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California's Reading Dilemma

EdSource Special Report

Why California is among last states not screening children for dyslexia

Above: A first-grade boy and his kindergarten friend read together on a bench outside. Credit: Allison Shelley for American Education

Teachers union opposes screening for all students

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Last year, California appeared ready to join 40 other states by mandating a screening tool for dyslexia — a learning disorder that affects 1 in 5 readers. The test would have flagged first graders who need extra help matching letters to sounds, connecting sounds to words, linking words in a sentence.

The stakes were high. In California, nearly 60% of third-graders are not reading at grade level, a crisis with potentially disastrous consequences. Research shows that students who aren’t proficient readers by third grade are more likely to miss school, more likely to be disciplined, more likely to drop out.

The bill died in the Assembly Education Committee before lawmakers even discussed it.

In some ways, this was a surprise. Gov. Gavin Newsom has publicly shared his struggle with dyslexia and has promoted generous state funding for research. And the bill’s author, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, who also has dyslexia, has long pushed for a dyslexia screening mandate.

“It is reprehensible that California is one of 10 states that doesn’t screen for dyslexia,” said Portantino. “The issue isn’t going away. Every year we don’t screen first-graders is another class lost. Shame on us.”

What happened?

Simply put, the drive to identify children with dyslexia ran into the power of the state’s teachers union, according to parties involved in the issue.

California’s efforts to help children with dyslexia come amid a national push to change how reading is being taught to all children, especially to the youngest learners. The efforts have repeatedly stalled over the past few years because of deep disagreements over the best way to teach reading. The California Teachers Association has been one of the strongest opponents of dyslexia screening, saying children learn to read at their own pace and flagging potential learning disorders could railroad some students, especially English learners, unnecessarily into special education.

Meanwhile, thousands of students continue to struggle with the basics of literacy, falling further and further behind because there is no process to screen every child, dyslexia advocates say.

California as outlier

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, dyslexia is considered a learning disability and could qualify a student for special education or accommodations in the classroom through a 504 plan. But not all students with dyslexia are automatically placed in special education. Students with mild cases often stay in their regular classrooms. Those with moderate dyslexia might get an individualized education program but spend most of their time in their regular classrooms, only leaving a few hours a week for specialized reading instruction. Students with severe dyslexia might spend more time working one on one or in small groups with a specialist.

The longer it takes to identify a child with dyslexia, the harder it is for students to overcome the condition, meaning that delays in screening and assistance could lead to long-term literacy struggles, according to dyslexia experts.

Literacy advocates are appalled and frustrated at California’s delay in requiring dyslexia screening. 

“As a state, we cannot afford to wait any longer. We are way behind the nation on this. California is an outlier,” said Lori DePole, co-state director of the nonprofit advocacy group Decoding Dyslexia. “We’ve been waiting for years. We’re done waiting.”

Other states, including many with high percentages of English learners, such as Texas, Florida and Arizona, mandate dyslexia screening with little controversy. 

The situation is urgent, said Maryanne Wolf, professor in residence at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and director of the school’s Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners and Social Justice. Teachers’ beliefs that dyslexia screening would overidentify some children, especially English learners, as needing special education is “a misconception,” she said.

“Screening is not a diagnosis or a ramp to special education. Rather, it gives teachers information on strengths and weaknesses of every child so that early targeted instruction can give children their best shot at becoming literate,” Wolf said. “Every time a child is not realizing their potential is a loss to society, economically and in every other way. … The stakes are so high. We cannot continue to let this happen.”

Seven years ago, when Gavin Newsom was lieutenant governor, he spearheaded an effort at UC San Francisco to research the neuroscience behind dyslexia and devise a free screening tool for schools. His interest stems from his own experience as a child struggling with dyslexia.

Since he was elected governor, Newsom’s support has accelerated. Over the past few years, his administration has invested almost $20 million in dyslexia research and pilot screening projects, $60 million in programs to help children with learning disabilities and $500 million in literacy coaches and reading specialists for all students. 

Momentum is picking up elsewhere, as well. The state Department of Education encourages all districts to screen students for dyslexia annually. Some districts, including Los Angeles Unified, are moving toward universal screening on their own, without waiting for statewide legislation. And the state’s teacher credentialing commission recently added dyslexia guidelines and a phonics-based reading curriculum to the standards required for future teachers.

The tool that UCSF researchers created, called Multitudes, is expected to be released in 2023. The free 20-minute test, intended for kindergartners or first graders, will be available in Spanish, Mandarin and other languages. The web-based test will assess students’ phonological skills, spelling, comprehension, vocabulary and other reading abilities.  

