What's the problem?
Many Michigan students are below grade level in reading and writing skills, ranking in the bottom third for fourth-grade reading nationally. Although many things may contribute, the primary factors impacting our State's low literacy performance are:
For children with dyslexia, these factors pose an even greater risk. There is, however, a proven way to identify students with difficulties learning to decode and recognize words, which can be indicative of dyslexia. Michigan is currently one of only a few states in the United States without this type of legislation in place.
These laws will also identify students that, although not necessarily dyslexic, would benefit from reading instruction grounded in cognitive science. Passing legislation to address these issues is key to helping children across Michigan fulfill their potential.
Eight months ago, my 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia and began working with a private reading specialist using a research-based structured literacy program. 4 days a week for 45-minutes a day. For the first time, someone was providing a clear, strong ladder for her to climb. Maeve recently shared her experience, “Before I knew I had dyslexia and then right after I knew I had it, I felt like I had a big thick rope tied around me, and that rope was tied to a brick that was pulling me backward. Now, I feel like that rope is getting thinner and thinner, and I’m moving further and further away from that brick. Someday I might even decide to cut the rope.” What did a research-based structured literacy program with a trained professional do for my daughter? It empowered her with the tools she needs to succeed. This ladder exists, and with support, every child can learn to climb it.
-Amy Janssens, parent of Maeve (9 years old)
The "Package" of 4 Bills Includes:
Improved training for future and current educators about dyslexia, its characteristics, secondary consequences, and accommodations that serve this population well.
Screening to identify children having difficulties with decoding and word recognition skills, indicative of dyslexia, using reliable and valid screening techniques.
Improved instructional training to empower educators with the knowledge of structured language and literacy, an evidence-based approach grounded in cognitive science to address decoding and word recognition deficits, within a 3-tiered system of support.
A Dyslexia Guidebook developed by an advisory board within the Michigan Dept. of Education, which will be used by schools across Michigan.
Teacher credentialing and certification related to structured language and literacy, dyslexia, and Michigan's 3-tiered system of support framework.
Who is sponsoring these bills?
This Dyslexia legislation is being drafted and introduced as a bi-partisan effort to improve literacy education in Michigan. These four Senate bills have been introduced by the following State Senators. A bi-partisan group of State Representatives has joined them with updated (3/17/22) versions of the bills.
- Senate Bill 380 (Irwin); House Bill 5934 (Brixie): Requires student screening in grades K-3 for decoding difficulties, use of evidence-based instruction, and professional learning in the science of reading, dyslexia and a tiered system of support.
- Senate Bill 381 (Theis); House Bill 5935 (Cavanagh): Requires teacher preparation programs to offer instruction on dyslexia and related evidence-based insturction and supports.
- Senate Bill 382 (Polehanki); House Bill 5936 (Damoose): Requires certification be tied to professional development components as defined in SB 380-381; HB 5934-5935.
- Senate Bill 383 (Runestad); House Bill 5937 (Beson): Requires creation of an advisory committee to develop a dyslexia resource guide for schools and parents.
Virtual Coffee Hour Overview
In a recent virtual coffee hour session (recording available here), State Senator Jeff Irwin described the literacy challenge facing Michigan students that these bills aim to address. The portion about the proposed dyslexia bills starts at timestamp 12:30 in the video.
We love public school and desperately wanted to keep our kids there. But when my first grade twins struggled to learn to read and our school seemed to know no more than I did about how to help them, we had to make a change. Neither our public school teachers nor our principal nor the school reading interventionists knew anything about the signs of dyslexia or how to effectively teach kids with it. And so, with broken hearts, we pulled our kids out and placed them in a private school with a structured literacy curriculum. We also paid thousands of dollars for a private assessment and for effective tutoring. All while our beloved neighborhood school sat a block away with hearts in the right place but with no knowledge or skills to help us.
Speak to the decision makers for these bills...
The I Want to Help! page has a range of ways you can advocate for these bills publicly, as well as to your own State representatives.
Additionally, the following legislators serving on the education committees in both the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House of Representatives need to hear our voices!
Use this template or your own story to show your support with committee members.
Legislation has been introduced in the Michigan Legislature that will make a positive difference for those with the characteristics of dyslexia and that struggle with decoding and word recognition. These bills will change the Revised School Code to identify and intervene with these children, many of which have dyslexia. The bills also provide training to teachers in the characteristics and accommodations for students with dyslexia and reading instruction based on cognitive science. I ask that you support these bills. Teachers deserve to be highly trained so they may use effective instruction and interventions to help ALL students across Michigan become proficient readers. Only then will ALL students reach their full potential academically and personally.
Michigan Senate, Education Committee
Michigan House of Representatives, Education Committee
I have been tutoring dyslexic students for over 30 years. My extensive training in structured literacy has been essential for my work. I have seen child after child make steady, strong reading (and spelling) progress. These are students who could not learn to read using the methods taught in their classrooms. All the children I’ve worked with have benefited, most were able to accomplish grade level reading in a relatively brief period of time. These children would not have become readers without structured literacy, their lives were profoundly changed by this approach.