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Back Updated: October 9, 2017

Dyslexia: What’s New in Minnesota?

Minnesota school districts are currently required to develop a local literacy plan to ensure that all students are reading well by no later than the end of third grade (Minn. Stat. § 120B.12). Minnesota school districts are also now required to report K-2 summary reading data, reading disability identification efforts and provision of alternate instruction along with their Local Literacy Plans to the Minnesota Education Commissioner by July 1 of each year.

During the 2017 legislative session, new language was added to the “Reading Well by Third grade” law (Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.12) that included three new school district requirements:

  • Reporting of districts’ efforts to screen and identify students with dyslexia (a reading disability related to an inability to sound out [decode and encode] words).1
  • Reporting of districts’ efforts to screen and identify students with convergence insufficiency disorder (a condition in which your eyes are unable to work together when reading).2
  • Provision of alternate instruction before special education assessment referral consistent with Minnesota Statutes, section 125A.56 for students not reading on grade level.3

Minnesota Statutes, section  120B.122 was also recently signed into law. This statute requires the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to employ a dyslexia specialist to provide technical assistance for dyslexia and related disorders to schools and to serve as the primary source of information and support for schools in addressing the needs of students with dyslexia and related disorders.

The Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) latest guidance titled, Revising Local Literacy Plans to Include “Efforts to Identify Students with Dyslexia” encourages early identification. The MDE emphasizes that  unlike other students who may be learning English or who have had limited exposure to reading instruction, students with dyslexia do not respond to the same instruction delivered within in the classroom even when provided with additional instruction time. Students with dyslexia need explicit, systematic, phonemic, phonetic, multi-sensory, intensive evidence-based practice with word sounds and word recognition to make appropriate progress.

MDE has published another recent guidance document related to Convergence Insufficiency.4 MDE’s Convergence Insufficiency Fact Sheet, directs school districts to do the following if parents provide the school with a diagnosis from a licensed eye care specialist, optometrist or ophthalmologist:

  • Review the impact on student access to curriculum and reading progress just as with any other diagnosed disorder or disability.
  • Provide interventions calculated to develop reading skills that are underdeveloped due to limitations with coordinating vision.
  • Conduct a 504 evaluation to develop a plan for accommodations which will assist the student with reading more easily, and/or
  • Conduct a comprehensive evaluation for an Individual Education Program to determine eligibility for specialized instruction.

According to MDE, schools should evaluate for a disability (section 504 or special education services) anytime students do not make reading progress or progress is limited after additional instruction time is given or other interventions attempted.
Please call to speak with a PACER advocate if you have questions about this article or you are concerned about your child’s lack of progress in reading.

1 Individuals with dyslexia need support in matching sounds to letters, hearing the sounds, and efficiently sounding out increasingly complex words. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability.

2Convergence insufficiency is often confused with dyslexia because students experience many of the same symptoms as with dyslexia. Individuals with convergence insufficiency must be diagnosed by specific tests completed by a trained optometrist or ophthalmologist. The most recognized treatment for convergence insufficiency is vision therapy in a clinician’s office with home reinforcement.

3 However, under federal law, Interventions Cannot Be Used to Delay-Deny an Evaluation For Eligibility under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. See OSEP Memorandum 11-07, issued on January 21, 2011, OSEP Letter to Brekken (June 2, 2010) and letter to State Directors issued April 29, 2016.

4 Convergence Insufficiency is a condition in which your eyes are unable to work together when looking at nearby objects. It can cause difficulty reading, for which parents or teachers might suspect the child has learning difficulties rather than an eye disorder. Vision therapy to address the condition is usually effective.