Los Angeles Learning Disabilities Association Newsletter

July 2018

LALDA has been granted 501 ( c) 3 status as a charitable organization by the U. S. Internal Revenue Service.  Any donations to us are fully tax deductable, and would be very much appreciated.  We continue to work on establishing a new statewide organization.

June 2018

Learning Disabilities Association of California  has ceased to exist.  Their board severed connections with  The Learning Disabilities Association of America and changed the corporate name. LALDA is assisting in the formation of a new state organization and intends to link through it to the national organization.  In the meantime, we are here to help any way we can .


March 2018

LALDA  has amended it’s Corporate Charter to remove all reference to the entity (whose name we are not supposed to mention) which “revoked” our charter as their affiliate.  We now stand alone as an independent body, a California Public Benefit Corporation, and have applied for independent recognition as a Non Profit Corporation under section 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code

We are continuing our work on behalf of the Learning Disabled and joining with other Organizations in their outreach efforts, such as Parent’s Place, Newman Aaronson Vanaman LLP, and Wrightslaw.  (See Upcoming Events page)

February 2018

Los Angeles Learning Disabilities Association

P.O. Box 1067 ~ Sierra Madre CA 91025


The Los Angeles Learning Disabilities Association Executive Committee believes it is time to make its membership and supporters aware of its current status. The Learning Disabilities Association of California Executive Committee voted to revoke the Charter of the Los Angeles Learning Disabilities Association during an online Special Board of Directors Meeting on September 28, 2017.  The action to revoke LALDA’s Charter was not on the agenda for that meeting.  The EC claimed that they revoked the LALDA Charter because it had not published an affiliate newsletter.

The LDA-CA Bylaws do not specify what constitutes a newsletter.  Due to financial constraints LALDA has not been able to publish a paper newsletter.  We have regularly distributed information regarding important issues affecting students and adults with Specific Learning Disabilities and other handicapping conditions, legislation and other important issues to our members on a regular basis.  LALDA was the only affiliate to lose its charter even though other affiliates had not provided their membership with newsletters.

LALDA challenged the action by LDA-CA to revoke its Charter by filing a complaint with the Learning Disabilities Association of America’s Grievance and Ethics Committee.  Previously LALDA filed a complaint regarding what it believed to be fiscal malfeasance of the LDA-CA EC.  In both cases LALDA was informed that LDA Bylaws and Policies do not give LDA the authority to resolve problems between local affiliates and state affiliates, even when there is documented evidence of a lack of fiduciary responsibility and malfeasance by the LDA-CA EC.

LALDA has made several requests to LDA-CA to seek the services of a mediator or arbitrator to assist us in resolving ongoing issues between LALDA and LDA-CA.

LDA-CA’s primary mission is to serve, advocate for, and protect the rights of those with Specific Learning Disabilities.  LDA-CA has chosen to use its considerable monetary resources to serve those with other handicapping conditions, such as autism, at a time when the needs of those with SLD are not being adequately addressed by California school districts and the California Department of Education.

LALDA is moving forward.  LALDA is currently in the process of forming a new organization.  Paperwork has been submitted to the California Secretary of State to change its status from a subordinate chartered chapter of the Learning Disabilities Association of California to an independent corporation.  Once this process has been completed LALDA will apply for a new 501(c) 3 federal tax exemption.

The Executive Committee has been financially supporting LALDA for an extended period of time.  LDA-CA stopped sending LALDA’s portion of membership money once they revoked our Charter.  LALDA continues to pay for its internet, phone, website, post office box and other expenses with funds donated by its Executive Committee.

If you have legal knowledge, or know of a lawyer who would be willing to give us pro bono legal advice, we would be very grateful.  We have talked to many lawyers regarding our situation.  None of the lawyers we contacted provide pro bono legal advice.  Attorneys have advised us that our case would need to be litigated and go to court.  This would require thousands of dollars.

