Special Education: Revolving Door or Trap Door?
By Kellyn Ross
I once heard former Assistant Secretary of Education Dr. Robert Pasternack talk about how special education services had become a trap door for students. Rather than a revolving door, where they could come in, get remediated, and exit, the new norm seemed to be a life sentence of interventions that didn't work. I thought about this recently when one of our students exited special education after receiving the precise help he desperately needed. Through a literacy grant from the Colorado Department of Education, our district was able to partner with Lindamood-Bell to bring in programs that remediate reading difficulties and disabilities. I'm proud to say that we can truly offer a path for students to get out of special education and succeed academically.
Here is one success story from many that we've experienced:
Braeden is a vibrant, intelligent, and wonderfully curious little boy who was placed into special education during his kindergarten year. At that time he struggled with his articulation, fine motor skills, and literacy.
Teacher Ashly Arroyo working with Braeden on a Seeing Stars® lesson.
Braeden has multiple strengths such as his vast amount of background knowledge, high level vocabulary, and curiosity around problem solving. Braeden was able to identify all of his letters and make correct letter/sound associations in isolation but when it came to reading in context he was unable to put those skills to work together. This became increasingly frustrating for him because he was very aware that he wasn't progressing in the way he would've liked.
When he got to 1st grade, he was still struggling to meet grade-level expectations and avoid reading tasks in school. The initial Lindamood-Bell battery of assessments was completed in April of his 1st grade year. The scores showed that while he had word attack skills equivalent to mid-first grade, he was essentially a non-reader because he was unable to decode with fluency in context. His sight word reading and spelling skills were that of a kindergarten student.
Immediately following the testing, Braeden began receiving 45 minutes per day of Seeing Stars instruction. By the end of 1st grade, he was starting to develop more confidence and fluency with his decoding skills. During the summer before 2nd grade, his family worked diligently with him to continue his progress. His parents have always been incredibly supportive and have been key players in helping him reach his goals! In 2nd grade, Braeden was placed in a Seeing Stars small group for 90 minutes per day. Within two months of instruction he had outpaced the group and moved into a more advanced Seeing Stars group. He continued to grow and by December he had outpaced the second group! In January of his 2nd grade year, Braeden returned to his general education classroom for reading instruction and was successfully reading and comprehending grade level material consistently!
By the middle of Braeden's 3rd grade year in 2016, he had continued to make great gains in his reading, as well as other areas of his education. He is currently able to decode and comprehend 5th grade material; his word attack is equivalent to that of a 12th grader, and his symbol imagery is that of a 12 year old! Braeden was recently re-evaluated and exited from special education! We are all so very proud of his hard work and the growth that he's made is inspiring!
Kellyn Ross is a Resource Teacher at Bill Metz Elementary School, part of the San Luis Valley BOCES in Colorado. The BOCES is implementing the Increasing Achievement and Growth Grant: Literacy for All Students with Disabilities and is utilizing the Lindamood-Bell programs throughout all 14 member districts.