By Erika Norton | Echo
Editor's Note: This article is the second in a two-part series examining dyslexia legislation and education in Indiana. The first article addressed dyslexia in Indiana and House Bill 1108's progress in the Indiana General Assembly.
With an Indiana House bill reaching the Senate floor next week for the third time, universities across the state are keeping an eye on pending Indiana dyslexia legislation, including Taylor.
Though House Bill 1108 was postponed during Wednesday's Senate hearing due to a pending amendment, administrative rule REPA III (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) is already being phased into many university programs. The aim of HB 1108 is to define dyslexia within the Indiana education code and require training for teachers to recognize the signs of dyslexia.
The Indiana State Board of Education passed REPA III on Jan. 16, which requires universities to provide education majors instruction in child reading interventions that are direct, explicit and multisensory.
"That direct, explicit, multisensory (part) is important because one of the things we know about a dyslexic child is that the use of these teaching techniques is absolutely critical to helping the child overcome the limitations created by their dyslexia," said Indiana State Board of Education member Brad Oliver.
The board passed this policy because, in many instances, untrained teachers fail to spot children with dyslexia. Appropriate interventions, like the kind required by REPA III, are not applied, according to Oliver.
"The thing about structured literacy instruction is that it's good for every child, not just children with dyslexia," Oliver said. "From that standpoint, the board saw it as a very logical next step."
Indiana universities have until 2019 to phase in the new reading instruction within REPA III, but can move to implement it sooner. Each institution will decide how to incorporate the guidelines into their programs.
Taylor Assistant Professor of Education Tammy Mahon teaches a methods course to students seeking licensure in special education in addition to elementary education. Specifically, Mahon teaches how to meet diverse learners' needs, from those who have high ability to those with a disability.
Students learn a multisensory approach in the course. According to Mahon, all children are uniquely and wonderfully created by God and learn differently, so Taylor's Education Department is trying to help teachers meet all students' needs in the classroom.
"Everyone can learn and grow," Mahon said. "Jeremiah 29 talks about God having a plan for each person, and so we need to see that for every person."
Under REPA III, additional university classes aren't explicitly required. But Oliver thinks that in order for most universities to comply with the new requirement, new content will need to be incorporated into existing classes.
Concerning HB 1108, Mahon believes it will likely pass because it's about improving instruction. The final outcome of the bill will dictate how Taylor's Education Department looks at its courses (specifically reading) and the courses' content.
"Do we need a standalone course?" Mahon said. "Do we need to add depth to the current courses that we have in reading? I know that we're addressing the topic, but to meet it with compliance to the new bill is what we'll have to look at."
Mahon also teaches a course dealing with critical issues impacting professionals within special education. One of the topics is how bills and new laws may impact daily practice.
Education, like any field, is going to change, according to Mahon. Part of Taylor's educational training process is preparing students to be professionals that advocate for appropriate changes.
Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in Marion, Ind., has already begun integrating multisensory instruction into some of its classes, according to Oliver, who is also dean of the School of Educational Leadership at IWU.
Indiana dyslexia groups, including Decoding Dyslexia and the International Dyslexia Association, have also worked with IWU in the past, hosting Orton-Gillingham (a multi-sensory intervention) training workshops at the university.
"We've offered Orton-Gillingham training, and we've had a number of teachers voluntarily take that so it'd be very easy for them (Indiana dyslexia groups) to partner up with the universities, and that could be one approach by which they satisfy the administrative rule," Oliver said.
Overall, Oliver feels the response to REPA III has been positive. At a Solutions Saturday event last week, over 230 teachers and parents attended to learn more about structured literacy instruction and multisensory technique, according to Oliver. He also hopes that when new teachers go out into the field, they can be a resource to veteran teachers who didn't have that training.
"We're seeing more professional educators ask for that kind of training, and I think what the board is trying to do with the current rules is ensure that future teachers that are just starting in the training program, that when they come out they are well prepared," Oliver said.
Update: House Bill 1108 passed the Indiana Senate Education Committee March 18. It will move onto the Senate in the coming weeks.