But even when it is released, the tool will be optional for California schools unless legislation mandates its use. Last year, the bill, known as SB 237, would have required all schools to screen first graders for dyslexia, using “culturally, linguistically and developmentally appropriate” tests, and then provide specialized reading instruction to those students who have it. Because it’s a mandate, the state would reimburse districts for their extra costs.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate but hit a wall in the Assembly when Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, chair of the Education Committee, declined to schedule the bill for a vote.

O’Donnell, who is retiring at the end of the year, did not return emails from EdSource. But the California Teachers Association said it opposed the bill because it would lead to the overidentification of students with potential reading disorders, take up classroom time and not necessarily result in more help for children with dyslexia.

Children learn to read at their own pace, and teachers know best which students need extra support, the union said.

Learning to read is a little like learning to ride a bike. With practice, typical readers gradually learn to read words automatically,” union executives wrote in a June 24, 2021, letter to O’Donnell, which  the union recently sent to EdSource when asked for its position on the legislation.

The letter continued, “Universal screening alone will not prevent the impact of dyslexia on student gains in reading, nor minimize the impact of the frustration of students, nor improve thoughtful planning for instructional support.”

The union did not answer further questions about its position.

The union’s position on how children learn to read contradicts brain researchers whose work has come to be described as the science of reading. 

Cindy Jiban, principal academic lead for early learning at NWEA academic research firm, wrote that approaches such as the “riding a bike” style described by the union do not work.

“Proponents of the science of reading have justifiably called out two practices that are NOT supported by research and should not be adopted or continued: Incidental or haphazard decoding instruction, (and) the three cueing systems in word decoding,” Jiban wrote, referring to the practice of encouraging students to guess a word based on the context, pictures or grammar. “Teaching kids to try any of these they like when a hard word shows up is not responsible, the science tells us.”

But regardless of literacy philosophies, screening for dyslexia can be a crucial way for teachers to identify — and provide tailored services for — students who are struggling with reading, and “should be seen as part and parcel of effective instruction,” said Young-Suk Kim, education professor at UC Irvine and dyslexia expert. While she agrees with the union in that identified students need supports, “there is no evidence” that screening leads to over-identifying dyslexia in young students, she said. “On the contrary, there is strong, robust evidence delayed assessment leads to many unnecessary problems.”

Screening fears

Advocates for English learners had similar concerns as the teachers union. Californians Together, which advocates for English learners in California public schools, opposed SB237 because they believe it didn’t consider the complexities of bilingual students. Too many might be misidentified as having learning disabilities and miss out on valuable time in regular classrooms if they’re placed in special education classes or spend several hours a week with a reading specialist, said Martha Hernandez, the group’s executive director.

And for those students who are actually dyslexic, any extra help should be tailored to the specific needs of English learners. Teachers, as well, should be better trained to recognize “whether (a problem) is language or literacy,” Hernandez said.

“One of the worries is that once children are identified as being at risk of dyslexia, then there may be a blanket implementation of a reading intervention or a reading program that was really designed for native English speakers without reflecting the really considerable research on effective literacy for second language learners,” she said. Children who are learning English, whether they’re dyslexic or not, have specific literacy needs that might not be addressed in one-size-fits-all reading programs, she said.

The group isn’t opposed to universal dyslexia screening in general, and would be open to a screening test that addressed those concerns, Hernandez said.

Against this backdrop, a committee with California and national researchers and representatives from all sides is working on a compromise.  Linda Darling-Hammond, State Board of Education president and TK-12 adviser to Newsom, has been observing the talks. Results are expected in early 2023.

The larger issue, perhaps, is how schools should teach reading in general. After years of using a “balanced literacy” approach, steeped in whole language practices, some districts are moving toward a “structured literacy” approach described as a science of reading-based curriculum, which emphasizes phonics. That method is far more effective for teaching children with dyslexia because of its focus on explicit, sequential instruction, literacy advocates say. 

Texas struggles with getting teachers to change

In at least one state, screening for dyslexia has been the easy part. The challenge in Texas — which, like California, has struggled with reading scores and has a high percentage of English learners — has been convincing teachers that they need to change the way they teach reading, said Pearl Garden, chair of the Texas Association for Literacy Education. 

Like in California, literacy teaching methods used to vary by district. But now, under new legislation, Texas requires all K-3 teachers to take a 60-hour course on better ways to teach reading — in part to improve outcomes for students with dyslexia. But because some teachers have to take the course on their own time, and even pay for it themselves, there has been some opposition, Garden said. 

“Dyslexia screening is critical because it’s like finding the right medicine to fix what’s wrong,” Garden said. “My recommendation? It’s important to have teacher buy-in.” 

