Tag Archive for 'advocacy'

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The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia airs soon

Time bomb boy from the producers of 'The Big Picture'

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, a film by James Redford that portrays dyslexia as both a real problem with learning to read and also a force in individuals’ lives to develop alternative strengths, is scheduled to air on US national television 29 October 2012. Mr. Redford uses the life experiences of individuals, including children and well-known public figures, to dispel myths about dyslexia.

A dyslexic high school student pursues admission to a leading college—a challenge for a boy who didn’t learn to read until 4th grade. Additional accounts of the dyslexic experience from children, experts, and iconic leaders at the top of their fields, help us to understand that dyslexia, a persistent problem with learning to read, can be as great a gift as it sometimes is an obstacle.

In The Big Picture (also known as The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival), Mr. Redford incorporated interviews with and content about many different people. As the faces of dyslexia, some of those involved in the production (Allison Schwartz, producer Karen Pritzker’s daughter, and Dylan Redford, Mr. Redford’s son) will be new to readers of LD Blog. Of course, some public figures who have remarkable achievement despite their dyslexia (e.g., businessman Charles Schwab, attorney David Boies) and some of the researchers (Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, naturally) will be familiar to readers of these pages.

Some themes (e.g., LD does not stand for “lazy and dumb”; reversals are not particularly meaningful) should be familiar. But familiarity with these themes and authorities are not reasons to miss this film. I’m looking for a place to see it and I hope you are, too.

Other’s views of the The Big Picture are encouraging: Duane Byrge, Hollywood Reporter; Jerry Penacoli, EXTRA; D. Schwartz, cine source; and Shelly Golderg, NY1.

Is RTI reducing identification of LD?

According to Jennifer Radcliffe’s story for the Houston (TX) Chronicle, “Experts can’t explain drop in state’s special education numbers,” students with disabilities—and, especially, students with Learning Disabilities—

… seem to be disappearing in Texas.

The Lone Star State diagnosed just 8.8 percent of its public school students as having special needs in 2011, down from 12 percent in 2000. Texas now has the lowest percentage of special education students in the nation – a full 4 percentage points below the U.S. average. Urban giants like the Houston and Dallas school districts identify even fewer children at 7.9 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

Ms. Radcliffe describes Texas as an atypical state in the distribution of states on the basis of percentages of students identified as having disabilities. And she explains that people do not have adequate explanations for the observed declines. She asks experts for explanations. Under the heading “National rates steady,” she focuses on Learning Disabilities.

The largest category in special education is children with a “specific learning disability.” In Texas, that category peaked in 1999 at 266,934 children, but fell to 172,148 by 2011, according to Texas Education Agency data. Nationally, the percentage of 3- to 21-year-old students with learning disabilities dropped from 6.1 percent in 2000 to 4.9 percent in 2010, according to the latest federal data.

Overall, national special education rates remained steady at 13 percent in that same span.

That data has [sic] prompted different interpretations.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Jack Fletcher, a University of Houston professor who heads the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities. “I don’t think people fully understand why, but it does seem to coincide with the state and federal initiatives for beginning reading instruction.”

Teachers are putting forth a greater effort to provide all young children with solid reading instruction and intense intervention, preventing the need for many to be referred to special education, Fletcher said.

Later in her coverage, Ms. Radcliffe interviews Gene Lenz, director of federal and state education policy for the Texas Education Agency, who refers to response to intervention (or instruction; RTI) as a way of avoiding “over-diagnosing” students. She quotes Mr. Lenz as saying, “Districts are taking care to make sure [every effort is made to refer students only after they fail to respond to intervention is] 100 percent true before they place a label on a child.”

These and similar discussions about the relationships between RTI and identification of students as having LD got me to thinking about the topic anew. Of course, alert readers recognize that the topic’s been on the front element a few times in the past (e.g., Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education? 25 Feb 2010). There are at least a couple of ways to look at these discussions about the relationships between RTI and identification rates.

(1) One might start by looking at RTI as an independent variable. If (musing) RTI were a faithfully implemented approach to managing instructional programming (good screening, powerfully tiers of instruction, careful monitoring, flexible regrouping, strong administrative support, and so forth), what outcomes would one reasonably expect it to affect? Let’s make a list (and here I invite readers to expand my tentative list):

  1. Higher achievement, especially at the lower tail of the distribution;
  2. Fewer disciplinary referrals;
  3. Fewer absences;
  4. Fewer tardies;
  5. Higher self-concept outcomes;
  6. Fewer referrals for special ed;
  7. Fewer placements in special ed;
  8. [your dependent variable goes here…].

