New Jersey’s New Dyslexia Laws: An Opportunity to Improve Reading Instruction

Governor Christie has signed a package of bills that address the identification and education of students with dyslexia. Together, these laws provide a unique opportunity for educators to learn about evidence-based reading strategies that can be used in inclusive classrooms.

The first law, P.L. 2-13, c131, defines the term “dyslexia,” using the definition of the International Dyslexia Association. The second law, P.L. 2-13, c105, requires educators to engage in professional development related to reading disabilities. The third law, P.L. 2-13, c 210, requires schools to screen any child who shows signs of dyslexia or other reading disabilities by the end of the first semester of second grade.

The new training requirements affect general education teachers who teach kindergarten through grade 3, as well as those who teach basic skills, special education, and English as a second language, reading specialists, LDTCs, and speech language specialists. These professionals must now take at least two hours each year of professional development on screening, intervention, accommodations and use of technology for students with reading disabilities, including but not limited to dyslexia.

Many students both with and without disabilities struggle with reading. Since continuing education related to dyslexia is now required, teachers have the opportunity to learn more about inclusive instructional strategies, accommodations, and technologies that can be used to teach all children to read.

The new law requires that interventions for dyslexia be evidence-based, a term defined by the International Dyslexia Association as “an instructional program or collection of practices that have been tested and shown to have a record of success. The strategies must be reliable, trustworthy, and have valid evidence to show that when the program or practices are used, children can be expected to make adequate gains in reading achievement.”

The International Dyslexia Association’s position statement on dyslexia treatment programs emphasizes multi-sensory, structured language teaching. While there are many programs with a strong track record of clinical and classroom success, they all include structured, explicit, systematic, cumulative instruction designed to promote understanding, memory, recall, and the use of spoken and written language. They also have multiple components that focus on such areas of instruction as phonological skills, phonics and word analysis, spelling, word recognition and oral reading fluency, grammar and syntax, text comprehension, writing, and study skills. To learn more, go to http://www.interdys.org/ewebeditpro5/upload/IDA_Position_Statement_Dyslexia_Treatment_Programs_template%281%29.pdf                         Click here for Research-Based Best Practices of Effective Teachers

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