I recently read an article in Education Week that talked about the fact that Iowa has officially defined dyslexia in their state education code. The article points out that “without an official definition, identification and treatment of the condition was nearly impossible.” The law that was just passed also charges Iowa’s Department of Education with developing and providing school districts with professional development programs for teachers to better equip them to work with these students. Iowa now joins other states around the country that are committed to helping their dyslexic students. You might wonder why a 15-year old high school student is following this news. You see, my mother is a leader of Decoding Dyslexia-IN and she keeps a legislative summary of all the states and whether they have laws in place to help their dyslexic students. Whenever a state passes legislation, she is quick to point it out to me and tells me that one day Indiana will be on the list.
I am excited for the dyslexic students in Iowa but I am sad for the dyslexic students in Indiana. Indiana just released this year’s scores for IRead. IRead is a high stakes test that is supposed to determine whether third graders can read well enough to move on to fourth grade. Everyone is excited because 86% of the kids passed this year. It makes me sad that nobody really talks about the 14% that failed the test. I think that if Indiana had dyslexia legislation, we would have identified these students earlier and would have already been using a multi-sensory phonetic approach to provide intervention for these kids. Unfortunately, many of these students will never get this help. Tutoring is very expensive and most schools don’t offer this type of intervention. Although IRead wasn’t a requirement when I was in third grade, based on my ISTEP scores, I probably would have failed. It was only because my parents could pay for Orton Gillingham tutoring that I have been able to be successful in school. I think failing this test will discourage these kids and may destroy their self-esteem. Unfortunately many of these kids will go on to be struggling readers in high school and beyond. The NIH says that, “Of children who display reading problems in first grade, 74% will be struggling readers in ninth grade and into adulthood unless they receive informed and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness.”
I think that Indiana should look to Iowa and other states and see just how important dyslexia legislation is to helping their dyslexic students. Since dyslexia affects 1 out of 5 people, this legislation would help 20% of its population. I also think this would help to improve Indiana’s test scores and literacy rate.