TN Dyslexia Law & Official Guide

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On June 9, 2016, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam singed the historic Say Dyslexia Bill
into law. This law was the brainstorm of several parents and teachers across the state, sparked by the movement that is Decoding Dyslexia-TN, parent-led and grassroots.


The Tennessee Say Dyslexia Law took effect on July 1, 2016 and the Tennessee Dyslexia Advisory Council was formed. We are very proud to have two of our leaders on the Council.  Eileen Miller represents Dyslexia Advocacy Groups in Tennessee and Anna Thorsen represents Tennessee Parents.

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The Council is made up of the Tennessee Department of Education, teachers, advocates and parents from across the state. Learn more about the council at You also visit this site to watch Dyslexia Advisory Council meetings, get agendas for upcoming meetings and/or request to speak at a meeting.  Please note that meetings are open to the public and you are more than welcome to come watch a meeting in progress!

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 2.00.17 PMAfter a year of hard work by the Tennessee Dyslexia Advisory Council, the Tennessee Department of Education published the Tennessee Dyslexia Guide on May 25, 2017. It is a 52 page guidance document on Dyslexia in the State of Tennessee.

Read, review and print the TENNESSEE DYSLEXIA GUIDE here!

Here is the law broken down:

Section 1(a):
Key points:
– LEAs (districts) SHALL (must) use a universal screener that includes phonological and phonemic awareness, sound symbol recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, rapid naming and encoding skills. 
– This screening will be part of the standard universal screening procedures that the DOE already uses (this was to be fiscally responsible as we are a fiscally conservative state, but they MUST add in the above areas if those are not already being addressed by the LEA). Also, we added the words “or other available means” so the LEA is not tied down to RTI2.
– HOWEVER, in addition to the standard screening times, we also made sure that a parent/guardian, teacher, counselor or school psychologist can request this screening at ANY time. 

Why does it say characteristics of dyslexia? 
– Schools don’t diagnose anything, but they can screen/evaluate to see if a child qualifies for services. Thus, we used the terminology “screen for characteristics of dyslexia.”

If a child shows these characteristics, what happens next? 
Section 1(c) says:
The LEA shall:
– Notify the student’s parent/guardian
– Provide the student’s parent/guardian with information and resource material about dyslexia
– Provide the student with appropriate dyslexia-specific intervention (more on this in a moment)
– Monitor the student’s progress

* What is dyslexia-specific intervention? This law says: Section 1(f)(1): Dyslexia-specific intervention means evidence-based, specialized reading, writing and spelling instruction that is multisensory in nature, equipping students to simultaneously use multiple senses, such as vision, hearing, touch and movement. Dyslexia-specific intervention employs direct instruction of systematic and cumulative content, with the sequence beginning with the easiest and most basic elements and progress methodically to more difficult material. Each step must also be based on those already learned. Components of dyslexia-specific intervention include instruction targeting phonological awareness, sound symbol association, syllable structure, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

This law also: 

Section 1(d): The DOE SHALL (must) provide appropriate professional development resources for educators in the area of identification of and intervention methods for students with dyslexia.


Section 1(e): (This part is HUGE as this advisory council will shape the future):
Create an advisory council for the purpose of advising the DOE in matters related to dyslexia. The council shall consist of 9 members as follows (to serve 3 year terms):
– The Commissioner of Education
– And Education Specialist from the DOE
– A Representative from a Dyslexia Advocacy Group
– A special education teacher WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF DYSLEXIA
– An elementary school teacher
– A middle school teacher
– A high school teacher
– A parent of a child who has dyslexia
– A licensed speech-language pathologist



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