ASK - Advocates for Special Kids
"Parents helping parents to understand special education"

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At an October 2000 school board meeting, district personnel made a presentation regarding the district’s promotion and retention policy.  They also described MBUSD’s efforts to identify students who were not doing well and needed remedial interventions.  According to the presentation, students at all grade levels would be assessed to determine their need for intensive interventions, including after school and summer reading programs.

At the April 4, 2001 board meeting, district personnel made a presentation regarding MBUSD’s English/Language Arts assessments, which seemed to indicate that assessments had been conducted and that students who needed assistance were receiving it.

Since the April 4, 2001 presentation, we have heard from parents who have indicated that although their student receives special education services, they are not making progress in reading.  These parents have also indicated that despite their child’s lack of progress, they have not been invited to participate in any of these programs or interventions nor have they even received information from district personnel about them.  In addition, some parents have told us that despite explicitly asking for additional reading assistance for their child, they have not been able to get a substantive response from the district.

For your information

 A) According to the California Department of Education, ALL children are entitled to receive assistance pursuant to state programs designed to provide remediation to children who need it, e.g., pursuant to AB 1639 and related promotion and retention legislation.  Unfortunately, it appears that some district employees are under the impression that if a child has been identified as receiving special education services, they are automatically getting all they need, despite the fact that a child may not be making progress.  Also, some district employees seem to believe that they only have to offer what the district has historically made available, i.e., the absolute minimum.  THE KEY is PROGRESS. 

B) When parents request a service or placement for their child which impacts that child’s right to a free appropriate public education, they are entitled to receive a written response in writing either agreeing to provide it, or refusing to provide it and justifying the district’s refusal. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.503-300.504]  As always, it is best if your request to the district is documented in the IEP or in some form of writing and that you keep copies of such documents.


1) We are doing an informal survey to determine how many kids in the district who receive special education services are not making progress, yet who have not had access to programs that would allow them to make progress in reading. [The best way to determine progress is to chart test scores, such as the Stanford 9 or other standardized scores, over time to see if a child is moving forward.]  *

 2) Our second purpose is to encourage parents to have their children take the Stanford 9 where at all possible, or if not the Stanford 9, to ensure that there is some form of alternative assessment for the child as is required by law.  Your first step should be to look at your child’s current IEP to see what it says about standardized testing.  You need to do this as soon as possible since testing begins in early May.

The only way a parent can determine their child’s progress (or lack thereof) is through the use of objective measures.  Far too often our children’s IEP’s have measured progress through “teacher observation” or other subjective means.  As a result, far too many of our children have moved through the elementary grades and into middle school and high school without sufficiently learning to read.  Children first “learn to read” and then “read to learn”.  If the first step in this process isn’t accomplished, children struggle with the second step, with the unfortunate consequence that many of our children pass from grade to grade without truly accessing curriculum or achieving the sort of progress our children can and are entitled to make.

The end game will be the High School Exit Exam [HSEE].  If our children cannot pass the HSEE, even if they have completed all their coursework and achieved all their credits, they will not graduate high school.  Children with IEP’s will be entitled to any and all accommodations noted in the IEP, however, if they should fail the test because of their reading needs, it is almost too late in a child’s education to be trying to teach them reading AND the substantive curriculum. 

In order to identify our children’s needs and hold the district accountable for their progress (or lack of progress), it is better that our children take tests such as the Stanford 9 as early as possible.  Even if they are not mastering these tests, they are benefiting from the experience of test taking, an accomplishment in itself.  These test results also provide us with an annual measure by which we can determine our child’s progress.

As well, these tests not only help determine progress, but in our district the Stanford 9 is used as the primary criteria for determining whether students receive remediation when they’re not making progress. 


1).  Check your child’s IEP and see what it says about standardized testing.  If you want to change anything about your child’s testing status, contact your program specialist ASAP to do an addendum to the IEP, as testing is imminent.

2).  Let us know if you believe your child needs additional reading assistance and you’ve never been told about any reading programs to help your child.

3). Let us know if you’ve asked for additional reading assistance, yet received no response from district personnel.

4). Also let us know if you have requested and your child HAS received reading assistance as per your request.     

*  (At some point in the near future, we plan to do a presentation/workshop on how to chart your child’s progress.  Gathering as many of your child’s assessments and standardized tests (such as the Stanford 9) will be a good first step to prepare for this presentation.)

REMEMBER: There will only be accountability for our children’s progress if we stay vigilant. Programs such as the CA Reading Initiative, AB1639 (Promotion and Retention) and the High School Exit Exam have been legislated by our state representatives for a reason: to ensure that California’s children - ALL of them - can make progress and become productive, contributing members of society.  The vast majority of our children are totally capable of accomplishing these goals.  They are capable of graduating from high school, if they are given the appropriate tools and instruction.  Those who are not going to graduate high school are still entitled to make appropriate progress based upon high expectations.   As parents, it is our job to see that our children get what they need and are entitled to under the law.


Copyright © 2001  ASK 
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 25, 2002

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