The Baltimore Sun

Schools fail the learning-disabled

Centennial Lane Elementary is No. 7 on the list of schools with the highest percentage of students scoring "advanced" on the MSAs ("How Schools Get it Right," The Sun, July 22).

Unfortunately, Howard County gets it "wrong" when it comes to educating learning-disabled children. The gifted-and-talented population benefits immensely, as resources, opportunities and curriculum are plentiful for those kids. Those with learning disabilities must fight for appropriate services from an underfunded, understaffed special-education department that refuses to use the word dyslexia. Even having an excellent special-education teacher (as we did), is not enough when the system does not provide adequate support.

Three CLES third-graders failed the reading portion of the MSA. Two had individual education programs (IEPs), one of whom is my dyslexic son. In kindergarten, a reading problem was recognized, and an IEP was implemented three years later. Attempts to appropriately modify his services were met by the HCPSS mantra, "The data shows he's making progress," even though he was falling farther behind. Keep in mind, he is very bright and surpasses his peers (and some adults) in problem solving, critical thinking and understanding mechanics. If taught correctly, he will learn to read.

To HCPSS I say: "Look at the beloved MSA data. Of 97 students, 43 performed at the advanced level, 51 at proficient and three failed. One is the student you think was served well because "the data shows he's making progress." Where is the concern that a bright child at the No. 7 school failed the MSA? Is moving the 51 proficient students to the advanced level the priority? Realizing all children cannot be at the top of the class, helping one of 97 isn't an insurmountable task, especially given he was identified as LD. Here's more data: A child in your "top" elementary school scored in the 1st percentile, nationally. All data should be considered when evaluating a child's needs. You have a duty to educate my son, and you failed.

I am a product of, and a believer in, the HCPSS. However, the learning-disabled population is misunderstood and underserved. Jack is looking forward to attending the Odyssey School in the fall, where he will learn, thrive and continue in his journey to success.

Kim Kutchins

Ellicott City

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