A 2019 report by the National Center for Learning Disabilities found that identifying English learners with learning disabilities can be nuanced. English learners tend to be underidentified in grades K-3 and overidentified in later grades.

But that doesn’t mean schools should not screen students, the report found. Instead, students should be tested in both English and their native language, and teachers and reading specialists should take into account a student’s individual linguistic abilities.

Lindsay Kubatzky, director of the policy and advocacy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said his group is closely watching how dyslexia screening affects English learners.

“We think there are safeguards in place, but that being said, it’s really challenging to disentangle what’s a result of being an English learner and what’s a learning disability, especially post-Covid,” he said. “We’re looking to see if there’s a spike in the numbers of EL students with learning disabilities. The rate should be steady. But we also hope schools aren’t denying services to students who need it.”

What’s next

Meanwhile, Sen. Portantino said he plans to introduce a new bill next year to require dyslexia screening. He’s hopeful the new version will pass, in part because the Assembly Education Committee will have a new chair. He also plans to work closely with the union and English learner groups to clarify the details. 

Although he was largely quiet on SB237, Newsom remains a strong advocate for dyslexia research and support. Last year he released a children’s book about dyslexia, and supporters hope he’ll include mandatory screening in his forthcoming budget.

But for Portantino, the issue remains a personal mission. Dyslexic himself, he knows firsthand the challenges of trying to succeed in school with a learning disability. Undiagnosed until eighth grade, Portantino struggled with reading most of his childhood, and the condition “significantly” affected him, academically and personally, he said.

The issue is too important to drop, he said. 

“We know that early intervention works. We know it can help kids be successful long term,” he said. “I am committed to this issue, 100%. I want this to work.”

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  1. Carol Fleisig 3 days ago3 days ago

    Screening young children for dyslexia in California is past time for immediate implementation. However, it does not need to be a matter of "tiers" or special education. Regular classroom reading instruction should be aligned with over 20 years of research on how the brain learns to read for all children. Some children may need a more intense dose, but the methods must be the same for all children. Under the old methods, there … Read More

    Screening young children for dyslexia in California is past time for immediate implementation. However, it does not need to be a matter of “tiers” or special education. Regular classroom reading instruction should be aligned with over 20 years of research on how the brain learns to read for all children. Some children may need a more intense dose, but the methods must be the same for all children.

    Under the old methods, there is a spectrum of success in learning to read, especially where many students never grown past the fourth grade reading level because they were never actually taught how to read. The greatest reading success for all students must be taught through the Science of Reading to develop citizens to become an informed electorate and thrive in our complex society.

  2. Alisa Gaines 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I'm shocked that the teacher's union and California's Together have been lobbying against measures that benefit dyslexic students. This is arguably the most important issue that we need to focus on to dismantle the school to prison pipeline (the majority of prisoners are dyslexic), so they're the ones who should be most in favor of this measure. You can't be in favor of justice in education and be the oppressor of people with disabilities at … Read More

    I’m shocked that the teacher’s union and California’s Together have been lobbying against measures that benefit dyslexic students. This is arguably the most important issue that we need to focus on to dismantle the school to prison pipeline (the majority of prisoners are dyslexic), so they’re the ones who should be most in favor of this measure.

    You can’t be in favor of justice in education and be the oppressor of people with disabilities at the same time.

  3. Ariane 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I’m sickened by the idea that early literacy has become political. Early, universal access to assessment for dyslexia, and instituting a meaningful, general phonics curriculum for grades K-3, is low-hanging fruit and should be a no-brainer (I might also add, universal access to text to speech technology for identified dyslexic students starting in 2nd grade, but that’s a topic for another time). The time, ability, energy and resources it’s taken to advocate and address … Read More

    I’m sickened by the idea that early literacy has become political. Early, universal access to assessment for dyslexia, and instituting a meaningful, general phonics curriculum for grades K-3, is low-hanging fruit and should be a no-brainer (I might also add, universal access to text to speech technology for identified dyslexic students starting in 2nd grade, but that’s a topic for another time).

    The time, ability, energy and resources it’s taken to advocate and address my child’s literacy challenges, just so she can keep up, has been significant, and I’m not alone in this. I hear the same story from other parents grappling with a struggling reader. Requiring reading assessments and phonics training for all CA students demonstrating reading challenges after Kindergarten, should be a top priority for policymakers.

    Most CA families may not be able to identify that there’s a reading problem and/or have the time and resources to remove the barriers to phonics training for their child. We have a legislature that talks about equity and social justice, but when faced with a real opportunity to move impactful legislation to grant equitable access to learning, did nothing. CA can and must do better.

