Feds Say Texas is Still Failing Students
A letter written by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on August 27th states four times in a three page letter that Texas has a status of "longstanding noncompliance" with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The letter wasn't simply a reminder that the federal government has been investigating Texas' education system for 3 1/2 years - they were also given a deadline. Texas has 30 days to take action and provide documentation to the federal government proving they are in compliance with federal education law. Read the complete letter here.
In a letter sent to TEA in October of 2020, OSEP stated that during their investigation, schools:
"Demonstrated that there was continued confusion regarding the interpretation and implementation of the revised Dyslexia Handbook (2018 version), specifically with regard to evaluation and identification of children with dyslexia who may be identified as needing special education and related services under IDEA but who are receiving services under Section 504. For example, one LEA (local education agency) administrator stated that in Texas, a student could not be found eligible for special education and related services under IDEA based on dyslexia and that dyslexia is not considered a specific learning disability."
Many families in HPISD and other Texas school districts can attest to the accuracy of this example - they've been told the same thing for years. Texas' time is almost up and along with the blunt letter and 30 day deadline, OSEP also provided a lengthy 31 page chart detailing what is required of the TEA. View the chart here.
The Houston Chronicle has been following the situation since their 2016 investigation first uncovered that hundreds of thousands of Texas students were being denied special education services. Read the most recent article here.
Dyslexia Handbook Gets an Update
At the end of June, the State Board of Education (SBOE) convened to discuss updating the Texas Dyslexia Handbook. After many concerns were loudly voiced by parents, students, advocates, educators, and legislators this spring - members of the SBOE may have listened. The Committee on Instruction has published their proposed changes to the 2018 Handbook. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CHANGES! Note - red is being removed, green is being added, purple has been relocated, but kept the same.
The proposed changes don't perfectly satisfy Decoding Dyslexia Park Cities members and parents in HPISD that helped author House Bill 3880, the Beckley Wilson Act. However, the changes the SBOE proposed are considered to be great first steps on the path to improving dyslexia education in Texas. The SBOE will be meeting in September to review public comments and hear testimony on the proposed updates to the Dyslexia Handbook. Supporters of dyslexia rights are hopeful it will pass, avoiding any further delay in improving the education of students in Texas.
Those unfamiliar with the handbook should understand that it is very important! The TEA's website says, "The handbook contains guidelines for school districts to follow as they identify and provide services for students with dyslexia. In addition, information regarding the state's dyslexia statutes and their relation to various federal laws is included."
House Bill 3880 was completely rewritten by Senator Angela Paxton before the Senate Education Committee passed it. Paxton had removed all steps that would improve dyslexia education and align Texas with federal education law. Paxton's version of the bill barely resembled the version from the house, but it still passed by the full senate. However, with so many changes made to HB 3880, a Conference Committee was required in order to finalize the Beckley Wilson Act.
The Texas House appointed Conference Committee members that were eager meet and add back the vital language necessary to better serve dyslexic students, but Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick refused to appoint any senators. Without a Conference Committee from both chambers, House Bill 3880 - The Beckley Wilson Act - died. While the bill could not go any further, supporters of HB 3880 will not give up their fight to improve dyslexia education in Texas!
HB 3880 unanimously passed the Texas House of Representatives with a vote of 143-0, and legislators gave a standing ovation to families supporting the bill. What started as House Bill 3880 has become the Beckley Wilson Act, named after a twelve-year-old University Park student who bravely testified for the House Public Education Committee. Beckley represents hundreds of thousands of students who have been impacted by a broken dyslexia education system in Texas. The bill now moves on to the Senate, where it likely faces some hurdles.
On May 2, 2021, the Houston Chronicle featured an in-depth article on the state of dyslexia education in Texas titled "Despite federal order, Texas parents struggle to win services for dyslexic students."
Three years ago, the U.S. Department of Education conducted an investigation into the Texas education system and found that students with disabilities were not receiving the education they needed. Recently, the federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services notified the Texas Education Agency (TEA) they were still not doing enough for students with disabilities, specifically those with dyslexia. However, it seems that after three years and several failed attempts to improve Texas education for dyslexic students, change might just be on the horizon.
Park Cities students and parents traveled to Austin last week in support of House Bill 3880. House Bill 3880 was finally brought before the House Public Education Committee on Wednesday afternoon, April 28th. The testimonies given at the hearing were so unbelievably moving that the bill was voted on immediately after testimonies ended. With a unanimous vote of all committee members being in favor of the bill, House Bill 3880 heads to the House floor!
Students with dyslexia in Texas are being denied their rights under federal education law and that needs to end now. Parent leaders from Decoding Dyslexia Park Cities, affectionately known as “The Kitchen Table,” have teamed up with other dyslexia groups and state legislators to write two companion bills that are in the Texas Senate and House of Representatives.
While this bipartisan effort is very exciting, legislators won’t support the bills unless they know the people of Texas support them. PLEASE:
Sign this petition: change.org/Yes4Dyslexia
Share the petition via social media, email, or text - anyone in Texas can sign it, and please make sure each member of your family signs
We encourage you to write a personal message to those that need to hear from you, but you are also welcome to copy and paste this message: Please support legislation that will protect the federal education rights of children with dyslexia - HB 3870 / HB 3880 and SB 1693 / SB 1694.
