By Carolyn D. Cowen
Late September and early October brought a flurry of activity from inside the Beltway on behalf of families struggling with dyslexia and related learning issues. Some of this activity could have far-reaching, even nationwide impact.
House Committee Convenes Hearing
On September 30, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology convened a full committee hearing on Dyslexia and the Need to READ: H.R. 3033, the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act.
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) gave the opening statement. Witness testimony was given by the following individuals:
- Barbara Wilson, Co-Founder and President, Wilson Language Training
- Paula Tallal, Senior Research Scientist, Center for Human Development, University of California, San Diego; Adjunct Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Founder and Director, Scientific Learning Corporation
- Rachel Robillard, Assistant Director, 504 Services and Response to Intervention, Austin Independent School District
Secretary of Education Issues Statement
On October 5, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Issued a statement on “Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia; and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness Month.”
“This is a time for parents, educators, and policymakers to understand how these disabilities impact students and their families, to reflect on the significant achievements that these students have made, and to renew our commitment to creating a stronger future for them,” Duncan said. He also stated, “Students who live and learn with these issues often experience challenges in school related to reading, writing, mathematics, and focus; but these students also have great strengths and enormous potential.” Duncan said that, later in the month, the U.S. Department of Education would release information to assist states and local school districts in recognizing the unique needs of students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Read the full statement here.
House Committee Approves READ Act
On October 8, The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act (READ Act) (H.R. 3033), a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, which has more than 100 members.
“The READ Act requires the president’s annual budget request to Congress to include a line item for the Research in Disabilities Education program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). It also requires the NSF to devote at least $5 million annually to dyslexia research.” This research would focus on best practices in the following areas: early identification of children and students with dyslexia, professional development about dyslexia for teachers and administrators; and curricula development and evidence-based educational tools for children with dyslexia. Learn more here.
Senate Passes Bipartisan Resolution
On October 9, U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) announced that the U.S. Senate has passed its bipartisan resolution by unanimous consent designating October 2015 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month.”
The resolution was supported by all 50 states of Decoding Dyslexia, Dyslexic Advantage, the International Dyslexia Association, Learning Ally, Louisiana Key Academy, National Center for Learning Disabilities, The Odyssey School in Stevenson, Maryland, and the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. The resolution calls on Congress, schools, and state and local educational agencies to recognize the significant educational implications of dyslexia that must be addressed. Learn more here.
Major Shifts across Landscape?
This fall’s dyslexia-related activity from inside the Beltway, coupled with similar events over the summer (see September Examiner article), suggest we may be on the cusp of major shifts across the dyslexia-literacy landscape.
The trick will be to ensure that all this activity translates into the comprehensive and sustained change needed to ensure that every student with dyslexia and related learning challenges in every classroom across the country gets the Structured Literacy instruction they need to succeed.
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Carolyn D. Cowen, Ed.M., Social-Media Editor & Strategist, eXaminer
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