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10:55 am CST - December 14, 2007

Posted under On The Record

The Texas Journey of Dyslexia


By Dr. ElsaCardenas-Hagan
Published: 12-14-07

Interviewing Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, member of the State Board of Education since 1984 and former Chair from 2003-2007 for The International Dyslexia Association

Texas was one of the first states to pass a law to protect and provide services for students with dyslexia.  In fact, there is a lengthy history of dyslexia advocacy in Texas.  It began with determined parents looking to address the needs of their own children who were struggling with learning to read.  These parents were instrumental in the success of their own children, and their efforts benefited many others, as well.

A Special Parent
One such parent was Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas, Texas. She was relentless in her efforts to find answers for her son who was experiencing academic difficulties.  Mrs. Miller knew her son was very bright, and by the time he was 13, standardized tests confirmed his high intellectual ability.  However, her son continued to have difficulty with subjects such as language arts.

                     “Texas was one of the first states
                        to pass a law to protect and provide
                        services for students with dyslexia”.
        
While pursuring a masters in science degree in reading and seeking assistance for her son, Tincy began training and working in the reading laboratory at the Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, Texas.  It was the Scottish Rite Hospital and Dr. Lucias Waites who finally provided Tincy with the answers she had been seeking. 

At age 19, her son was finally diagnosed with dysgraphia, and it was further determined he was in the gifted range for intelligence.  The label was a relief to Tincy and her family because now they could get help and answers to their questions.  Tincy continued her quest for answers not only to assist her son, but also to help other parents whose children were experiencing difficulties with this invisible learning disability.

Educational Reform Efforts
In 1983, Texas Governor Mark White began an educational reform effort.  He appointed Ross Perot, a former presidential candidate and businessman, to chair a blue-ribbon committee to study education in Texas schools.  The result was the passage of the most comprehensive education reform in the history of Texas. However, as the standards and expectations were raised, provisions were not made for the children who historically “fall through the cracks” of public education, such as, students with dyslexia.

Meanwhile, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller had a dream to continue her advocacy work by serving on the newly appointed State Board of Education where she could reach out and prevent children with dyslexia from falling behind and dropping out.  In 1984, she was nominated by Sen. O.H. “Ike” Harris and appointed by Governor Mark White.  She hit the ground running when three bills on dyslexia crossed her desk.

The three bills were written by State Senator Ted Lyon and State Representative Bill Hammond, who saw the need to help children learn and stay in school.  One of them had experienced the struggles of dyslexia with his own son.  The commitment of these legislators was evident as they worked tirelessly to design these proposals.  The first bill defined and assessed students at risk for dyslexia.  The second focused on professional development, and the third required a course in reading and dyslexia for all higher education institutions. 

With Dr. Waite’s approval of the bills, Mrs. Miller visited legislators in Texas from January to May to promote the necessity for a State law and regulations for the identification and treatment of dyslexic students.  Two out of the three bills passed.  The bill for the higher education coursework requirements did not pass.

Next, the concern became the implementation of the laws.

                         “Geraldine “Tincy” Miller advocated
                                     for guidelines regarding the
                                implementation of the State laws.”  

Once again, Tincy Miller advocated for guidelines regarding the implementation of the State Laws.  Through her efforts, it was decided that the State Board of Education would be allowed to write rules for implementing the dyslexia law.  A public hearing was held in 1990 with over 800 people attending. 

Overwhelmingly, two to one supported the law and rules and therefore, rules were established.

Mrs. Miller’s efforts subsequently included advocating for a State dyslexia coordinator position.  If established, the person designated for the role would answer questions about dyslexia and promote and establish teacher training institutes for dyslexia.  In 1993, Jo Polk, a dyslexia reading expert, was selected as the first state coordinator followed by Helen Macik.  Currently, Brenda Taylor serves as the state dyslexia coordinator at Region Service Center ten. 

Today, Texas has 20 educational service centers strategically located throughout each geographic region.  Each center has a dyslexia consultant whose efforts include providing professional development for teachers and outreach services for students and families.  In addition, the dyslexia consultants at each of the centers assist school districts with the implementation of State law and rules regarding dyslexia.

In January of 1986, Governor George W. Bush initiated an $80 million reading initiative, mandating that all children be able to read by third grade.  The initiative called for reading programs based on scientific research with an emphasis on phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, oral language, and comprehension.  This initiative was the beginning of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). 

Mrs. Miller engaged in discussions with leading researchers, Dr. Jack Fletcher and Dr. Barbara Foorman, regarding the inclusion of dyslexia and related disorder into the reading initiative.  As a result, reading assessments for all kindergarten through third-grade students were required to identify, treat, and monitor the progress of students at risk for dyslexia and related disorders.

