Dyslexia: Legislature Hold Back Funds
Specific Developmental Dyslexia (SDD) is a learning disability that affects 5 to 20 percent of all children. SDD causes difficulty in perceiving symbols of the written language. By definition, SDD can cause “basic problems in learning the alphabet and its phonetic properties, as well as word recognition, reading, reading comprehension, writing, copying, and spelling” (Waites 391). Dyslexia is inherited and the difficulties associated with SDD are, “typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language and are often independent of cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction” (Bendak 42). In addition, the key term ‘specific’ is added to establish a lack of correlation between dyslexia and mental retardation, or brain damage. Twenty-two years ago, Texas passed legislation that mandated that all districts identify and help students with Dyslexia. Over time school districts in Texas, have failed to diagnose and help students. According to Jennifer Radcliffe of The Houston Chronicle, “The Houston Independent School District is one of the most egregious offenders, with only 256 of its 200,000 students in dyslexia programs this year”, leaving students
to suffer from emotional toll, and exposing more students to the risk of dropping out (Radcliffe). By law, those who suffered from this learning disability have been required under the Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003, to test for a dyslexia exam, and submit to special education within the education system; however, programs have suffered as school districts lost focus on the designated dyslexia programs, failed to vigorously diagnose children, and lacked provisions of a proper education method for students with dyslexia.
In Addition, although all school districts in the state of Texas are required by law to identify students with a learning disability. It often takes months, even years before parents or students receive the help they, by law, need. Many parents have opted for home tutoring, and private schools because many students after being diagnosed did not receive the proper intervention required by law. Texas Law “calls for intense, individualized phonics instruction from a specially trained teacher” which often makes a difference between “success and failure” (Radcliffe). Texas school districts lack of intensive dyslexia testing makes parents ponder on the idea that lack of testing have a correlation with the Texas drop out rate of “7.9%” according to the Texas Education Agency.
Correspondently, A correlation between the drop out rate and Dyslexic students have not been made however; the more students begin to home school or attend private schools, it should encourage Texas school districts to better their education systems, and furthermore fix the lack of dyslexic diagnoses, one school having reported less than one percent of their 250,000 students in their East Houston area were diagnosed and registered to have dyslexia. Some students with dyslexia graduate from a public high school; however, students often are not ready to face a higher education system such as college because the students were never taught the proper skills in order to perceive the written language. Texas School Districts as a solution should aggressively test students for dyslexia, offer special support services for those with the disability, and invest in computer software, such as online courses with the use of blackboard, to help dyslexic students better perceive symbols in the written language.
In example, twenty-year-old, Will Clarkson explained his experience as a dyslexic student to the New York Times. Clarkson, like many other students facing lack of help for his dyslexia, explains how his disability has him struggling to even find the right acronym to text his friends with. His dyslexia in combination with his hyperactivity disorder made it very difficult for him to consider going to college right after high school because of his lack of focus and maturity, which is an issue that many teens unaware of their dyslexia state, because students often consider themselves less intelligient than the other students. After two years since graduating, Clarkson is currently taking financial management courses online. The online courses have helped him better educate himself, because when he needs to take a break he can simply pause the course and take a walk continuing the lesson later. Clarkson can even have the contents of the lessons read to him out loud without struggling with perceiving language. Online courses have set Clarkson well on the road to success in comparison with his high school education, or lack thereof because of the lack of services offered by most Texas schools. Clarkson now plans on attending community college in the spring.
Virtual education offers a vast amount of opportunities to students within any end of the learning spectrum allowing students who are at a higher level of thinking to take courses above their grade level and to enroll in courses that their schools did not offer. Virtual education does help struggling students. Virtual education “…can provide crucial supplemental or remedial help outside of the school walls” (Smith). Schools struggle with how to better implement virtual technology into classrooms, fundamentally challenging the identity of public education. The biggest challenge facing this solution is financial backing, seeing that “much of the curriculum and even employees can come from profit-making companies” (Smith). The concept of virtual education is relatively new concept which Texas lawmakers, educators, and school leaders are navigating. Often struggling to make a proper commitment to finding ways to merge the traditional educational system and the uncharted territories of virtual education, which school officials find hard to control over with policies regulating control between the schools and the companies in charge.
