State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, discussed legislation she has filed this session to improve literacy rates among Oklahoma students.
Conley, now in her first term, serves in District 20, which includes an eastern portion of Garvin County.
Conley is running legislation that would add training requirements for teacher candidates to be trained in the science of reading and help them understand the characteristics of dyslexia, a measure that would require school boards to adopt a phonics curriculum for school districts, and a bill that would require an academic language counselor at all K-5 school sites.
“We have the tools to help every child in Oklahoma learn to read at an early age in our public schools,” Conley said in a released statement.
“My legislation would help teachers have easy access to these tools so they can recognize students who struggle earlier and get them the instruction they need to succeed at this most important skill.”
House Bill 3320 would amend the Oklahoma Teacher Preparation Act to require teacher candidates in early childhood, elementary and special education to study dyslexia characteristics in students and classroom instruction techniques as part of their competency-based preparation.
The measure also would require training to include methods to identify potential manifestations and issues associated with dyslexia in students in order to both recognize and meet the needs of these students.
Conley said she has heard about and seen heartbreaking instances of children who struggled for years with dyslexia under teachers who did not understand the characteristics of this disorder.
Once a child is properly diagnosed, however, rapid improvement in reading and other subjects is seen, and the child is put on a trajectory for educational success.
House Bill 3322, a new section of law, would require school districts to adopt a phonics curriculum with courses of instruction for kindergarten through third-grade students enrolled. School districts would still exclusively determine instruction, specific course curricula, reading lists and instructional materials to best meet the needs of their students.
Conley said phonics is the proven method to teach children to read. Yet, Oklahoma has allowed other methods such as whole language or balanced literacy that are not backed with evidenced-based research showing the same results.
House Bill 3326, amends the Oklahoma Teacher Requirement Act to require teacher candidates to study the science of reading, phonics instruction, not just what it is, but why it’s effective.
“Phonics will help all children succeed, including those with dyslexia and other reading difficulties, so we need to get back to teaching it in all Oklahoma schools,” she said.
House Bill 3325, a new section of law, would require school districts to have an academic language counselor at all sites that serve students in grades K-5. Academic language therapists, also known as, dyslexia therapists, are specifically trained to help address the struggles of students who have been identified as having manifestations of dyslexia.
“This addition to our schools will help those students struggling to read,” Conley adds. “Reading is not just another school subject. It is the foundation for all other learning.
“This legislation will help us move the needle in regards to outcomes in our schools. If we teach a child to read, we see better success in the workforce, better pay, better healthcare outcomes, lower incarceration rates and so many more benefits to the individual and society.”