Tackling Dyslexia in Tennessee Schools

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Education Commissioner Candice McQueen unveiled today a roster of education leaders and advocates to serve on the Dyslexia Advisory Council, a group designed to explore ways to screen students for characteristics of dyslexia and identify resources for teachers to support students with the characteristics of dyslexia.

"All students deserve the opportunity to succeed and receive the supports necessary to do so, regardless of learning differences," McQueen said. "This group of education leaders and advocates will bring insight and expertise as we discuss concrete ways we can strengthen our screening processes and interventions for students with dyslexia, ultimately preparing more students to be ready for the next step in their academic journeys."

The advisory council encompasses a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including educators, parents, and advocacy leaders with expertise in dyslexia from across the state. The group will meet quarterly beginning in fall 2016.

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The advisory council was established as part of the Say Dyslexia bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, and was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly during the 2016 legislative session. In addition to establishing the Dyslexia Advisory Council, the law also requires all students to be screened for the characteristics of dyslexia and provide appropriate interventions for students who are identified as having those characteristics.

"It is important to ensure we have the tools in place that give every child a chance to be successful," said Gresham.

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"The Say Dyslexia legislation enacted this session is a giant leap forward in helping Tennessee students with characteristics of dyslexia," Pitts said. "The advisory council is a central part of the act, and these citizens have an opportunity to help lead our state's efforts to help these students live up to their God-given potential. Thank you to the hundreds of parents, educators, and the department of education for their invaluable input and leadership in making this act a reality."

The advisory council will include the following members:

  • Theresa Nicholls, Director of School Psychology Services, Tennessee Department of Education
  • Eileen Miller, Advocate, Decoding Dyslexia Tennessee
  • Allison McAvoy, Special Education Teacher, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Melissa Miller-Benson, Elementary School Teacher, The Bodine School
  • Mercedes Chartrand, Middle School Teacher, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
  • Briana Patrick, High School Teacher, Lauderdale County Schools
  • Anna Thorsen, Parent
  • Morgan Ashworth, Speech Language Pathologist, Loudon County School District

The council also includes three ex-officio members with expertise in dyslexia: Emily Dempster with the International Dyslexia Association; Erin Alexander, a school psychologist and assistant director for clinical services at the Tennessee Center for Dyslexia; and Susan Porter, a district lead coach of instruction with Metro Nashville Public Schools. The council will submit a report to the General Assembly annually with their findings and associated recommendations as they continue to review and monitor dyslexia screening and intervention practices across the state.

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dyslexia, Murfreesboro schools, Rutherford County Schools, Tennessee schools
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