LALDA hopes that you believe that it provides a voice for children and adults with SLD and other handicapping conditions.  We provide information and assistance to many parents, adults and the community who seek our assistance.

There is a positive in this very sad circumstance. LDA-CA has been unwilling to acknowledge or act on behalf of those with Specific Learning Disabilities for some time.  Disassociating from LDA-CA will give LALDA the ability to act individually and jointly with other organizations and groups advocating for the rights of children and adults with SLD and other disabilities.

Judy McKinley – President

Diane Kerchner – Vice President

Cathy Fickas – Secretary

William McKinley – Treasurer

Zella Knight – Member at Large



The International Dyslexia Association, Los Angeles Branch


Language and Learning

Saturday, March 3, 2018 – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

UCLA Carnesale Commons

Keynote Speaker

Eric Tridas, M.D., FAAP

Medical Director of the Tridas Center for Child Development, Clinical Associate Professor in Pediatrics at University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, member of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD).

                        Oren Boxer, Ph.D. & Krista Greenfield, Psy.D. – Visual Spatial Deficits and Reading

                        Carol Clark, M.A. – Structured Literacy the IDA Way  *

                        Diane M. Danis, M.D., M.P.H. – Non-Traditional Approaches to ADHD

                        Kimberly Davis, M.Ed. – Addressing Executive Function

                        Lainie Donnell, M.A., ET/P – Experience Dyslexia Simulation

                        Ken Goodman, L.C.S.W. – Anxious Kids, Concerned Parents

                        MaryLynne Gyster, M.A. & Doug Hinko, M.A. – Digital Writing Tools

                        Kathy Spielman – Paraphrasing:  A SIM Strategy

Visit www.dyslexia.org for conference details.





September 7, 2018


Pat Howey will teach you how to keep your sanity while you advocate for your child in Special Education 



1000 N. Alameda Street – Los Angeles 90012

Next to Union Station

Free Parking





                                  Before June 30, 2018                           After June 30, 2018

        Parents                         $115                                                    $135

        Professionals              $135                                                    $160

Registration includes lunch.

Limited parent scholarships will be available on a first come basis.



California State Council on Development Disabilities – Los Angeles Office

Questions? Call Julie Eby-McKenzie at (818) 543-4631 or email her at julie.eby-mckenzie@scdd.ca.gov .

Family Focus Resource Center(818)677-6854

FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder) NETWORK OF Southern California –

(760) 582-1266

Learning Rights Law Center(213)489-4030

Los Angeles Learning Disabilities Association – (626)355-0240



California Advisory Commission on Special Education

February 21 & February 22

The California Advisory Commission on Special Education is meeting on February 21 and 22 in Sacramento.  The link to the ACSE is https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/as/acse.asp.  Please take time to look at the agenda.  You can watch all of the meeting, or the parts you are interested in, live.   The needs of students with Specific Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and ADHD are rarely addressed even though they are by far the largest percentage of children with disabilities in California.  There are too few stakeholders representing their populations who attend these meetings.   If you can not watch the live broadcast please take time to look at previous  meetings and agendas.

Feds Disclose Schools Under Investigation

For Disability Discrimination

Michelle Diament

Disability Scoop, February 8, 2018

The U.S. Department of Education is making it easier to find out when a school is under investigation for violating the civil rights of students with disabilities.

For the first time, the federal agency is posting information on its website about all pending claims against schools and colleges being investigated by its Office for Civil Rights.

The searchable listing includes cases alleging discrimination based on disability in addition to race and national origin, sex, age and equal access.

Previously, the Department of Education only posted a list of cases related to sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the agency. The only way to find out about an open disability discrimination investigation was to inquire.

“We’ve expanded the list to include all OCR open investigations in an effort to increase transparency and access to information,” Hill said.

The listing of pending cases, which first became available in late January, is updated on the first Wednesday of each month.

