A package of bipartisan bills Assemblyman Ron Dancer sponsors that would require professional development instruction and opportunities for public school teachers to assist students who have reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, has received General Assembly approval.
The committee also approved a resolution sponsored by Dancer that urges the State Board of Education to develop an endorsement to the instructional certificate for teachers of students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia.
“A learning or reading disability such as dyslexia is a hidden disability. Left undiagnosed, it can be very frustrating for both teachers and students who exhibit difficulties with spoken or written language, coordination, self-control or attention,” said Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth. “Such disabilities often impedes a student’s ability to learn to read or write, or to do math which often results in a cycle of academic failure and lowered self-esteem.”
Dancer noted that 5 to 20 percent of individuals have language-based learning difficulties, while an estimated 70 to 85 percent of students who are placed in special education for a learning disability have dyslexia, making it the most prevalent learning disability in children.
“A proper diagnosis and comprehensive assessment is the first step towards increasing a child’s academic success,” he stated. “These measures will help heighten awareness of these disabilities while equipping teachers with the tools they need to help students achieve their full learning potential.”
The two bills and resolution that were released by the committee include:
A-3606 – Requires the Department of Education to make available to general education, special education, basic skills, and English as a second language teachers, instructional support staff, administrators, supervisors, child study team members, and speech-language specialists, professional development opportunities related to reading disabilities, including dyslexia. It also requires that certain teachers complete at least two hours professional development on the screening, intervention, accommodation, and use of technology for students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia. The professional development requirement will apply to general education teachers employed in grades kindergarten through 3, special education, basic skills, and English as a second language teachers, reading specialists, learning disabilities teacher consultants, and speech-language specialists.
A-3608 – Provides a universal definition of dyslexia in order to develop appropriate interventions. It directs the State Board of Education to incorporate the International Dyslexia Association’s definition of dyslexia into special education regulations.
AR-129 – Urges the State Board of Education to develop an endorsement to the instructional certificate for teachers of students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia and to establish eligibility and training requirements for the endorsement. An endorsement will provide teachers with additional training and skills to better address the needs of such students The resolution also urges the Board to work with higher education institutions in the development of instructional programs for candidates for the endorsement.
Other prime sponsors of the bills include Assemblymen Nelson Albano, Bob Andrzejczak and former Assemblyman Matthew Milam, all D-1; Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-18, and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-27. In addition to Dancer, AR-129 is sponsored by Albano, Milam, Diegnan and Andrzejczak.