FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
If You Hear “We Don’t Do That"
In school meetings, I have been told that my child can’t have certain accommodations or services for a variety of reasons: the school doesn’t offer it, the school hasn’t done it before, the school doesn’t do it for other kids, the schedule doesn’t work that way, no one is available to help that way, it’s against department policy, it’s against the student handbook, budget constraints, etc. Are these appropriate reasons for a school to deny a request? How do I respond?
All services and accommodations in a student’s plan should be based on the individual needs of a student with a disability vs. the school’s common practices or schedule. (If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), this is why you must ensure the plan’s “present level” section accurately shows your child’s needs. For a 504 plan, make sure your child’s needs are accurately documented in the meeting minutes.)
If a student is served by an IEP, that plan overrides what a school typically offers (including schedules, department policies, student handbooks, etc) in areas related to a student’s needs / disability. That is the point of an Individualized Education Plan! An IEP is backed by federal education law: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If an accommodation or service is in an IEP, the school must provide it. Period.
Likewise, if a student is served by a 504 plan, the school must be compliant with the plan’s accommodations based on the mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To learn more:
We Don’t Do That Here” coffee chat video hosted by Jen & Julie of Your Special Education Rights
Our Policy Is...” coffee chat video hosted by Jen & Julie of Your Special Education Rights
How Young is Too Young?
I’m worried about my child’s reading and she scored as “at risk” on the quick Kindergarten dyslexia screener. However, the letter I got doesn’t say anything about doing an evaluation and when I asked the school, I was told we need to wait until closer to 2nd grade. Is it too soon to test now?
No, it is not too soon for an evaluation. The 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook states, “Can students in kindergarten and first grade be evaluated for dyslexia? Yes” (p 78). Also, on the Dyslexia Basics page, see the “Early Identification is Key” section, especially about the dyslexia paradox. The dyslexia paradox states that although a diagnosis of dyslexia usually is not given until second or third grade (after the requisite period of failing), intensive interventions are most effective in kindergarten or first grade.
Below is a slide from an HPISD 2nd grade back to school presentation to parents. Note the transition as students “shift from learning to read to reading to learn” and the expectation of “deepen comprehension.” When reading difficulties are suspected, help should not be delayed otherwise children will quickly fall behind and struggle to close the gap with their peers.
3 Easy Steps to Understand Your Elementary Child’s Reading Level
I just had my parent / teacher conference, and my daughter’s teacher said she’s reading on Level G. I’m not really sure what that means. How can I learn more about my daughter’s reading ability?
In most parent / teacher conferences in elementary school, parents are curious to learn their child’s reading level (Ex. Level G in Fountas & Pinnell, Raz Kids, etc). However, reading levels aren’t always as reliable as a parent may think.
Is My Kid Learning How to Read? Part 1: Purple Challenge is a new video that gives a fascinating break-down of reading levels along with 3 easy steps to learn more about your child’s reading. First, review your child’s “just right” level book and write a few of the individual words on notecards or something similar. Then, ask your child to:
Read the “just right” level book out loud
Read the same book out loud with the pictures covered up
Read the individual words on notecards without pictures or context
In the video, the parent also reviews the individual words again the next day. She then draws some very insightful conclusions about the words her daughter could and could not read. The video also gives further background on “just right” reading levels and the Lucy Calkins Units of Study curriculum used in HPISD. Take the #purplechallenge!
Articles to learn more:
After Take Flight
My son finished Take Flight but is still really struggling to read. He’s in 5th grade and needs an accommodation to have quizzes and tests read to him. This worries me about how far behind his reading is and how extensive his accommodations will need to be as he progresses in school...especially because no one is providing any reading intervention anymore. Is there more dyslexia intervention offered by Highland Park after Take Flight?
Currently, HPISD does not identify any program or trained staff who provide dyslexia intervention to students who still have significant reading deficits following Take Flight. Some older students (7th and 8th grade) are placed in a reading elective with a computer program, Read Naturally.
Read Naturally could provide practice to strengthen reading fluency, but it is not a full dyslexia intervention. If students have needs after Take Flight, the instruction provided should focus on the individual student’s needs in specific components of reading. Some students may need help with fluency, but others may have needs in comprehension, spelling, written expression, etc. (See 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook, top of p 40)
Also, The 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook states that a computer program should not be used for primary dyslexia intervention because using computer instruction to teach reading is not supported by scientifically-based reading research (p 91). Common computer programs used for dyslexia intervention include Read Naturally, Lexia, and Nessy. These programs can be a helpful supplement when implemented and overseen by a trained teacher who monitors progress, but not as the only intervention offered.
The best way to increase the chances your child is successful in Take Flight is to have a Full Individual Evaluation (FIE) to ensure all learning needs are identified (especially those that impact learning to read) prior to the beginning of intervention. However, an FIE is still helpful if you have concerns because it could provide access to individualized dyslexia intervention based on a student’s unique needs. The 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook describes this as “specially designed instruction” on p39:
Specially designed instruction differs from standard protocol dyslexia instruction [Take Flight in HPISD] in that it offers a more individualized program specifically designed to meet a student’s unique needs.
