Tag Archives: retention

Going to school each day is an act of courage

This is why our bright kids with dyslexia often develop anxiety or depression — and dread going to school.

Jessica Spriggs sent this to me as an email, and gave me permission to share it. She wrote: 

I’m very proud of both of my kids, but only Olivia wakes up every day knowing that she will face huge hurdles throughout her school day.

Lately, it has been extremely hard to convince her that going to school is a good idea.

She sits in class feeling defeated because she learns differently than most of her classmates.

She struggles getting through homework.

And even though she studies for tests, she may barely pass a test. She knows the material inside and out, but to apply it in the traditional way seems impossible at times.

Her teachers rave about her huge vocabulary, her poise, her generosity, and her creativity.

But there is always that moment when she feels like giving up.

Maybe it’s when her name is not posted for honor roll because she just could not make A’s and B’s despite hours of studying.

Maybe it’s when she has to think about which hand is her right hand, and she gets confused.

Maybe it’s the overwhelming pressure she feels when she knows she has to take a standardized test soon — and wonders if she can pass on to the next grade.

olivia

She has lots of anxiety, but this girl has gained strength, grit, power, endurance, and most of all, a backbone to handle everything thrown her way.

She is the face of dyslexia, but she will not let it define her!

She will concentrate on the things that make her happy: being kind, sewing, artwork, and public speaking.

Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race — and school testing proves it. 

I love getting success stories from Barton tutors — like this one.

One of my students did not talk until he was 4 years old, had speech therapy for years starting in preschool, had been in special education since Kindergarten, and was even retained once.

When I met him at the end of 8th grade, the special education teachers had just told his parents that they had tried all they could, but he was still unable to read even the most decodable first grade words.

This student is probably my most severely dyslexic student, but also the most motivated. He has worked SO hard and has even driven to my house for a lesson when school has been cancelled due to snow.

We have made slow but steady progress.

He is a senior in high school now and just finished Level 8.

SlowbutSteady

I got a text from him today that included a picture he had taken of his computer screen at school (see above) showing a graph of his progress on a school reading test – which is used to determine if a reading class is needed or not. Students need 1000 points in order to get out of the reading class and be freed up to take an elective.

His first score, 213, was from September 9, 2013. His last score, 1040, is from today, March 17, 2015.

I am just so proud of him and had to share the good news!

Karin Merkle
Certified Barton Tutor at the Advanced Level
Rapid City Dyslexia Care
Rapid City, SD

The problem with “Third Grade Guarantee” laws

Many states have recently passed, or are working on, a “Third Grade Guarantee” law, which includes mandatory retention for third graders who do NOT pass the reading portion of the end-of-year statewide exam.

Pam Collier, a parent in Ohio, gave me permission to share her email that explains why that law is as bad for students withOUT dyslexia as it is for those who do have dyslexia.

From: Pam Collier
Date: August 19, 2014
Subject: Third grade guarantee

Dear Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Ohio Department of Education:

I am writing out of concern for my three children and Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee. I have three very different children, and the guarantee will effect each of them differently.

First, I have a 10 year old daughter who is accelerated. She has tested in the gifted range on her Terra Nova, and has scored well above the cutoff of the guarantee scoring — in the Accelerated range for math and reading.

Now you are probably wondering how the guarantee could have any effects on this student. Actually, it has had a huge impact. My daughter spent her entire third grade year being “taught to the test.”

Teachers are terrified of poor test scores which negatively impact their evaluations. Instead of challenging bright young minds, the system is telling these students, “We don’t care whether you have a special gift. We just need you to do well on this test.”

My daughter was afraid of failing the test because teachers are creating so much anxiety and placing way too much pressure on our students.

Now, I have a second daughter who is a twin. She is 7 years old. Because she is a twin, I started to notice differences in her learning very early. At the age of 4, I began asking if she was dyslexic, citing she was having trouble remembering letters, numbers, rhyming, etc. I was assured that she was fine, and that her twin (my son) was just advanced.

Fast forward to kindergarten, and first grade. I asked the same questions.

In my gut, I knew I had to do something. So I pursued outside professional testing for my daughter. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and a visual processing disorder.

We tried getting help through the school on several occasions, and were told, “We don’t do one-on-one tutoring, we don’t have the funds for that, we don’t have anyone trained to provide the remediation your daughter needs.” So I hired an Orton Gillingham tutor who was recommended by the International Dyslexia Association.

Now, because she is not on an IEP, she is not exempt from the guarantee. Not exempt!

A child with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder is not exempt from retention because of a single test? A child whose parents are paying over $5,000 a year to a private tutor because her public school cannot meet her needs? A child who was not identified by the school, but was identified because her parents paid for private testing?

