Portantino’s Personal Struggle Inspires Bill to Require Elementary Schools to Test All Students for Dyslexia

Thursday, February 20 2020

Sacramento, California – State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced SB 1174 to require schools to assess pupils for dyslexia. The bill will require the State Board of Education to identify a dyslexia assessment to be used by schools to screen students between kindergarten and the second grade. Dyslexia is the most common learning disorder, but far too many children struggling from it go undiagnosed.   The issue is personal for Senator Portantino as he struggled with dyslexia, ADHD, and cross dominance during his own time in school and continues to face these challenges every day.


“Sadly, students with dyslexia far too often go untreated and their trouble with reading negatively impacts them for their entire life. Dyslexic students have lower graduation rates, are less likely to attend college, and go on to have a much higher incarceration rates than those who do not have it.  By accurately assessing students for dyslexia early in their school experience, we can positively intervene, help these students succeed, help to end the school-to-prison pipeline,” commented Senator Portantino.


It is estimated that about 10% of Americans have symptoms of dyslexia, making it the most common form of learning disability. Due to inadequate screening, only about 5% of people with dyslexia are aware that they have it. By implementing assessment tools, schools and families will be able to identify pupils with dyslexia and implement learning programs for them. Properly treating those with dyslexia better enables children to thrive in school and to achieve positive and productive lives.


There is a significant social justice aspect to this bill. The proportion of people with dyslexia is believed to be much higher amongst incarnated individuals. A 2000 study of Texas prisoners estimated that about half the prison population was likely dyslexic, while a 2014 study by the Education Department found that a third of surveyed inmates had trouble with simple reading questions. Undiagnosed dyslexia likely influenced their eventual incarceration. A far too common situation occurs where a child has trouble reading due to an undiagnosed reading disability, becomes frustrated with school, and drops out.  Affluent parents can provide private doctors and private intervention.  Not everyone understands the issue and is equipped to adequately address it.  Mandating testing will increase awareness and help all children who need it get the resources they need.


“SB 1174 is the best investment the state can make to ensure all schools are providing every child an equitable opportunity to read and learn core content. Without an early strong mastery of reading, it becomes a costly uphill battle to help kids reach grade level expectations and their full potential,” added Bill Lucia, President and CEO of Edvoice.


SB 1174 will unquestionably improve the lives of the countless children who would otherwise not be diagnosed. This bill will improve test scores and graduation rates, while also helping to destigmatize reading troubles for children. Pupils should not feel embarrassed at school due to an undiagnosed reading disorder and this bill will help these struggling students. SB 1174 is a common sense solution that will greatly benefit schools and families.