The Senate Appropriations Committee voted today to send the Dyslexia Scholarship expansion to the full Senate.
House Bill 1046, which had previously cleared the Senate Education Committee, now faces a March 8 deadline for action in the Senate.
The legislature authorized the Dyslexia Scholarship five years ago and to date hundreds of young students have successfully used the program, but its reach is largely limited. A great number of students who need these services are simply not able to receive them because they are either too old or there is not a state-accredited private school nearby.
Changes To The Current Law
The proposed legislation makes a number of important changes to expand access to the program. This includes:
- The scholarships will be expanded to students through 12th grade. The program is currently only available through 6th grade. This will serve students who did not receive the appropriate dyslexia services when they were younger.
- Accredited private schools will be allowed to accept the scholarships, provided they meet all the standards, including employing Mississippi licensed dyslexia therapists. The program currently requires schools to be accredited by the Mississippi Department of Education, which significantly limits the number of schools who can participate.
- Students living in border counties will be allowed to use the scholarship in another state, if appropriate educational services are not available within thirty miles of the student’s home.
High Standard For Dyslexia Services
While access to the Dyslexia Scholarship will become easier, the services that participating private schools must provide will not. Here are the mandated services, as written in current law:
Dyslexia therapy means an appropriate specialized dyslexia instructional program that is delivered by a Mississippi Department of Education licensed dyslexia therapist which is scientific, research-based, Orton-Gillingham based, and is offered in a small group setting to teach students the components of reading instruction which include:
- Phonemic awareness to enable students to detect, segment, blend and manipulate sounds in spoken language;
- Graphophonemic knowledge (phonics) for teaching the letter-sound plan of English;
- The entire structure of the English language that encompasses morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics;
- Linguistic instruction directed toward proficiency and fluency with the patterns of language so that words and sentences are carriers of meaning;
- Strategies that students use for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency and comprehension.
These components shall be taught using instructional approaches that include explicit, direct instruction which is systematic, sequential and cumulative, following a logical plan of presenting the alphabetic principle commensurate with the students’ needs, with no assumption of prior skills or language knowledge; individualized to meet the specific learning needs of each individual student in a small group setting; intensive, highly concentrated instruction that maximizes student engagement and uses specialized methods and materials; meaning-based instruction directed toward purposeful reading and writing, with an emphasis on comprehension and composition; and multisensory instruction that incorporates the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways during teacher presentations and student practice.
Dyslexia therapist means a professional who has completed training in a department approved Orton-Gillingham based dyslexia therapy training program attaining a AA license in dyslexia therapy or a professional participating in a state approved dyslexia
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