Currently, the Education Department reports that it’s investigating or working to resolve 4,709 cases of alleged disability discrimination related to everything from accessibility and discipline to service animals, restraint and seclusion and accessing a free appropriate public education.

Each case is listed with the name of the academic institution, location, type of alleged discrimination and the date an investigation was opened.

Federal officials emphasize that a pending case does not indicate that a school is at fault, but merely that the Office for Civil Rights determined the complaint had sufficient merit to investigate further.

Click on the link


The link takes you to the Disability Scoop article.  Click on the words searchable listingThe US Department of Education website appears.  You will see OCR-Office for Civil Rights.

Scroll down to Pending cases currently under investigation at Elementary-Secondary and Post Secondary Schools as of February 2, 2018 – 7:30 am Search.  Below that click on Disability Discrimination.  The list shows cases by state across the country.


SERR is a very easy to understand resource for parents.

Go to disabilityrightsca.org.   Click on Publications and Resources.  You will find the SERR Manual under top 10 publications.  It is number 1 on that list.

Published by Disability Rights California.

(213)213-8000 –  350 South Bixel Street –  Los Angeles 90017 – Toll Free (800)776-5746


October 2017

As of September 28, 2017, the Los Angeles Learning Disabilities Association is no longer an affiliate of the Learning Disabilities Association of California.  We continue to offer our services to the learning disabilities community while seeking clarification of our status with LDA of America.


September 2017

Editor’s note:   Although the following is specific to dyslexia, much of it applies to those with Specific Learning Disabilities

How American schools fail kids with dyslexia

By Emily Hanford

Dayne Guest graduated from high school in 2016. He had been working construction but quit, knowing that wasn’t what he wanted do with his life. Today Guest’s options are limited because he struggles to read. When he opens a book, he sees “just a whole bunch of words, a whole bunch of letters lined up.”

His mom, Pam Guest, knew something wasn’t right when Dayne was in kindergarten. “In the mornings when students came into the classroom, they would write that they’d brought their lunch or that they were going to purchase lunch in the cafeteria,” she said. “And Dayne always walked right past that board and sat down.”

Teachers said Dayne would catch up, but by the end of first grade, he still wasn’t reading.

Pam thought her son might have dyslexia. But the teachers said no. It went on like this for years: Pam suspecting Dayne was dyslexic, the schools saying no, and Pam believing them because they were the education experts.

At the end of Dayne’s senior year in high school, Pam learned she had a legal right to an evaluation. The school tested him, and the report said Dayne had weaknesses “often seen in students diagnosed with reading disabilities including dyslexia.”

“But they would not say that he was dyslexic,” said Pam. “And I asked the psychologist why, and she said we would never say that a student is dyslexic. And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘It is not in our realm of professionalism to say that a student is dyslexic.'”

Dyslexia laws by state

As of September 2017, 40 states had some sort of dyslexia law or regulation on the books and four states had legislation pending. Explore your state.

The reluctance to confirm that a child is “dyslexic” goes beyond avoiding a label that could harm kids. Public schools nationwide have long refused to use the word, allowing many of them to avoid providing special education services as required by federal law. According to dozens of interviews with parents, students, researchers, lawyers and teachers across the country, many public schools are not identifying students with dyslexia and are ignoring their needs.

While scientists estimate that between 5 and 12 percent of children in the United States have dyslexia, just 4.5 percent of students in public schools are diagnosed with a “specific learning disability,” a category that includes dyslexia and other learning disabilities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, while schools routinely screen children for hearing impairment, a problem that occurs much less frequently than dyslexia, screening for dyslexia is rare.

Moreover, most students who are diagnosed with dyslexia aren’t identified until at least third grade, according to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, and author of Overcoming Dyslexia. She says it is not unusual for dyslexics to go unrecognized until adolescence and beyond, a systemic shortcoming that effectively abandons struggling young readers during the most critical years of learning.

