Dyslexia and California Law Then and Now
Dyslexia and California law has some history that may not be well known to many. In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the dyslexia bill, Assembly Bill 1369 into law. It was a great step forward for students with dyslexia in the Golden State. The bill provides for expanded identification of students with “phonological processing” weaknesses, characteristic of so many students with dyslexia. That went into effect in January 2016.
And Assembly Bill 1369 also requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop a set of guidelines about dyslexia, on or before the 2017-2018 school year.
All great news. Right?
Right. Unless you know the history of dyslexia legislation in California, and the fact that similar legislation became law, Assembly Bill 3040, way back in 1990. More than two decades ago.
Back then, the set of guidelines that was produced by the State of California was published as a book titled, “I Can Learn.”
I have a copy of that book. Here’s what it says in the preface:
All children are special, and all children can learn. That is the premise of ‘I Can Learn.’ It is our hope that this book will serve as a tool to help parents and teachers in the important work of helping children with special needs to be full participants in our society.
This is the third printing of ‘I Can Learn.’ In it, the authors share their experiences teaching students so that others can benefit from these ideas in their classrooms and homes. We believe the partnership of teacher and parents is a major factor in students’ success.
The California Department of Education was authorized by Assembly Bill 3040 in 1990 to develop guidelines for teaching students with learning disabilities. As a result, the Department has developed program content that applies to any student experiencing a problem in learning and that emphasizes the role of the classroom teacher and the parent in creating an environment in which all students can succeed.
We want to thank the parents and educators who contributed to the publication of these guidelines. We trust that ‘I Can Learn’ will continue to be a valuable resource to be shared among teachers, parents, and students so all children can learn.”
The 136-page book provided a tremendous resource, significant roadmap to help parents and teachers navigate the world of the student with learning differences. And unfortunately, the way politics intersects with education, Assembly Bill 3040 was soon wiped from the Education Code, and state funding for the book ceased.
It was eventually purchased and updated by a private publisher, Corwin Press, and republished as “Addressing Learning Disabilities and Difficulties.”
By all means, we welcome the dyslexia guidelines requirement of Assembly Bill 1369. But we can only shake our heads in disappointment and wonder at those who removed this requirement originally passed 25 years ago. And think with sadness of all those students with dyslexia who passed through the California public school system for the past quarter of a century, whose teachers had no guidelines at all. We know we can do better for our 1 in 5 students with dyslexia, and AB 1369 is a great start!