Model Legislation

Demystifying Dyslexia and Developing Solutions
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Committee of Jurisdiction: Children, Youth, and Families (CYF); Education (EDU)


For 1 out of every 5 Americans, this sentence looks like this: “5 sencensce this skool 1 eveyr Aricames For out of elik this.” According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a “specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” Dyslexia impacts nearly 40 million American people and only two million of them know it.[ Dyslexia is often misunderstood and unaddressed in schools. Though an estimated 30 percent of individuals living with dyslexia also have coexisting AD/HD,[ii] dyslexia can often be mistaken for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), because dyslexic children often have difficulty paying attention, have problems reading, and may have handwriting problems. As a result of undiagnosed dyslexia, which occurs often in children of color and English-language learners, children fall behind in school and continue to have major scholastic problems. Additionally, children with learning difficulties are often labeled as “troubled” or “disruptive.” As a result, these children who are undiagnosed fall prey to zero tolerance policies and are placed inevitably in the school to prison pipeline. To address this serious issue, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) passed CYF-16-20 NATIONAL BLACK CAUCUS OF STATE LEGISLATORS STANDS WITH THOSE IMPACTED WITH DYSLEXIA AND CALLS FOR DYSLEXIA AND LOW LITERACY AWARENESS. In this resolution, NBCSL calls on states to raise awareness on dyslexia and develop legislation that will help children tackle this learning disability.

State Action

NBCSL members have worked on creating more awareness and addressing dyslexia in schools to ensure that their issues are remediated.


State of Arkansas – SB788 – To Modify the Requirements Concerning Screening for Dyslexia; And To Clarify the Requirements for School Districts to Screen Students for Dyslexia

NBCSL Sponsor: Sen. Joyce Elliott (AK)

Summary: Amends current law on dyslexia by requiring the state Department of Education to employ at least one dyslexia intervention specialist.

Goals: This bill was introduced as a way to assist with existing law on dyslexia. It clarifies 2013 law on dyslexia intervention specialists by specifying training criteria for specialists and other staff. It also clarifies the criteria for instruction and modifies the composition of the committee responsible for the Arkansas Dyslexia Resource Guide.

Concerns: Though the bill passed with only one vote in opposition, parents and teachers who were against the bill stated the bill watered down existing law.


State of Illinois – HB3700 – An Act Concerning Education

NBCSL Sponsors: Rep. Camille Y. Lilly (IL), Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (IL), Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (IL), Rep. John D. Anthony (IL), Rep. Esther Golar (IL), Rep. Mary E. Flowers (IL), Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr. (IL), Sen. Kwame Raoul (IL), Sen. Mattie Hunter (IL), Sen Jacqueline Y. Collins (IL)

Summary: Requires the state Department of Education to adopt the international definition of dyslexia. It also requires the state Department of Education to create an advisory group that will develop training directives on providing education and professional development to teachers, school administrators, and other education professionals on “multi-sensory, systematic, and sequential” (Structured Literacy) instruction in reading.

Goals: This bill will provide instruction to teachers and other professionals on how to identify dyslexia in students and the interventions they need in order to remediate.

Concerns: None


State of Indiana – HB1108 – An Act to Amend the Indiana Code Concerning Education

NBCSL Sponsors: Rep. Vernon G. Smith (IN), Rep. Earl Harris (IN), Rep. John Bartlett (IN), Rep. Greg Porter (IN) and Sen. Lonnie Randolph (IN)

Summary: This bill defines dyslexia, in particular as a learning disability. It also requires training programs for teachers to help them recognize students that may need to be referred to the school’s multidisciplinary team to determine the student’s learning needs.

Goals: This bill will better educate teachers on recognizing dyslexia in students and get them the help they need to address their learning disability.

Concerns: None


State of Maryland – HB278 – Task Force to Study the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program

NBCSL Sponsors: Del. Carolyn Howard (MD), Del. Angela Angel (MD), Del. Keith Haynes (MD), Del. Edith Patterson (MD), Del. Will Smith, Jr.(MD), Del. Alonzo Washington(MD), Del. Mary Washington (MD) and Del. C.T. Wilson (MD)

Summary: This bill creates a task force to Study the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program. The state Department of Education will provide staff for the task force which will focus on current practices for identifying and treating dyslexia in students, creating a dyslexia education program and make specified recommendations, and develop a pilot program that will implement the task force’s recommendations.

Goals: This bill will enable teachers to be a part of diagnosing dyslexia in children and getting them the appropriate help.

Concerns: None


State of Nevada – AB341 – Revises Provisions Relating to Pupils with Disabilities

NBCSL Sponsors: Asm. Harvey Munford (NV), Asm. Dina Neal (NV), Asm. Tyrone Thompson (NV) and Sen. Aaron Ford (NV)

Summary: This bill requires schools to administer early literacy screenings to students in kindergarten through third grade, that exhibit signs of learning disability and that the school and the school district to provide assistance. It also requires schools to designate a teacher who will receive training on intervention strategies for students.

Goals: Developing early literacy screenings enables schools to identify dyslexia in students and provide them with interventions earlier.

Concerns: None


State of Pennsylvania – HB198 – An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, providing for Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program

NBCSL Sponsors: Rep. Carl Thomas (PA), Rep. Jordan Harris (PA), Rep. James Roebuck (PA), Rep. Louise Bishop (PA), Rep. Vanessa Brown (PA), Rep. James Clay (PA), Rep. Rosita Youngblood (PA), Rep. Michelle Brownlee (PA), Rep. Cherelle Parker (PA), Rep. Margo Davidson (PA), Rep. Ron Waters (PA) and Rep. Dwight Evans (PA)

Summary: This bill creates a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program (DSPP) that will use evidence-based early screening and intervention services for children with risk factors for dyslexia. The Department will consult with the International Dyslexia Association in creating the pilot program.

Goals: This bill was created to provide evidence-based early screening and intervention services for children with risk factors for dyslexia. It will also help evaluate the effectiveness of early reading assistance programs for children with risk factors for dyslexia and to evaluate whether those programs can reduce future special education costs.

Concerns: None


Helping children get ahead in school has been a longstanding priority for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL). For the millions of Black and Latino children in the achievement gap, addressing learning disabilities like dyslexia, is one way legislators can close the gap. NBCSL will continue to devise strategies and innovative new ways to help children receive the best education and access to help where they need it. Dyslexia will not continue to hold children back where legislators are creating pathways to success.