Press Club

Letter to the Editor: Better Screening and Instruction for Dyslexic APS Students

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Donna Owens, a parent of three Arlington Public Schools students. It’s co-signed by more than three dozen members of the Arlington Special Education PTA and the Arlington Reading Yahoo group.

Dear Editor:

In response to Peter’s Take: Reform APS Reading Curriculum for Dyslexic Students, we believe that APS’ School Board and Superintendent need to assess if decisions are being given the appropriate priority and objectivity to effectively identify and successfully instruct our dyslexic students, a population that Mr. Rousselot suggests may be as many as 5,000 in APS.

Students in Special Education are entitled to services through an Individualized Education Program to meet the student’s unique needs for their disability. Those services should occur in the least restrictive environment, which is generally presumed to be the classroom with their non-disabled peers. APS defines its available dyslexia resources (Orton-Gillingham, SpellRead, Phono-Graphix, My Virtual Reading Coach, and Read Naturally) (see as “Interventions” to serve students with dyslexia. However, APS does not define how these resources should integrate with the core English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum.

By not providing a process to incorporate the dyslexia instruction into the student’s regular English/Reading class, too many of our dyslexic students are shackled with the burden to navigate difficult scheduling complexities to receive their dyslexia instruction outside of their English/Reading class, when, in fact, the student is failing to learn how to read in their regular English/Reading class. Not only is this model inefficient, but it also perpetuates a cycle that may jeopardize the student’s rights to be educated in the least restrictive environment.

Perhaps an even bigger concern are the struggling readers who are not identified through the current screening process and fall further behind with each passing year. A well-administered screening process should pinpoint the who, what, and why for poor readers. Do these students have trouble sounding out the words, reading the words with fluidity, or comprehending what they just read? Are these struggling readers still learning the English language or do they need more exposure to books? Until APS can fully answer these basic questions for each of their students, how can we ensure that our students are being provided the most appropriate instruction?

APS provides 2 – 2.5 hours of daily language arts instruction for grades K-2 and 1.5 – 2 hours for grades 3-5.

APS needs to investigate if these ELA blocks of time are being used as constructively as possible, and those decisions should be viewed from the lens of the struggling readers.


Donna Owens occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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