Senate Bill 140 (the Montana Dyslexia Screening and Intervention Act) was signed into law on May 1 of this year after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support from the Montana Legislature. This law describes indicators for dyslexia and requires schools to screen for and provide services to students with dyslexia. It was supported by the Office of Public Instruction (OPI), which is seeking to better support educator professional development and student achievement through the Montana Teach and Montana Learn initiatives.
Identifying students at-risk for dyslexia early in their schooling provides educators the opportunity to support students who struggle with decoding and reading comprehension. While screening for dyslexia is not the same as diagnosing dyslexia, screening at-risk students helps provide important educational intervention information for families, educators, and school support staff. According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, roughly 20 percent of the population exhibits traits of dyslexia, and screening helps schools provide much-needed support for all students.
Article X of the Montana Constitution states that it is the goal of the people to establish a system of education, which will develop the full educational potential of each person. The Dyslexia Screening and Intervention Act moves our state one step closer to realizing this constitutional obligation by ensuring that students with dyslexia are supported in their learning environments.
The OPI has been working with educators and parents throughout this school year to ensure that the public is aware of this new law and that schools have resources to implement it, however, there is more work to be done for all students in Montana’s over 800 public schools to be properly served.
We encourage school leaders, teachers, and parents to review the Dyslexia Screening and Intervention Act as well as the online resources available from the OPI. The OPI, along with the Board of Public Education, will provide a progress report to the Interim Education Committee of the Montana Legislature by September 2020.
Elsie Arntzen is Montana’s superintendent of public instruction. Sen. Cary Smith is a Republican senator from Billings and was the primary sponsor of SB 140.
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