Lawmaker credits director of Children's Dyslexia Center in Bay City for amendment language
Lansing, Mich. -- Michigan third graders who aren't proficient in reading due to dyslexia will now receive highly-specialized instruction proven to lift students to grade level or higher proficiency under an amendment proposed by Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, and adopted Thursday by the state House of Representatives.
Glenn's amendment was added to House Bill 4822, a major reading reform bill, immediately before the House voted 57-48 to adopt the legislation Thursday with bipartisan support.
The first-term lawmaker credited the policy change to Nancy Williams, director of the Children's Dyslexia Center in Bay City, who has worked for 20 years in the field of language disabilities. Glenn met with Williams, who was initially skeptical of the bill, on Saturday in Midland along with a representative of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce who hoped to win Glenn's support for the legislation.
What convinced Glenn to support the bill instead was a short, six-word amendment proposed by Williams during the meeting, ensuring that the individualized reading plan required by the bill for 3rd graders found not to be proficient in reading -- in the exact words of the amendment itself -- "is systematic, explicit, multisensory, and sequential."
"I credit Nancy for knowing -- based on her 20 years' experience with language disabilities -- and for teaching me precisely which words needed to be added to the bill to have the most significant impact for children who have to overcome the challenge of dyslexia," Glenn said. "It's gratifying to be able to play a role in winning approval of an education reform Nancy persuaded me will dramatically change children's futures for the better, in schooling and for the rest of their lives."
Williams said after the House approved Glenn's amendment and the overall package that "this amendment has the ability to radically change the learning process in schools across Michigan."
"By adding multisensory, sequential, structured language instruction, Representative Glenn has given hope to a great number of very intelligent learners who are frustrated with not being able to learn like everyone else in the classroom," Williams said.
"Statistics show that 80 percent of students will learn to read regardless of the teaching approach used," she said. "But 20 percent of students require a multisensory, sequential, structured language approach to understand written language. To have language added to this bill that directly addresses that learning style can benefit all students, and specifically those who struggle with a language-based learning disability such as dyslexia."
Williams said the goal of this bill is to "encourage school districts and teachers across the state to identify struggling readers early and provide the structure they need to learn."
But the inclusion of Glenn's amendment in the bill will also result in a dramatic savings for taxpayers, according to Ron Beebe, a Midland philanthropist and business executive who serves as chairman of the board of the Children's Dyslexia Center in Bay City, and whose wife has taught in Midland Public Schools. for 18
"There's no question that if every public school in the state actually implements a multisensory intervention program as this bill would require," Beebe said, "we will over time save millions of tax dollars currently spent on children who end up in more expensive special education classes not because they can't learn, but because they can't read -- and because they're mistakenly judged, at least by normal methods, as incapable of being taught to read."
Beebe said early and effective reading deficiency intervention will also save state tax dollars by rescuing children who would otherwise be on a path of dramatically higher risk of incarceration if they never learn to read.
Glenn said according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Michigan currently ranks 38th in fourth grade reading-to-level skills; perhaps more concerning, he said, is that Michigan is one of six states in which fourth grade reading scores have actually declined.
HB 4822 requires school districts and public school academies to provide reading programs for pupils in kindergarten through third grades with periodic screening and progress monitoring at least three times a year, reading instruction that meets general education classroom needs, an intervention program for students exhibiting reading deficiencies, and “read-at-home” plans and workshops so parents, legal guardians and other care providers can assist their students.
Rep. Glenn’s amendment changed the bill's requirements for the intervention program that will be provided to 3rd graders who are not reading proficient, which is intended to help them read at grade level and will include intensive development in major reading components such as phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The intervention program must be offered during regular school hours in addition to regular classroom reading instruction, and under Glenn's language, must be “systematic, explicit, multisensory, and sequential.”
HB 4822 now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
Rep. Glenn can be contacted toll free at 1-855-GLENN98; by email at GaryGlenn@house.mi.gov; online at RepGaryGlenn.com; or by mail at Anderson House Office Building, S-1287, P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909.