N.J. Assembly approves bills to aid dyslexic students

Posted: May 01, 2013

Two bills and a resolution meant to enhance education for students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities cleared the state Assembly Monday.

All three passed unanimously.

The first bill would require that at least 20 hours of the 100 hours of professional development that teachers are required to complete every five years be instruction in the screening, intervention, help, and use of technology for students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia.

In addition, the bill would require the state Department of Education to provide professional development opportunities related to reading disabilities for other school district personnel.

The second bill would incorporate the International Dyslexia Association's definition of dyslexia into the state's special education regulations. No uniform definition is in use by districts statewide, something advocates say can keep students from getting the help they need.

The resolution urges the state Board of Education to develop an endorsement to the instruction certificate for teachers of students with reading disabilities, create eligibility and training requirements for the endorsement, and work with colleges to develop instructional programs for candidates for the endorsement.

"Children with dyslexia can learn effectively with appropriate teaching, but if the instruction is inadequate, it can have devastating consequences that will follow these children into adulthood," Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D., Cape May), one of the sponsors of the measures, said in a statement.

In a statement posted on the Assembly Republicans' website, cosponsor Ronald S. Dancer (R., Ocean-Burlington) said, "A learning or reading disability like dyslexia is a hidden disability."

All three measures have companions in the Senate that await action.

"This is a good thing," said Liz Barnes, an Ocean County resident and a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia, a statewide advocacy group that has spread to 23 other states. "We've been actively supporting these bills since they were introduced in December."

Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893, rgiordano@phillynews.com or on Twitter @ritagiordano.

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