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What is the difference between a student who has a reading difficulty and a special education student?

Some students struggle with reading but do not have a diagnosed disability. These students may lag behind their peers and require more time with more specialized reading instruction and intervention to overcome their challenges with emergent literacy skills. Students identified with a reading difficulty depend on caring and insightful schools, teachers, and parents to provide them the reading help they need to become successful readers.

Some students are formally diagnosed with a learning disability. These students can receive special education under a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). To outline the educational goals and services that the student needs to be successful, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed. For students with a
learning disability who struggle with reading, reading-related support and services can be included in the student’s IEP.

When a student has a reading deficiency– whether he or she has been formally identified as having a disability or not – the key is to:

  • correctly determine the nature and source of a student’s difficulty,
  • provide targeted instruction to remediate difficulties and increase skill level,
  • and accommodate a student’s challenges and build upon his or her strengths.

By administering an approved assessment to Kindergarten and Grade 1 students, are schools in violation of Rule 10 115.01B which states, “Whole grade norm-referenced assessment using a national assessment instrument begins no earlier than grade two…”?

No. In accordance with the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act, districts are required to administer an assessment 3x annually to all students in Grades K-3 from the approved list, some of which are norm-referenced.  When there is a conflict between statute and rule, statute supersedes rule, thus no violation of Rule 10 would be issued. Districts will be informed as rules are revised and updated to reflect current legislative requirements.

Who is exempt from taking the approved reading assessment?

To recognize the needs of some students, some are exempt from taking the approved reading assessments. These include:

  • any student with limited English proficiency who has received less than two years of English instruction
  • any student receiving special education services for whom such assessment would conflict with their individualized education plan
  • any student receiving services under a plan pursuant to the requirements of section 504 of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act for whom such assessment would conflict with such section 504 or Title II Plan

Do English Learners (EL’s) need an individualized Reading Improvement Plan?

If a student has been receiving specialized English instruction for less than two years, that student is exempt from participating in the approved reading assessment.  Nebraska Rule 15, Regulations and Procedures for English Learner Programs in Nebraska Public Schools, outlines services provided to EL’s in K-12 education. While some districts may provide English language support in Pre-Kindergarten programs, some do not. Therefore, the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act considers specialized English instruction to begin once a student is enrolled in Kindergarten or higher. Because the student would be exempt from participating in the approved assessment, a plan would not be created. Rather, the school team would enact supports such as are described by Rule 15, as well as other local policies and procedures, and that are appropriate to the unique needs of individual students.

How do the requirements for students identified as having characteristics of dyslexia (LB 1052) relate to effective reading instruction and intervention?

LB 1052, now Nebraska Revised Statute 79-11,156, outlines requirements for the identification and support for students who exhibit characteristics of dyslexia, complements the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act. Both laws underscore the role of effective reading instruction and intervention for students who struggle with reading proficiency. The NDE has developed a
technical assistance guide for dyslexia.

The purpose of the guide for dyslexia is to provide information, resources, guidance and support to schools, families and caregivers in understanding the specific learning disability of dyslexia. This technical assistance document is a starting point and includes additional resources for educators to access when they suspect a student may have dyslexia. In addition, 79-11,158 requires teacher education programs to include instruction in dyslexia.