Volume 4 #9
Whenever I test a student for possible dyslexia, I have
him write five sentences to dictation like the ones on the
web site. I do this for two reasons. One is the obvious one
- is his production awful enough to make dyslexia a possibility?
The other is for me. If he becomes a student, I need a “before” sample
to compare with an “after” one when he is finished.
My problem is that I have only rarely had before-and-after
reading level scores taken by somebody else. If you write
the program yourself, give before-and-after reading tests
yourself, you have, understandably enough, no credibility
as to the accuracy of your figures. In vain did I point this
out to my first supervisor, begging him to assign some outside
reading teacher to do the testing, but in eleven years he
never did. He didn’t want to believe my results, partly
because I insisted that I teach only two students at a time and he wanted to
establish resource rooms with five to eight students in each one. The other
reason is that I don’t think he wanted to believe in what I was doing.
In all those years, he never once heard one of my students read. He always
came for my evaluation during a prep period when I had no student!
So I never had a credible case while I was in that school.
Occasionally, when I taught later for a few years privately
I would get a kid who had been tested in some institution
(for a huge fee, of course) before I got him. When he was
finished, I could test his reading level myself, but there we go again. Once
I thought I had it made: we did a program in some elementary schools here
and I had the kids pre-tested by an experienced reading teacher
who lived in town. Unfortunately, when the year was over,
she wound up in the hospital for a month and I had to waddle
in after a hip replacement and do the after-testing myself.
However, if you have a preliminary writing sample that
is terrible, and after your kid has finished the program,
his final writing sample is beautiful, you have concrete
evidence that something useful has happened. So I save either
those sentences, or the first one or two spelling exercises
he does that are full of mistakes and tuck them into his
folder. When he is finished, I save his best production and
show both to his parents. They deserve to see the difference
since they have been paying the bill all that time. But don’t make the
other bad mistake I did.
Don’t show the two to the student. I made that mistake a couple of times,
thinking that the student would be really pleased at how much he had improved.
Wrong. He looks at the first one and gasps. “Was I really that bad?” Now
I just save perfect exercises during the year and send home a copy “for
the refrigerator.” Then I tear up the in between ones as “works
in progress”. In fact, I follow a good piece of advice from another tutor
who lets the student tear up the bad ones and chuck them in the trash, himself!