WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. chaired two Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Hearings in New Orleans and Baton Rouge this week. The hearings follow the passage of a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. Senate designating October 2015 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month,” recognizing that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed. The Resolution, S. Res. 275, can be read here.
Sen. Cassidy released a statement about the Common Core/PARCC Assessment after the hearings: “In the committee hearings this week I listened to countless people who live with dyslexia give testimonies on their struggles and successes, along with the scientific data presented by Doctors Bennett and Sally Shaywitz. The PARCC Assessment does not account for individuals with dyslexia and fails to measure the abilities of students, instead focusing on disabilities. It is wrong to put all students under one general test when we have seen from the committee hearings this week that is unrealistic and further excludes individuals with dyslexia.”
Doctors Bennett and Sally Shaywitz, Director and Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity at the Yale University School of Medicine presented the scientific progress that has been made in studies of dyslexia at the hearings.
“Overwhelming evidence indicates that we are in the midst of a national epidemic of reading/academic failure. Accumulating scientific evidence demonstrates that dyslexia both may be at the root of the reading difficulties noted and provide a potential solution to this unfortunate epidemic.
The recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, 2013) demonstrate that African American students are especially impacted by this epidemic of reading failure. For example, fully half (50%) of African American boys and girls are reading below basic levels compared to 21% of white students. Sadly, these reading difficulties are not only highly prevalent in children of color and those who are disadvantaged, but they far too often go unrecognized and unaddressed. In these children their significant reading difficulties tend to be written off to environmental issues or lack of ability. What science has taught us is that these reading difficulties can be addressed and remediated, but only if the child is identified as dyslexic.
We find that as early as first grade, compared with typical readers, dyslexic readers had lower reading scores and this gap persists into adolescence. These findings provide strong evidence and impetus for early identification of, and intervention for young children at risk for dyslexia.
The most effective models that work for dyslexic students are specialized schools specifically for these students because this opportunity for a chance at success must be made available to every boy and girl. Given that a student who is dyslexic has both a weakness and strengths, it is critical that tests and on high stakes standardized examinations and Common Core assessments actually measure the student’s ability and not his disability…”
The information presented by the Shaywitz’s study is based on research they conducted along with several other scientists about how achievement gaps in reading are identifiable in as early as first grade continuing through adolescence in individuals who have dyslexia and are not diagnosed compared to those who are not dyslexic. The text of the study can be found here and it will be published in November.
Cassidy has worked on getting legislation passed for students with dyslexia, and his efforts have helped create more awareness about the learning disorder throughout Louisiana.