For years, the California Teachers Association has opposed universal dyslexia screening for students, helping to defeat legislation that would have mandated it. And yet, many classroom teachers are advocating for all students to be tested.
As another possible legislative battle looms, the statewide teachers union’s opposition to mandatory screening continues to frustrate many educators. According to classroom teachers across the state, the California Teachers Association’s position will perpetuate a “wait-to-fail” approach to reading instruction that forces educators to sit by while students fall further and further behind.
Dyslexia is a neurological condition that causes difficulties with reading and affects 1 in 5 people in the United States. But early screening and support can mitigate or even prevent illiteracy stemming from the learning disability.
Officials at Decoding Dyslexia CA, a grassroots advocacy group, say hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers working with students who struggle with reading support universal screening. The California Teachers Association doesn’t understand the benefits of screening all students for dyslexia, said Megan Potente, one of the co-directors of Decoding Dyselxia CA.
“I think there’s some misinformation,” Potente said. “Some of the reasons for their opposition aren’t supported by the research.”
Doug Rich, a veteran teacher and reading specialist at San Francisco Unified, said he’s “gone rogue” and started screening all of his students for signs of dyslexia. He said testing is relatively quick — taking less than 10 minutes — but the results are crucial.
The test results can tell him where his students are struggling, whether it be sounding out letters or recognizing words. If all students were screened in kindergarten, Rich says, fewer would end up working with him.
“We know so much about dyslexia,” he said. “We know the underlying causes. We have these simple tools that are efficient and accurate.”
Reading instructors, education experts and neuroscientists all agree: early screening is one of the best ways to mitigate or even prevent the illiteracy that can be caused by dyslexia. Despite having some of the best experts in the field of dyslexia research, California remains one of 10 states that doesn’t require universal screening.
That’s not for lack of trying. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from Glendale who’s dyslexic, tried and failed twice in the past three years to pass legislation that would have mandated universal screening for students in kindergarten through second grade. In February, he said he is trying a third time.
Although it has not taken a position on the latest bill, the California Teachers Association opposed Portantino’s last two bills. Claudia Briggs, a spokesperson for the union, said the association’s leadership team believed that bills would have caused “unintended harmful consequences.” The association’s position is that universal screening will take valuable time away from instruction and may misidentify English learners as dyslexic by mistaking their lack of fluency in English for a learning disability. Briggs said the union would decide its position on the new bill in March.
Click here to read the full article in CalMatters
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