Interventions: Questions to Ask
The school is offering reading intervention to my child. How do I learn more about what they are offering so I can decide if it’s a good fit for my child? (Ex. reading comprehension class, reading pull-out, Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI), Pre-Flight, Read Naturally, Lexia, Nessy, etc)
For decisions regarding student interventions, ask these questions:
Has the school performed assessments to determine my student’s current strengths and deficits? (Request a copy of the data referenced)
How / where was my student’s need for intervention identified? (Request a copy of the data referenced)
What is the name of the intervention offered?
What is the purpose of the intervention? (What areas of reading skill is it targeting?)
Specific to dyslexia, what is the education / background / training / recent professional development of the instructor? (For examples of various certifications, see the 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook p 43-44.)
How much time will my student spend each day / week in the intervention, and what part of the school day will be missed?
Could you provide a copy of what the progress monitoring reports will look like?
What is the schedule for how often the progress reports will be given to me?
What is the measurable criteria that will be used to determine if the intervention is successful or not?
How long will the intervention be used prior to determining if it is successful?
What are possible next steps if the intervention is not successful?
Warning sign: Any reading, writing, or spelling intervention a school offers that is not linked to a clear, data-based picture of your child’s individual needs. The questions above are also appropriate to ask about any dyslexia-specific intervention such as Take Flight or specially designed instruction in reading provided by special education.
If reading difficulties or dyslexia are suspected, any student K-12 may be referred for an evaluation. Read more on our Evaluation page.
Repeating a Grade
The school is suggesting that my child should repeat a grade because she is behind in reading. However, the school also has not tested her for any learning differences, including dyslexia. I’m not sure if another year of the same instruction she got this year will make a difference. Is repeating a grade helpful for dyslexic students?
Retention: What is a parent to do? Explains that "retention does not help children with learning disabilities including children with dyslexia. If you aren’t sure if your child has a learning disability then an evaluation may be in order. The only way to help these learners is to provide them with proper, research-based, proven techniques. If this is not done, then nothing will change. The most important thing is to address your child’s underlying academic problems, whether you’re holding him back or passing him on to the next grade. If the underlying academic problem is not addressed then nothing will change.
"Waiting to Fail" Instead of Teaching a Child to Read reminds parents that “Despite clear evidence that retention does not work - and that it damages children - some school districts continue to use this outmoded policy...”
My son performed poorly on a test that I know he was well-prepared for. I’m not sure what went wrong. Can a parent review a test or final exam? What if I find out he wasn’t given his correct accommodations?
Yes, you can review any test or exam. HPISD Policy: Instructional Resources (EF Legal): “A parent is entitled to review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent’s child and to review each test administered to the child after the test is administered. A district shall make teaching materials and tests readily available for parental review and may specify reasonable hours for such review.”
If you believe your child received a poor grade on an assessment where his accommodations were not provided, you should immediately reach out to the teacher and then other campus staff as needed (campus coordinator for special education or 504, principal, etc). If you are not able to resolve the situation, you have 15 days to file a formal complaint to ensure the campus investigates what happened. See Dispute Options.
Honors / Advanced Placement Classes
In a meeting for my son where we discussed the support he might need in high school honors classes, the campus coordinator said accommodations are not for maximization. She said they’re just to provide equal opportunity to access learning...that a free appropriate public education doesn’t include accelerated classes, honors classes, PreAP or AP classes, etc. This doesn’t sound right. What do I need to know to advocate for my son?
The 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook addresses your question on p 57:
Twice-exceptional students must be provided access to all service and course options available to other students. Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), require that qualified students with disabilities be given the same opportunities to compete for and benefit from accelerated programs and classes as are given to students without disabilities [34 C.F.R. §104.4(b)(1)(ii) and 28 C.F.R. §35.130(b)(1)(ii)]. A student with a disability such as dyslexia or a related disorder may not be denied admission to an accelerated or advanced class or program solely because of the student’s need for special education or related aids or services or because the student has an IEP or Section 504 Plan.
Additionally, a student with a disability may not be prohibited from using special education or related aids as a condition of participating in an accelerated or advanced class or program. Participation by a student with a disability in an accelerated or advanced class or program generally would be considered part of the regular education referenced in IDEA and Section 504 regulations. Thus, if a qualified student with a disability requires related aids and services to participate in a regular education class or program, the school cannot deny that student the needed related aids and services in an accelerated or advanced class or program.
It is important to note that a district or school does not have to provide a student with an accommodation or modification “that fundamentally alters the nature of” an accelerated or advanced course or program. Rather, a district or school “must consider a student’s ability to participate in the program with reasonable accommodations.” (G.B.L. v. Bellevue School District #405).