  4. Hiroko 1 month ago1 month ago

    Speaking of over-identification …. Even if ELs are misidentified initially, if proper progress monitoring is being done, they can quickly graduate out of their pull-out lessons and go back into the mainstream classroom. This should not be a problem. About under-identification… I think teachers would be surprised to know how many gifted students are actually struggling due to not being able to read with fluency. My kids with dyslexia both did well in class in the early elementary … Read More

    Speaking of over-identification ….

    Even if ELs are misidentified initially, if proper progress monitoring is being done, they can quickly graduate out of their pull-out lessons and go back into the mainstream classroom. This should not be a problem.

    About under-identification…

    I think teachers would be surprised to know how many gifted students are actually struggling due to not being able to read with fluency. My kids with dyslexia both did well in class in the early elementary grades because of their background knowledge and how well they do orally, but they struggled when they had to put their thoughts on paper. Had they been screened early and received proper remediation, they wouldn’t have had spelling/writing issues, attendance problems, “stomach aches,” or poor grades in middle school. Not being able to decode and encode really limits their ability to live out their full potential. Furthermore, dyslexia isn’t only about reading and writing; when they aren’t screened early and receive proper instruction to address their academic issues, poor self-esteem really does a number on their mental health.

    Thank you EdSource for shedding light on this important topic. I commend Senator Portantino for continuing to fight for students with dyslexia.

  5. Nancy Redding 1 month ago1 month ago

    California should absolutely adopt universal screening, as many other states have done. We know that the best window of time to help students who are struggling to learn to read is between kindergarten and second grade. For most students, quality structured literacy intervention at that time will result in reading scores in the average range by second grade, with no need ever for special education. Screenings can help schools identify … Read More

    California should absolutely adopt universal screening, as many other states have done. We know that the best window of time to help students who are struggling to learn to read is between kindergarten and second grade. For most students, quality structured literacy intervention at that time will result in reading scores in the average range by second grade, with no need ever for special education. Screenings can help schools identify students who might need help for a variety of reasons, and are never meant to be diagnostic tools. School districts would be making a huge difference in the lives of their students and saving money at the same time!

  6. Susan V. 1 month ago1 month ago

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your reporting on this issue has been a light in the dark tunnel for us parents trying to get help for our dyslexic children in CA public schools. Structured Literacy will help all students, period. Considering how hard it was to get Special Ed services for our child, it is hard to imagine that English Learners will be over-placed into Special Education. We, like many, many CA parents, have … Read More

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your reporting on this issue has been a light in the dark tunnel for us parents trying to get help for our dyslexic children in CA public schools. Structured Literacy will help all students, period.

    Considering how hard it was to get Special Ed services for our child, it is hard to imagine that English Learners will be over-placed into Special Education. We, like many, many CA parents, have had to utilize an advocate at our own cost to get an IEP in place for our child. The sad thing is, even once you have an IEP, the teachers are not trained in Structured Literacy. I agree with Sen. Portantino, Californians should be leading the country in addressing dyslexia, especially with Governor Newsom’s support on this issue.

    Shame on those who are putting thousands of students’ futures at risk by delaying screening and intervention. Dyslexia affects ALL aspects of a child’s life, including their self-esteem and mental health. We know what needs to be done, so let’s do it!

    Signed, A Believer in The Science of Reading

  7. Parent of Dyslexics 1 month ago1 month ago

    California Governor Newsom and State Superintendent Thurmond need to put action behind their words! California needs to require evidenced-based, quality, universal screening for risk of dyslexia as an important first step to the access and equity of all children's basic right to read, especially those of color. Why is the CTA even involved in this? This has nothing to do with CTA issues. Shame on them for their continued blatant discriminatory practices against the … Read More

    California Governor Newsom and State Superintendent Thurmond need to put action behind their words! California needs to require evidenced-based, quality, universal screening for risk of dyslexia as an important first step to the access and equity of all children’s basic right to read, especially those of color.

    Why is the CTA even involved in this? This has nothing to do with CTA issues. Shame on them for their continued blatant discriminatory practices against the most vulnerable at-risk, minority populations! Prisons are filled with illiterate individuals. Stop feeding the school to prison pipeline!!!

  8. Marla Prado 1 month ago1 month ago

    I'm a reading specialist in the IE. This is reprehensible, as the senator states. Not enough teachers are educated in the science of reading and are fighting the teachers who are. It's ridiculous. We use iReady and it has a dyslexia screener that is complicated and not good. I feel districts are afraid to make the change because of the union, but the SoR teachers need to educate the union! I love how the Los … Read More

    I’m a reading specialist in the IE. This is reprehensible, as the senator states. Not enough teachers are educated in the science of reading and are fighting the teachers who are. It’s ridiculous. We use iReady and it has a dyslexia screener that is complicated and not good. I feel districts are afraid to make the change because of the union, but the SoR teachers need to educate the union! I love how the Los Angeles County Office of Education is moving forward and included any teacher who wants to join not just LACOE teachers.

