Good afternoon chair and members of the committee. My name is Rebecca Irby, I am the founder and President of PEAC Institute, an NGO in special consulting status at the United Nations and winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize as a coalition member of ICAN International. I am also the director of Transformational Change at New Detroit, A Racial Justice Organization.

I am here today to lend my voice and support to the legislation on dyslexia and a reliable and valid universal screening assessment for the purpose of identifying pupils with dyslexia early.

SB567 is critical to student success. I will share a very brief story from my own experience as to why I believe this bill is crucial.

Having severe dyslexia myself, I can attest to the difficulty of navigating the education system when there are no accommodations in place. I was in elementary and secondary school in the 80s and 90s. There were no assessments for dyslexia and even special education left a lot to be desired.

I was fortunate to have teachers and my mother who advocated for me, but not everyone is so lucky.

Most of my education was in public school, except for middle school. This was when tracking, began or a tiered systems in the schools I was going to. I was going to be placed in special ed for all of my classes, which at the time was not using the same curriculum, and if I had stayed in and on that track, I would have graduated with a certificate of completion as opposed to a high school diploma.

Needless to say, my mother found this to be outrageous and fought with the school district.

She ended up homeschooling me for middle school. This change the trajectory of my life because I was able to get so far ahead by the time I went back to public school for high school I had already completed most of the coursework, so it was very easy for me.

I was beyond fortunate; most people do not have the ability for such an intense intervention.

Even with this intervention, throughout my professional career I have had to fight for, and make it known that dyslexia is a real condition AND one’s spelling and grammar does not determine one’s intelligence. I have found great success in my life but know I would be in a very different position if I hadn’t received the interventions and supports I needed.

I am very fortunate, and that I have had access to amazing accommodations. Even the way I am preparing for this speech is by using dictation. I won’t get into all of the accommodations and how important that is because our focus today is on assessment. Without assessment, and without a carveout specifically for dyslexia, students will continue to fall through the cracks and not receive the accommodations or the space that they need to thrive.

In closing I implore you to vote yes on SB567. Not only does this bill support our students. It also supports our teachers and school districts by providing resources to make sure we are in line with the best practice and can start competing with the rest of the country.

I thank you for your time and consideration.