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Bipartisan legislation introduced in Michigan Senate to address dyslexia

Child reading
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The package of four bills (S.B. 1172, 1173, 1174, and 1175) would mandate a statewide strategy for identifying and intervening to help students with dyslexia. 

The focus on dyslexia is needed to improve childhood literacy in Michigan because it's the most common learning disability that affects reading and writing, according to the bills' sponsors, 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 our third and fourth graders in the state of Michigan are reading and writing below grade level. Dyslexia is the most common barrier to literacy," said Irwin. "And Michigan is one of the only states that does not have a statewide strategy to address this most common reading-related barrier."

"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."

Runestad said over the years, he has talked to many parents, students and teachers who are frustrated by the lack of progress in providing help to Michigan students who have dyslexia.

"Currently Michigan law does not require school districts to screen for dyslexia or even to train our teachers on how to recognize the signs of dyslexia, making Michigan dead last for helping these students succeed," said Runestad.

The bills would require school districts to test children for dyslexia from kindergarten through third grade and would mandate a multi-tiered system of academic support tailored to the needs of children with dyslexia. Also specific instruction about dyslexia, including evidence-based interventions for children with dyslexia, would be a requirement for new teaching certificates.

Irwin said while he shares the concerns of many about over-testing school children, Michigan is already doing literacy assessments of every child in K through 3.

"This legislation seeks to piggy back off of that, build on it,"  said Irwin. "And say 'let's make sure we're also screening for dyslexia as part of that assessment.'"

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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