CSD report outlines the challenges, and cost, of helping dyslexic studentsThe Decatur School Board has a discussion during its Aug. 9, 2016 regular meeting. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
City Schools of Decatur’s soul-searching over the best way to help dyslexic students might leave the school system searching for ways to pay for additional services.
A report produced by Superintendent David Dude explored what CSD is already doing to help all students with disabilities. The report found that 56 percent of all CSD students are receiving some level of additional educational support, from special education plans to services for gifted students. Of that number, 22 percent of CSD students are categorized as gifted, while 14 percent are in remedial education or early intervention programs.
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Reaching and identifying more students, specifically those with dyslexia, would cost money, the report says. Training teachers on specific methods of teaching dyslexic students, like the Orton-Gillingham method, would cost $425,000 in the first year and $42,500 per year for new staff.
Tutoring 20 percent of K-5 students in Orton-Gillingham for one hour a week would cost $1.5 million per year. These suggestions could be funded with local taxes and grants. But the report notes that raising taxes to pay for extra services is something the School Board might consider.
“At current valuations, $10.6 million is ‘left on the table’ due to the difference between the current millage (18.66 mils) and the maximum legal millage (25 mils),” the report says.
The report recommends CSD identify grant funding to pay for additional programs. The report also recommends a third-party evaluation of CSD’s special education program.
CSD produced the report after an emotional Aug. 2 work session where School Board members listened to parents of dyslexic students discuss their frustration with obtaining support from the school system.
Dude offered a preview of the report at the School Board’s Sept. 6 meeting. The superintendent made a point of assuring special education teachers that the review of CSD’s practices isn’t an indictment of their work in the classroom.
“I don’t think anybody is questioning the integrity or ability of our teaching staff or other experts in education,” Dude said. “When you finally are able to have a discussion on opportunities for improvement, sometimes that can be really difficult especially when you pour your heart and soul into everything you do. I shared with my team I’m so used to having arrows slung at me, I forget that normal people are a little more sensitive to those things, that we do have to remember their perspective as well. They’re in the trenches every day. I don’t think anyone doubts they have the best interest of our students at hand.”
Here is the full report. It will be discussed in detail at the School Board’s Oct. 11 meeting.
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