When children are identified with dyslexia, public schools often lack staff with the appropriate training to help, according to several studies and reports.

And yet, there are proven ways to teach people with dyslexia how to read that are not new or controversial. Research suggests that if all children were taught to read using approaches that work for students with dyslexia, reading achievement would improve overall.

According to the most recent federal data, more than 60 percent of fourth-graders in the United States are not proficient readers. Students who struggle to read are more likely to drop out of high school, to end up in the criminal justice system, and to live in poverty.

Students at or above proficient reading level

Source: The Nation’s Report Card

‘It was almost like we were disagreeing over reality’

When Billy Gibson, 18, was in elementary school, he couldn’t spell his own name. “I would get all the letters backwards,” he said. “The worst thing for me was figuring out between lower case ‘b’ and ‘d.’ I would always get those mixed up.”

He bombed all his spelling tests. He says his teacher would respond by sending him to the hall with the kid who did best on the test. “I remember her saying, like, ‘See if you can teach this kid how to spell these words.’ The teacher just didn’t have the time for me.”

Billy says he came to think of himself as the dumb kid who spent a lot of time in the hall. He didn’t know he was dyslexic. Neither did his parents.

Upper Arlington

Read about an Ohio school district that changed the way all kids are taught to read.

“We knew something wasn’t right,” said Billy’s mom, Maggie Gibson.

“You can tell things are off, but you don’t know specifically what,” said Rob, Billy’s father.

The Gibsons, from Baltimore County, Maryland, have five kids. All of them have dyslexia. They know, because they paid thousands of dollars for private testing.

But when the Gibsons showed the test results to their children’s schools, administrators didn’t buy it, says Rob. “The schools essentially said, ‘Yeah, we understand this is a test showing abnormalities from a reputed institution that recommends a child with dyslexia have this, that and the other. And, oh, we don’t agree with it.’ And when we go to that disagreement it was almost like we were disagreeing over reality.”

The Gibsons gave APM Reports an audio recording of the meeting where they discussed the test results with staff at their son Eddie’s school. In the recording, a staff member says, “We do not suspect a learning disability.”

The Gibsons wanted their children to have Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. Those are the specialized education plans that students with disabilities who are behind in school are entitled to by federal law.

But in the recording, the school staff says Eddie can’t have a disability because he has passing grades and average standardized test scores.

More than a dozen families across the country interviewed by APM Reports reported getting into similar fights with their child’s school. Parents say their children figure out ways to compensate for their dyslexia and get by in school, but they aren’t being taught to read. Children with dyslexia need specialized reading instruction.

But specialized instruction is expensive. The average cost to educate a student in public school is about $12,500, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The cost to educate a child receiving special education services can be more than twice that. When the federal special education law first went into effect in 1975, Congress committed to covering 40 percent of the extra cost of educating children with disabilities. But the federal government is only covering slightly more than 15 percent. States and local districts pay for the rest.

That’s one reason schools have avoided using the word dyslexia, according to Fran Bowman, a former special education teacher who now runs an educational services company that works with school districts to train teachers. “They would say, ‘We don’t use the word dyslexia.’ Because once you open Pandora’s box, you have to serve those children.”

In other words, if schools acknowledge a student has dyslexia, they may be legally obligated to provide special education.

Six special education directors from around the country interviewed by APM Reports denied their schools were refusing to use the word dyslexia to keep students out of special ed.

Kevin Gorman, director of special education in Upper Arlington, Ohio, and a former school principal in another Ohio district, said schools were avoiding the word because it wasn’t a term used by the state on IEP forms. Instead, the state used the umbrella term “specific learning disability.” Gorman explained that schools are so concerned about adhering to the letter of the law that they are reluctant to use terms that do not appear on official paperwork.

Avoiding the word was such a problem in schools across the country that in 2015 the U.S. Department of Education issued a special letter reminding schools that not only can they used the word dyslexia, they should use the word if it can help them tailor an appropriate education plan for a student.

