Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia: Penultimate Meeting?

Nov 29, 2018 by

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia met this week in an effort to begin (and hopefully finish) drafting their final report to the Legislature which is due on January 30, 2019. It didn’t take long to become clear that more time would be needed.

They did hear from each of their four subcommittees and begin to discuss the draft reports from each. Those subcommittees and their members are:

  • The Subcommittee on Evidence-Based Reading Practices, Rep. Brenda Dietrich, chair. Members are Jennifer Bettles, Jaime Callaghan, Christine Middleton, and Sonja Watkins.
  • The Subcommittee on Pre-Service and In-Service Professional Development, Dr. David Hurford, chair. Members are Alisia Matteoni, Jeanine Phillips, Jeri Powers, and Angie Schreiber.
  • The Subcommittee on Screening and Evaluation Process, Sen. Bruce Givens, chair. Members are Sarah Brinkley, Tally Fleming, and Jennifer Knight.
  • The Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, Laura Jurgensen, chair. Members are Mike Burgess and Lori McMillan. This subcommittee is made up of the ex-officio, non-voting members of the Task Force.

Each of the first three reports generated significant discussion which quickly challenged the agenda set by Task Force Chairman Jim Porter. Dietrich and Hurford both were also carrying edits to their reports as well as suggestions that certain recommendations would be abandoned or dramatically altered.

Among all the recommendations, perhaps those generating the most discussion and concern were the ones dealing with teacher training.

One recommendation under evidence-based reading practices calls for the State Board of Education to “provide training for all Kansas teachers to create dyslexia-friendly classrooms by incorporating strategies and approaches described in Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (IDA).” The limits to the ability of the SBOE to require training to all teachers including those in private and unaccredited schools ran up against the desire by many on the Task Force to see that every teacher in every kind of school, every teacher from pre-K through high school, creates a dyslexia-friendly classroom.

Similar discussions arose during the discussion of the report on pre-service and in-service professional development. Some wanted to see new master’s degree programs established in dyslexia, others sought endorsements. Some wanted specific numbers of annual hours of training for all teachers, others argued that such annual trainings would end up being something “people just sit through mindlessly like the blood-borne pathogens training.” A recommendation calling for the creation of new positions as “Classroom Dyslexia Educator,” “Dyslexia Practitioner,” and “Dyslexia Trainer/Supervisor” will likely be dropped.

Near the end of the meeting, Laura Jurgensen, an attorney and chair of the Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, urged each of the groups to be very precise in their language. They must consider the impact of phrases like “all teachers” and “all districts” and to remember that everything has a cost. Jurgensen pointed out that monies for education are directed to certain programs and tasks. Any recommendation that has a fiscal impact would require either shifting money from some current programs and efforts or finding a new funding stream.

Chairman Porter will ask that the Task Force, in some form, be maintained in order to have annual meetings for the purpose of evaluating progress. Staff pointed out that this Task Force will cease to exist on January 30 but that the Legislature could create another one or one could be appointed by the Governor or the State Board of Education.

It is noteworthy that no subcommittee had recommendations for the Legislature. All recommendations are directed toward the State Board of Education and some would naturally fall to the State Board of Regents.

The Task Force will meet again on January 10 at which time they will work to finalize the recommendations and to merge the four subcommittee reports into one document.

The subcommittee reports are not currently available online.