Bill requiring screening of kindergarten students for dyslexia released

The Senate Education Committee released a bill calling for kindergarten students to be screened for dyslexia.

Bill S2442 would require screening of kindergarten students for dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

The bill requires that local school boards are given information they could provide to students for screening of reading disabilities. Screenings for reading disabilities must be administered by a teacher or other trained staff members, the bill states.

The bill also requires that if a diagnosis is confirmed, the board of education must provide appropriate intervention strategies to the student, including intense instruction on phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Dennis Township, said the bills will give promising students who suffer from reading disabilities a chance to succeed.

“There are good students who deserve opportunity and they are not getting it,” he said. “That is shameful.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz, (D-28), Newark, said, “We’re trying to create access…We’re trying to provide resources.”

Several parents testified in support of the bill, saying screenings are the only ways to find out early enough if reading disabilities are interfering with, or preventing, their learning of new material.

But Sen. Michael Doherty, (R-23), Washington Township, said there should be a bill focusing on mandating phonic teaching and training.

“I see all these bills…I don’t see one for phonics,” Doherty said.

“It’s a shotgun approach,” he said.

Doherty said he was frustrated there were so many bills and not enough experts’ testimony or opinions.

But Ruiz said the goal is to take a holistic approach

“It’s not just one piece,” she said.

Both Ruiz and Van Drew said many stakeholders, education experts included, were included in the process.

The committee also released other bills focusing on reading disabilities. They include:

S2439: A bill requiring the state Board of Education to incorporate the International Dyslexia Association’s definition of dyslexia. The IDA’s definition reads: “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.  It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.  These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

S2440: Requires the state Education Department to provide professional development opportunities related to reading disabilities to school district personnel.

S2441: Requires 20 hours of professional development requirement for public school teachers to be devoted to reading disabilities.

Bill requiring screening of kindergarten students for dyslexia released