Gordon Solution

The over-identification of learning disability raises questions about the critical role of the reading specialist.

IDEA 2002 indicates: “At least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, or remedial reading teacher.”

Can reading specialists contribute to reducing LD misidentification? Here is one successful story.

David Gordon served as superintendent of the Elk Grove Schools in California. “Upon his arrival…in 1991, one of the first things Mr. Gordon observed was that 13 percent of the district’s students were placed in special education. Of that 13 percent, over half were labeled “learning disabled.” Gordon suspected that most of these children were not disabled but merely experiencing difficulty learning to read. Yet the district had no system in place to intervene at the first sign of trouble.

In 1993, Gordon went to the California State Board of Education to request a waiver in two areas: First, to allow the district to use special education personnel to develop and implement evidence-based early reading intervention programs; and second, to hold the district harmless in terms of funding if early intervention worked and fewer students were identified. The board agreed, and the results were astounding. The district’s special education rate decreased to 9 percent and student performance significantly increased. Elk Grove’s early intervention program is now available as a national model for the implementation of effective early identification and intervention programs for children at risk for reading failure” (UCP).

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