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Committee OKs measure intended to improve outcomes for students with dyslexia

Even though dyslexia effects up to 20 percent of the population, few educators are trained to help students affected by it.

But a bill sponsored by Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines), HF3013, is meant to change that. It would require teachers to undergo professional development to learn more about dyslexia and how to help students struggling with it.

The House Education Innovation Policy Committee approved the bill Thursday, and it now heads to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. Its companion, SF2455, sponsored by Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Policy Committee.

Rachel Berger, foundation director at I Am Dyslexia, cited statistics about the prevalence of dyslexia and the lack of resources available to address it.

“We’re here today to discuss the professional development needs of our educators,” she said. “Whether identified or not, the National Institute of Child and Human Development states that 17 to 20 percent of our population struggles with dyslexia.”  

A survey of teachers conducted last month by Decoding Dyslexia revealed that 97 percent of teachers with a bachelor’s degree were not adequately prepared to teach a student  who was displaying characteristics of dyslexia how to read. Similarly, 92.1 percent said they could not competently define dyslexia or its symptoms.

However, nearly all of the teachers surveyed said they’d be interested in receiving professional development to help them become better equipped at helping students who are afflicted.

Rachel Depa, a mother of five children, two of which have dyslexia, said students with dyslexia are misdiagnosed and placed in special education classes. Ultimately, the failure to detect dyslexia early is causing students to fall behind and wasting school district’s special education resources.

“I would argue that the time and money spent on educating our teachers on the signs and traits of dyslexia will ultimately be a cost-saving endeavor,” she said. “It would allow our teachers to identify dyslexia and help students early and effectively, in many cases before the need for special education arises.”

Currently, interventions to help students with dyslexia pose an issue of inequity. Even when students are correctly diagnosed, families can struggle to find the resources and specialists, and when they do, treatment can come with a big price tag.

Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing) raised a son who struggled with dyslexia. Getting him the help he needed took a tremendous amount of resources. 

“It took us tens of thousands of dollars,” she said. “I quit a job to take him to tutoring, to get assessments. It is an equity issue.” 

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