    We need more people to fight for the students with dyslexia! I found way too many students in high school who cannot read above a second-grade level. They all have been humiliated and tried to figure out how to make do with technology. It’s not fair! Not when the solution is at these children’s fingertips! Fight for what is right California! Please Governor Newsom make Dyslexia Screening mandatory! and get a statewide screener that is research-based, evidence-based, and efficacy-based!

  9. Megan 1 month ago1 month ago

    As a former first grade teacher, required evidence-based universal screening would have helped me do my job. I went into the profession because I wanted to help children achieve literacy, yet my school had no screening or assessment systems in place for k-2. Best practice calls for Multi Tiered Systems of Support, but where are they? Far too many districts neglect this duty. As a parent of a child with dyslexia, screening would have saved … Read More

    As a former first grade teacher, required evidence-based universal screening would have helped me do my job. I went into the profession because I wanted to help children achieve literacy, yet my school had no screening or assessment systems in place for k-2. Best practice calls for Multi Tiered Systems of Support, but where are they? Far too many districts neglect this duty. As a parent of a child with dyslexia, screening would have saved my own son years of struggle and heartache. CA fails kids with the current wait-to-fail model, depriving children of their right to read. The time is now for CA to require universal screening in the early grades.

  10. Ronit Glickman 1 month ago1 month ago

    It is irresponsible and shameful that CTA leadership opposes early screening for dyslexia and successfully fought against SB237. I reached out to CTA multiple times, but they were firm in their misguided belief that it is too costly, too timely, and places another burden on teachers; none of their arguments hold water. I am an elementary school teacher and a mother of a child with dyslexia. I welcome early screening along with many … Read More

    It is irresponsible and shameful that CTA leadership opposes early screening for dyslexia and successfully fought against SB237. I reached out to CTA multiple times, but they were firm in their misguided belief that it is too costly, too timely, and places another burden on teachers; none of their arguments hold water.

    I am an elementary school teacher and a mother of a child with dyslexia. I welcome early screening along with many of my teaching colleagues! An early screening bill would’ve helped identify my own child early in her struggles versus the current wait to fail over and over model.

  11. Terri Tuttle Carrera 2 months ago2 months ago

    California is failing millions of students. Bottom line: We need early screening and reading programs that work (Wilson, Barton, etc…). Educate our teachers, support our kids and put an end to balanced literacy (Lucy Culkins or rinky dink programs like Sonday). Other states are doing this; there’s no reason California should be so far behind.

  12. Lisa Loschiavo 2 months ago2 months ago

    Please do better California! We are failing our children which in turn fails our state. Illiterate and under-literate adults can’t contribute to a thriving economy anywhere near their full potential. Many of these kids suffer depression and anxiety around school because they have no idea why they are struggling when their peers aren’t. No matter how you slice, early dyslexia screening followed by competent structured literacy instruction is a win-win for everyone!

  13. Elizabeth bloom 2 months ago2 months ago

    If my son went to a school with screeners it would have changed the trajectory of our families whole school experience.

    Struggling students need screeners. Dyslexia screeners will and do change lives. I absolutely wish California public schools had offered screeners for my child.

  14. Elizabeth bloom 2 months ago2 months ago

    I wish that screeners were available when my child was in elementary school. There was no early identification and as a result he missed the window to learn to read during the key years of K-4. Instead of receiving targeted instruction provided from the beginning of his school years, he fell so far behind that he wasn’t able to access the general ed curriculum. He was unable to participate in Gen Ed yet the Spec. Ed … Read More

    I wish that screeners were available when my child was in elementary school. There was no early identification and as a result he missed the window to learn to read during the key years of K-4.

    Instead of receiving targeted instruction provided from the beginning of his school years, he fell so far behind that he wasn’t able to access the general ed curriculum. He was unable to participate in Gen Ed yet the Spec. Ed program did not offer evidenced based instruction or meaningful reading remediation. Screeners and evidenced based instruction are key so that kids like mine, and all those who struggle with literacy may learn to read and write using phonics instruction designed for struggling readers.

  15. Nadia Ahlsten 2 months ago2 months ago

    Every time a child is not realizing their potential is a loss to society, economically and in every other way. San Francisco Unified doesn’t share this philosophy. Having a mandatory screener is necessary because if it isn’t mandatory the districts don’t implement them because the districts don’t want to be obligated to implement intervention. It might be better if this was something that someone could access outside the school district. The districts have a conflict of interest: their budget.

  16. michelle de werd 2 months ago2 months ago

    Thank you for your continuing effort to shine the light on this issue.

