There was a post circulating around social media after the tragic shootings that occurred over the last two weeks. One video was a radio host asking why cops are the only profession who won't recognize that all cops aren't all good cops. It got me thinking about the same notion when it came to the teaching profession. Then this past week, I joined a group on Facebook that was created about a specific leveled literacy program that was just unveiled by a prominent duo in the literacy field. It was quickly apparent that the majority of people, mostly teachers, were highly misguided when it came to dyslexia. These are the exact people who road block real learning for our kids. I felt compelled to comment.
I posted responses and posed questions to the teachers and in true childlike fashion, they complained to the moderate, who publicly complained to me. Very childish, but not surprising. They offered zero in the way of research. They just kept showing how ignorant they were and that they didn't want to have to justify that the were doing their jobs well.
Here is the truth, during all my advocacy experiences, I find that reading teachers don't like to be questioned or challenged on their expertise...EVER. If they got a degree, they are an expert. Point settled. I can't recall how many stunned literacy instructions have sat fuming in a meeting, when questioned about their understanding of dyslexia, their certifications, and their ability to teach a child with something other than a textbook that cost $30.
This post is designed to answer some questions that often come up around reading. They are based on my experience and on my opinions. I know how often we hear about the "great" teachers, underpaid teachers, those who stay late and come in early, but honestly, after reading through that FB group I mentioned above, I am starting to realize that they are in the same boat as cops, no one wants to call another teacher, bad, even if they are pretty shitty at their job. Let's be real, every teacher, in every school, can't be good, it is statistically impossible.
Anyway, here is what the original intent of this post is all about...
1. What is Leveled Literacy?
According to Fountas and Pinnell, "small group, supplementary literacy intervention designed for students who find reading and writing difficult. These students are the lowest achievers in literacy at their grade level and are not receiving another literacy intervention." Here is where the issues begin.
Let's say you are the parent of a struggling reader. He or she just can't seem to "get it" when it comes to reading. First, lets back up and remember, Reading is not a skill we are born with, it must be taught and taught in the way in which our individual brain learns. Ok, so now that we remember it is a skill that must be learned and won't come automatically to ever child, lets get back to your struggling reader. Undoubtedly the school has asked you to increase at home practices, they have led you down a path that ends at the garden of blame, a pretty garden, filled with beautiful flowers the teacher has cultivated, but when you try to touch them, they try to bite off your finger. Why? Because this isn't the garden for kids with dyslexia, it is for struggling readers, who will benefit from small group literacy. Run as fast as you can from that garden and refuse to go back.
2. What is Whole Language and Guided Reading?
See the description above, our friends over at Fountas and Pinnell also call leveled literacy, guided reading, a wolf by any other name...Your student with dyslexia will never benefit from this type of intervention. They need a "language-based, multi sensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible", provided by an Orton Gillingham certified instructor, or a certified Wilson Language or Barton Reading teacher.
3. Our schools reading teacher is certified?
This is what I like to refer to as, "a truth wrapped in a lie". They are right, the teacher has obtained a degree in reading, which is different than a certification in one of the methods I mentioned above. Furthermore, a teacher may have gone and take a weekend course, but that, according to the experts in these methods doesn't make them anywhere near qualified to teach.
4. The Reading Specialist says my child just needs more time?
More time for what? To develop a skill that they weren't born with. No what they mean is, "We need more time to push this crappy program and hopefully your child will eventually turn into a behavior problem and we can focus on that instead." The waiting game is an incredibly stupid idea, and if you've waited, now feel guilty, I am sorry, but I am not going to sugar coat this in the hopes it lessens those feelings. You feel guilty, suck it up, move on, and demand the right program to make up for all that lost time.
5. Dyslexia is a blanket term.
This is seriously the stupidest thing I have every heard. Dyslexia is blanket term to those who either 1. Don't know the real definition, 2. Are flat out liars who are trying to pull the wool over parents eyes, or 3. Both.
Here is the International Dyslexia Association definition:
"Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
Here is the real deal:
If a school puts the word, DYSLEXIA, in your child's IEP and then whips out the F&P leveled literacy books, when you end up at due process or court (learn about a new court case that could change the way we handle litigation) the school is going to have "sum splainin' to do." They are on the hook for a lot more...money. That is the bottom line, your kid with dyslexia is a cash black hole.
They don't want to have to spend big money on your kid or worse have other parents find out that they spent big money on your son or daughter, because other parents will want it to. So they make up some cockamamie reasoning behind using all these other programs, which for all intents and purposes are whole language, redesigned.
What can I do?
Books put out by groups like Fountas and Pinnell are shiny and pretty. They offer teachers the flavor of kool aid they like to drink. The kind that makes the world rose colored and doesn't hold them accountable to the 1 in 5 students in their class with dyslexia. Maybe there is some child, somewhere who has benefited from whole language, but it is never going to be a child with dyslexia.
I recently got an email with this question?
I have a child that is in middle school. The teachers this year don't know anything about dyslexia. The accommodations that worked for the last two years were not implemented in the IEP (Individual Education Plan). Instead the teachers are not giving extra time, any pull out assistance, or modifications to vocabulary tests. These are all accommodations that my child has benefited from in the past.
Also, my child doesn't want to be different from the other students including taking tests differently, getting reduced work, etc. Do you have any suggestions?
There are two things at play in this questions:
First, are schools required to keep using accommodations or are accommodations the job of the student. Second, at what point is the school, "off the hook" because a student won't self advocate for him or herself?
The Oak Tree Academy mission is to improve the quality of life of people with language-based learning disabilities and their families by developing programs and disseminating knowledge based on current research.