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Students with dyslexia could be identified sooner

Several proposals geared toward helping students with dyslexia were held over by the House Education Policy Committee Tuesday.  

Between 17 and 20 percent of the U.S. population struggles with dyslexia, said Rachel Berger, president of Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota. One way to proactively help these students, she said, is to identify them early and implement interventions when they’re young.

Sponsored by Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina) HF1496, as amended, would require school districts to screen all students who are not reading at grade level for characteristics of dyslexia.

It was held over by the committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. There is no Senate companion. A similar proposal, HF329, sponsored by Rep. Brian Daniels (R-Faribault), was also held over during the meeting.

Edelson, who is dyslexic, spoke firsthand of the struggles she encountered, and what it’s like to have twin sons who also suffer from the condition.

“Having dyslexia doesn’t mean you have low intelligence, it means your brain works differently,” she said. “Kids with dyslexia are smart but they have difficulty reading.”

State statute already encourages districts to conduct this screening, however, this proposal would make it mandatory. Specifically, the bill would clarify that any student not reading at grade level be identified and screened before the end of kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2. Additionally, districts would have to identify and screen students in grade 3 or higher who demonstrate a reading difficulty.

Many teachers are not equipped to identify students with dyslexia, Berger said, adding that the required screening would provide an important tool in identifying struggling students in order to help meet their needs.

Lynn McGrane and Jessica Grunwald, teachers in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, said that while they support screening, they opposed the proposal for a handful of reasons. McGrane explained that current law, as it stands, is supportive of identifying all students who are in need of specific instruction, including those with dyslexia.

“The extra language along dyslexia suggests that screening of other areas of concern become less important,” she said. 

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