By Jessica Mathews /

The Senate has approved a bi-partisan plan that includes a bill sponsored by a local lawmaker to provide critical help for students with dyslexia through improved educator training and more stringent student screening.

Republican Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township said Michigan has never had a statewide, coordinated strategy to help children with dyslexia, until now.

Theis chairs the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee and sponsored Senate Bill 381. It would require teacher preparation institutions to offer instruction on the characteristics of dyslexia, the consequences of dyslexia, evidence-based interventions and accommodations for children with dyslexia, and methods to develop a classroom infrastructure that meets the needs of students with a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) in place.

Theis said “We must remove the stigma from dyslexia and make sure our students are getting the support they need to ensure they’re getting the education they deserve. Literacy, perhaps more than anything else, is the key to unlocking a limitless future of possibility and success.”

Other measures included in the package are:

• SB 380 to require school districts to screen students in grades K-3 (and certain students in grades 4-12) for reading difficulties using a universal screening assessment. If the assessment shows a child is having trouble learning to decode, the school district must ensure support is provided in the form of MTSS.

• SB 382 to require that “professional” level teaching certificates are only issued after an individual has received instruction on the six areas outlined in SB 381. According to the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, about one in five students has a reading disorder. It is estimated that most of these students may have some form of dyslexia — a minimum of 5% to 10% of the population — which is between 108,000 to 217,000 children in Michigan alone.

• SB 383 to establish a resource advisory committee of experts to help public schools make sure no students fall through the cracks.

The bills now head to the House for consideration.