Senator Portantino Introduces Bill to Mandate Screening for Risk of Dyslexia for California Students

Thursday, February 16 2023

For Immediate Release: February 16, 2023

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino Introduces Bill to Mandate Screening for Risk of Dyslexia for California Students


Sacramento, California – Today Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) introduced Senate Bill 691, a measure aimed at improving literacy outcomes by requiring early identification and intervention for students who are at risk for dyslexia. Forty states have already passed legislation requiring screening for risk of dyslexia and California isn’t one of them.

“Dyslexia is the most common learning disability and yet it often goes undetected,” stated Senator Portantino. “Early identification and intervention with evidence-based strategies is key to helping children read and vital to their academic success. By screening all students for dyslexia early, we can help families and teachers achieve the best learning and life outcomes for all students, close academic achievement gaps, and help end the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability with at least 10% of the general population having dyslexia—some estimate it to be over 15%.  Hundreds of thousands of California children on the dyslexia spectrum struggle every day with reading at grade-level, often without the proper identification and support. Most school districts in California do not provide universal screening for students at risk of dyslexia, leaving teachers and staff without key resources necessary to help students. 

Students with dyslexia can experience anxiety and other mental health conditions and are also less likely to graduate high school and attend college, and also experience higher rates of incarceration. In some prisons today, where nearly 80% of the inmates are illiterate, almost one-half of the inmates are on the dyslexia spectrum.

“Research supports the critical importance of early universal screening and early intervention in improving literacy outcomes for students at risk of dyslexia,” stated Megan Potente, Co-State Director of Decoding Dyslexia CA. “California is one of the few remaining states that doesn't require screening – we cannot afford to lose another generation of students to poor literacy outcomes in its ‘wait to fail' approach for addressing the needs of students at risk of dyslexia. Our kids deserve better. The bill is an important first step in addressing California’s stated goal of having every child reading by third grade."

SB 691 would require all local educational agencies serving students in grades kindergarten to grade 2 to screen every student for risk of dyslexia annually, unless parents or guardians choose not to have their child screened. The bill also requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to establish an approved list of evidence-based culturally, linguistically and developmentally appropriate screening instruments to be used by school districts to screen pupils for risk of dyslexia. The SBE approved instruments must include developmentally and linguistically appropriate screening for phonological and phonemic awareness, sound-symbol (and symbol-sound) recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, and rapid automatized naming. SB 691 requires that when screening, factors such as English language acquisition status, home language, and language of instruction are taken into consideration.

Under SB 691, results from the screening, California Dyslexia Guidelines, and information on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support would be made available to the student’s teacher and parent or guardian in a timely manner.  For students identified as being at risk of dyslexia, local educational agencies are required to provide evidence-based literacy instruction, progress monitoring, and early intervention in the regular general education classroom.

“71% of low-income children in California’s public schools are reading below grade level by 3rd Grade,” said Marshall Tuck, CEO of EdVoice. “This bill can help us address that injustice. Universal screening in early grades can help teachers and parents identify students who are at risk of dyslexia and need additional support. Being a successful reader is foundational to later success so let’s implement proven practices that help all students learn to read.”