration of the pandemic. This would allow you to serve your existing students, and you are likely to have families transfer to obtain access to the I-Ready instructional system.

I am not a charter school expert, nor a math expert, but I think there is money to be made in this crisis by enterprising entrepeneurs.

Conclusion

Children need to master core academic skills. The demand for effective educational models to teach core academic skills has never been greater or, possibly, easier to locate.

As a country, we are creating new solutions to our educational problems as we go along. These solutions are likely be models we have not tried before.

Is it time to consider a different plan for your child's education?


mom teaching young boy




Disclaimers, Warnings, Fine Print

If your child receives special education services, be careful about if and how you refuse the school's instruction, no matter how poor it is.

Read the information on compensatory education. Look the article about how parents can replace IEP services and request reimbursement.

If you need legal or educational advice, please consult with a professional who is licensed or knowledgeable in this area.


Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, 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) 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 © 2002-2020 by Suzanne Whitney.

Financial Disclaimer: Neither Wrightslaw nor Sue Whitney have received, accepted, or agreed to accept any monies, services, or other consideration for the inclusion of commercial information in this article.

Created: 08/03/20


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