Are metro schools failing kids with dyslexia? These parents say more needs to be done

ATLANTA — Parents of children with dyslexia say they’re struggling to get their kids the extra help they need in school.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln spoke with one local mom who transferred her child to a private school to get him the tools he needs.

Channel 2 Action News has heard from multiple families across the metro frustrated by this issue. A new statewide program aimed at helping improve the education process is underway, but an advocate Lincoln spoke with says it doesn’t do enough.

“They’re waiting for your child to fail before any services come in,” parent Sarah Walker said.

Walker says it’s been a year’s long battle advocating for her 9-year-old son, Henry who lives with dyslexia.

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“We thought well surely we’re going to get help and support,” Walker said about the Fulton County School District.

She said for months she went back and forth with his teachers at High Point Elementary School in Sandy Springs regarding his individualized education program, or IEP.

“I’ve emailed six different people with his diagnosis, and it went nowhere,” Walker said.

The Fulton County school system told Channel 2 Action News that it provides targeted intervention and support for students who have been diagnosed with, or who have characteristics of dyslexia.

“I don’t have anything from the school saying that we observed Henry, and this is our thoughts about it,” Walker said.

She said eventually, his interest in school started to decline.


“This really smart boy who loves chess and loves to interact with people was withdrawing from school, crying that he didn’t want to go to school,” Walker said.

Denice Dixon, a dyslexia advocate, created Tread Educational Services in 2018 to prevent kids with dyslexia from falling behind.

“Education is the foundation of our society. Why are we fighting the school system for what we know a child needs, especially a child with dyslexia?” Dixon said.

Dixon uses the Orton Gillingham method -- a multisensory approach to help students connect with letters.

She spent more than 10 years in the public school system and has seen firsthand dozens of kids with dyslexia getting passed.

“Do you feel like the public schools, are they failing children who have dyslexia? Are there enough resources?” Lincoln asked Dixon.

“They are absolutely failing children,” Dixon said.

The State Department of Education doesn’t specifically track kids with dyslexia but according to state data, over 29,000 students statewide have some sort of speech or language disability.

Jennifer Hernandez is the executive director overseeing academic achievement at Marietta Public Schools and told Lincoln they’re implementing tools to better help dyslexic students.

“We’ve been engaged in that work over the last three years,” Hernandez said.

In 2019, Senate Bill 48 passed allowing districts like Marietta City Schools to take part in a state-wide pilot program identifying students who show signs of dyslexia and intervening with tools to help them succeed.

The program only addresses students K through 3rd grade, something Dixon said needs to change.

“We have students in 4th through 12th grade who have gone through the school system without getting screened or without anybody,” Dixon said.

Walker eventually enrolled Henry in private school.

“I feel fortunate that we can offer that to our son. But it breaks my heart for families that aren’t able to have the same thing,” Walker said.

Fulton County Schools told Channel 2 Action News that their interventions and supports have recently become more robust with the implementation of the Every Child Reads initiative.

They sent a statement saying:

“The Fulton County School system (FCS) currently provides targeted intervention and support for students who have been diagnosed with, or who have characteristics of, dyslexia. We also provide intervention and comprehensive evaluation for all students who are suspected of having a reading and/or language disability. Our interventions and supports have recently become more robust with the implementation of our ‘Every Child Reads’ initiative. This initiative has provided our teachers and support staff with specialized training based on the Science of Reading to identify reading, fluency, language, comprehension, and phonics needs in students and then to target those needs with intervention.

“FCS considers all outside student evaluation information provided by parents/guardians and then determines as a team what intervention and support is needed. If the information provided indicates a need for further evaluation or a suspected disability, the district moves forward with additional evaluation.

“We are also excited to share that we are in the planning and design phase of a district-wide screening process for dyslexia that will be implemented in the fall of 2024 for all students.”

The Georgia Department of Education said when Senate Bill 48 takes full effect in the fall of 2024, it will allow the state to begin collecting data and tracking the number of students who demonstrate characteristics of dyslexia.

The Dyslexia Pilot Program completed its third year during the 2022-2023 school year.

The State said currently, school districts have established literacy programs that include the use of universal screeners, collecting incremental progress frequently.

The state said through this system, screeners are utilized to guide instruction as well as the need for remediation or interventions.


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