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My Child has a Reading Disability: How Often Should the School Monitor His Progress?

This week we are pleased to have a guest blog co-authored by two professors who are specialists in the area of learning disabilities:

Howard Margolis, Ed.D., is Professor Emeritus of Reading and Special Education at the City University of New York. Howard is former editor of the Reading Instruction Journal and the Journal of Psychological and Educational Consultation; for almost two decades he has edited the Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties.

Gary G. Brannigan, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Gary is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a certified School Psychologist who specializes in parenting issues. He has worked with many children with learning, reading, and other disabilities and their families.

Howard Margolis and Gary Brannigan are co-authors of the book,  Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds


If your child has a reading disability, the school should monitor his progress frequently enough to:

  • prevent minor problems from becoming major ones
  • avoid him from getting frustrated with work that’s too difficult
  • prevent him from becoming bored with work he’s already mastered
  • accelerate instruction when the data shows he can handle it comfortably.

In 2006, the federally-funded National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD; Johnson et al.) recommended that schools assess the progress of students who need “extensive and intensive interventions” twice weekly. Children with reading disabilities are part of this group.

The NRCLD also recommended that schools systematically chart the progress of these students and formally analyze it every three to four weeks. The reasons are straightforward:

  • “To determine whether children are profiting appropriately from the instructional program
  • To estimate rates of student improvement.”

Schools that fail to frequently monitor progress, or use poorly validated measures, won’t know if the progress of children with reading disabilities is excellent, fair, or terrible. This lack of frequent, valid monitoring information will condemn many children with reading disabilities to the wrong program for months, even years. This is akin to giving them the wrong medicine; it’s likely to cause great harm.

Many schools complain that it’s unrealistic to assess progress twice, even once weekly, and to assess the suitability of instruction once monthly. It takes too much time.

Consider this: How much time is wasted if a child stays in the wrong program for months or years? What are the consequences, for the child, his family, his teachers, his school, and society, if he continues to suffer from instruction that fails to teach him to read?

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#2 Howard Margolis 2011-01-29 01:24
Usually, retaining children backfires. Most of the research in respected academic journals shows that over time, retained children loose any short term academic gains and fall further behind. They suffer emotionally and socially and tend to loose any motivation to succeed in school. I strongly suggest you look at the retention information on www.reading2008.com/blog. I wish you and your children the best of luck. -- Howard Margolis
#1 Meyer 2011-01-06 23:53
That's exactly how I feel. My children have IEPs one receives resource and I have not seen any progress. I have gone to the school, and the district but they are no help. I feel like I'm the only one who is noticing the lack of progress and dont know where to get help. What I keep hearing from the teachers is to leave them back a year, and they will get the next time around. I say if your can't do it now why should I trust you for the next time.

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