Following increased funding from the school board and a directive from the Maryland State Department of Education, Frederick County Public Schools began implementing new efforts in the 2017-2018 school year including core teams and training teachers to better identify and respond to the needs of students exhibiting signs of dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. FCPS is partnering with local, state level and national organizations to research and improve its efforts.
Next, the school district plans to hire specialists for intensive intervention, begin a universal screening work group and an elementary ELA task force, and provide new yearlong training for all FCPS staff and ongoing training for all interventionists, special educators, math and literacy specialists, and English Language teachers.
It’s been a year of learning, Jamie Aliveto, FCPS director of system accountability and school improvement, said. More than 100 FCPS students are receiving dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia interventions, according to Aliveto. Though screening programs for these learning disabilities are used primarily at the elementary level, FCPS offers reading intervention and other assessments for students who are showing indicators and struggling in reading and state assessments of reading.
One continued concern from the community and board members has been the ability of a parent to advocate for their child and be heard by school staff.
“It’s disturbing to me,” said Colleen Cusimano, a member of the board, “the number of parents we were hearing from whose children had been struggling for years with the parents actively advocating and trying to find those answers and support without [seeing] anything happen.”
Now, Aliveto said the new formal identification process, teams and training will help general education teachers identify signs of dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia and better initiate help for the student through a core team and increased awareness and dedication among school leaders. The core team would include an intervention teacher, a content specialist, a special education teacher, and others, and Aliveto said FCPS has “built the foundation” to have a core team in every school.