Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 48 into law, which ultimately would require all Georgia’s elementary schools to screen every kindergartener for dyslexia and a few other learning disorders (namely, aphasia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia) following a three-year pilot program to be started in 2020-2021. Additionally, training and teacher professional development will be updated to increase and improve the implementation of evidence-based practices for instructing students identified with or displaying characteristics of dyslexia and the other disorders.
In his opening remarks, Senate Education Committee Chair P.K. Martin (R-9th) the time has come where we “finally acknowledge dyslexia in our current code. We are putting forward effective and efficient tools for students to succeed.” To date, dyslexia has not appeared in our current Georgia code. Martin went on to thank the parents, students and child advocates in the room, “without you, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, which results in difficulties with specific language skills including reading, writing, and pronouncing words. An estimated 10-20% of the population has some symptoms of dyslexia, and research shows when teachers are trained to spot dyslexia early, 90% of children can be taught in a regular classroom.1
Last summer, Voices’ board member Phil Jacobs (Founding Partner, Pendleton Consulting Group) testified in front of the Senate Study Committee on Dyslexia. There Phil shared his own experiences struggling with dyslexia with committee members.
“I am very fortunate to have enjoyed a successful business and personal life over the past 45 years. However, success was not something I experienced during the first 8 years of my academic life. From the time I entered first grade, until well into my 8th grade year, I struggled mightily in school. My teachers, friends and even my parents came to accept the notion, as did I, that I was simply not a very bright child. In fact, I had come to believe that I well below average when it came to academics.”
Phil has had an extremely successful business career. He spent 34 years at BellSouth/AT&T, serving as President of Small Business Services for AT&T’s Southeast region and President of BellSouth’s Georgia operations. He currently serves as the board chair of the Woodruff Arts Center, and sits on the boards of the Georgia Aquarium, the East Lake Foundation, AdvancED, the Emory Global Health Institute and Voices for Georgia’s Children.
At the time, and drawing from his own experience, Phil presented several recommendations (developed by Voices in conjunction with Literacy for all and the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network) that were incorporated into the new law, including screening children prior to first grade and training all new teachers on identifying signs of dyslexia and how to best teach students with those signs.
Voices for Georgia’s Children is excited about the progress the state is making to identify and intervene with our state’s youngest learners to ensure they have a solid start in life.
For more, check out our factsheet on Learning Disabilities in Georgia.