Newsom wants more dyslexia screenings, services for California students Educational

Alison Lin for EdSource

One-to-one tuition can help students overcome dyslexia.

A new plan by Governor Gavin Newsom, who struggled with dyslexia as a child, would pay for more checkups and services for thousands of California dyslexia students – a condition that school advocates have not paid enough attention to.

The California Dyslexia InitiativeThe governor, which announced last week as part of its 2020-21 budget proposal, earmarked $ 4 million for screening, professional learning for teachers, research, and a conference on dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects literacy effect. Although the amount is small compared to the total education budget, it forms the basis for future investments and brings the much-needed attention to the topic, the proponents said.

“It’s a very big deal. This is fantastic news, ”said Megan Potente, Co-Educator Outreach Manager at Decoding Dyslexia California, an advocacy group that works for better dyslexia services in schools. “Gov. Newsom has paid more attention to dyslexia than it has for decades. “

Dyslexia is a genetic brain disease that ranges from mild to severe and affects all racial and ethnic groups. Children with dyslexia have difficulty learning to read and write, and often fall behind academically, although the disease is said to International Association for Dyslexia, Although there is no cure, dyslexia can be overcome by learning alternative reading methods. According to the International Dyslexia Association, about 20 percent of the population suffer from dyslexia, which is often not diagnosed.

If dyslexia is not treated, students can break away from school, develop behavioral problems, and are more likely to drop out. About half of the inmates in US prisons have serious reading difficulties in 2014, in many cases due to dyslexia study from the U.S. Department of Education.

With early detection, children with dyslexia can learn alternative reading methods. Reading can always be a struggle, but they can keep up with their classmates and even perform well, said Kathy Futterman, an educator at Cal State East Bay who was on the state dyslexia guidelines committee.

“The sooner you can intervene, the greater the chance of closing the gap,” she said. “If dyslexia is treated early, the sky is the limit.”

Few schools in California currently test students for dyslexia on a regular basis, said Pamela Cohen, a Los Angeles Unified parent who has long been committed to better screening and support for dyslexics. Whether a dyslexic receives benefits at school depends on whether their teacher notices the condition, a school psychologist diagnoses it, and a tutor or teacher performs to help the student overcome the disability. Most schools lack the resources to identify, diagnose, and provide services to all students they need, Cohen said.

The result is that wealthier parents pay for private checkups and tutoring that can cost between $ 50 and $ 200 an hour, while lower-income families may not even know that their child has dyslexia at all.

“It’s a civil rights issue,” said Cohen. “I could dig into my pockets for years, but what about the thousands of children whose parents don’t have the resources?”

Newsom has often spoken of his own struggles with dyslexia, which he was diagnosed at the age of 5, but which he learned later in primary school, he said. He struggled with reading and writing throughout school, but eventually managed to be academically successful by finding other ways to record information, such as memorizing and taking careful notes. As Vice Governor and now Governor, he is strongly committed to special education, especially programs designed to help students with learning difficulties.

“I love Special Ed. I think most of you know that because I was one of them who grew up,” he said during his budget announcement in January. “It’s a miracle that I’m here. As someone who struggled with language and who struggled academically, I had remarkable people who intervened. And (because of them) I’m on this podium. “

The California Dyslexia Initiative would be headed by a county education agency that would commission a university to explore the best screening and teaching methods for children with dyslexia. The district office would also partner with districts and charter schools across the state and host a nationwide conference for educators and researchers.

Funding would also be provided for teacher professional learning, district technical assistance and scholarships for teachers to attend the conference. The state would select the district office to run the program by September and the conference would take place by January 2021.

The initiative is the latest in a series of government and private investments in the fight against dyslexia, including three new research centers at the University of California.

At UCLA, the Center for dyslexia. Diverse learners and social justice will examine the links between literacy and justice between children who have access to tutoring and those who do not. The UC San Francisco Dyslexia Center focuses on neuroscientific research and works directly with teachers and schools. The financier Charles Schwab, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 40, donated $ 20 million in September to found one joint dyslexia research project at UCSF and UC Berkeley.

At the K-12 level, the U.S. Department of Education awarded California a in September $ 37.5 million grant for literacy programs advocated by the state to help students with dyslexia. And in 2017, the California Department of Education passed Guidelines for Dyslexia in California, a 136-page detailed overview of how schools can best help students with dyslexia. However, the guidelines are not binding, so the implementation is up to each school.

Last year, Newsom’s budget was $ 3.5 million for a pilot program on dyslexia in early intervention at UC San Francisco.

Proponents have been pushing for years to screen all kindergarten teachers for dyslexia and provide tutoring if necessary, Futterman said. They have also pushed for schools to teach reading in a way that is easier to understand for dyslexic students, with emphasis on sounds rather than whole words.

Recognizing and helping students early can save money in the long run because these students could avoid referral to special education and ultimately do better in school, said Nancy Redding, a learning disability specialist on the advisory board of the International Dyslexia Association of Northern California sits. For now, about 37 percent of students in special education in California have a learning disability, usually dyslexia, according to the California Department of Education.

“Early screening and effective teaching methods – which are helpful for all students, including learners of English – can dramatically reduce our case numbers for special education,” said Redding. “In the long run, the state will save money.”

Redding said the most promising part of Newsom’s initiative is to emphasize professional learning for teachers, both existing teachers and those in eligibility programs. Despite the surge in research, little has changed in the way teachers deal with dyslexia on a daily basis, said Potente and others.

“Teachers want to help,” said Redding. “They see students in their classrooms every year who don’t learn to read and write as they should, but the teachers have not been trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of dyslexia.”

The initiative could not change dyslexia services in California overnight, but Newsom deserves recognition for raising awareness of the problem and providing funds for students with learning difficulties who have long been ignored in public schools, she said.

“This initiative from Governor Newsom will only improve prospects for the many thousands of California public school students who suffer from dyslexia and want to be taught only in a way that works for them,” said Redding.

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