Why statewide dyslexia testing in pre-K is wrong

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I am now going to explain why it is harmful to tell a child and a child’s parents — while they are in pre-K — that they have or could have dyslexia based on a screening tool, especially when the “experts” say that 1 in 5 actually have the brain disorder.

Teachers in pre-K, and teachers in early grades for that matter, are generally reluctant to use the red pen to provide corrective feedback on student writing. Students have been encouraged to use “invented spelling” and when they reverse a letter or number when writing they are permitted to proceed with the error.

The best way would be to catch the error early on in the formation of letters so that they do not practice it incorrectly. If the student continues to practice the incorrect way without teacher feedback accompanied by practice using the correct way, it becomes harder to change later.

I have seen entire classes of kindergarteners where close-up models are not provided and corrective feedback is not given, with a vast majority reversing letters and numbers.

I have seen the opposite, in the same school, where a competent teacher quietly oversees the proper formation of the letters and numbers with 100 percent success.

Any first-grade teacher can verify that who the kindergarten teacher is makes a big difference. If a screening tool is used and the students have not had proper feedback from a teacher, they could be potentially diagnosed with what has been called an incurable brain disorder. This may have been prevented with proper instruction.

Yes, dyslexia is a real brain disorder, however, it is very easy to make a mistake. The solution, some have said, to dyslexia, is a certain reading program that uses phonics.

Why isn’t everyone using that program? If they used a proper program such as the one recommended to aid in recognizing letter sounds and preventing writing reversals, why do we even need a diagnosis?

The dyslexia lobby is very strong. The president of a dyslexia organization was on the study committee that recommended the bill. The cost of the screening is $8 per student, but if further testing is needed for the anticipated 1 in 5 students who don’t pass the screening in pre-K, the cost will increase.

One also should consider the lifelong costs associated with mistakes made in misdiagnosis. The dyslexia lobby has taken the “diagnosis” out of the hands of teachers, making it illegal for teachers to administer.

Teachers are also handicapped by federal and state regulations that hamper their ability to teach students with tried-and-true reading methods. Instead, other mandatory tests judge teachers on how fast students can call out words, forcing the students to rush the reading process.

I hope that our Georgia representatives will consult with more teachers and parents before they decide to pass SB 48. We all love our children and want them to do well, but more research is needed to find better ways to teach reading that may not involve contracting with a large multi-national firm to administer a dyslexia test that everyone has to take in pre-K, especially when 1 in 5 could potentially be labeled with an incurable brain disorder.

Anyone can diagnose a problem. Who can solve it? There are teachers and parents in Georgia who have the cure. Let’s take some time to listen to them.

Mary Kay Bacallao
Fayetteville, Ga.