  17. Jeff 2 months ago2 months ago

    I think it’s important to note that part of the mandatory screening process would include sharing the screening results with parents. How many children will be spared years of academic, emotional and social struggles if their parents are made aware there is a potential learning disability as opposed to being told repeatedly by teachers that their child will “catch on," that their reading “will click” or that they will “grow out of it” as so … Read More

    I think it’s important to note that part of the mandatory screening process would include sharing the screening results with parents.

    How many children will be spared years of academic, emotional and social struggles if their parents are made aware there is a potential learning disability as opposed to being told repeatedly by teachers that their child will “catch on,” that their reading “will click” or that they will “grow out of it” as so often is the case now in schools across our state?

    And just think of the world of possibilities for these kiddos, if not only teachers and parents are aware of a possible learning disability, but teachers have the understanding and tools to teach these children to read.

    20% of the population having dyslexia means there are a lot of California kids we have the opportunity to do right by.

  18. S. Simpson 2 months ago2 months ago

    Thank you for bringing attention to the underwhelming fact that California is far behind other states when it comes to screening for risk of dyslexia. While there are many frustrating layers to the literacy crisis, I’m very hopeful that Gavin Newsom will include mandatory dyslexia screening in his upcoming budget. As Newsom himself has said, there was a time during his school years when his “self-esteem collapsed” and that reading aloud in class was “the … Read More

    Thank you for bringing attention to the underwhelming fact that California is far behind other states when it comes to screening for risk of dyslexia.

    While there are many frustrating layers to the literacy crisis, I’m very hopeful that Gavin Newsom will include mandatory dyslexia screening in his upcoming budget.

    As Newsom himself has said, there was a time during his school years when his “self-esteem collapsed” and that reading aloud in class was “the most humiliating.” Who better to make mandatory dyslexia screening a reality than our Governor himself who has struggled with dyslexia his entire life and who has the ability to positively change the course of millions of children’s lives?

  19. AV 2 months ago2 months ago

    As a parent whose son was diagnosed with dyslexia in 4th grade, dyslexia screening is a must! Early intervention is key and most teachers (even ones that have been teaching for 20 years or more) do not recognize the signs of dyslexia in elementary age children nor do they have the skills to teach these children how to read. Reading is essential to learning. Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 children and proper screening and reading intervention is a must.

  20. Lorin Peritz-Sharp 2 months ago2 months ago

    We need universal screening now! Too many kids are falling behind, it’s criminal.

  21. Claudia Cannon 2 months ago2 months ago

    This is horrible! How in all fairness can the school unions in California deny children the teaching help, the real support they need! They are paid to be teachers not strikers! No wonder these children’s scores are so bad. Today I would be seeking a good private school when I always believed in public schools. My theory was my children would have good teachers and have more diverse friends and they did! Not anymore!

  22. Anne K. 2 months ago2 months ago

    As a parent, the public school system has failed my dyslexic children. All my children are a minimum of two grades behind in reading. This affects their entire academic future and their self-esteem in school. For my daughter to get a proper assessment and services I had to hire a special education advocate. I requested she be tested in February 2021, after an IEE it was determined she has dyslexia and now the … Read More

    As a parent, the public school system has failed my dyslexic children. All my children are a minimum of two grades behind in reading. This affects their entire academic future and their self-esteem in school. For my daughter to get a proper assessment and services I had to hire a special education advocate. I requested she be tested in February 2021, after an IEE it was determined she has dyslexia and now the school is trying to contract for reading program. By the time they provide a reading intervention and start the service it will be close to one year. She lost an entire year of reading.

    The system is broken. My youngest son made no progress the 4 years he went to public school. He could not read or write. At that time I didn’t have an advocate. They misdiagnosed him. After getting his dyslexia and dysgraphia assessment, they did not provide the right reading program, nor teach him with fidelity. I pulled him to private affidavit because he didn’t have time to lose, while I “battled” it out with the school to get the right services, and services taught with fidelity.

    Since he has been home on a private affidavit doing programs like Foundation in sounds and Barton, Right start math, Learning without tears interventions for dysgraphia, he has progressed an entire grade level in 9 months. The state has provided dyslexia training, guidelines, research funding, and COVID learning loss funding to schools but they still choose not to do it. As well, the science and evidence is there to support reading.

    The schools are still doing nothing because the guidelines are not legally binding. To me that is a de minimis education. Why is it the parent responsibilities to hold the school accountable? The government regulates so many businesses within the state but they don’t regulate or monitor the schools. How is this moral and ethical practices in education?

    Dyslexia affects 20% of the student population. There are studies that show a correlation between prison inmates and dyslexia. What is a future of a child who can’t read? What about all the children who don’t have an advocate in their corner?

