OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher) today passed two bills addressing the needs of students with dyslexia in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 2804 would require screening for dyslexia for kindergarten through third-grade students not reading on grade level beginning in the 2022-23 school year. House Bill 2889 makes the State Department of Education responsible for updating the Dyslexia Handbook annually.
HB 2804 passed the House by a vote of 92-1. HB2889 passed with a vote of 89-0.
“This is going to be a game changer for our struggling readers,” Sanders said. “Research is clear that when students who struggle with dyslexia get early support and the proper learning tools, they often go on to be very successful in school. This will improve the lives of these students and their families, which in turn benefits our classrooms and all of society.”
Sanders worked on the two bills with fellow lawmakers, House Education Committee Chair Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) and Rep. Kelly Albright (D-Midwest City), both teachers. Albright and Rep. Sherrie Conley (R-Newcastle), also a teacher, and Rep. Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore) are House co-authors of HB 2804. Townley and Rep. Dean Davis (R-Broken Arrow) are House co-authors of HB2889.
“Students with dyslexia and their teachers will benefit in new ways from this early screening,” Baker said. “Parents and teachers already are benefiting from the information included in the outstanding Dyslexia Handbook available through the State Department of Education website. This legislation will help not only improve the lives and learning of these students, it will boost literacy rates in all of our schools.”
Albright said, “While I realize teachers already do so much for our students, this legislation shines a needed light on students who have been left in the dark. As a traditionally certified and comprehensively trained teacher, I was not prepared to meet the needs of my students with dyslexia in my classroom. No longer will students with dyslexia be left behind, because teachers will be given the tools to address their needs and help teach the essential skill of learning to read. Students with dyslexia have a high rate of creative thinking and high intelligence, but often endure the daily despair of being unequipped to read, which can be devastating. I can’t wait to see the heights our students with dyslexia will reach with this legislation in place.”
House Bill 2804 would require any student enrolled in kindergarten through third grade in an Oklahoma public school who is not meeting grade-level targets in reading after the beginning of the school year, to be screened for dyslexia beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.
The measure requires the State Board of Education to develop policies for dyslexia screening, and to adopt a list of approved qualified dyslexia screening tools. The bill also requires school districts to provide the State Department of Education with data about dyslexia, including the number of students screened for dyslexia each year, the number of students identified, and the process used to evaluate students.
Last year, Sanders secured passage of House Bill 1228, which provides a professional development day for teachers across Oklahoma to help them better recognize signs of dyslexia in their students. Adding screening through HB 2804 was the logical next step, he said.
House 2889 requires the State Department of Education to maintain the Dyslexia Handbook created by the Dyslexia and Education Task Force. The department is required to review and make revisions to the handbook annually with stakeholders. The handbook already is available for teachers, parents and school administrators through the SDE. Sanders said this just puts in statute that it will be annually updated by the SDE with input from stakeholders.
Sanders said all of the legislation was a recommendation by the Dyslexia and Education Task Force and the SDE as well as Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma.
“Early identification of risk factors for dyslexia is the exact type of information we wish our son’s teachers had available when they were in early elementary. Instead both of our sons struggled with the shame of being a struggling reader and teachers who were not able to target their reading intervention needs. We are excited to see this change happening for our next generation of struggling readers,” said Michelle Keiper & Tiffany Jenkins of Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma.
Both bills now move to the state Senate where Assistant Majority Floor Leader Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) is the Senate author of HB 2804 and Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) is the Senate author of HB 2889.