Kindergarten students trace letters and digraphs onto a plastic gridded sheet during their phonics lesson at Benteen Elementary School in Atlanta. The plastic grid is used as a sensory tool to help students remember their lesson. ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia lawmakers approve mandatory dyslexia screening in schools

Legislation to mandate screening for dyslexia in public schools has passed the Georgia General Assembly, but it won’t happen statewide for five years.

Senate Bill 48 originally would have required screening of all kindergartners starting in the 2020-21 school year. But the House of Representatives pushed that back to the fall of 2024 to allow time to test screening and teaching methods.

The Senate on Friday agreed to the amendments, sending the legislation to Gov. Brian Kemp. Experts think a tenth to a fifth of the population has dyslexia, which undermines the ability to read.

“Today we get to begin the process of helping students all over our state who have dyslexia,” said Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, the bill’s primary author.

Live: Use AJC tracker to follow Georgia bills

If Kemp signs it into law, the state school superintendent will have to pick at least three school districts — in an urban, a suburban and a rural area  — for a pilot program starting in the fall of 2020. The districts would screen all kindergartners and test reading assistance programs

By then, the state Professional Standards Commission would be under a mandate to establish a special credential for teachers who’ve been trained to recognize dyslexia and to help children with it. The agency would also be required to establish standards that encourage teacher preparation programs to offer dyslexia training.

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