You Asked! Question 19

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Q19:  I am confused by Chapter 10: Special Education and Section 504 Plans of the California Dyslexia Guidelines issued by California Department of Education (CDE) on August 14, 2017. Please provide clarification.

A:  The CDE received a number of comments from individuals and organizations, including Decoding Dyslexia CA, regarding concerns surrounding the information contained in Chapter 10 of the dyslexia guidelines.

The CDE corrected the dyslexia guidelines on September 14, 2017 to reflect statutory law as follows:

  1. In determining whether a student has a specific learning disability under California education law, there are three methods that can be used (i.e. severe discrepancy, response to intervention, or pattern of strengths and weaknesses). The revised guidelines have clarified this by adding an “or” between the 3 methods listed in bullet points 1 – 3 on pages 59 and 60.

Sidebar about the “use of severe discrepancy” in California:  The California Dyslexia Guidelines provide the following information cautioning against the use of severe discrepancy method listed above:

  • Under the law, severe discrepancy may be considered but must not be required (page 104, Appendix C: Legal Citations, United States Education Code, Title 20, Chapter 33, Section 1414(b)(6)),
  • Findings in neuroscience research support the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 criteria that identification of individuals with dyslexia does not require a discrepancy between reading and other cognitive abilities, such as IQ (Page 7, Chapter 2, The Neuroscience of Dyslexia).

2.  The previous statement that a 504 Plan “will not specify specialized instruction” (page 61) is incorrect and has been updated in the latest revision.

(Please refer to You Asked! questions 17 and 18 for further details on section 504 plans.)

  1. In addition, the Glossary section of the dyslexia guidelines on page 109 has been updated to reflect the addition of “phonological processing” in the definition of Specific Learning Disability (pursuant to CA Education Code Section 56334)

As there are outdated versions of the California Dyslexia Guidelines in circulation, please help us get the word out on these important statutory corrections by widely sharing the updated link to the guidelines and this You Asked! question.

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You Asked! Question 11

Q11:  I am a teacher and suspect one of my students may be displaying signs of dyslexia. What should I do?  Is it okay to alert the parents as to my concerns?

A:  Teachers see student performance in the educational environment directly. You are a critical source of information to parents and the special education team, who depend on your expertise and experience. It is important to understand that early identification and appropriate intervention with students who show the warning signs of dyslexia are essential for better outcomes later on.  If you have any reason at all to suspect that a student may have a disability that may be interfering with learning (not simply “academics”), you are legally obligated to refer the student for evaluation under the “Child Find” obligation of the special education law ((20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3)(A); 34 C.F.R. § 300.111(a); Ed. Code, §§ 56171, 56300 et seq.). Child Find does not prevent you from discussing your concerns with a parent—in general, such discussions are a regular part of a teacher’s job. The parent also has the right to make a referral for special education assessment. However, Child Find is not based on action or inaction of a parent- once an educator has a reason to suspect that a child may have a disability, your legal obligation is triggered to refer the student for assessment, at which point the special education team should provide the parents with an assessment plan for consent to assess. Getting a decision in writing allows parents to use their rights under the law—including the right to refuse evaluation, or the right to challenge the district’s refusal.

Be aware that the threshold for suspecting that a child has a disability and referring for evaluation is relatively low. The question is whether the child should be referred for an evaluation, not whether the child actually qualifies for services.  After all, we can’t know the answer to that question until we have assessment data. The student should not have to fail a course or be retained in a grade in order to be considered for assessment.  The fact that a student is making adequate educational progress is not a valid reason not to assess.

“Child find” duty requires children to be identified and evaluated “within a reasonable time after school officials are on notice of behavior that is likely to indicate a disability”. A state or LEA “shall be deemed to have knowledge that a child is a child with a disability if [among other things] … the behavior or performance of the child demonstrates the need for such services”.

(Source:  Department of Education State of Hawaii v. Cari Rae S., 2001, 158 F. Supp. 2d 1190; 71 Fed. Reg. 46580 (Aug. 14, 2006))

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