RCAS parent explains issues with dyslexia education

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© Student reads book, Aug, 2017 © Student reads book, Aug, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is investigating the Rapid City Area School District for allegedly discriminating against students, by failing to identify and conduct timely evaluations of students suspected of having dyslexia and other disabilities.

Amy Price realized her son Noah struggled with speech before he was 18 months old. Knowing he would enroll in RCAS, she took the recommended steps for him to be prepared for kindergarten.

She enrolled him in the Birth to Three program and Early Intervention Preschool. But when he wasn't improving in the kindergarten classroom, and after many tests, it was determined he had a Specific Learning Disability, or an SLD.

An SLD is how the district identifies many learning disabilities. Dyslexia is considered an SLD, but isn't recognized as an isolated learning disability.

Once it was determined Noah had a specific learning disability he was placed in the Response-To-Intervention program, then placed in Special Education.

"We finally got him into Special Ed,” said Amy. “I remember the first report card we got home from kindergarten. The teacher had essentially copied every standard … this for kindergarten and put it in the report card for me to work with him at home." 

Amy spent hours at home with Noah, but wasn't seeing an improvement in his work. During Individualized Education Plan meetings, she worked to determine the issue. She was told my members in the meeting her son wasn’t dyslexic.

It wasn't until Noah reached fourth grade and couldn't read a Dr. Seuss book that she took him to a psychologist outside of the district. There, he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. It was comforting in a way for Amy.

"Now I had something i could work with,” she said,

Noah received outside tutoring for 4 years, specifically focused for dyslexic students.

"It needs a specific type of teaching,” said Dyslexia Expert Karin Merkle, “a different type of teaching than is typically used. And so when they continue to call it a specific learning disability and give those students the same type of instruction that they have been getting, it just wasn't effective." 

After thousands of dollars and 4 years of tutoring, Noah improved from a first-grade reading level reading to ninth-grade level heading into high school.

"I do not believe Noah would be reading if I stayed strictly with the school system program,” said Amy.

While RCAS is under a new administration, the curriculum is the same.  

RCAS Special Services Director, Dr. Greg Gaden, has spent time studying dyslexia. He created a dyslexia work group with two subgroups.

The first subgroup is: finding a universal screener to detect which students aren't making benchmark standards, studying assessments and evaluations used to verify students with an SLD, and providing professional development to teachers.

"The second subgroup is focused on what research-based and systematic and specific instructional practices work for struggling readers and students with dyslexia,” said Gaden.

The new administration hopes to implement the work group's findings and train teachers on the new curriculum beginning August of 2018.

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