Response to recent conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog discussed whether the state ought to test students earlier to identify learning disabilities, especially for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Critics contend students have to be failing before schools will test them. Here is a sampling of reader views:

KindergartenTeacher: Every year I teach students who I know have learning disabilities. Every year these children are too smart to qualify to be tested. They develop coping mechanisms. They tend to be great listeners to compensate for their difficulties with reading and writing. Then, I watch the children go through the rest of elementary school. The first grade and second grade teachers tend to notice the same things that I noticed about the child in kindergarten. The child usually gets all the way through second grade still unable to read and write on grade level. If the child is lucky, his or her coping mechanisms will have broken down by third or fourth grade and he or she will finally go through the Response to Intervention process and be tested before exiting elementary school. In most cases this doesn't happen. Instead, my heart breaks as I watch these bright kids begin to fail and blame themselves for these failures.

Taylor: ADHD is a medical diagnosis. I'm not even allowed to tell a parent I suspect their child has ADHD because then the school could be held responsible for paying for medication. If I have a parent who asks if I think their child has ADHD, I tell them to head to their doctor with their concerns.

News: I believe some kids slip through the cracks and don't have access to the extra support they need. I also have seen kids labeled as leaning disabled when all they needed was structure, routine and a little discipline.

ChildPysch: I am a clinical child psychologist and have seen this firsthand. With a few rare exceptions, the child must be failing to be identified for testing. The schools feel it is not their duty to help a child achieve up to his potential. So, a bright child who has been able to squeak by through elementary school often falls apart in middle or high school. It's awful that schools insist on the child crashing and burning before taking action. Even diagnoses coming from private testing are often not sufficient if not accompanied by ADHD or some other condition. Dyslexia in and of itself is often not recognized. So, families with means use specialty schools and those without means simply limp along.

Sheep: What does the proposed funding formula look like for special education? I think a lot of times school systems have to limit who they test because they do not have the funds to serve every student that would qualify.

KCN: I have a student who needs to be tested. I am reading everything to her. I have been told I have to let her fail for several months to get her tested. So, if I do that, her confidence will be gone and she will think she can't do it. Why can't my word and the evidence already collected be enough to have her tested?