Many states, including Indiana, now have passed state-regulated dyslexia laws. When I speak with educators from around the state sometimes our ICAM/AEM conversations lead to Indiana SB 217 which is our state's dyslexia law. Some schools have embraced the law, provide training for teachers, and have rigorous, appropriate support in place for students. Some teachers talk about their district's well-designed procedures for MTSS (Multi-Tiered-System-of-Supports) and have expressed excitement about the OG (Orton-Gillingham) Courses they are completing.
On the other hand, others have told me that no one is actually monitoring progress or enforcing the tenets of the laws. Most often the reasons cited for this are a purported lack of funding for professional development for educators, and meager interest in technology and science-based reading supports for students. I've been told several times that "we are not allowed to use the word dyslexia". I've taught, and I get that school corporations have "cultures". That's a thing. But think of trying to intervene with a learning difference that you are not allowed to name. Let that sink in.
Effective educators do not need a state law mandating them to offer good instruction to all our students, as we've been taught ways to consider all their different strengths, weaknesses and needs. If you have the passion, the knowledge and the tools, you can help even the most downtrodden, self-loathing, struggling student learn to read. There are a plethora of courses, webinars, podcasts and publications that can help us provide reading instruction that is comprehensive, driven by the science of reading, and based on over 100 years of research that has been replicated and published.
By engaging in your own professional development you can learn how to identify students who have dyslexia, even if for whatever reason they have not been universally screened, such as students who had passed 3rd grade when Indiana SB 217 was enacted in 2018. After you have identified the signs of dyslexia correctly a few times, you get really good at it. This repeated practice puts your dyslexia antenna in the alert position, and you know to watch for more signals. You learn how to effectively help your students meet their challenges and move on to the next. Because dyslexia never ends.
The first best practice of an educator is to know your students. Why does this student come in with a hostile demeanor every morning? Why does that student always look like she's been crying? Why does this one and that one exhibit inappropriate and puzzling behaviors, or act out in ways disproportionate to the situation? As a teacher, you may need to admonish sometimes for the sake of everyone's right to learn, but don't let that be the end of the interaction. Explore the "why". Try to develop trust between you and the students you are with during the day. Then it's easier to notice the learning differences that emerge, understand them, and accommodate them.
We must take matters into our own hands, regardless of what the powers that be are or are not enforcing, because of the following (this is not an exhaustive list, but a list of the types of things that keep me up at night:
- 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th-grade level.
- 1 in 4 children in America grows up without learning how to read.
- Students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
- Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
- 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.
- Reports show that the rate of low literacy in the United States directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.
This information came from the DoSomething.org website and is similar to other sites I compared. This one happens to be a global movement of millions of young people who see the literacy problem and want to fix it.
Contact a PATINS Specialist for information on technology, tools and classroom strategies to help your struggling readers. Contact the ICAM if you have struggling readers being served under the IDEA and have an IEP. Contact the IERC if your struggling readers have blindness/low vision. Together, for Indiana, we can change the statistics.
Thanks so much!