A child who works 5 times as hard as a student without dyslexia to learn, who is also working outside of school with a private tutor, may be retained because of a single score on a single test on a single day, in a single year?

Now, mind you, if she should fail and be retained, the state has mandated that she receive remediation “from a qualified instructor, trained in the remediation of students with a disability in reading, from a program that is approved by the state board of education.” This, from the same school system that said, “We don’t have the time, funds, or individuals with training to help your daughter.”

The same school system that told my husband and I that our goals “were too high” for our daughter. Our goals were that she meet the same benchmark as her non-disabled peers by the end of her second grade year. Our goals were too high? That is what we were told. We are being told that we should not hold our daughter by the same standards due to her disability, yet she will be held to the same standard when taking the OAA.

The Third Grade Guarantee is not serving our children’s needs. Research has shown that retention will lead to higher dropout rates. Teaching to the test is devaluing our greatest young minds. We need to have teachers who can challenge our most gifted students, and specialists who can remediate our students with learning disabilities.

We are doing the very best we can for our daughter. My husband and I are both professionals, and we know what is working for her. What recourse will we have if our bright daughter with dyslexia, a visual processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder, fails the OAA? She will get held back for what purpose? To receive the “extensive remediation” she is already receiving privately?

Why is it a mandate to retain some of our brightest individuals based on a single test?

Why are charter schools not held to the same standards?

Why do public school students have to undergo more than a dozen standardized tests, while private school students do not?

When will educators from the Ohio Department of Education realize that retention is not the answer?

Sincerely,

Pamela Collier

Do Not Wait

Schools often tell parents of struggling students to wait, as this parent shared:

I need some help to decide what to do for my eight year old son. He is finishing second grade, but he has never read at grade level.

The principal wanted him to repeat first grade, but my husband and I refused, so he was sent to second grade. He has worked with the reading specialist one-on-one for two years with no improvement.

I asked his teacher last year if he could be dyslexic. She told me that was not possible. She claimed he just had a behavior issue. I disagree and feel that he lost a year because of her poor attitude.

He was diagnosed with visual acuity issues and Irlen Syndrome, but after eight months with no improvement and horrible migraines, we decided to involve our pediatrician. He sent us to a pediatric ophthalmologist at a university who said my son does NOT have a vision problem it all. His said my son has dyslexia, and he felt my son’s headaches were caused by the tension and stress of not being able to do the work.

Yet he recommended we wait until he is 9 to be tested by the school because the gap will be greater.

His school has promised they will test him for Special Ed services next year.

The problem is I don’t want the gap to get any larger. I want to help him now!

What should I do?

If you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, waiting is the worst thing you can do – because it will not go away. Your child will only get further and further behind.

Every parent who has contacted me during the past 20 years wished they had started providing the right type of tutoring sooner.

So do not wait for the school to test him. Start tutoring him now using the Barton Reading & Spelling System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system. Tutor him every day during the summer – while the pressure of school, homework, and tests is gone. You will be amazed how much his skills can improve with daily tutoring.

And if you think that qualifying for special ed services is the answer, read on.

A school psychologist shared:

From what I see, the biggest hurdle for these students is what happens AFTER the students are placed in special ed.

This parent shared:

I have a 12 year old son who is in 6th grade.

He attended a private Christian school until 4th grade. They noticed his reading struggles in second grade and put him in a reading lab. It was worthless.

We got his eyes checked, and the doctor said he had a tracking problem. We spent more than $ 2,000 on vision therapy and eye exercises that did not help with his reading.

He has gotten private tutoring, speech therapy, and gone to a number of tutoring centers. We have spent countless amounts of money on him. Everyone told us he would either grow out of it, or he would learn to compensate.

In 4th grade, we moved him to a public school, hoping to get more services for him. He did qualify for special education due to his reading. We thought we finally had the answer.

Wrong. He is now in 6th grade, yet he is still reading at a 2nd grade level and is a horrible speller.

They work with him one-on-one in the resource room, and they allow him to listen to books so he can keep up with what his classmates are reading. But he still is not learning how to read, write, or spell. I am soooooo frustrated.

I have cried. I have been angry. I have been humbled. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. God finally gave me peace about not pushing him so much and not being too hard on him. But he is not getting any better. He studies the weekly spelling list for hours and hours, yet he forgets the words by the following week.

Yet he gets A’s and B’s on his report cards, which amazes me. Our public education system has become a joke. He is in 6th grade and can’t read or write anywhere near grade level, yet they are giving him A’s and B’s.

There must be so many other children who are also slipping through the cracks, and so many parents at a loss.

