Update for January 22, 2015
reading intervention program to address
dyslexia proposed at HISD
By Lewis H. Mathews
School Director of Special Education Cynthia Gann updated the Hondo
Independent School Board of Trustees about the district’s special
education programs Monday. She included an overall summary of the
current state of the program before informing the board of a plan to
develop a new program to systematically identify struggling readers so
that intervention efforts can begin at an earlier age.
students are being served by Hondo ISD’s special education program.
This is one more than last year and eight more than in 2013. Gann
broke down the demographics into the 13 federally-defined disabilities
and by grade level.
Last year, 37
referrals for evaluation of students were conducted with 73%
qualifying for additional assistance. So far this year, 14
referrals were made. Gann said that the majority of requests come in the
spring semester so she expects the number of cases identified to
continue to grow substantially.
the various sources of funding the district receives for her department.
The largest, nearly $1.5 million, comes from the state and local budgets. She also outlined
how the $416,743 of additional funds from the U.S. Department of
Education administered Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are
utilized. The district also receives partial reimbursement for
various expenses from Medicaid. Last year this came to $139,790.
programs already in place for physical and mental disabilities and
emotional disturbances were briefly listed and staffing levels for each
campus were given. Gann summarized the results of various accountability
measures that are currently used to evaluate the special education
programs. She noted, “There are a lot of districts, even around our
area, that aren’t in such good standing.”
that, these positive evaluations aside, improvement was still possible
in many areas, and she summarized the changes that had been instituted
at the beginning of the current school year. A curriculum refocusing on
writing skills was undertaken on each campus. New assessment tools and
transitions tools were implemented. Better connections with outside
support agencies were built. Additional staff training and increased
parental involvement were touched upon.
Her update for
the board concluded with a specific focus on dyslexia intervention.
Dyslexia is a
general term for various disorders that involve difficulty in learning
to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols. However, it has
been shown not to affect general intelligence.
An audit of the
program was completed last spring, with the assistance of Education
Service Center, Region 20, and was found to be in compliance.
students, or 3% of the population, have been identified as dyslexic.
This year, 10 students have been tested and seven of those have
qualified for additional help. This number includes two first grade
students at Meyer Elementary.
listed two recommendations for improvement from the study that are being
addressed. Targeted retraining of teachers and counselors conducting
Child Study Team meetings to recognize characteristics of dyslexia was
completed. The profiles of previously tested students are also being
examined to ensure that prior phonics instruction did not mask a
outlined a plan to evaluate and chose a new early reading intervention
program for the district to identify more students with dyslexia at a
younger age. Two programs that were mentioned specifically by name as
being under consideration were those created by the Texas Scottish Rite
Hospital for Children and The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.
The plan calls
for the various programs available to be reviewed over the next four
weeks. One will be selected that best meets the district’s needs and
presented to Dr. A’Lann Truelock, Hondo ISD superintendent, on Feb.
20. This plan will be brought to the school board in March, and if
approved, developed as soon as possible.
finished her presentation, board member Mark Matthews asked a number of
pointed questions. He began by saying that “I’m a parent of a
dyslexic child. The data shows that there are a lot of dyslexic kids. Up
to 20% – 10% for sure – need to have intervention. It makes a
He then asked,
“Was there a directive given to the Meyer campus not to test for
that he had been personally told that dyslexia testing isn’t done
then. Other parents also told him they had received the same response to
inquiries more recently. Even a month ago, a local doctor had been
informed that testing isn’t done at Meyer when he submitted a
coming out of my office,” Gann declared. “There is something that we
need to be doing – I need to be doing – to make sure teachers
don’t have that perception.”
interjected, “Identification by eight years old is key. It has to be
understand,” Gann said. “I’ve got some work to do. (Testing
isn’t done at Meyer) should never be said. We need to stop that.”
“One of the
reasons I am on this board is to get an exemplary dyslexia program
because it makes a difference for these kids,” said Matthews.
Gann then undertook a detailed discussion of early intervention
programs, changes to the testing procedures and issues related to the
need for more staffing to adequately cover all campuses. Matthews ended
the discussion with a promise: “Let’s get a top notch program
started. If you need the help, if we need the funds, if you need the
support, I’m here.”
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