Dyslexia Task Force Holds First Meeting

Jul 13, 2018 by

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia met yesterday in the Statehouse for what was essentially a meeting designed to learn about each other – what each person brings to the task force – and to review the charges put to the task force by the Legislature.

Dyslexia legislation has been an annual debate for many years. In the 2018 Legislative Session, a bill was brought forward that would have mandated every elementary child be screened specifically for dyslexia by the school district. Testimony in the education committees was often heated as parent advocacy groups and special education directors shared opposing stories of what is possible, legal, and achievable.

Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka), a member of the House Education Committee and a retired public school superintendent, working with other legislators including Rep. Tom Cox (R-Shawnee) who brought the original bill, came up with the idea of forming a task force to bring recommendations back to the Legislature. KNEA strongly supported the task force formation. When the House passed the task force bill and sent it to the Senate, Senate Education Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) worked with her committee to ensure that teachers would be members of the task force. KNEA worked with Baumgardner and the members of her committee to make sure the teacher voice would be on the task force. As a result, four teachers are members of this task force: Jennifer Bettles, Sarah Brinkley, Jeri Powers, and Tally Fleming.

The four charges given to the task force are:

  • Research and recommend evidence-based reading practices to address dyslexia or characteristics of dyslexia for use by schools;
  • Research and recommend high quality pre-service and in-service professional development activities to address reading difficulties like
    dyslexia, including identification of dyslexia and effective reading interventions to be used in schools and within degree programs, such
    as education, reading, special education, speech-language pathology, and psychology;
  • Study and examine current state and federal laws and rules and regulations, and the implementation of such laws and rules and
    regulations that affect students with dyslexia; and
  • Identify valid and reliable screening and evaluation assessments and protocols that can be used and the appropriate personnel to
    administer such assessments in order to identify children with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia or the characteristics of dyslexia as part of an ongoing reading progress monitoring system, multi-tiered system of supports, and Child Find special education eligibility for students.

Members of the task force were divided into four subcommittees assigned to address the four charges.

Those assignments are as follows:

Subcommittee 1; Research and recommend evidence-based reading practices to address dyslexia or characteristics of dyslexia for use by schools;

  • Rep. Brenda Dietrich, chairperson, Member House Education Committee
  • Jennifer Bettles, Title Reading Specialist, Herington Elementary, Herington USD 487
  • Jaime Callaghan, Director of Student Services, Auburn Washburn USD 437
  • Christina Middleton, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Founder of Decoding Dyslexia Johnson County
  • Sonja Watkins, Principal, Hugoton USD 210

Subcommittee 2; Research and recommend high quality pre-service and in-service professional development activities to address reading difficulties like dyslexia, including identification of dyslexia and effective reading interventions to be used in schools and within degree programs, such as education, reading, special education, speech-language pathology, and psychology;

  • Dr. David Hurford, chairperson, Professor, Pittsburg State University
  • Alisa Matteoni, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Board member International Dyslexia Association KS/MO Branch
  • Jeanine Phillips, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Founder of Fundamental Learning Center, Wichita
  • Jeri Powers, Reading Specialist, Prairie Ridge Elementary School, Desoto USD 232
  • Angie Schreiber, Center Director, Cradle to Career Literacy Center

Subcommittee 3; Study and examine current state and federal laws and rules and regulations, and the implementation of such laws and rules and regulations that affect students with dyslexia;

  • Laura Jurgensen, chairperson, Attorney, KSDE
  • Mike Burgess, Disability Rights Center of Kansas
  • Lori McMillan, Professor, Washburn University School of Law

Subcommittee 4; Identify valid and reliable screening and evaluation assessments and protocols that can be used and the appropriate personnel to  administer such assessments in order to identify children with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia or the characteristics of dyslexia as part of an ongoing reading progress monitoring system, multi-tiered system of supports, and Child Find special education eligibility for students.

  • Senator Bruce Givens, chairperson, Special Education Administrator
  • Sarah Brinkley, K-6 low incidence special education teacher, Logan Elementary School, Seaman Schools USD 345
  • Tally Fleming, Classroom teacher, LaCygne Elementary School, Prairie View USD 362
  • Jennifer Knight, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Families Together, Inc.

Subcommittees met to briefly discuss their charge and  possible action plans for moving forward. They will hold other meetings between now and when the full task force meets again on September 13.

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