Relatively, the increase in online enrollment of students in virtual courses is consistently growing according to Blackboard, which revenues around $312 million annually, an education technology company, more than “Thirty percent of high school students have taken a course online” (Smith). Similarly over 150,000 students attended school online full time in the 2009-2010 school year, according to Keeping Pace 2010, a report on virtual education produced by the Evergreen Education consulting group. Online schooling can only expect higher numbers of enrollment the more schools begin to implement this method of education. However, a problem the education system faces with the integration of virtual education is, that the limited number of companies who run it, are more concerned with the shareholders than they are with the students who are enrolled in the courses. Leaving the school educational system to believe that many online schools are in it for the money and not the benefit of the students. Companies who only care about the money, and not the student poses a threat to what material the students are learning in their courses and the level of education students would be submitted too. In 2007, “the Legislature passed a series of laws that created a framework for sharing courses across districts”, and put a financial system in place to support the system (Smith). These series of laws give the Texas Education Agency the authority to approve and veto courses for online schools.
Correspondently the education system also faces financial problems due to the financial loses equaling around “$4 billion dollars that lawmakers approved in the recent legislative session” (Smith). In order to help gain back some of the money that the education system have lost, school districts have begun to charge for the participation in extracurricular activities, began raising local property taxes, and are dipping into their savings accounts to keep educators employed (Smith). Many of the struggles that school districts face is lack of teachers per student, Texas law depicts that the ratio per teacher and student be one teacher per twenty-two students. However; in the 2011 legislative session the $4 billion dollar reduction, which was reduced, to help save money did not account for the increased number of students over the next two years that followed, estimated at 170,000 students. The reduction of funds also sent a lot of employees packing. School Districts having fired an estimate of 25,000 staff, “including more than 10,000 teachers”, schools jumped at the chance to trim costs (Smith).
Students facing dyslexia need proper care, and attention, which the Texas Legislature has not committed to fully guaranteeing those needs being met to students. Dyslexic students in Texas have found a hard time being tested for dyslexia, and under the Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003, the needs for dyslexic students are not being met. As stated earlier, one percent out of the 250,000 students enrolled in the Houston area being registered as dyslexic is preposterous, and shows us how educators don’t take the program seriously, leaving students to experience a rough time getting thru high school, and possibly having an even worse time during their college years, if students even progress to a higher level of education. Texas legislature has also failed to register and keep track of those who have been diagnosed; the lack of records shows us how much the Texas Legislature laws are all bark and no bite, this information correlates well with the school districts lack of registering, go hand in hand. No one really holds responsibility for the lack of dyslexic registrations, the Texas Legislature has the power over the schools, why not enforce more vigorous screenings for those who have dyslexia.
In Addition, although schools doubt the companies in charge of developing and producing educational software, such as Blackboard, Texas Legislatures have the final authority on what is distributed among school districts. In addition, legislature can approve or disapprove any content legislatures deem inappropriate, and can decide upon review whether or not the online courses are educational, and their level of education and whether it meets the standards required. However, Blackboard holds more than 60% of the educational software market, which means the school software company has been approved by the education system. The problem is districts feel that in dealing with
More software companies may get them in over their head having to deal with another company that may be difficult to deal with. The truth of the matter is, if legislatures and schools do not put more effort into funding programs that help children in need, such as those with dyslexia. Children will continue to be really poor readers, “a condition that the National Right to Read Foundation estimates costs the nation nearly $225 billion a year in social services and lost income” (Radcliffe). The reality of the matter is that, Legislature is not providing proper funding, which is “…required to maintain current levels of educational services for our kids” (Smith).