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4-5 hours of homework for a 6th grader who is dyslexic.


Charlotte Ann
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I am helping a parent who has a 6th grade boy that has severe dyslexic.  The small, rural school uses IXL an online practice tool that supplements learning. It is rigorous and takes point away when students get an answer wrong.  Teachers like it because it provides them immediate feedback on progress, parents dislike it because it demoralizes their children. The parent I am helping can do homework for 4-5 hours  each night, sometimes until 12:30 at night.  In addition to IXL assignments there are other assignments example.  

Assigned today/due tomorrow:
Social studies chapter
Poem sheet 
2 Reading IXLs
Atmosphere book
Science worksheet 1/2
The school is very proud of their high state ranking and will make small concessions but are very reluctant to compromise their proud approach.  Is there anything that can be done to reduce this homework overload for a student who takes significant more time to complete assignments yet is still quite bright and capable. We don't want to modify the curriculum, but provide sensible accommodations without jeopardizing his academic status.  Please offer up some opinions and ideas.
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I can't tell from your email if the student has a 504 Plan, an IEP, or neither.  I'm going to assume neither.  So the first step would be to ask for a 504 Plan, since that's the only way you're going to get accommodations for his disability of dyslexia.  Once you get the 504 Plan, you can ask for one or more of the following accommodations:

1. Reduce amount of homework. (The standard is to base the amount on the time it would take students without this disability to complete the assignment.  The student should spend no more than 1 and 1/2 the amount of time on homework as other students.)

2. Shorten assignments once mastery is achieved.  (Don't make him continue to do problems if he has shown he understands the concept.)

3. Allow text-to-speech or parent to read assignments, if his reading is slowing him down.

4.  Allow speech-to-text or parent scribe for answers on assignments, if his writing is slowing him down.

Do not let the school tell her that they are unable to modify the online practice.  This is not an excuse for refusing accommodations.

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I so appreciate your response.  The boy does have an IEP under SLD, but is also ADD.  We brought it up at the last meeting and they reduced the scores he needs to achieve on IXL assignments by a brief amount. That was their compromise.  They are very stubborn about reducing any homework.  He is in Middle School and there are two of his teachers that are big task masters and are more interested in pushing him and making him responsible for his work and workload.  He does get text to speech and speech to text, but I believe he only gets it if he asks.

I believe your first remark is one we can work with, limiting his time to what other students require to complete the homework. And I like the fire in your final comment... don't let the school say they are unable to modify the online practice.  The parents comments on one website about IXL is overwhelmingly negative... so much stress and so demoralizing when the student makes one mistake they are penalized and loose points and have to redo the work and this will happen multiple times.  The psychological impact is significant.

I imagine it is better to negotiate doing homework for 1-2 hours rather than ask them to stop using IXL for this 6th grader.

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I am unfamiliar with IXL and I cannot tell if the school is using this program to teach students with dyslexia, or as a study tool for all students. I'm going to assume the latter though, because from what you're saying it does not sound like a multi-sensory approach and I've never heard of an Orton Gillingham ("OG") program that had homework since they are required to be taught by highly qualified instructors.

With that being said, has the school (now or in the past) provided any OG type program to address his dyslexia deficits? If not, they should start immediately! I can provide quotes about the importance of starting early, which we've already missed, but the longer you wait, the harder it is on the student.

The next thing that came to mind was Carolyn's second point, once mastery has been shown, move on.

Does the school use technology like chromebooks in the classroom? Our district issues chromebooks to every student in second grade and above, but it sounds like your student should ask for an Assistive Technology evaluation to either provide a chromebook, or to provide additional features to support his needs. Some extra options they could provide would include audiobooks, the Snap and Read extension, etc. 

His IEP accommodations should include things like limiting penalization for spelling unless spelling is being assessed. If they can't do that with the IXL program, ask if they can provide an alternative program. Can his teacher copy and paste the passages and questions into a Word doc or google form instead of the IXL program? I don't think pencil and paper would be a good alternative here. Another accommodation would be more time to turn in assignments so he could hopefully catch up on the weekends, but even still, we don't want him putting in another full day of school on Saturday to make up a heavy workload from the week. 

There is a ton of data you can find online about the negatives to excessive homework. Most schools seem to be moving toward no homework rather than overwhelming students, and just give minimal homework to reinforce what is being taught in class. 

Lastly, if they expect to cover more work than this student can handle in a school year, they can provide Extended School Year and offer the additional instruction time during the summer, but I'm not sure if they are attempting to cover more curriculum than other schools or if they are simply focusing on trying to maintain a higher GPA. They could be grading him by a different rubric also. 

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Since you do have an IEP, it would be helpful if you could get an outside evaluator to list the above accommodations.  That would help your argument.  I very much like the idea of asking for another program instead of IXL or copying and pasting certain problems.  That would reduce a lot of time in having to redo work.  Too bad if the teachers don't like it or it creates more work for them - she shouldn't have to do this much homework due to her disability.  If she's doing more than 1 and 1/2 half the time other students spend, she's being discriminated against due to her disability.  Throwing out the word "discrimination" might get their attention.

You need to make sure she gets the speech-to-text and text-to-speech accommodations.  She shouldn't have to ask for them each time.  She should also have access to them at home for homework.

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I agree with what the other posters have suggested. I also did some research on IXL and found some blogs directly from the provider about how they support people with disabilities that may help the team customize the data and information that comes from using the IXL program. 

https://blog.ixl.com/2021/07/07/how-ixl-supports-families-with-disabilities/

 

https://blog.ixl.com/2020/11/12/how-ixl-supports-special-education/

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Michigan mother of two with IEPs, and owner of MI Student Advocacy Services. Trying to change the world one IEP at a time. 

 

 

 

 

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What sort of AT does this child have to access things like needing to read a chapter in their social studies book?  With the right AT, time spent on HW should go down.

Was an AT evaluation even done?

I hope the IXL's are able to be read to him too.  Until his reading issue is remediated and he can do grade level work at about the same speed as his classmates, he needs help & accommodations.

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Thanks for posting those links Angela--we've had our challenges on the IXL and other platforms as well.  They can be too rigid about scoring and make it impossible to complete a task.

I never knew that IXL had the Real Time Diagnostic.  Maybe this needs to be done again to see if the questions that are being asked are too difficult Charlotte Ann?

I second a lot of the suggestions here, including not spending more than 1.5x what a non disabled student spends on the assignments.  If the school district is so proud of their state standing and their standards, maybe they need to be reminded how much worse it is for this student to give up altogether because of burnout and the repeated feeling of failure.

An AT evaluation could be helpful, as others have said.  This student is old enough to hopefully be able to verbalize the issues with IXL (and other homework), and that evaluator could look at that tool and determine if it is accessible for the student to begin with.  Perhaps there are accessibility tools within IXL that the student doesn't know how to use, and needs training?  They could make recommendations, and in a small school district you could be lucky and have an evaluator that is from an outside service agency rather than the school.  

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I want to thank you all for your responses.  It has been extremely helpful.  Because of these responses, I have researched IXL and buried in their website I learned that they have text-to-speech until grade two after that teachers can adjust the settings to allow for text-to-speech.  So we will definitely consider that, but it still has the rigid scoring (teachers can adjust) and can trigger severe frustration and anxiety for children.  I am recommending we request an alternative.  The second strategy I did not consider was an AT evaluation.  I am so grateful that several of you brought this to my attention.  I believe the parent will be pursing this option.  I will keep you all updated on our progress.  Thank you again for our time and expertise.

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