It’s a legal requirement for schools to identify all children who have disabilities and provide them an “appropriate” education. But many schools have resisted the approaches to reading instruction that students with dyslexia need — and that would help all children read better — because of a long-running dispute about how to teach children to read.

The reading wars

You can trace the debate in the United States about how to teach kids to read all the way back to Horace Mann, the father of the public schools movement. In the 1800s, Mann railed against the idea of teaching kids that letters represent sounds. He believed children would better understand what they were reading if they first learned to read whole words.

This came to be known as the “whole language” approach. On the other side of the debate are people who say children must be explicitly taught how sounds correlate with letters. This is commonly referred to as the “phonics” approach.

Michael Yudin signed a letter on behalf of the Department of Education encouraging schools to use the word dyslexia. In this video, he discusses what the letter means.

The argument over which approach is best has been intense and political, with phonics cast as a traditional, conservative approach. Think of children sitting in front of a blackboard, sounding out words as a teacher points to the letters that represent each sound.

Whole language, on the other hand, holds that learning to read is a natural process and that kids don’t need explicit instruction. Expose them to lots of good books and they will learn to read. That approach is seen as the more liberal, progressive way.

As with many ideas in education, there have been big pendulum shifts over the decades. Whole language was big in the 1920s, for example, as progressive education became influential. The pendulum swung back toward phonics in the 1960s. By the 1980s, whole language was popular again.

Bowman, the former special education teacher, got extensive training in phonics in the 1970s and used that approach early in her teaching career. But she says she soon got a supervisor who told her she wasn’t allowed to teach phonics. “You should be teaching by the entire word, instead of these little sounds,” she recalls the supervisor telling her.

Bowman says teaching kids to read using the whole language approach doesn’t require as much teacher training as learning to teach using phonics. She thinks that’s one reason whole language has been so attractive. “School districts were like ‘Wow!’ we can just give you a bunch of books!”

Proponents of whole language say the approach is more than that. They promote a set of strategies that emphasize comprehension, engagement, and helping children to develop a love of literature.

But by the late 1990s, there was rising panic in the United States that too many kids were not reading well. Scores on the National Assessment for Educational Progress showed most students were not reading proficiently.

In 1997, Congress called for a National Reading Panel to determine how best to teach reading. It reviewed more than 100,000 studies and in 2000, the panel published a 449-page report that was a crushing blow to the whole language movement. There was no evidence to show whole language worked and lots of evidence that teaching children the relationship among sounds, letters and spelling patterns improves reading achievement.

This is for all kids, not just those with dyslexia.

Andrea Rowson was teaching in a public school in Ohio when the report was released, but she says she didn’t learn about the findings until years later. “What
happens in public education is a lot of initiatives come through, a lot of information gets thrown at schools. New regulations, new this, new that,” she said. “And I think it was just one of those things where (schools) said ‘OK’ and didn’t really realize how huge it was.”

‘I’m not going to be anything. I don’t have any dreams’

In 2012 when the public schools in Baltimore County refused to give the Gibson children IEPs, Rob and Maggie decided to hire a lawyer. “All we wanted was to secure their right to learn in public school,” said Maggie.

Their son Billy was in middle school and struggling. “It just got so overwhelming,” he said. “I would just constantly have these anxiety attacks and it got to a point where I refused to go to school.”

Trying to get him the help he needed for his dyslexia was turning into a long and contentious process. Maggie and Rob felt that for Billy and his older sister, time was running out. They decided to send them to the Jemicy School, a private school for students with language-based learning differences in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Jemicy has about 380 students in grades one through 12. The hallways are covered in student artwork and there’s a woodworking shop where students can take geometry. For students who struggle with written language, learning by doing is especially helpful.

Class sizes at Jemicy are capped at 12. The school also provides intensive reading remediation in small-group tutoring sessions.