    Martin Luther king Jr said “an education without morals, is like a ship without a compass wandering nowhere.” Maya Angelou said, “do the best you can until you know better. Then once you know better,
    Do better.”

  23. Susan 2 months ago2 months ago

    For the sake of all learners, can we just get on the same page! Teachers with available resources, training, and guidance can make informed decisions. Children can't wait for the pendulum to swing back and forth in the name of best reading practices at the hands of legislators or education leaders to get instruction. I have lived through Whole language, Phonics based, English "only" instruction, Reading First, No Child Left Behind, and we are still … Read More

    For the sake of all learners, can we just get on the same page! Teachers with available resources, training, and guidance can make informed decisions. Children can’t wait for the pendulum to swing back and forth in the name of best reading practices at the hands of legislators or education leaders to get instruction. I have lived through Whole language, Phonics based, English “only” instruction, Reading First, No Child Left Behind, and we are still in a head lock with no results for students. 38 years of teaching elementary students to read was the most challenging due to constant flip-flopping and policy changes, not the students.

    When all else fails, we show up, we band together, and we do the best we have with the resources available even during a pandemic, recession, gun violence, poverty, and homelessness because children deserve no less. California, this generation deserves better!

    Retired teacher, tutoring nonreaders because they deserve better! 🙂

  24. Monie de Wit 2 months ago2 months ago

    Universal testing is a proactive approach that all district's need to implement and not wait for the legislature. Sad that the California Teachers Union is denying students means to a free and appropriate education. So many districts do not encourage child find laws and so many students get too little services way too late. Universal testing in first grade will help identify students that need interventions. So tragic the teachers union oppose what helps dyslexics … Read More

    Universal testing is a proactive approach that all district’s need to implement and not wait for the legislature.

    Sad that the California Teachers Union is denying students means to a free and appropriate education. So many districts do not encourage child find laws and so many students get too little services way too late. Universal testing in first grade will help identify students that need interventions. So tragic the teachers union oppose what helps dyslexics who make up 20% of student population and countless English language learners as well.

    Time for the California Teachers Union to celebrate science of reading and automatic testing. Far too many vulnerable students go from the education system to the justice system.

  25. Monie 2 months ago2 months ago

    Literacy disparities are at the core of the what makes for inequity in our public school system. This is why there is an achievement and equity gap. Students with parents with means get identified early, some go on to private school and are able to get their needs met. But all students are entitled to get a free and appropriate education but they don't if they can't read by end of third. We need … Read More

    Literacy disparities are at the core of the what makes for inequity in our public school system. This is why there is an achievement and equity gap. Students with parents with means get identified early, some go on to private school and are able to get their needs met. But all students are entitled to get a free and appropriate education but they don’t if they can’t read by end of third. We need to do automatic screening for all students.

    When a student can’t read proficiently by end of 3rd we know they are 4x as likely to drop out. Many students who miss this milestone never catch up particularly if they have socioeconomic hardship, homeless, English language learner, different learner or foster youth. Literacy is a human right. We as a community need to support our public schools to use the science of reading, do automatic testing, teacher training in science of reading and be proactive for all students.

    We are pushing far too many students from the education system to the justice system. Parents, staff, teachers union must focus on the unmet needs of our most vulnerable students. Literacy is a human right for a reason. Without it a student will not actualize their dreams and far too many will wind up on welfare or incarcerated.

  26. Renee Frances Webster-Hawkins 2 months ago2 months ago

    Thank you so much for this spot-on article revealing California’s biggest dysfunction in public education. One in five students are failing because of CTA’s opposition to screening. Looking at SBAC test data, about 2/3 of all students are failing because of CTA’s opposition to instructional practices based on the science of reading. Hats off to you for spotlighting the root cause of illiteracy in California. Our students and their classroom teachers deserve access to screening … Read More

    Thank you so much for this spot-on article revealing California’s biggest dysfunction in public education. One in five students are failing because of CTA’s opposition to screening. Looking at SBAC test data, about 2/3 of all students are failing because of CTA’s opposition to instructional practices based on the science of reading.

    Hats off to you for spotlighting the root cause of illiteracy in California. Our students and their classroom teachers deserve access to screening tools and professional learning to make up for what they didn’t learn in their college preparation.

  27. Joan Sutter 2 months ago2 months ago

    I am a member of CTA and I am embarrassed by the lack of knowledge on the Science of Reading. I am willing to get involved to help educate them. There is so much information about how students learn to read. They should be ashamed of themselves for stopping this bill! They need to get educated about how the brain learns to read and come to the table to suggest ways to help all students learn to read!