(2) Alternatively, if one had reduced identification rates, one would have to examine myriad possible causes for that reduction. Why might the percentage of students with, let’s say, SLD, have declined? Let’s make a list (and here, again, I invite readers to expand my tentative list):

  1. Teachers, those imperfect tests, have gotten the message that referring kids is bad;
  2. Musical diagnoses: Percentage of kids with autism (Shattuck, 2006) or ADHD has increased;
  3. RTI has been effective;
  4. Political systems have changed, leading to new biases (Wiley & Siperstein, 2011);
  5. The measurement systems themselves have changed;
  6. [your independent variable goes here…].

So, rather than looking at the situation with the preconception that RTI leads to reduced identification (i.e., RTI ==> lower SLD identification), I’m thinking we ought to be reflective about this issue. In one case, as illustrated in the first image, one is essentially looking at the matter from point of view of the independent variable, sort of looking forward in time. In the other case, one is looking from the effect, looking backward in time (see the second image).

I’d like to see the effects of RTI on these other dependent variables. Some clever data analysts ought to be able to conduct a quasi-regression discontinuity design on a grand scale to assess the effects of RTI in Florida, Texas, or elsewhere, no? Wouldn’t some of these outcomes be just as (or even more likely) to show the benefits of RTI than special education identification, which identifications are made by committees and other hard-to-model factors?

And, I’d like to see some stellar statistical models of variations in identification. In addition, to what extent is what’s being seen in prevalence today different from what was seen when Hallahan and colleagues reported about variation in rates of identification some years ago. Are the differences within the same ranges? Could any changes be essentially normal variation?

References

Shattuck, P. T. (2006). The contribution of diagnostic substitution to the growing administrative prevalence of autism in US special education. Pediatrics, 117, 1028-1037 doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-1516.

Wiley, A., & Siperstein, G. (2011). Seeing red, feeling blue: The impact of state political leaning on state identification rates for emotional disturbance. Behavioral Disorders, 36, 195-207.

Not LD still going strong

The misrepresentation of Learning Disabilities as a generic or catch-all term continues. I just stumbled upon another instance of it.

www.azvice.com 602-471-0346 Kim Yamamoto Arizona Advocates fights for Arizona school rights for children with ADHD, Autism, Aspergers, Downs syndrome, & other learning disabilities.

I elected not to link back to the site so as not to provide traffic for the it. Sigh.

To get an idea of how many times we’ve talked about this problem, please follow the tag “Not LD.”

NCLD released its annual analysis of LD

The National Center on Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a US advocacy organization, has released its annual report about its views of the policy situation for individuals with Learning Disabilities. NCLD calls the report The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends, and Indicators and says that it includes US national and state-by-state data about Learning Disabilities and their impact.

The report documents significant advancements for students with learning disabilities as well as continued challenges facing older students, college students and adults with LD. Key findings include:

  • The number of school-age children with learning disabilities has declined by 14% during the last decade.
  • 2.5 million public school students have learning disabilities and are eligible to receive special education – representing 42% of the 5.9 million students with disabilities, down from a high of over 50% a decade ago.
  • Learning disabilities do not include conditions such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, intellectual disabilities, autism, deafness and blindness yet such conditions are often confused with LD.
  • More students with LD are graduating with a regular high school diploma (64%) than only a decade ago (52%) and fewer students with learning disabilities are dropping out of school (22%) than in 1999 (40%).
  • People with LD are more likely to live in poverty than those in the general population.
  • Students with LD attend postsecondary education at lower rates than their non-disabled peers. Only 10% of students with learning disabilities enrolled in a 4-year college within 2 years of leaving high school.

Interested readers may download copies of the The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends, and Indicators.

What about including students with LD?

I’ve seen a couple of messages recently in which inclusion or mainstreaming has been lamented. One of them appeared on Bignity, the new group blog devoted to students with disabilities. In it Jaime Openden talks about the importance of having all teachers prepared to work with students with disabilities and her misgivings about mainstreaming.

For better or worse, mainstreaming is the direction our educational system has been heading in for years. Mainstreaming to me is like communism or a giant hot fudge sundae with the works. Sounds pretty sweet in theory; in practice, not so much.