State Representative - Morgan Meyer*, firstname.lastname@example.org
State Senator - Nathan Johnson*, email@example.com
State Board of Education Representative - Pam Little, firstname.lastname@example.org
*Representing most HPISD residents
Foreign Language Credit
In Texas, two credits of Languages Other Than English (LOTE) are required for high school graduation, but advanced graduation plans and many colleges require more than two. While this concerns many parents of dyslexic students, most don’t realize that computer science courses can fulfill these requirements. HPHS offers four computer science classes, but since they have math prerequisites, it’s important to talk with guidance counselors early on to make sure students are on the appropriate math track if they are interested in this option.
More information about foreign language requirements can be found on the Parent FAQs page of our website.
Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment, in Verse: The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history read “The Hill We Climb,” which she finished after the riot at the Capitol. New York Times Article
Can you be a poet if you have speech and auditory processing issues? The nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, is living proof that you can. And though her speech and auditory processing issues were always present, Amanda didn’t allow them to be a stumbling block in her life. Understood.org Article
Texas schools still failing special education students, federal review finds the state isn't showing that it is ensuring students with disabilities, especially those with dyslexia, are getting the extra help they need, federal education officials said, echoing findings from a 2018 investigation.
“Some of the changes TEA made have not done enough to improve school leaders' actions, the letter says. For example, Texas revised its handbook on how schools should serve kids with dyslexia, the most common learning disability. The previous policy on dyslexia was ambiguous and may have directed some eligible students away from special education, the federal investigation found in 2018.
Despite the revision, many schools confused by the handbook are still consistently declaring students with dyslexia automatically ineligible for special education. One educator wrongly told federal officials that students with dyslexia did not struggle with reading comprehension or fluency, so they did not need additional services. "School staff referenced the Dyslexia Handbook as support for their current practices or, in some cases, a source of ambiguous guidance," the letter reads.”
Read full letter here; dyslexia is mentioned 50+ times: OSEP 2020 Letter to Texas
A 4th HPISD family, this time from Bradfield Elementary, recently filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on behalf of their 1st grade dyslexic child. The TEA ruled that HPISD was out of compliance with federal and state law by improperly denying special education services to the student.
The TEA also said students do NOT have to attempt or complete Take Flight before they can be eligible for special education services. Access to special education is crucial for many dyslexic students, as it can provide access to specially designed instruction in reading beyond / different than Take Flight.
In addition to steps the district must take for the individual child, the TEA has mandated that HPISD conduct a campus-wide review of evaluations conducted at Bradfield from February through May of 2020 to determine if other students were improperly denied special education services. (This review is in addition to on-going reviews at Hyer and UP Elementary of evaluations conducted between May 2019 to May 2020. All of the evaluations at issue occurred prior to Covid and were not impacted by Covid.) All reviews must be completed by December 31, 2020.
If your child was evaluated at one of these campuses and denied special education services, your student may be part of the review. Likely impacted are students who:
Were informed that they did not meet eligibility criteria (Ex. Scores too high, grades too high) and were therefore denied special education eligibility
Qualified for eligibility in another area, such as Speech or Other Health Impairment for ADHD, but were not given a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) identification despite weakness in reading
Were identified as having a Specific Learning Disability, but informed they did not need special education services, possibly because they needed to complete PreFlight or Take Flight first
If you have questions, reach out to your campus Special Education Coordinator ASAP as the deadline for HP to complete the review is December 31, 2020.
CLICK HERE to read the redacted TEA Investigative Report, and to learn more about the investigations and how they might impact your student.
A third HPISD complaint was recently reviewed by the TEA and, once again, HPISD was found to be out of compliance. The complaint was specifically related to how a child's services were improperly and drastically reduced during last spring's virtual learning.
The TEA is now requiring HPISD to review it's policies and guidelines that led to these improper decisions. HPISD must also provide training to those individuals and administrators who contributed to the noncompliance. These mandated, corrective actions are in addition to the student evaluation reviews currently being done at Hyer and University Park following two earlier complaints. For more information about previous or new parent complaints, visit TEA Complaint News.
As COVID and the upcoming flu season continue to impact parent and student choices about school attendance, parents should understand their children’s educational rights. It's important to have a clear agreement with the school about how a student will be served while attending school virtually (whether by choice or because of school closure). For more information about virtual learning, please visit our website's COVID-19 Learning page.
To read more about how the investigations impact different students - CLICK HERE.
American Public Media (APM) reports that Units of Study author, Lucy Calkins, now admits her curriculum needs to be changed in order to align with scientific research. HPISD uses Calkins' curriculum and its instructional strategies that include prompting readers to guess words instead of sounding them out. Experts have said that this method can impede that brain's ability to process and remember words; this is especially true of struggling readers. Read APM's full article here.
