A survey by Decoding Dyslexia of California found, not surprisingly, that many parents reported that school closures had a negative impact on their children’s education.
Interestingly, about 1 in 4 said that school closures either had a positive effect or “somewhat positive” effect on learning.
How could that have been?
From the article in EdSource:
“ ‘In April 2020, my 16-year-old sophomore daughter imploded from anxiety from isolation/quarantine, (but) by fall she had mastered online classes and is getting her best grades yet this year,’ one parent wrote in the Decoding Dyslexia survey. ‘Because all of her classes are at her desk, she rarely loses homework, is much better at staying organized, focused and gets her homework done on her own. It has been fantastic for her…”
Others have found distance learning difficult at best.
“Distance learning, (Hiroko Okazaki) said, has been difficult. Both her son, a 10th grader, and her daughter, a second grader, could have benefited from literacy tutoring during campus closures but didn’t receive it because it wasn’t included in their 504 plans, which are a school’s blueprints for providing support and removing barriers for students with disabilities. As a result, both fell behind. Okazaki tutored them herself, but they needed more support…
Jessica Maria, a parent in the North Bay Area, said distance learning was so ineffective for her two children— one of whom, a fifth grader, has dyslexia and attention deficit disorder — that last spring she withdrew them from school and opted for homeschool.
“Keeping my son focused and on task was impossible. For us, distance learning just meant me yelling at him all the time. It wasn’t working,” she said.
Instead, she found a project-based curriculum online and hired a private tutor to help her son with reading and writing. Her children did science experiments, art projects, cooking and other hands-on assignments.
For one project, they made a cardboard map of the United States, to scale, and learned the capitals and facts about each state. But because she and her husband are returning soon to their workplaces, they’ll no longer be able to oversee their children’s education, and the children will be attending a local magnet school that focuses on project-based learning….”
I do know for a fact that some parents discovered their students were dyslexic for the first time when they were home and saw what struggles they were having with the conversion to at-home school.
EXPECT FLEXIBILITY – ADVOCATE FOR ACCOMMODATIONS and TECHNOLOGY
Because of the disruptions due to COVID, everyone knows that the new school year is anything but business as usual.
Expect a significant amount of review and some time for teachers and students to adjust to new routines.
Students who are still working on decoding will need the most support if they haven’t been able to be tutored. Some schools have prioritized students receiving special education. If your student is on an IEP, and if your student’s school is experiencing significant wait times for intervention, be prepared to advocate for “high-impact tutoring” for your student. Schools and districts have different policies regarding funds, but the unprecedented $123 billion dollars in funding as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allows funds to be used for “high-impact tutoring.”
Dyslexic students who have not received appropriate structured literacy instruction in order to allow them to read could definitely be considered under this group. If your student has not been formally tested for dyslexia and there is a high suspicion, contact your school to see what the wait times may be for assessment; see if they would accept a request for Independent Educational Evaluation (which may or may not be paid by the school) by a local or remote provider, or even test results from an online screener like the Neurolearning App.
Many states, colleges, and universities have reduced tests and test requirements – some changes likely to help some students who are college-bound.
Almost everyone is behind in math according to some studies; if you are concerned that your student will not have sufficient preparation in higher math for careers that she or he may aspire to, seek out online options that might provide the preparation that is needed. You can see whether a school will partially or fully reimburse this tuition, but they may not do this.
What about students for whom post-high school plans were impacted by the pandemic? Students who did not make adequate progress on IEP goals due to the changes associated with the pandemic may be eligible for “Recovery Services”. In Washington State, more information about this is available HERE.
In general, information about particular resources your students may be eligible for can be found in the Parent Center associated without your state in the US HERE.
This Vox article, The Debate Over How to Handle Kids’ ‘Lost Year’ of Learning, described a variety of ways that public schools are addressing learning needs.
It also mentions a number of states which had passed laws about holding children back a grade – many states have passed new laws waiving these previous laws due to the pandemic, but what really counts is what a school may be recommending for your child.
The overwhelming majority of research studies have shown that holding back children with learning disabilities “does not work” unless educational fundamentally changes, like a switch to structured literacy instruction.
“Children with learning disabilities (including reading disorders) generally do not benefit from repeating a grade, unless they are taught with a different, more specialized approach the second time around. The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) stated the following in their official position paper on grade retention:
“The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows that retaining children does not produce higher achievement….More of the same does not work…
It is also important to consider the emotional impact of grade retention. For many children, repeating a grade feels like a failure, and can damage their self-esteem….”
Remember, formal identification of dyslexia means a student has average or above average intelligence, but unexpected underperformance in areas such as reading, writing, and spelling. Dyslexic students usually crave intellectually challenging information, so that giving them simplistic content below their level, is an educational mismatch. If your student has trouble accessing the information presented in their course, then make sure they know how to use assistive technology and they are allowed to access content without being limitations by their reading fluency.