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Coeur d’Alene fourth-grader student testifies in support of House bill aimed at helping students with dyslexia

The House Bill 731 is designed to help detect children with dyslexia early in their education so they can learn to read on an even playing field with their peers.

DALTON GARDENS, Idaho — A bill to support students with dyslexia, sparked by a Dalton Elementary School student, has been sent to the full House of Representatives with a “do pass” recommendation, as reported by our news partner the Coeur d'Alene Press

Fourth-grader Bridget McNamee, a member of Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra’s Student Advisory Council, has taken the lead in raising awareness of dyslexia with the support of her sister, Lillian.

Bridget testified in support of the proposed legislation Friday. She said the bill is much needed to provide support for her sister and other students with dyslexia, who represent “20% of the population and 80% of struggling readers.”

Idaho is one of the few states that does not have any dyslexia legislation.

The newly drafted HB 731 is designed to help detect children with dyslexia early in their education so they can learn to read on an even playing field with their peers. It received only supportive testimony at the hearing before the House Education Committee.

Ybarra backed a previous House bill calling for dyslexia screening, intervention and teacher training, and a similar bill was introduced separately in the Senate. Elements of both were combined to create the new bill, House Education Chairman Lance Clow said.

“This is a good blend of the best points of the House and Senate bills, informed by dyslexia experts,” Ybarra said. “We wanted a path forward. We could and should be doing more for kids with dyslexia, and to help teachers reach them. This is a strong starting point.”

Deputy Superintendent for Communications and Policy Marilyn Whitney said the bill would provide a dyslexia handbook to help teachers.

“We appreciate that this bill recognizes the screening measures that we must implement for dyslexia in grades K through 5, and also the professional development for teachers,” Whitney said. “It is also critical to ensure that teachers have resources to implement the interventions needed to support students.”

She said the bill offers a realistic timeline for teachers to get professional development on identifying the characteristics of dyslexia.

HB 731 would also create a full-time position of dyslexia coordinator at the State Department of Education.

The bill calls for using the existing Idaho Reading Indicator test, administered each fall and spring, to identify students in kindergarten through third grade with characteristics of dyslexia. It would also enable school districts and charter schools to screen fourth and fifth graders.

Asked about the proposed law’s financial impact on schools, Whitney said the department advocates restoring the professional development funding the state cut in a 5% holdback in 2020.

Idaho teachers and administrators already have to earn credits to maintain certification, and now they would be asked to focus some of those courses on dyslexia, she said. The department will work with districts and charter schools to build awareness of and training on dyslexia into their in-service professional plans and use of literacy intervention funds.

“Yes, there will be extra work here, but our dyslexia expert feels that what’s called for in this piece of legislation is doable for our districts,” Whitney said.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here 

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