In a recent tutoring session, Josie and Christopher — fifth-graders in their first year at Jemicy — were seated at a table with a teacher. They were working on the letter combination double vowel “oo.”

“What are the two sounds that ‘oo’ make?” the teacher asked.

Christopher responded confidently with the long vowel sound that “oo” makes in the word “school.” But there’s another sound “oo” makes. Josie and Christopher didn’t catch on. “‘Uh’ as in ‘book,'” said the teacher.

This tutoring is based on an approach known as Orton-Gillingham, named after Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham, early 20th century pioneers in dyslexia research and remediation. They figured out that children with dyslexia struggle to understand how sounds and letters correspond. To teach them to read, they need to be explicitly taught the rules of the way written language works. Orton and Gillingham developed a systematic approach for doing this. Their ideas form the basis for a number of effective instructional approaches in use today.

When Billy Gibson started at Jemicy as a ninth grader, he wasn’t sure he would finish high school. His dream was to be an artist, but his middle school art teacher gave him C’s because he didn’t follow written directions. Billy went into Jemicy thinking, “I’m not going to be anything. I don’t have any dreams.”

But Jemicy’s small classes and intensive reading instruction helped him catch up and gave him confidence he’d never felt in school. On his first day, he says an art teacher noticed him doodling and told him she thought he could be a great artist. “You should take my class,” Billy remembers her saying to him. “I won’t give up on you.”

Billy graduated from Jemicy in 2017. He’s now studying 3D computer animation at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. His goal is to work in the film industry. “Hopefully someday you’ll be in the movie theater and see my name on the credits of the big screen,” he said.

Billy’s mom Maggie noticed a difference at Jemicy right away. As the parent of kids with dyslexia in public school, she says you get used to being in fight mode. “You’re fighting for it to be recognized that your kid needs X, Y and Z,” she said. “And then you go into Jemicy and you have a teacher conference and the teachers sit down and say, ‘You know, we think your child would benefit from this, this and this. And we notice that your child needs’ — whatever it is. And you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! We’re speaking the same language. We’re all noticing the same thing.'”

But to send two kids to Jemicy cost more than $60,000 a year. Maggie and Rob are fortunate: He’s a physician and they got financial help from their children’s grandparents. But five private school tuitions weren’t in their budget. So, with their lawyer, the Gibsons kept fighting with the Baltimore County Public Schools to try to get their three other kids better help.

The Gibsons eventually got the school system to pay for two of their children to go to Baltimore Lab School, a private school for students with learning disabilities. The Gibsons don’t think they would have gotten that if they hadn’t hired an attorney. Getting what you need for a kid with dyslexia is a rich man’s game, says Maggie. The Gibsons estimate their family has spent more than $350,000 — including legal fees, private tutoring and tuition — to get their five dyslexic kids what they needed to be successful in school.

Without help from grandparents, Maggie says she and Rob probably couldn’t have made private school work. “What does a person do that doesn’t have the luxury of other people to help them?” she said. “What do you do?”

Pam Guest, for example, did not have the financial means to send her son Dayne to private school. “I talk to a lot of upper-class white families who were able to take their kids out and send them to private school. Those kids are doing well now, and they’re able to go to college,” she said. “And we didn’t have that opportunity.”

Dayne went to the Baltimore County Public Schools, too. There’s no evidence that Baltimore County has more of a problem than other public school systems when it comes to identifying and providing proper instruction to students with dyslexia. But officials with the Baltimore County Schools are now admitting they have a problem.
“We need to do better,” said Rebecca Rider, who’s been director of special education for the Baltimore County Public Schools since 2014. Under her leadership, the school system has begun to train teachers in Orton-Gillingham. Before this effort began in 2016, the county schools did not have anyone trained to provide this instruction.

