Article: New Jersey Dyslexia Legislation: From Code to Classroom
Source: NJ Education Association Review: September 2015
Author: Dr. Diane Casale-Giannola, Professor at Rider College
Hours: 1.5

Governor Chris Christie signed in 2013 -2014 3 laws regulating legislation the definition of dyslexia, screening practices, and professional development regarding dyslexia. Governor Christie adopted the International Dyslexia Association definition which identifies dyslexia as a specific learning disability. Characteristics are language based. Educators affected by professional development legislation includes general and special education teacher sin grade K-3, basic skills teachers, ESL teachers, reading specialists, LDT/C’s and speech/language specialists. This is logical group of professionals to target for training. Districts have been given the option to develop their own screening measures, but best practice should include assessment tools readily available in districts.

Dr. Casale raises the concern that all students should be screened in grades K-2. Rather than screenings be conducted by a couple of professionals, early primary educators are the first step in noting student progress and student deficits in the area of reading and language arts. Dr. Casale suggests a checklist of dyslexia indicators. It is the opinion of this NCED that in my experience teachers are very good at analyzing this area of development. This information is generally shared at an I&RS Committee meeting. Interventions regarding specific interventions to target weaknesses should be implemented as a first step. Following an RTI model, if implemented in a given school district, does just that. A referral to the CST is then made due to documented lack of student success. Dr. Casale cautions educators not to focus exclusively on a scripted program but to include the “elements of good literacy”. In her article, Dr. Casale lists recommendations for instruction which include technology, multi-sensory approaches to reading, a direct instruction approach, and the opportunity for a student to engage in critically thinking about text without reading the text. Environmental accommodations are noted as well.

Once referred to the CST, The WJIV becomes a more extensive tool to “diagnose” reading problems such as dyslexia. A major concern raised by this legislation is that we put teachers in the position of diagnosing children. This is a very slippery slope. In the past in the state of NJ, dyslexia was a medical diagnosis. Dr. Casale addresses the topic of classification under the category of SLD with “indicators for dyslexia” such as in reading and writing. Although the IDA’s definition has been adopted the NJAC: Title 6A:14 does not list Dyslexia as a classification category.