Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 9
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
New state mandates
start next school year
By Rachel Wegner
Kierstyn Lawson hated kindergarten. She struggled to keep up
with her peers, leaving her mother
at a loss for how to help.
"What kindergartner doesn't like
school?" recalled the parent, Stephanie Lawson, of California, Mo., a
rural community halfway between
Kansas City and St Louis.
Kierstyn was not diagnosed with
dyslexia until she turned 9. Once
she was, her mother said it shed
light on why Kierstyn was struggling in school. Yet even after the
diagnosis, Lawson had to fight to
get her daughter the support she
needed from her school. Eventually, Lawson hired a private dyslexia tutor-a move that ultimately
helped her daughter move forward.
Kierstyn, now 11, can read more
fluently and comprehend what she
sees on a page.
ing special education and reading
programs. The mandate also annually requires two hours of dyslexia
training for every practicing teacher
in the state's 518 districts.
Rep. Kathy Swan, a Republican
state lawmaker who originally proposed the bill that led to the new
law, said it's up to the schools to
choose what screening tool they will
use for the assessments.
"There was concern during the
bill, in its passage, over the cost of
that," Swan said, adding that some
screening tools are free and others
come at a price.
Swan said a subcommittee in the
Missouri House of Representatives
proposed funding in February to
cover any costs for the screenings.
If approved, the funding would be
part of the fiscal year 2019 budget
and falls within the current Missouri legislative session, which adjourns May 18.
Efforts by organizations such as
Decoding Dyslexia, which launched
in 2011, have fought to keep dyslexia at the forefront of discussions
among educators, parents, and lawmakers.
covered many gaps in how Missouri
school districts and educators understood dyslexia, Stuckey said.
"The awareness piece has been really important," she said. "For many
years, teachers [would] tell you,
'We're not allowed to say dyslexia.
We're not allowed to talk about it.'
Anecdotally, you would hear that
across the nation."
Some school personnel have been
reluctant to use the term, saying
that dyslexia is a medical diagnosis, or that educators should focus
on specific deficits and not a label.
The U.S. Department of Education
addressed that issue in an October
2015 "Dear Colleague" letter. The
letter explained that dyslexia, along
with dysgraphia and dyscalculia,
were acceptable terms to use when
discussing a student's evaluations,
special education eligibility, and individualized education program.
Stuckey said the letter, and now
the Missouri state law, are steps in
the right direction to remedy the lack
of conversation and understanding
about dyslexia. She said the screenings are designed to equip educators
and parents with more information
to help students who are struggling.
"At the end of the day, schools
overwhelmingly want to do what's
best for kids," Stuckey said.
Lembke said she hopes universities and colleges around the state
will also improve dyslexia training
for preservice teachers.
After the task force surveyed
higher education institutions,
Lembke said she was surprised
at how many were not properly
equipping preservice teachers
to address dyslexia. State lawmakers Swan and Rep. Donna
Pfautsch are seeking to craft requirements for colleges and universities to better prepare future
teachers to handle dyslexia in
When it comes to additional costs,
resources, and time that may be
required of administrators and
educators, Swan said it comes down
to the "right thing to do" to ensure
students succeed in their education,
careers, and lives.
"We are doing a great disservice to
people in the state of Missouri if we
do not begin to recognize [dyslexia]
and do something about it," Swan
said. "It's a critical effort."
Catching Dyslexia Sooner
The state of Missouri is now rolling out a dyslexia law aimed at identifying and supporting students like
Kierstyn early in their education.
State-mandated dyslexia screenings
for children in K-3 take effect in the
2018-19 school year in all Missouri
regular public and charter schools.
The law, signed in 2016, also led to
the development of dyslexia training
for teachers and recommendations
on how best to support dyslexic students in throughout the state.
Missouri joins dozens of other
states with dyslexia laws and is
among the latest to face the challenge of implementing, explaining,
and coordinating the screenings
and subsequent follow-ups with students. While the screenings are not
designed to diagnose dyslexia, they
will identify where students are
struggling and leave it to parents,
districts, and educators to decide
what is best.
Dyslexia affects the way people
process written and oral language.
A common characteristic is difficulty connecting letters to the
sounds that those letters represent. The Education Department
says that 3.4 percent of students
aged 6-21-about 2.4 million children and youth-are receiving
services for a specific learning disability through the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act. The category includes children with dyslexia.
Advocates, however, argue that
the prevalence of learning disabilities is much higher. The National Center for Learning Disabilities says that 1 in 5 students
has "learning or attention issues,"
The Missouri education department has provided a list of recommendations for conducting
screenings and offering classroom
supports for students with dyslexia.
For some districts, the law will require supports beyond their exist-
We are doing a great
disservice to the
people of Missouri if
we do not begin to
and do something
REP. KATHY SWAN
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Missour State Legislator
Erica Lembke, a member of the
21-member dyslexia task force established by the state, said a key
part of the commission's process
was hearing hours of testimony
from educators, parents, students,
"To me, it's a great example of how
parents and families can push legislation forward," said Lembke, who
chairs the special education department at the University of Missouri.
A total of 29 states have dyslexiasupport and -identification laws,
according to statistics from the International Dyslexia Association
available as of December 2015. Six
states have resolutions or initiatives
addressing dyslexia, and 14 offer
procedures or handbooks for educators and parents to support dyslexic
Kim Stuckey was hired in 2016 as
a dyslexia specialist for the Missouri
education department. She worked
with the task force to devise a plan
to implement the legislation.
In its research, the task force dis-
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EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 9
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018
News in Brief
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
A Florida City Forever Changed
Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
On Social Media, Teens Witness, Grieve, Organize
Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
One State’s Dive Into K-12 Aid Figures
States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
The Editors: What Should Betsy DeVos Prioritize?
Margaret Spellings: Higher Education
Marilyn Anderson Rhames: Teacher Quality
Karla Phillips: Personalization
Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Shaun M. Dougherty: Career and Tech Ed
Mike Tenbusch : The ‘Have Nots’
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Racial-Equity Agenda
Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 5
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Florida City Forever Changed
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 13
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 21
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 25
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 27
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW4