Legislators have introduced a package of bills aimed at early screening, identification, and intervention of dyslexic students.
Michigan’s current approach to literacy instruction has not gotten the results that educators and parents would like to see. According to The Nation’s Report Card, one in three Michigan fourth-graders don’t have basic reading skills. That figure has hardly budged over the past two decades.
Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), and Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) sponsored four separate bills to address dyslexia and reading difficulties in schools.
These bills were introduced in the beginning of October 2020. Although they have yet to be enacted, there is cautious optimism that they will be passed in 2021.
Michigan Proposes New Dyslexia Laws
SB 1172 calls for the creation of a resource guide advisory committee within the Michigan Department of Education.
The advisory committee would consist of five members:
- One member with experience working in the field of dyslexia intervention.
- One member from an institute of higher education with expertise in dyslexia screening and interventions.
- Two members who are or have been employed by a school district and have expertise in dyslexia screening and interventions.
- One member is an individual with a dyslexia diagnosis or is the parent of an individual with a dyslexia diagnosis.
SB 1173 calls for prescreening for dyslexia for students in grades K-3 in all Michigan public schools. While the bill touches on many aspects of dyslexia screening and intervention, it is worth noting that it calls for intervention services grounded in “the principles of cognitive science and structured literacy approaches or programs that must include, at a minimum, systematic, direct, explicit, cumulative, and diagnostic instruction that integrates listening, speaking, reading, and writing and emphasizes the structure of language across the speech sound system (phonology), the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of words (morphology), the relationship among words (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse.”
This is the first time Michigan has made a meaningful push towards the science of reading and structured literacy.
Just as important, SB 1174 calls for the creation of certain requirements for the approval of teacher preparation institutions like IMSE. Once passed, these institutions must include specific training related to dyslexia for teachers in a K-6 program.
The institution must offer instruction regarding all of the following:
- Characteristics of dyslexia and underlying risk factors.
- Secondary consequences of dyslexia, such as problems in reading comprehension and social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.
- Evidence-based interventions that are grounded in the principles of structured literacy and cognitive science.
- Accommodations for dyslexic students and for addressing underlying factors that can place students at risk for difficulties in learning to decode accurately and efficiently.
- Methods for developing schoolwide and classroom infrastructures that meet the collective and individual needs of students.
This bill would have a tremendous impact in classrooms across the state. IMSE has heard from countless educators over the years who were never taught anything about dyslexia or the science of reading.
SB 1175 builds off the previous bill by calling for the modification of certain teacher requirements. Reading credits will now be required to include coverage of structured literacy, cognitive science, dyslexia accommodations and consequences, and phonemic awareness.
The hope is that these four bills will lay the groundwork for Michigan to reach more students with direct, systematic, and evidence-based reading instruction.
Other states like Mississippi and Colorado made similar legislative changes in recent years, and have already seen the positive impact it can make.
IMSE has seen the impact that this type of change can have in classrooms, especially those with struggling readers.
“Students who exhibit characteristics of dyslexia need a different approach in learning to read than what has historically been used in general education classrooms, as well as special education interventions,” says Amy Gulley, Dyslexia Specialist and IMSE Master Instructor. “With IMSE’s approach, students who have been screened and exhibit characteristics of dyslexia no longer have to wait to be identified to receive the instruction they require to become skilled readers.”
With the ultimate goal being reading comprehension, our students need comprehensive, systematic, and explicit instruction in developing word reading skill. This needs to happen in tandem with high quality vocabulary and oral language instruction.
These bills lay the groundwork for students and teachers having the necessary skills and tools to achieve reading comprehension.