The second appeared in correspondence on the mailing list associated with Association for Direct Instruction. These are the DI folks, people who are, with some justification, pretty well convinced that they know how to teach students with learning problems successfully, to help them succeed. It’s a bit longer and covers a lot more concerns.

I am still teaching in xxxx county and special education is a mess….in fact teaching in FL is not fun at all anymore. The state and county have gone test crazy. I have not been able to implement Reading Mastery correctly with all its components for several years now. We have to leave our ESE kids in the classroom for instruction and we are supposed to co-teach in the reg ed room. Often our kids sit there with dazed expressions on their faces. They do not pass the state’s FCAT reading test. They cannot spell. They have difficulty writing a complete sentence with correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling. But conventions don’t matter on FCAT writing, Next year we planned to put about 12 of our severely learning disabled, ASD, and IND (Intellectually disabled….formerly educably mentally handicapped….formerly mentally retarded….it’s the same thing…..I think they change the name so lay people won’t know what it means) 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who are reading at a beginning first grade level back into a self contained ESE classroom which I volunteered to teach. I was so excited because I really do love to teach….but then the bigwigs in the ESE department said they all have to be in regular homerooms because they learn so much from being in reg ed and the “research shows that they don’t learn as much in a self contained ESE room because the curriculum is not rigorous enough”. What research are they talking about? I just would like the time I need to teach these kids to read and to understand a little math….they can’t add or subtract……they didn’t have one-to-one correspondence by the third and fourth grades!! Being in reg ed homerooms means that I will have to deal with the schedules of six or more teachers to try to find the time to teach…..and I won’t get to teach them science and social studies at their reading levels.

Lots of people interested in LD are full-speed-ahead advocates for having students with LD included full time. Others have reservations, arguing that students with LD need specialized instruction delivered in classroom environments that are not available in the mainstream.

What about you? What are your thoughts? What are the pros and cons in your experience?

Testing fraud of a different sort

In a puzzling case of a student who appears to have had problems throughout the primary grades and did not get help until fourth grade, Liz Ditz asks the question, How Often Does This Happen? Teacher accused of testing fraud to avoid special education referral for her student. Not until the parents had pushed for years were the child’s problems recognized. Was this a well-meaning, but misguided teacher? Has anti-LD sentiment become so strong that folks cheat to keep kids from having the label?

Core standards and LD?

At a meeting I’m attending, folks are discussing the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Common Core State Standards Initiative. Here’s the basics:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.

>>snip< < These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards: * Are aligned with college and work expectations; * Are clear, understandable and consistent; * Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills; * Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards; * Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and * Are evidence-based.

What do readers think about the idea of common standards, especially with regard to students with Learning Disabilities? Good idea overall? Good idea for our kids? Good idea with reservations? What reservations? Send this puppy to the kennel? Why?

Fletcher paper about identifying LD

The RTI Action Network published a paper by Jack Fletcher about identification of Learning Disabilities in the context of response to instruction (or intervention; RTI). Professor Fletcher, who has been a leading proponent of RTI since the 1990s, makes a strong case for the importance of examining instruction as a part of determining eligibility for LD services.
Continue reading ‘Fletcher paper about identifying LD’

K. Ellison again

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Katherine Ellison has appeared on multiple media outlets promoting her book, Buzz. She had another entry, this time in the Washington Post yesterday (20 November 2010). Given the recent release of the US Centers for Disease Control prevalence study, this is pretty timely and, award-winning journalist that she is, Ms. Ellison notes the connection in her lead.

As the mother of a teenager who got a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in 2004, I wasn’t surprised to read the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said the number of ADHD cases in children jumped by 22 percent between 2003 and 2007 – an increase of 1 million kids.

But, she goes on to add lots more good content to her op-ed piece published under the headline “Doing battle with the ADHD-industrial complex.”
Continue reading ‘K. Ellison again’

MR is out in US federal law

On Tuesday 5 October, US President Barack Obama signed legislation called “Rosa’s Law” that requires the US government to discontinue using the term “mental retardation” and use “intellectual disability” instead. The headliner in this movement is a child from Maryland (US) named Rosa Marcellino who has Down Syndrome; she has promoted the effort and enlisted her state’s governor, blah, and senator, Barbara Mikulski, in the effort.

Read Michelle Diament’s report for Disability Scoop Obama Signs Bill Replacing ‘Mental Retardation’ With ‘Intellectual Disability’.