The Office of Civil Rights has written a letter addressing the issues as well. The October 2007 Office of Civil Right letter Access to Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs states, “Section 504 and Title II require that qualified students with disabilities be given the same opportunities to compete for and benefit from accelerated programs and classes as are given to students without disabilities.”
Accommodations for TAG Testing
My daughter is testing soon for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. Can she get accommodations for testing? Can she have accommodations in those classes if she gets in?
Yes. Ask which tests will be administered and what accommodations can be provided that match what is on your student’s current plan. It is also always a good idea to research the accommodations for each test on your own to make sure you understand what is allowed. Also, read the information above related to Honors / Advanced Placement Classes as it also relates to TAG classes.
Foreign Language Requirements
I’m not sure what my daughter should do for foreign language in high school and how it might impact her college admissions...or eventual graduation. What are the options and what do I need to know?
The 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook lists “Difficulty learning a foreign language” as a common risk factor associated with dyslexia (p 2). Also, a spelling accommodation may be difficult to obtain (unlike in core classes) because correct spelling is often the objective in foreign language classes.
Students with disabilities might receive a waiver from their high school for their math or foreign language requirements because those classes would be extremely challenging due to the impact of the disability. Despite what you may have heard, however, getting a waiver in high school does not guarantee that your student will get one at college—and having that high school waiver can possibly affect college admissions options, too. Make sure you and your student know the facts before accepting such a waiver in high school.
Below are Texas law and HPISD policy related to foreign language requirements. The main points:
Foreign language credits can include American Sign Language or Computer Science
HPISD does not offer American Sign Language
HPHS now offers four computer science classes, but they have math prerequisites so not all students can enroll in them
Some parents find options outside of HPISD via online options, community colleges, or local private school summer offerings (Ex. Bending Oaks, The Shelton School, and The Winston School)
A student must have permission from their high school counselor prior to taking classes outside the district
Graduation plans are impacted by the years of foreign language a student takes
HPHS Computer Science Classes:
Computer Science I (Prereq: Algebra I)
AP Computer Science Principles (Prereq: Algebra I)
AP Computer Science A (Prereq: Algebra II)
Computer Science III (Prereq: AP Computer Science A)
Your child’s math track will determine when they meet the prerequisites to take various courses. Below are some of the possible class sequences for students who are in grade-level math in high school:
Computer Science I > AP Computer Science Principles > AP Computer Science A*
Computer Science I > AP Computer Science Principles > Computer Science II**
If using Computer Science for Languages Other Than English (LOTE) credit, the classes cannot be used for any other graduation requirement (Ex. technology).
Each student and family should work directly with HPHS guidance counselors and, if applicable, the ARD or 504 committee, when making decisions on course selections. The information above relates to Texas / HPISD graduation requirements for LOTE. College admission and graduation policies related to foreign language vary by university. Families should investigate any language requirements for college admission and college graduation (varies by university and by major) and how Computer Science is considered.
Learn more by reviewing HPHS Academic Planning Guide. The section for Media, Information & Technology begins on page 61.
*AP Computer Science A is a 2 credit class, and it can count for 1 LOTE credit and 1 Advanced Math credit for graduation.
** Computer Science II is currently only offered online via the Texas Virtual School Network. If a student is using it for the LOTE graduation requirement, they may take it on campus during the school day in a study hall type setting.
HPISD Policy EIF (Legal) and EIF (Local) re: Academic Achievement: Graduation
This policy explains high school graduation requirements. Languages other than English: “Students may earn credit for languages other than English in accordance with 19 Administrative Code 74.12(b)(5)” (below).
This section explains the high school graduation requirement of two credits of Languages other than English (LOTE, foreign language). It notes credits may be selected from any two levels in the same language (including American Sign Language) or via two credits in computer programming languages (Computer Science).
It also provides a route for students to seek a waiver from foreign language classes.
19 Administrative Code 74.12(b)(5)(C) “If a student, in completing the first credit of LOTE, demonstrates that the student is unlikely to be able to complete the second credit, the student may substitute another appropriate course as follows…”
19 Administrative Code 74.12(b)(5)(E) “A student, who due to a disability, is unable to complete two credits in the same language in a language other than English, may substitute a combination of two credits that are not being used to satisfy another specific graduation requirement selected from English language arts, mathematics, science, or social studies or two credits in career and technical education or technology applications for the LOTE credit requirements. The determination regarding a student's ability to complete the LOTE credit requirements will be made by…”
This policy also explains HPHS graduation requirements related to foreign language. “To earn the District’s Distinguished Level of Achievement, a student shall successfully complete Physics and at least three years of a language other than English in addition to the state requirements for the Distinguished Level of Achievement.”
If a student has difficulty with foreign language but would like to pursue HPISD’s Distinguished Level of Achievement, parents should proactively work with the school counselor, special education / 504 coordinator, understand school policies, and network with other parents to identify viable options.
Do you have a question we could help answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.