Why Are You Not Pro-ISD?!?
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
by Ashley Roberts
Recently I had an exchange with a school board member who may be trying to do the right thing, but is missing the message. The name of this person, as well as the state and district he represents will remain unnamed. For the purpose of this article, we will call him Bob.
Bob joined one of our support groups and said he was pro-dyslexia. To have a school board member within a dyslexia support group is, in my opinion, a huge win, especially one who claims to be pro-dyslexia. It is unknown how much Bob followed the questions, complaints, needs, suggestions, pains and struggles shared within the group.
Where things sadly went off the rails was his defense of the actions of his district and his complaint that he felt "attacked" not just by DI but by the parents within the support group itself. "No one here is pro-ISD and I am frequently attacked!"
To define what was meant by attack is when a parent intimated that not enough was being done. These statements were usually followed up with the statement that the superintendent of this district is charged with literacy being their key responsibility, yet when questioned about what they were doing to change the General Education landscape from Balanced Literacy to Structured Literacy, retrain their teachers, and ensure no students were really and truly being left behind, this would descend into an accusation of attack and a refusal to address the questions.
With a bit more glee than was necessary, I kicked Bob out of the group.
After attempting to professionally explain the side of the parents, I kept being met with more defensiveness and emotion. Ignoring these attempts to bait me into an emotional and heated argument upon which Bob could stand victorious over my emotional self, he instead descended further into his own emotion and need to defend, and I kept asking why that was necessary.
What I tried to explain, and yet failed to make him understand, was that I appreciated his engagement, curiosity and interest. I applauded his desire for knowledge. I felt his intention to know more about the struggles of the families within his district was admirable. I tried to further explain that it takes bold, courageous leadership to really turn education around and that the really tough conversations were a necessary evil to that turn around.
These tough conversations needed to be around the abolition of balanced literacy, significant investment in materials, curriculums and teacher retraining, again all in structured literacy, and a determination to do all of this in a pre-defined time period, which needed to be clearly laid out so that the goals of change could be achieved and impact as many lives as possible.
I was in it for the tough conversations and wanted leaders to be brave enough to stand up and be a part of those conversations.
Sadly, I was met with accusation, emotion and defensiveness on a level that it was clear Bob was nothing more than a child. While Bob claimed to be dedicated to literacy, he did not know enough or didn't care enough, or worse both, to engage in those tough conversations.
But the question I asked Bob the night before I kicked him out, the one to which he never responded, was, "Why should dyslexia parents be pro-ISD? What has the ISD ever done for our children?"
Let's talk about brass tacks here. Bob does not have a dyslexic or special needs child, therefore like so many others, unless you're in the thick of advocating for your child, it may be a challenge to understand the uphill fight that is trying to get a dyslexia diagnosis and appropriate accommodations and services for your child. To those that don't understand, I am more than willing to offer substantial grace. The issue, however, was that Bob and some of his friends, were in the group for a substantial amount of time and had more than ample opportunity to witness the questions and pain that families within his area were asking. He had ample time, opportunity and means to ask questions, engage, and seek understanding, but did Bob do these things? No, Bob did not.
Truth be told, Bob is up for re-election within his district. He asked to enter the safety of the group, and knowing he was up for re-election we let him in with the keen intention of watching what he did. Again, we welcome school board members, administrators, educators, parents, all people who want to learn more about dyslexia, who want to help move the needle forward for educational rights for our children, who want to understand that Balanced Literacy doesn't work, and that ALL children deserve the right to read, and 62% of our American children and not in fact learning to read at all (NAEP scores will show this statistic to be true).
We hoped that Bob was genuinely interested in representing this portion of his constituent population, and of being a REAL voice for our children. We truly did hope this was the case.
Sadly, Bob proved he was there to be a cheerleader for his district, which is improving, but not nearly enough. This district still isn't having the tough conversations about access to literacy for all children. This district is still deeply entrenched in balanced literacy.
Bob could have engaged, but he choose instead to show off his pom poms and say he was being attacked. Bob turned out to be a cry baby politician not truly interested in helping our children, so we showed Bob the door.
The point I took away from my last exchange with Bob where he asked me why no one was pro-ISD was simply the following:
Thank you for your interest in dyslexia. I wish your presence here had truly been for an actual interest in learning more, in being a champion for the rights of our children to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, in doing all that you could have done within the power of your office and influence you wield to be an agent for change, but your actions and words proved otherwise.
To ask the question, "Why is no one here pro-ISD?" shows that you have failed to understand, so let me explain.
1 in 5 children has dyslexia. By that math that means 20% of the global population is dyslexic. Think about that. At the next board meeting you attend, count the people in the room and do the math. If that doesn't stop you in your tracks then you're not paying attention.
Our children are not being taught under current curriculum standards. They're just not. The popular curriculum choices are pretty, and come in nice packages and look interesting, but they do not actually teach anyone how to read. More than just our dyslexic children are failing, and if you don't see that, then you're not paying attention.
Parents are shamed and denied from the get go. Their children are told they're lazy, that they're not trying hard enough, that they're just not worthy. I believe you have children of your own, Bob. How would you feel if your children were treated this way? How would you manage the psychological damage that comes from that level of abuse which can leave lingering lifelong affects? How would you be as a parent if this was the case? Might you be a little frustrated, a little angry, when you are told your child just needs to try harder? How would you feel if you're ability as a parent to actually care for your child was called into question? Dyslexia parents experience that every day. If you didn't pick up on that within our support group, then you weren't paying attention; that, or you just didn't care.
So when are children are repeatedly denied, and if they aren't denied, let's face it, never remediated to their intelligence level, but just "passed along" until they're out and still struggling unless they have parents who fight tooth and nail for their child's educational rights, and perhaps have the means for private remediation to ensure their child's success. These parents are tired. Do you have any idea how exhausting it is to stand against a wall of denial that lasts for years and years and years? If you don't then you weren't paying attention, or again, you were, but you didn't care.
You, Bob, had a GOLDEN opportunity to be a real catalyst for change, but you failed to do so. Sadly, Bob, instead you choose to whine and complain and felt "attacked" at every turn. You had choices in the level of engagement, questions, and empathy that you showed, Bob, but you choose to defend your own self-righteousness and defend your campaign. You, Bob, are not ready for the tough conversations, so we showed you the door. Know that we do not support your re-election campaign, and we will never do so until you are willing to be fearless enough to have the tough conversations with an open heart and mind. Until then, you will remain banned because we don't have time to convince career politicians like you that there are real problems when you have no desire to listen. You are part of the problem, Bob, and that is your truth.
Dyslexia Parents Everywhere