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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: April 16, 2013 10:12 AM
From: Representative Ed Neilson and Rep. Nick Miccarelli
To: All House members
Subject: Co-sponsorship of Legislation – Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program
In the near future, legislation will be introduced establishing a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program within the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). It is my sincere hope you will join us in this important effort.

Developmental reading disorder, also called dyslexia, is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. The disorder is a specific information processing problem that does not interfere with one's ability to think or to understand complex ideas. For example, most people with dyslexia have normal intelligence, and many have above-average intelligence. Despite this fact, students with dyslexia are likely to struggle with many aspects of academic learning and are at a higher risk of dropping out of school entirely. Moreover, dyslexia often goes undiagnosed for years and sometimes is not formally recognized until adulthood.

The statistics on dyslexia and dyslexia-related symptoms are truly alarming. According to the International Dyslexia Association, approximately 85 percent of students classified as having a primary learning disability have difficulty in reading and language processing. However, the number of people having some symptoms of dyslexia is much higher, perhaps as much as 15 to 20 percent of the entire U.S. population as a whole. These symptoms include slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words. Unfortunately, not all of the students exhibiting one or more signs of dyslexia will qualify for special education, but are likely to benefit from systematic instruction in reading, writing and language.

This legislation will establish a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program (DSPP) within PDE. The overall purpose of DSPP is to provide evidence-based early screening and intervention services for children with risk factors for dyslexia. Additionally, DSPP will 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. Through DSPP, PDE will select at least three school districts to participate. To be considered, a school district must submit a proposal to PDE that identifies an evidence-based method of screening children for low phonemic awareness and other risk factors for dyslexia, among other requirements. During the third year of DSPP, the Secretary of PDE shall submit a report to the General Assembly containing an evaluation of the program and recommendations to continue, expand or make changes to the pilot program.

Introduced as HB198