FCPS Knew Reading Program Wasn't Intensive Enough for Students Who Have Dyslexia, Proposed it Anyway

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) knew that a program it proposed for years division wide, for students who have Dyslexia, is not intensive enough for students who have Dyslexia.

Yet, even though parent after parent expressed concerns about their students not progressing and/or about the appropriateness of the program—and at least two went so far as to file for due process—FCPS continued to propose it.

September 1, 2020, FCPS' long-time lawyer John Cafferky emailed the following to FCPS staff, regarding an upcoming due process hearing for a student who has Dyslexia:

"With respect to his reading issues, what have we proposed? I know that we disagree with Alvey's comments about JW in the [REDACTED] decision, but it is true that Wilson's own literature says that JW is intensive enough for students w/ dyslexia. In the [REDACTED] hearing, Dottie did her level best to convince him that it nonetheless was, but could not. Frankly, I had the impression from Dottie that in that case, she would liked to have had "Big Wilson" to offer, but didn't."

 September 2, 2020, John corrected his earlier statement in a subsequent email to FCPS staff.

"One correction to my questions, which I'm sure you all picked up, is that in item 3, the second sentence should say, "I know that we disagree with Alvey's comments about JW in the [REDACTED] decision, but it is true that Wilson's own literature says that JW is not intensive enough for students w/ dyslexia." [emphasis added]

September 9, 2020, John's colleague, Wesley Allen, who was included in the above September 1st and 2nd emails, emailed FCPS "educational specialist" Jugnu Agrawal. He shares the following about Jugnu's colleague Dottie Skrincosky, who testified in an earlier due process hearing, in which the hearing officer determined Just Words to be inappropriate for students who have Dyslexia:

"We disagree with the hearing officer's comments about Just Words in that case. You should know that that case was an FCPS case where Dottie did her level best to convince the hearing officer that Just Words was intensive enough for students with dyslexia, but, nonetheless, she could not."

Allen goes on to state:

"... it is necessary that we have a witness who can directly address the article about Just Words (below), and explain that Just Words is indeed one appropriate curricular program for a student, such as this Student, who has a mild-to-moderate level of dyslexia. . . . Moreover, we need a witness to testify that Lindamood-Bell is not necessary or perhaps even appropriate."

And yet, just a few days earlier his colleague admitted FCPS knew that Just Words is not intensive enough for students who have Dyslexia.

Jugnu went on to testify in the due process hearing that followed that Lindamood Bell was inappropriate for the student because its site has pictures of young children on it. She specifically stated:

"...if you go and look at the pictures on their website and everything, it is specifically for elementary."

Yes. Agrawal, who also testified that she'd never been trained to administer Lindamood Bell, that she'd never read a Lindamood Bell training manual, and that she'd never read the student's entire record (which included testing showing Student made incredible gains after receiving Lindamood Bell instruction), made a determination of appropriateness based on pictures of children on Lindamood Bell's site.

According to Blankingship & Keith invoices, around the same time the emails above circulated, it was advising FCPS on issues regarding the same program, with a third student.

September 3, 2020 (top of page one of the invoice):

"emails from staff re JW reading program in [REDACTED] matter."

December 17, 2020 (bottom of page 3 of the invoice):

"Conf call with Ms. Stack, Ms Schaefer and other FCPS staff re use of Just Words

"Participate in conference with Client and John Cafferky re: next steps/defense recommendations on reading programs re: recent hearing officer decisions; receipt/review of corresponding items circulated by Client on same."

Virginia's Reading Scores Reflect Failure to Appropriately Address Needs of Students

October 2022, the "Nation's Report Card" was released by United States Department of Education’s (USDOE) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The data indicated reading and math scores plummeted nationwide between 2019 and 2022, However, Virginia was identified as one of the states with the "worst reading setbacks".

The 74 reported that, "Shortly after the calamitous NAEP release, Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon and Harvard economist Tom Kane released the Education Recovery Scorecard, a database using the federal scores to quantify learning loss at the district level across 29 states. The tool showed that five of the 10 districts that experienced the worst reading setbacks were located in Virginia; even worse, the state accounted for an astonishing nine out of the 10 districts that fell the most in math. Students in two of the state’s biggest cities, Richmond and Newport News, lost well over 1.5 grade levels during their time in remote instruction."

This didn't come as a surprise to parents in Virginia, where the decline was underway before COVID.