The Dynamic Duo of LAUSD!

The Dynamic Duo of LAUSD: How two educator/advocate/moms convinced the school board of the largest school district in California to address dyslexia, and what we can learn from their experience.

 By Cheri Rae

Longtime educators and Decoding Dyslexia CA (DDCA) Los Angeles Regional Leaders Sherry Rubacalva and Pam Cohen were determined to improve how Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) deals with dyslexia. Thanks to their efforts, the school board passed not just one, but two dyslexia resolutions in less than a year, offering a great example for other California districts to emulate.

Last fall, as many districts do, LAUSD school board members recognized October as Dyslexia Awareness Month with a ceremonial resolution. But they didn’t just leave it there. In the months that followed, they listened to the follow-up requests of Rubacalva and Cohen and other dyslexia advocates who joined them, and responded by drafting—and passing—a second resolution directing the superintendent to come up with a comprehensive plan to update the district’s dyslexia policies, procedures and practices, including staff development, reading instruction, assessments and, “ensure the provision of free and appropriate public education by providing an evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach to instructing students with dyslexia…,” and to report back “within 90 calendar days.”

That second resolution passed unanimously on June 20, with the news reverberating throughout the state.

As a result of the dyslexia resolution, LAUSD moved quickly into action, with the creation of the district’s Dyslexia Learning Group, comprised of educators, advocates and parents that will help the district develop policies and procedures to address dyslexia. They had their first meeting in July, just a month after the passage of the resolution.

A small number of committed advocates making big change in a short time—and getting positive results: This significant dyslexia action, by the largest school district in the state, serves as a great example for DDCA members to emulate in their own districts, and bring to the attention of their own school board members.

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You Asked! Question 8

Download a PDF version of this You Asked question and answer here.

Q8:  IEP Team states they don’t use the terms “dyslexia”, “dysgraphia” or “dyscalculia” in student’s IEP.  What can I do?

A:  IDEA requires that the IEP Team tailor specially designed instruction to specifically meet the individual needs of the student.  As Specific Learning Disability is an umbrella term, the IEP Team needs to carefully document all areas of deficits.  If the student exhibits characteristics of dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia it is important that these areas of need are specified in the IEP.

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) encourages States to review their policies, procedures and practices to ensure that they do not prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility, and IEP documents.  Finally, in ensuring the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education, USDOE stressed the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia during IEP meetings and other meetings with parents under IDEA (Source: OSERS Dear Colleague Letter October 23rd, 2015).  To download a complete copy of this letter, click HERE.

In addition, under the California Education Code Section 56334, deficits in phonological processing need to be identified as part of special education eligibility requirements. A deficit in phonological awareness is viewed as the hallmark of reading disability or dyslexia (Source: The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing 2nd Edition Examiners Manual by Richard K. Wagner et al. page 37). It is critical that the IEP team note deficits in phonological processing in the IEP in order to determine the individualized intervention for the student.

Please also see California Department of Education’s PowerPoint page 10 that it is okay for school districts to use the term dyslexia.

For more YOU ASKED questions and answers click HERE