Recent state and national assessments are sounding the alarm that too many students are not proficient readers. And while progress slowed dramatically amid the pandemic, Michigan was already performing lower in early reading than many of other surrounding states. 

 Consider that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, just 45.1% of Michigan third graders scored at or above proficiency in reading. And before the pandemic, Michigan was one of only 18 states performing worse in early literacy than it was in the early 2000s on a test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the nation’s report card. 

Policymakers have begun making progress in addressing this problem, but there is more to be done. 

One of the key gaps in early literacy policy in our state is the failure to properly screen and provide the best resources to students with dyslexia. It is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of Michigan students struggle with dyslexia and too often, schools fail to correctly diagnose and/or fail to provide the necessary instruction for these students. The good news is that we know there are better ways to help these students, and that with this help, they can become proficient readers. 

Additionally, there’s a package of bipartisan bills moving through the legislature now that could be transformative for Michigan’s youngest readers.  

This fall our network of partners and other coalition partners have been ramping up our support and advocacy for the set of bills that could change the trajectory for Michigan’s youngest readers by addressing one of the most common barriers to reading success: dyslexia.  

Senate Bills 380-383 would start to address this issue by requiring school districts to screen early elementary school students for characteristics of dyslexia and provide a multi-tiered system of support to students who exhibit those characteristics.

This is key because the current screening process and supports currently offered are insufficient for many students. Additionally, the bills focus on helping teachers become more effective in how they teach students who have the characteristics of dyslexia. Under the proposal, all teacher preparation programs in Michigan would be required to include specific instruction regarding dyslexia and all current teachers would be required to successfully complete professional development on how to instruct students with dyslexia. This will ensure that teachers have the resources needed to provide the best help to struggling students.

The last component of the legislation creates an advisory committee with the Michigan Department of Education to develop a dyslexia resource guide to help schools implement all the changes to the law.  

After three years of advocacy, the legislation has momentum. Last spring, Republican and Democratic Senators set their differences aside and came together to overwhelmingly pass this important legislation. We are thankful that they understood the urgency of this issue and took action. The bills are now in the House of Representatives awaiting a hearing in the Education Committee, and we need similar urgency from our leaders in the House.  

That is why we are joining with other dyslexia and early reading advocates in a virtual advocacy day Wednesday, September 28th to urge the House to pass the bills by the end of the year. Our students cannot afford to wait any longer. The status quo is not good enough for these students. We need everyone to help and are asking each of you to contact your State Representative urging them to support and vote on the legislation now.  

Click to see resources you can use to have your voice heard! 

Resources include:  

  • A sample letter from parents and children 
  • A sample letter from Michigan citizens, including a request for support with more detailed information about Senate bills 380-383 
  • Phone call directions for you to call to Representative on September 28, including a sample script with talking points

 Working together we can make a difference and see the dyslexia legislation signed into law.