I would like to start tutoring him using the Barton System, but he absolutely refuses to try one more program or tutor – because in the past, they have all done more damage than good.

So, parents, get your child the right type of tutoring yourself – as early as possible. It makes a huge difference, as this parent shared:

Dear Mrs. Barton:

Thank you so much for helping us help our daughter. We learned about Learning Ally through you. We learned about classroom accommodations through you. And we found a great Barton tutor through you.

It has been a joy to watch my daughter grow from being a reluctant 3rd grader to an engaged 4th grader. She still has a lot of work with her tutor, and we will have many other challenges, but knowing there are resources that we can use to help her be successful is an unbelievable comfort.

And this parent shared:

Susan, I have to thank you for all you do. The support and knowledge you have shared has helped me with my daughter in so many ways.

Two years ago (after we gave up on the school) we had her tested privately and discovered she has dyslexia and ADD. That’s why she would never read out loud in class, or even to us.

That was then…..

Yesterday (after two years of Barton tutoring and appropriate accommodations) she stood in front of the entire school …classmates, teachers and parents … and delivered an amazing (and confident) speech about why she should be SCA president.

She WON the election!

I knew she was special and had many gifts, but yesterday she proved it to herself and her school. She said “challenges make you stronger and wiser” (which is what her speech was about).

My husband and I sat back last night thinking of the last two years, and we realized how hard she has worked…but she never gave up.

Kids with dyslexia are tough. I am not sure I could do what she has done, but I am glad I was there to encourage her along the way.

Thank you for all your help and guidance. We couldn’t have done it without your support!

Retention does not work

Some states have a policy of mandatory retention for students who cannot pass the reading portion of the state standards test. But retention alone does not work – and never has, as this parent shared.

I am 34 years old, and I have struggled all my life with reading and spelling. As a result, I have this record playing over and over in my head that says I’m not smart.

My mother has a photo of me going into first grade. I did not want to go. My head is down, my arms are at my side, and my book bag is dragging along the ground. This was my theme during my entire school career. I hated school from the very beginning. I only wish someone had noticed all of the signs of my dyslexia.

Retention - Shame - little kid

Fast forward to 8th grade. I knew I was struggling – and struggling bad. I don’t recall going to classes most of 8th grade. I don’t know why I passed that grade since I didn’t attend much.

I skipped even more school during 9th grade because I was still struggling and felt stupid. I finally dropped out.

Many years later, I got my GED. I then attended a local community college. I have many credits, but not enough to get my AA. That’s because I have taken “Basic English Composition” 3 times – and dropped out 3 times. It is just too difficult for me.

At 18, I become a mother to a wonderful and incredibly smart boy named Jerry. I did not know the preschool warning signs of dyslexia.

But his kindergarten teacher informed me of his difficulty with letter recognition. Later, in first and second grade, I heard about more of his problems. He was eventually tested by the school, and he got an IEP for an Auditory Processing problem. The tests also showed he had a high IQ.

They advised that I read aloud to Jerry every day so he could hear good reading, which they claimed would teach him fluency. Despite doing that, Jerry “hit the brick wall” in 3rd grade. He was retained because he could not pass the end-of-year state standards test.

When I dropped him off at school during his second time through third grade, it was so hard for me to watch him pass all the other kids in the hallway and go back to the same wing he was in last year. I can only imagine how hard it was on him. It was a horrible year.

Fast forward. My son is now 15 years old and going into the 9th grade. Jerry continues to struggle with reading and spelling – despite getting special ed services for 6 years. He can’t even say the months of the year in order.

I watched your video on dyslexia last night and cried almost the entire way through it. You were talking about me and Jerry. I’m one of “those” kids. So is my dad, my aunt, my sister and my nephew. The inheritance pattern is so clear.

I feel very angry at the school system. I did EVERYTHING they told me to do – but none of it worked. Jerry has adapted and can get by – but even though he is smart, he feels so stupid at times – a feeling I know down to my core. It happens every time he is called on to read aloud in class, or when he can’t spell even simple words.

I am so afraid he is going to drop out – like I did.

Early Intervention Works

If you catch dyslexia early, and provide the right type of instruction, you can prevent the emotional scars that usually come with dyslexia — as this Barton tutor shares:

I am tutoring a severely dyslexic boy who was retained in kindergarten. At this time, he is near the end of his second time through kindergarten, and he has just finished Level 3 of the Barton System.

His kindergarten teacher shared that when the class is introduced to new words, he always tells the class the reason for the spelling of the word and then shares the spelling rule.

The class wants to know if they can stay another year in kindergarten — so they can be as smart as James.

He is so PROUD !!!!

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