Professional development was provided for all kindergarten through third-grade teachers to meet the State’s guidelines for an effective reading curriculum.  In addition, all teachers learned the characteristics of dyslexia, as well as evidence-based practices for remediation.  By 2004, the reading and dyslexia academies had been established to provide intensive professional development in the areas of reading and dyslexia for instructors throughout the state.

The reading initiative provided all kindergarten through third-grade teachers with a solid foundation on the essential components of an effective reading program.  The reading and dyslexia academies also provided teachers with a better understanding of how to identify students who were at risk for dyslexia and related disorders. 

Teachers learned effective instructional strategies to implement in their classrooms for all students, including those who struggled with learning to read.  These professional development efforts also set in motion a longitudinal study for the validation of test accommodations for dyslexic students attending elementary school.  To date, the reading academies now include the fourth and fifth grades, and plans are underway to establish this model for the upper grades.

                          “By 2004, the reading and dyslexia
                            academies had been established
                            to provide intensive professional
                            development in the area of reading
                            and dyslexia for instructors
                            throughout the state”.
                      
Other states can follow this model of educational reform in Texas by working closely with their own State educational committees and legislators.  States should first present current research that supports the need for services and State dyslexia laws.  Next, it is essential that states identify key legislators willing to author and lobby for the passage of bills related to dyslexia.  Finally, states should find key business, educational, and community leaders willing to support lobbying efforts to increase the likelihood of passing these laws.

The future
There is still much work to do! Every school in every state should have a dyslexia expert on campus who can treat students with dyslexia.  Institutions of higher education should continue their efforts to include courses on dyslexia and related disorders.  State guidelines for the qualifications of dyslexia therapists and licensure for these experts are needed and being addressed.  Efforts to establish State funding for dyslexia services continues, as well as the initiative to establish effective appropriate, and standardized accommodation procedures for State testing.  Compliance to these laws through a statewide accountability system is also needed.

These are just a few of the initiatives Geraldine “Tincy” Miller and other advocated work tirelessly to achieve.  Where would we be without these individuals who have dedicated so much time and energy toward improving the lives of dyslexic individuals?  They are our heroes and certainly legends in their own time.

Author: Elsa Cardenas-Hagan, Ed.D., is a bilingual speech-language pathologist and a certified academic language therapist. She is the director of the Valley Speech Language and Learning Center and works with the Texas Institute for Measurement Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston.

12 Comments

marjorie baer
9:41 am CST
December 14, 2007


While I know there are laws that schools must follow for dyslexic children, they certainly are not being
followed. I have a granddaughter in the Seguin High School where there is no one who knows how
to teach a dyslexic child. My granddaughter has a hard time reading and spelling. She is expected
to take notes which has been impossible and then yesterday, the teacher had her to get up in front of
the class to read a book. She chose a grade school book she knew she would be able to read
and the results was kids laughing at her. Is this the way to make a child feel good about learning
when they have to be embarrassed by their disability.

ellen duncan
10:27 am CST
December 14, 2007


I would appreciate your forwarding some information as to how to get academic assistance for my son who is attending a unversity in Texas. He is having difficulty with spelling and writing.

Thank you,

Ellen Duncan

Susanne Alvarado
7:36 pm CST
December 14, 2007


Our son is 12 years old. We live in Elk Grove, Californiia. Our son was diagnosed by his neurologist when he was in 2nd grade with dyslexia. He has an IEP and has received services since 1st grade. Going to start 6th grade in less than a week and he is still behind at least 3 grade level. After many IEP meetings complaining that the programs provided by the school district do not work because our son has not shown significant improvements over the years we decided to home school our son. Every year he takes the STAR test with modifications and he is still below basic level. Currently, he reads 54 wpm at 5th grade level and if he reads at his level he can read 70 wpm. I found Horizon Charter School that has a home school program and was highly recommended. Also recommended was the Susan Barton Reading Program. I emailed Susan Barton and she provided a list of certified tutors in the Sacramento Area to tutor our son. My husband and I decided to fight back!!! Our son is smart…great with math and science. He excels in sports and currently in an All Star Traveling Team for the past 3 years. He is very well liked by his peers and coaches. I want to make a change to California Law but I don’t know what direction to take!! Any advise would be greatly appreciated!!!

Barbara Thompson Powell
7:29 am CST
December 14, 2007


My brother is dyslexic. He is 62. there was not any programs or help for him when he was school age. When he was older he did find a teacher in Whichita Falls for a while then she moved away.He was learning to read under her. He lives in Iowa Park, TX.
Is there anyone in that area that could teach him?

Barbara

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December 14, 2007


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