  28. Rebecca 2 months ago2 months ago

    As a parent of a child that had undiagnosed dyslexia until the 4th grade. I would love to see a push for a screening. It would have helped my child by giving her the tools that she needed to learn a better way of reading for her reading challenges. It wasn't until she was in the fourth grade where she had a teacher that cared enough to identify the issue. Once … Read More

    As a parent of a child that had undiagnosed dyslexia until the 4th grade. I would love to see a push for a screening. It would have helped my child by giving her the tools that she needed to learn a better way of reading for her reading challenges. It wasn’t until she was in the fourth grade where she had a teacher that cared enough to identify the issue. Once that was brought to our attention, we worked with her educators, healthcare providers and other resources to ensure that she had the tools to not get left behind in literacy.

    I think it is horrible and reprehensible that a teachers union association is what California is allowing to determine the outcome of our children.

    Shame on California Education System, per normal!!!

  29. Michael Gerber 2 months ago2 months ago

    A mandate to screen for a disability would be less necessary and in fact helped if we routinely screened for grade.level reading skills and if teachers were universally prepared to address them effectively.

  30. Kimmy B 2 months ago2 months ago

    How sad that political contributions from teachers unions are more important than our children learning to read! As a parent of a child who has mild dyslexia, the pandemic was a wake up call that the schools couldn’t care less about my child. One year in private school with appropriate reading intervention and he is back on track. Five years in a highly rated public school district that receives 25k per student, and … Read More

    How sad that political contributions from teachers unions are more important than our children learning to read! As a parent of a child who has mild dyslexia, the pandemic was a wake up call that the schools couldn’t care less about my child. One year in private school with appropriate reading intervention and he is back on track. Five years in a highly rated public school district that receives 25k per student, and no one even noticed he couldn’t read.

  31. marco 2 months ago2 months ago

    Anyone here to claim that this is not a blatant sign that CTA has far too much power over education policy, in ways that harm students?

    Replies

    • Cindy LooHoo 2 months ago2 months ago

      A screening without follow-up seems pointless. Better to plan for the whole effect a screening could have. I hope that's what CTA is looking at. I recently retired from teaching elementary school. It was frustrating knowing in 4th grade that a struggling student likely had dyslexia. I couldn't do more than differentiate for everyone given the varied needs within one class. The district didn't test for dyslexia, and there was no prescription or resources available. … Read More

      A screening without follow-up seems pointless. Better to plan for the whole effect a screening could have. I hope that’s what CTA is looking at. I recently retired from teaching elementary school. It was frustrating knowing in 4th grade that a struggling student likely had dyslexia. I couldn’t do more than differentiate for everyone given the varied needs within one class. The district didn’t test for dyslexia, and there was no prescription or resources available. Piling on a mandate without providing support for the students affected and the teacher is folly.

      Gen ed teachers are already juggling anti-bullying and social emotional curriculum, ESL, IEP and 504s and full inclusion, COVID fallout and more. They don’t need another ball thrown in the mix without a plan for addressing the disability. Blaming it on CTA “having too much power” is too simplistic. I look forward to a real plan to address this long-ignored disability.

      • Jim 2 months ago2 months ago

        “A screening without follow-up seems pointless.” Not sure where that statement come from. We diagnose diseases all the time where we do not currently have effective treatments or those treatments are not widely available. Understanding the incidence and prevalence of a condition is the first step toward treating it.

        • Michelle 1 month ago1 month ago

          Ah, but Jim, we already know how to address dyslexia! This likely wouldn't be "piling more on" to gen ed teachers as Cindy asserts, but actually relieve them of many strained meetings with parents and in educational team meetings. I know, because I was one of those parents. When you know what's wrong, you can fix it. It does mean, however, that SpEd resources will have to be expanded to address these issues. Because my son … Read More

          Ah, but Jim, we already know how to address dyslexia! This likely wouldn’t be “piling more on” to gen ed teachers as Cindy asserts, but actually relieve them of many strained meetings with parents and in educational team meetings. I know, because I was one of those parents. When you know what’s wrong, you can fix it. It does mean, however, that SpEd resources will have to be expanded to address these issues.

          Because my son did not get what he needed in elementary — and in fact developed severe anxiety — I pulled him out to homeschool (before Covid) and remediated him myself. There are programs out there, good ones that work. My son is now back at public high school and slaying it, straight A’s (not that I emphasize grades in this house. Any family that went through what we did in our early education years learns to really de-emphasize external measures of achievement).

          Life would have been so much easier for the teachers, administrators, and us as a family if had the screening so that he could get appropriate help early on. Instead we were misdirected with “it might by ADHD” and “he’ll catch up, he just needs time,” neither of which proved to be true.