Too many dumb laws are passed. How many new state laws have passed since 2000? Thousands. Members of the Assembly and Senate proposed hundreds of new laws during 2014, and Gov. Brown acted on almost 1,100, signing 930 bills into law, and vetoing 143.

Last year’s legislative output included these three laws: (a) banning the display or sale of the Confederate flag, (b) preventing schools from expellinDysg unruly students, and
(c) appointing the California red-legged frog as the state’s official amphibian. A new bill passed this year by the Assembly and the Senate is a doozy, a bill that Gov. Brown is poised to sign, a bill mandating the teaching of dyslexia, and evidence of gross legislative ignorance about language learning and education in general.

Word meanings change. Several decades ago, a member of an upper-class family might have bragged, “I live in Beverly Hills, I drive a Mercedes, and my oldest son has dyslexia.” Today, dyslexia is no longer a status symbol, instead often used as a synonym for learning disability.

Different words and phrases have been used during different periods to identify persons trying to read their native language but who do not read well or who encounter difficulty learning to read. During the 1920s, poor reading was attributed to strephosymbolia, which in later decades became minimal brain damage, perceptually handicapped, educationally handicapped, neurologically dysfunctional, phonic deaf (my favorite), and other descriptors. Psychiatrists often used nonpsychotic organic brain syndrome to refer to persons with this same condition: a nonproficient reader.

Assembly Bill Number 1369 requires teachers to use dyslexia to identify students with dyslexia and to improve educational services to dyslexics by using dyslexia: “The Superintendent [of Public Instruction] shall develop program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, etc. (Try rereading the sentence, but the absence of a comma after for [overcoming] dyslexia changes the intended meaning entirely from writing guidelines to help struggling readers to using dyslexia for diagnosing dyslexia, and more.) Extend the volume bar below to the right as needed. Click left and just below the sound bar to listen:

 

Did Assemblymember Jim Frazier, author of AB 1369, and other legislators intend to write a bill that offers ample evidence of dysgraphia—and multiple educational deficiencies? No, but they did. Here is the exact language:

The Superintendent [of Public Instruction] shall develop program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve educational services to pupils with dyslexia. For purposes of this section, “educational services” means an evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach to instructing pupils who have dyslexia. (Section 56335, SEC. 2, California Education Code)

Too many provisions in AB 1369 are contradictory and meaningless. There are no “educational services” for dyslexics with strong empirical support. In fact, evidence-based instruction and evidence-based educational services are empty phrases. Valid evidence is also lacking for “multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach[es].”

As part of its What Works Clearinghouse, the U.S. Department of Education regularly reviews evidence for the effectiveness of instructional programs in many subject areas. This writer challenges readers of this blog to identify any study reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse that fulfills the criteria for the evidence-based education and services specified in AB 1369.

The content in this soon-to-be law does not make sense. It would challenge me to write a more absurd bill. Nevertheless, the governor will sign it, adding more unneeded and pointless provisions to an already copious State Education Code. But until a comma is inserted into this text, it is a teacher’s duty and responsibility—and the law—to teach dyslexia. Having added dyslexia to the Common Core Standards, let the educational follies begin. I can hardly wait to see the evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach to teaching dyslexia.