Personal Struggle Inspires Bill Requiring Dyslexia Screening for Elementary School Students

Friday, January 22 2021

Sacramento, California – Today State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) introduced SB 237, a measure which would require elementary schools to screen students for dyslexia.


“Sadly, students with dyslexia far too often go unidentified, untreated and their trouble with reading negatively impacts them throughout their life,” stated Senator Portantino. “While some dyslexics overcome their challenges, far too many bright 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 screening students at risk for dyslexia early in their school experience, we can help them succeed.” 


It is estimated that approximately 10% to 15% 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. The proportion of people with dyslexia is believed to be much higher amongst incarcerated 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.


Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, but far too many children struggling from it go unidentified.  An unidentified reading disability can lead to frustration with school, eventually causing the student to drop out. Mandating screenings for risk of dyslexia will increase awareness about the disability and help children get the resources they need. By implementing screening instruments, schools and families will be able to identify pupils at risk for dyslexia and implement learning programs for them. Properly treating those at risk for dyslexia better enables children to thrive in school and throughout their career.


Decoding Dyslexia CA is grateful to Senator Portantino for authoring this important legislation and DDCA is excited to join as a co-sponsor of this bill,” stated Megan Potente, Co-State Director for Decoding Dyslexia CA. “Research shows that one of the greatest contributing factors to increasing achievement scores in reading is the early and accurate identification of students at risk for dyslexia.”


“Universal screening is the best investment the state can make to ensure all schools, teachers and parents have the tools and support they need so every child has an equitable opportunity to learn to read and access core content,” added Bill Lucia, President of EdVoice, also a co-sponsor of the measure. “Without early mastery of reading, it becomes even more costly to help kids reach grade level and their full potential.”


SB 237 will require the State Board of Education, beginning in the 2022-23 school year, to provide dyslexia screening instruments to be used annually by schools in order to identify students who are at risk for dyslexia. The measure is aimed at improving test scores and graduation rates, while also helping to destigmatize reading troubles for children.


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. SB 237 will unquestionably improve the lives of the countless children who would otherwise not be diagnosed.