A Legal Victory for Dyslexia Intervention in Public School, Maybe – Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of A Legal Victory for Dyslexia Intervention in Public School, Maybe, please start there.  I shared some changes in dyslexia intervention policy that I believe are worth celebrating.


White text on backgrounds of hot pink and orange. Main background of colored pencils, dimmed transparency. Text reads: A Legal Victory for Dyslexia Intervention in Public School, Maybe – Part 2


In Part 1, I also patted myself on the back a little.  My earlier advice to parents?  If struggling learners don’t receive the educational services they’re entitled to, fighting the schools for those services won’t be the best use of parents’ time.  Unfortunately in this case, I was right about that.


But here’s the good news.


The settlement also proved me wrong in one very important way.

Without the dedication, the determination, the persistence, and likely a very heavy financial cost made on behalf of four particular students, the Berkeley Unified School District would continue to treat other struggling learners the same as they always have.  Clearly the old way wasn’t working.  Something had to change.


Huge props to the brave families who helped bring about that change.


I’m also encouraged by another detail in the settlement.  The district plans to change how they assess students for reading disabilities, which (hopefully) changes who qualifies for services, which (hopefully) means that fewer students fall through the cracks of the system.


In other words, no more “Sorry, kid.  We know that you can’t read, but you’re too smart.  You don’t qualify for extra help.  Therefore, we’ll simply pass you through to the next grade without the help you really need.”


Or this one: “Sorry, kid. Even if you qualify, we don’t quite know HOW to help you in a meaningful way.”


Also very encouraging, extra training provided to general education teachers, not just to specialists and special education teachers.  Yes!  We need this.


Side note: I’m not convinced that specialists and special education teachers actually receive the right kind of training to properly reach students with dyslexia and other learning differences, but that’s an argument for another day.


A Word of Caution

While I do add this legal victory to the win-column for dyslexia, take a look at some of the changes that BUSD agreed to.

“Tier 2 and Tier 3 reading interventions must align with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. BUSD has selected Wilson Reading Systems and, for students with suspected reading disabilities, will prohibit the use of Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention or Reading Recovery except in “exceptional circumstances”.  [source]


Adhering to a higher set of standards?  Yes, good.


Paying attention to the research that says leveled literacy intervention is ineffective?  Absolutely.


Choosing one single reading system to meet the needs of all dyslexic learners?  In my humble opinion, this has “trouble” written all over it.


Reading and learning intervention is entirely inadequate if we don’t tailor-fit the strategies to the needs of every student.  Not all dyslexic learners respond well to the Wilson reading program.  The agreed upon changes, then, may simply move our out-of-the-box learners from one inadequate box to another.


To say that I’m concerned about this solution is an understatement.  Yes, giving educators another step-by step, boxed reading system might have its merits, for some kids.  I believe we can do much better, though.  I believe we can provide all K-12 educators with a clearer understanding of learning differences, of structured literacy, and give them the proper tools to use when structured literacy doesn’t go far enough.


If I’m proven wrong about that, I’m certainly happy to say so.