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Waco ISD receives perfect score on TEA audit of dyslexia services provided to students

WACO, TX (October 25, 2023)--Gabriella Herrera struggles with dyslexia as an adult. Her son, Angelo, a Waco High School sophomore, and her daughter, Adelena, a J. H. Hines Elementary fifth grader, struggle with the learning condition, which is hereditary. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia affects one in 10 people.


“I had dyslexia when I was in school. I cannot spell whatsoever,” Herrera said. “I still sound out the words now as I am attending business management classes. So, I guess it will always affect me.”


WISD Director of Intervention Services/State & Federal Programs Kourtni Parnell said dyslexia is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language.


“Our job is to re-teach the brain and teach students to overcome deficits in reading by breaking the words apart, sounding out the letters, and then putting the word back together,” Parnell said. “Dyslexia is a lifelong impairment. By learning the techniques so when they come to a word they do not know, they can figure it out and be successful.”


Waco ISD received a perfect score of 100 percent compliance from the Texas Education Agency for its Dyslexia Cyclical review. The reviewed areas included early response to intervention, evidence-based dyslexia practices with properly trained dyslexia teachers, implementation of accommodations for students with dyslexia, and parent notifications and training. 


“It all fell into place when Adelena started school because my son now feels comfortable reading to her,” said Herrera, who adds that her 4-year-old son, Gabriel, is showing signs of dyslexia. She is working with WISD to have the district’s dyslexia specialists evaluate him so she can work with him at home prior to starting kindergarten. 


“Waco ISD ensures it screens all first graders for dyslexia by January 31 and kindergartens by the end of the school year to ensure all students who demonstrate the characteristics are tested and receive a full and individual evaluation. If students qualify, WISD uses evidence-based dyslexia instruction to ensure students receive the multisensory lessons that meet each student's needs,” Parnell said. “TEA applauded Waco ISD on the fidelity of the program's implementation and the knowledge and support the dyslexia specialists provide to students.”


Parnell said it takes the average student with dyslexia two to three years to demonstrate the ability to read at a level that he is able to return to a general education classroom. Symptoms of dyslexia include the following. 

  • Reading well below the expected level for age
  • Problems processing and understanding what is heard
  • Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
  • Problems remembering the sequence of things
  • Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
  • Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading

“I remind my children every day that it is possible for them to succeed,” Herrera said. “Just because you are slower doesn’t mean that others are winning the race. You just have to keep going. If you don’t practice, you will never learn.”