State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced legislation that would require elementary schools to screen students for dyslexia.
Senate Bill 237 would require the state Board of Education, beginning in the 2022-23 school year, to provide dyslexia screening instruments to schools that would be used annually in order to identify students who are at risk for dyslexia. The measure is aimed at improving test scores and graduation rates, while also helping to destigmatize reading troubles experienced by children.
The issue is personal for Portantino, who struggles with dyslexia, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and cross dominance, also known as mixed-handedness, which occurs when a person favors one hand for certain tasks and the opposite hand for other things
“Sadly, students with dyslexia far too often go unidentified, untreated and their trouble with reading negatively impacts them throughout their life,” Portantino said in a prepared statement.
“While some dyslexics overcome their challenges, far too many bright students have lower graduation rates, are less likely to attend college, and go on to have much higher incarceration rates than those who do not have it,” according to the statement. “By accurately screening students at risk for dyslexia early in their school experience, we can help them succeed.”
According to the statement, it is estimated that approximately 10% to 15% of Americans have symptoms of dyslexia, making it the most common form of learning disability. Due to inadequate screening, only about 5% of people with dyslexia are aware that they have it. The proportion of people with dyslexia is believed to be much higher amongst incarcerated individuals.
A 2000 study of Texas prisoners estimated that about half the prison population was likely dyslexic, while a 2014 study by the state Department of Education found that a third of surveyed inmates had trouble with simple reading questions.
An unidentified reading disability can lead to frustration with school, eventually causing the student to drop out.