There are two broad categories of children – those that struggle with the acquisition of their fundamental skills (i.e., reading, spelling, writing and mathematics) and those who do not.

From where I sit, one of the things that we are not facing sufficiently is how to address the needs of the children who are struggling, yet who are not seen as “eligible” for special education.

In other words, they are not classifiable based on special education standards.

For example, a child I consulted with recently was denied services because there was not a “22.5 point discrepancy” between her IQ score and her overall score in reading.  (There was a 19 point discrepancy between those numbers.)  The 22.5 difference was the required discrepancy that would allow her to be viewed as “eligible.”

I see  many kids whose cognitive testing yields IQs in the 80 or low 90 range, which is approximately the 10th to the 25th percentiles.  To have a reading score so far below those scores in order to be deemed as eligible is extremely rare.

Take young Olivia, a fourth grade child who is desperately in need of remedial attention.  Olivia is in the 10th percentile of word reading and decoding and the 12%ile of reading comprehension.  Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? The fact is, Olivia is drowning.

However, with an overall IQ of 83 Oilvia is being viewed as working up to her potential and, thus not eligible for services.  The fact that Olivia scored solidly average in one domain of intelligence had no impact on the decision, as the special education team felt their hands were tied relative to the code that the school was required to follow.

I am not criticizing special education teams, mind you.  They have requirements and a model to follow, but struggling is struggling regardless of what label you put on it.

I’m not a school administrator, but it strikes me that for children on the left side of the bell shaped curve in key skill areas, they need some type of remedial support even if they are not technically “eligible.”

In the way back machine of education, teachers used to have different groups in their class – you know the robins were one group, the cardinals and the bluebirds were others.  One of the groups was the high readers, one the middle, while the other bird group, let’s say, the bluebirds, was the slower readers.

While everybody knew the group that comprised the remedial kids, at least they were getting something of what they needed every day.  I think this practice was phased out of education because it was viewed as unfairly stigmatizing kids in the “bluebird” or the lower group.

I’m not saying that we go back to bird grouping, by the way, but we are not addressing the needs of the kids like Olivia.

Takeaway Point

School s need to face the fact that struggling is struggling.  If I am drowning I need a life preserver and someone needs to teach me how to swim whether I fit the model of special education or not.