In last blog post I talked about Jackson, a child who was struggling with basic concepts of math, such as time, money and simple fractions.

I had intended to build on last week’s blog, but instead I need to take a different direction in terms of Jackson.

Jackson was recently evaluated by the school’s special education team.  In contrast to decent reading and decoding scores, severe problems were noted with the different mathematic tasks given to Jackson, with scores clustering around the 5th percentile.  In short, Jackson was drowning with any math functions and was clearly in need of support in the form of patient, remedial instruction offered in a small group format on a regular (daily) basis.

From my point of view, looking at the data derived from the special education team, it was a “slam dunk” that Jackson should be classified with a learning disability.

That’s not the way it went though. When Jackson’s parents went in to review the special education assessment, the team said they were not classifying Jackson. No help or accommodation would be coming his way.  After the meeting the case was to be closed.


Very simply, Jackson’s IQ wasn’t seen to be high enough.  Effectively, he was being punished for an intelligence score that fell in the middle to high 80’s of IQ (around the 15th percentile), in spite of the fact that there were other scores om the IQ test that showed Jackson could demonstrate at least average potential in some of the sub-domains that were assessed.

Here’s the issue as I see it.

Each state interprets federal special education code in its own way.  In the state of New Jersey, a learning disability is determined by:

A specific learning disability can be determined when a severe discrepancy is found between the student’s current achievement and intellectual ability in one or more of the following areas: (1) Basic reading skills; (2) Reading comprehension; (3) Oral expression; (4) Listening comprehension; (5) Mathematical calculation; (6) Mathematical problem solving; (7) Written expression; and (8) Reading fluency

So, for the lucky ones who fall in the upper portion of the bell-shaped curve of intelligence, say with an IQ of about 110 or more (around the 75th percentile), there is likely to be a “severe discrepancy” determined and the child will get help.

If you’re not smart enough, forget about it.

The main IQ test used by special education teams is the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (5th edition) or WISC-V.  It was originally developed by David Wechsler back in the 1940s.  Anything I’ve read or known about David Wechsler suggests to me he would not be happy to see his test used in this way to ultimately deny a child like Jackson from getting the help he desperately needs.

Sadly, that’s how the test is often used now.


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