Stephen Cowles, a lawyer for BCPS, said the school system is making more of an effort to identify students with dyslexia. As a result, he says the county is paying for more students to go to private schools. In the 2016 fiscal year, the county paid nearly $40 million dollars for students with disabilities who could not be appropriately served in public schools to go to specialized private schools. BCPS couldn’t say how much of that money is being spent on students with dyslexia.

But helping students with dyslexia is not just about expanding special education services. Research suggests that if students with dyslexia got effective early reading instruction in their regular classrooms, some of them may not need intensive, specialized instruction. The problem is that many teachers do not know how to teach reading effectively.

Thousands of teacher preparation programs

In 2000, the National Reading Panel identified five key components of effective reading instruction. Ten years later, the U.S. Department of Education decided to find out whether people coming out of teacher preparation programs had learned those five components.

New teachers could correctly answer only about half the questions on a multiple-choice test. They rated their own preparation in how to teach reading as below “moderate.”

What is dyslexia?

Read an interview with neuroscientist Guinevere Eden.

In 2016, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a think tank in Washington, D.C., analyzed syllabi from undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programs and found that fewer than 40 percent covered all the components of effective reading instruction. And that was a big improvement from 2014 when NCTQ found just 17 percent of teacher preparation programs taught all five components.

What are teachers learning about how to teach children to read?

“We learned a lot about creating a literature-rich environment,” said Rowson, the Ohio teacher. She got her initial training in the 1980s and says she learned nothing about phonics; in fact, she says her professors were against the idea of explicitly teaching children the relationship between sounds and letters. She learned the whole language approach.

Rowson says she didn’t learn how to teach children to read until she was trained in Orton-Gillingham. She now trains teachers in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a school district that has significantly changed how it teaches reading in response to a formal complaint filed by a group of parents.

Amelia Smith, a teacher in Upper Arlington who got her degree in elementary and special education in 2012, says by then there was recognition that phonics was important. “We knew what it was but we weren’t taught how to teach it,” she said.

One reason teachers are not being better prepared to teach reading is there’s still an ideological fight going on about whole language versus phonics, according to Jule McCombes-Tolis, chief academic officer for educator training initiatives at the International Dyslexia Association. She spent more than two decades as a professor in teacher preparation programs. “The division in higher ed in reading is alive and well,” she said.

McCombes-Tolis says in the wake of the National Reading Panel report, many teacher educators who believed in the whole language approach promoted the idea of “balanced literacy” instead.

But balanced literacy is basically whole language with some phonics mixed in, says Tim Shanahan, a literacy expert who served on the National Reading Panel. “Balanced literacy began as the notion of a different attempt to try to settle the reading wars. It’s supposed to be the best of both worlds.”

Shanahan says what’s wrong with balanced literacy is that it combines a whole bunch of things that don’t work with a little bit of what does work, and that’s not good reading instruction. He thinks a big problem with teacher preparation programs is that many of the people who are teaching the reading instruction courses don’t know the science of reading that well.

“The folks who teach these courses range in their knowledge dramatically,” he said. Enroll in a teacher preparation program and your instructor might have a Ph.D. and be familiar with the latest research, says Shanahan. But “you could have somebody who — this person teaches four other things for us and we’ll give them an extra course in reading instruction. They have last year’s syllabus and they do their best,” he said.

There are thousands of teacher preparation programs in the United States and there’s very little oversight of them. In higher education, the faculty typically controls the curriculum. There is no one authority to hold accountable for how teachers in America are trained.

States do have some power and many are trying to exert more control over what gets taught in teacher preparation programs as well as what is happening in public schools when it comes to students with dyslexia.

As of this month, 40 states have some sort of dyslexia law or regulation on the books. The laws and regulations vary widely. Some require graduates of teacher preparation programs to pass science of reading tests; others encourage public schools to provide teacher training on how to identify dyslexia. Most of these laws have passed in the past few years partly due to parent advocacy groups pushing for change


Comments or questions to lalda.org@lalda.org or call (626) 355-7407