Bipartisan bills push for stronger literacy resources for children with dyslexia

By: - October 6, 2020 3:53 pm

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A bipartisan bill package aimed at improving child literacy, especially for children with dyslexia, was introduced in the Senate last week.

The four-bill package, which focuses on identifying and intervening to help students with dyslexia, was introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor), Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton).

“Over 50% of 3rd and 4th graders in Michigan are reading and writing below grade level. Learning to read and write is the foundation for success in our society and difficulty with reading holds kids back in every area of their lives,” Irwin said. “Despite the importance of literacy and the prevalence of dyslexia, Michigan has no statewide strategy to screen and treat the most common language-based learning disability in existence: dyslexia.”

Senate Bill 1172, introduced by Runestad, would establish a five-member advisory committee tasked with developing a dyslexia resource guide. 

“Michigan is dead last for helping students with dyslexia succeed, which is contributing to our failure to bridge the literacy gap, leaving students and families discouraged and hopeless,” Runestad said. 

Senate Bill 1173, introduced by Irwin,  would require school districts to screen children during kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and 3rd grade for reading difficulties using a universal screening assessment.

If the assessment shows that a child is experiencing difficulty learning to decode, the school district shall ensure that a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) is provided.

“There are severe academic as well as psychological ramifications for children who do not adequately learn to read and write. We have proven methods to prevent some of these consequences by helping children acquire these skills, so they can learn and thrive,” Irwin said. 

Senate Bill 1174, introduced by Theis, would require teacher preparation institutions to offer instruction on the characteristics of dyslexia, the consequences of dyslexia, evidence-based interventions and accommodations for children with dyslexia and methods to develop a classroom infrastructure that meets the needs of students with an MTSS in place.

“By preparing our teachers to understand the characteristics and effects of dyslexia, we can ensure they are better able to help students achieve,” said Theis, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness. “As someone with a family member who has overcome dyslexia, I know first-hand the importance of having teachers who are prepared to intervene.”

Senate Bill 1175, introduced by Polehanki, would only allow new teaching certificates to be issued to individuals who have received instruction on the five areas outlined in SB 1174. 

The bills were referred to the Committee on Education and Career Readiness. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8.