June 19, 2007

This is a very good article on the needs of dyslexic students in Houston and how they are not being met by HISD, but I have the nagging feeling that something is missing. Can you tell what it is?

Hundreds of thousands of Texas children who struggle to read aren't getting the help they're entitled to because public schools are not following state law.

Twenty-two years ago, Texas passed legislation requiring districts to identify and tutor students with dyslexia, a learning disability that affects 5 percent to 20 percent of all children.

Today, however, schools still are failing to aggressively diagnose and remediate these children, leaving them to fall further behind academically, suffer emotionally and be at greater risk of dropping out of high school.

"This is effectively a national health crisis," said Eldo Bergman, director of the Texas Reading Institute, a Houston company that tutors hundreds of children who are not getting the help they need in public schools. "There's an awful lot of wasted human potential."

The Houston Independent School District is one of the most egregious offenders, with only 256 of its 200,000 students in dyslexia programs this year.

Can you tell what's not there yet? Maybe this will help.

Despite the billions spent on reading in recent decades, test scores have remained stagnant. Some experts blame teachers' colleges, which rarely offer instruction on the science of reading.

And while Texas' dyslexia law was designed to improve the situation, educators say it lacks teeth. The state currently doesn't even track its number of dyslexic students.

Parents who suspect their child has dyslexia should ask for a special education evaluation, which districts must provide. They should focus on reading rate, accuracy and comprehension results, Bergman said.

They then should push for phonics instruction that will pinpoint their child's weaknesses, he said.

[Geraldine] Miller, the state education board chairwoman who managed this year's revision of the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, says a class-action type lawsuit may be the best way to get districts to comply.

The words "class action lawsuit" make me think of West Orange-Cove, which naturally leads to the question of "how is the state gonna pay for this?" We're pretty much guaranteed to be revisiting this case soon - Burka thinks the 81st Lege will be all about school finance, which is why he referred to Scott Hochberg as Mr. Indispensible. I'm not making excuses for the school districts - they've obviously done a piss-poor job of following the law, and should have been called on it long before now - but if the state is going to mandate this sort of thing, it's going to have to provide for it as well, and that sounds like a big deal to me.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 19, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo