Mandatory Dyslexia Screenings to Begin in Ohio Schools

Starting with the 2023-2024 school year, Ohio students in kindergarten must participate in annual dyslexia screenings aimed at identifying student learning disabilities at an early age.

House Bill (HB) 583, sponsored by State Representatives Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) and Don Jones (R-Freeport), became law on September 23, making changes to the prior dyslexia support law, HB 436.

The Mayo Clinic states that dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called a reading disability, dyslexia is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language.

The new measure requires all students in kindergarten through third grade to take a Tier 1 dyslexia screening test. Students in grades 4-6 can take the Tier 1 dyslexia screener if a parent or a teacher, with permission from the parent, requests it. Prior law stated that only screenings were mandatory in the 2022-23 school year.

In following years, only kindergartners are required to take the screener annually, but any student in grades 1-6 can take the test at the request of a parent or teacher. Districts may elect to implement the screenings prior to the 2023-24 school year.

“This is common-sense legislation; we must continue to address and solve all of the issues within our education system and be sure that the students are the priority,” Jones said.

If a student is identified as “at-risk for dyslexia” based on the Tier 1 screening results, parents will be notified of the identification, and students’ grade-level reading and writing progress will be monitored for up to six weeks. If no progress is observed, parents will be notified and the student will complete a Tier 2 screening.

If the second screening also identifies the student as having dyslexic tendencies, parents must receive a written explanation of the district’s structured literacy program and the district then must follow guidance from the Ohio Department of Education.

In addition to the screenings, districts must provide related professional development training and establish a structured literacy certification process for teachers, with exceptions for instructors in fine arts, music, or physical education.

The Ohio Department of Education formed an 11-member Ohio Dyslexia Committee, which created an Ohio Dyslexia Guidebook to offer school districts guidance on best practices for screening students and providing intervention and remediation to students whose testing identified as dyslexic.

“Dyslexia can hide a student’s full range of strengths and abilities. Ohio’s literacy resources help students see dynamic instead of dyslexic,” The Ohio Department of Education posted on social media.

The law requires a minimum of 18 hours of training for educators and districts are provided with a list of approved programs to choose to participate in either online or in a classroom. At the current time, all of the available programs consist of 40 hours or more of training. The state is working on developing an 18-hour training, currently unavailable to teachers.

This poses a challenge, because, aside from their regular classroom work, many teachers are already spread thin with their involvement in after-school extra-curricular activities. In addition, many school districts received budget cuts in 2020 when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine cut about $300 million to K-12 school funding due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the state.

According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, dyslexia affects 20 percent of the population and represents 80 to 90 percent of those with learning disabilities. It is the most common of all neurocognitive disorders.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, the law aligns with Ohio’s broader efforts to raise literacy achievements in Ohio.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Child Getting Evaluated With Her Parents” by Tima Miroshnichenko.

 

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