Two families, one at Hyer and one at UP Elementary, recently filed complaints with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on behalf of their dyslexic children. The TEA found HPISD was out of compliance with federal and state law on allegations related to:
Whether dyslexic students were properly identified as having a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) to qualify for special education
This provides access to specially designed instruction in reading beyond / different than Take Flight
The lack of services provided during COVID-19 spring learning
In addition to steps the district must take for individual students in the complaints, the TEA has mandated that HPISD conduct campus-wide reviews of recent evaluations at both schools. The purpose of the review is to determine if appropriate decisions were made based on evaluations that included reading, writing, learning challenges, etc., which is known as a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in school evaluations.
Children who underwent a Full Individual Evaluation (FIE) between May 1, 2019 and May 29, 2020 at Hyer or UP Elementary, may be part of the review. Likely impacted are students who:
Were informed that they did not meet SLD criteria (Ex. Scores too high, grades too high) and were therefore denied special education eligibility
Qualified for eligibility in another area, such as Speech or Other Health Impairment for ADHD, but were not given an SLD identification despite weakness in reading
Were identified as having a SLD, but informed they did not need special education services
To understand the review process initiated by the TEA and to ensure correct eligibility decisions were made for each child, parents should contact the Special Education Coordinator at Hyer or UP Elementary.
To read the redacted TEA Investigative Reports and to learn more about how the investigations impact different students - CLICK HERE.
With an unprecedented school year underway, federal officials are weighing in yet again on how educators ought to be serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Education issued two question-and-answer documents last week offering further clarification on how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other laws should be implemented while the nation grapples with the coronavirus.
Last spring was challenging for students whose IEPs and 504 plans include dyslexia therapy, speech therapy, social skills, occupational therapy, in-class support, etc. Parents in Round Rock ISD submitted a complaint to the TEA about the lack of services during the spring of 2020 and recently shared publicly TEA’s findings that their district was in the wrong not to provide services. Highlights:
TEA found the school district did not implement student’s IEPs properly because they did not provide services in the frequency mandated by the student’s plans.
TEA said the school district now needs to hold IEP meetings for each student in the complaint in order to determine if the district must provide compensatory services to make up for services that were not provided in the spring.
The district must then report to the TEA the results of each IEP meeting related to compensatory services and provide documentation after services are provided.
The TEA also mandated staff development about how to properly implement IEPs for the individuals and campus administrators who contributed to the non-compliance.
In Round Rock ISD, these steps will help students who didn’t receive appropriate services in the spring, as well as set the expectation for appropriate services for this school year.
TEA releases a document containing the most recent Covid-19 guidance from TEA related to students served by IEP and 504 plans related to contingency plans, evaluations, meetings, student IEP / 504 plans, dyslexia, student services, compensatory services, etc. This resource will provide support, information, considerations, and resources to help Local Education Agency (LEA) level leadership, campus level leadership, and student level staff plan for special education services in their efforts to ensure a strong start of the 2020-2021 school year and beyond. View Guidebook
Updated 8.2020 to add link: TEA’s video on Compensatory Services Webinar
In 2010, a group of parents in a suburban school district near Columbus, Ohio discovered their children had something in common – they could not read. They were languishing in a reading intervention program and their dyslexia was not being identified or remediated as is required by federal law (IDEA). The group banded together and filed a systemic, group complaint with the Ohio Department of Education. The district was found in violation on all allegations and has now partnered with the parents to deliver the nationally recognized early literacy program they built together. This film was made to offer a roadmap for parents to advocate on behalf of all children. Watch the 45 minute documentary here.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will not recommend that schools be freed of any of their obligations to educate students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic. Ms. DeVos said in a statement, “With ingenuity, innovation and grit, I know this nation’s educators and schools can continue to faithfully educate every one of its students.” Many (school districts) have feared being out of compliance with federal requirements and deadlines, and some have braced for costly lawsuits from families whose students did not receive the same level of services. Fearing a backlash, some school districts opted not to educate any children at all for a period, or significantly curtailed the level of instruction they offered. HuffPost reported Saturday that some schools in New Jersey were forcing families to sign away their rights and to promise not to sue to receive special education services. Special education and civil rights groups argued that any waivers from the law would signal to schools that they could write off the nation’s most vulnerable students for the remainder of the pandemic. They cheered Ms. DeVos’s recommendation, and urged Congress to uphold it. Read complete article here.
Key information: “If an LEA (school district) continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE (free and appropriate public education) . . . schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504.” Read document here
For decades, schools have taught children the strategies of struggling readers, using a theory about reading that cognitive scientists have repeatedly debunked. And many teachers and parents don't know there's anything wrong with it. This article mentions two of HPISD’s main reading programs: Lucy Calkins Units of Study and Fountas & Pinnell. You can learn more about Lucy Calkins Units of Study in this April 2020 research study and read the full article here.
Why is Texas last in America – by far – in the percentage of its school children in special education? Brian M. Rosenthal, an investigative reporter in the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau, asked himself the simple question in early 2016 as he delved into data about the plight of kids in Texas. The investigation into Texas education revealed that unelected state officials had devised a system to keep thousands of disabled kids out of special education. This eight part series uncovers major concerns that impact all Texas students. Read complete series here