Literacy Laws Now
Letter to Legislators More than a third of New York's children read below a basic level. Reading below that basic level makes it almost impossible to navigate or function in society. Furthermore, the majority of New York's general education students read below their grade level and lack foundational literacy skills. The science of teaching reading effectively is clear and widely available, so why aren't teachers trained to use strategies that work? Why are the numbers of children with low literacy skills rising? Look at the data from The National Assessment of Adult Literacy: ● 3 out of 4 people on welfare cannot read ● 80% of youths brought before courts have low reading skills ● On average, 80% of incarcerated adults cannot read ● The prime reason for student's dropping-out is weak literacy skills ● Failure to teach reading's hidden annual surtax for New York State is almost 4 billion dollars (Education Consumers Foundation) New York is one of the remaining states to lack basic literacy laws, such as requiring classroom teachers to train in science-based reading strategies. Literacy laws would mandate teacher training to ensure that all students build foundational reading skills to prevent them from falling behind and dropping out. Furthermore, New York has no mandatory screening or dyslexia-specific intervention. The majority of students with dyslexia are average or above-average intelligence; imagine struggling to read for years and not knowing why! Look at the consequences: nearly 50% of incarcerated adults have dyslexia (Moody, 2000). The English language took millions of years to evolve and thousands of years to encode into symbols to facilitate reading. Cognitive science confirms that the foundations of reading skills start with the ability to decode. Decoding skills include matching letters with sounds and recognizing the patterns and sequences used to spell words. Many teachers (especially in New York) are trained in disproven approaches that direct students to guess unknown words by looking at pictures or guessing based on content. The program has no supporting scientific evidence and teaches strategies commonly used by struggling readers—the approach falls-over once the content becomes more complex, and there are no pictures. Proper literacy laws would prevent unproven approaches from being used to teach reading in public schools. Literacy laws would mandate science-based practices to benefit all students. Through reading, children develop a social, cultural, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual awareness of themselves and their world. Literacy is an essential component to developing fully as a member of society. Therefore, children who do not learn to read and write to grade level are effectively disenfranchised. Stop the social injustice of the school-to-prison pipeline and low literacy levels and pass these laws: o TEACHER TRAINING IN SCIENCE-BASED APPROACHES An act to amend the education law in relation to requiring the incorporation of the structured multisensory approach into ALL required literacy courses for prospective teachers. o AMEND DEFINITION WITHIN NYS EDUCATION LAW Amends the definition of a student with a disability (see line 42): Currently, the word "dyslexia" is placed between head injury and amnesia in New York education law - it is misleading and counterproductive. Dyslexia is not similar to a head injury. 85% of Learning Disabled students have dyslexia - the law needs to reflect scientific data. There are programs that will ensure students with a learning difference do not become students with a disability. o MANDATORY SCREENING FOR DYSLEXIA Requires screening for dyslexia and provides for intervention services for dyslexic children. Ensure students with a learning difference do not become students with a disability. o INTERVENTION FOR AT-RISK STUDENTS Requires each school district to provide interventions and special curricula for children with dyslexia or other phonological learning differences or disabilities. o SCREENING FOR INCARCERATED ADULTS Requires all incarcerated individuals who do not have a high-school diploma or its equivalent to receive a reading proficiency-level assessment and dyslexia screening upon intake; and requires for such individuals who perform below a certain proficiency level to be provided with dyslexia intervention that is evidence-based effective and consistent with science-based research specifically tailored to addressing dyslexia. o SPECIALIST DYSLEXIA SCHOOLS (CERTAIN AREAS) Establishes schools dedicated to teaching dyslexic students in certain school districts. o LITERACY TASK FORCE Relates to establishing a dyslexia task force and implementing the findings of such task force. o FAMILY LITERACY PROGRAMS Establishes family literacy programs for economically disadvantaged families living in poverty areas or areas with low-performing public schools; provides for competitive matching grants to establish a comprehensive program; requires commissioner of education to submit an annual report to the governor and legislature. Thank you!