As I walk through Carroll’s animated classrooms this fall, I am struck by how much they look and feel like places of refuge. Every day, our students and educators are privileged to be able to immerse themselves in the leading instructional methods that effectively address LBLDs/dyslexia. As a result, we open students up to a world of belonging and joyful learning unknown to them before they arrived.
But beyond our campuses, thousands of students across the state who face many of the same struggles—one in five, according to most educational experts—do not always receive the critical literacy support they need.
This changed last month, when Massachusetts passed a momentous and long-awaited piece of legislation requiring schools to screen young students for dyslexia and other learning differences at least twice a year. (I was proud to serve as a stakeholder in the development of the guidelines upon which the legislation was created.) Beginning on July 1, 2023, this right-to-read legislation will combat an entrenched wait-to-fail approach in the state’s public schools.
Why should this matter to the Carroll community?
(1) Because it elevates the conversation around LBLDs. And at Carroll, we are in a unique position to share our knowledge, shift the perspective around learning differences, and contribute to this growing dialogue state-wide about how to best serve our students. Now, school districts have to pay attention to what we, as educators, families, and students in a unique school community have always held true: learning differences are not learning deficits. When you uncover a student’s learning profile—when you view difference as an asset—their strengths are revealed.
(2) Because this legislation demonstrates that real progress is being made when it comes to accepting, understanding, and destigmatizing learning differences, and it opens the door for even more advances yet to come. This is progress that we all benefit from. Many of our families found their way to Carroll after a great deal of frustration and disappointment in their former schools. With this new legislation—which already exists in many neighboring states—dyslexia and other learning differences are on the table and out in the open in a way that there weren’t before, and an important step is being taken to support the multitude of students affected by them. Yes, the legislation calls only for screening; still to come are the development and implementation of specific interventions for kids identified as having or at-risk for a learning difference. But it should be celebrated nonetheless.
Bottom line: As the leader of a school focused on improving the educational outcome of students, I’m excited. I’m excited that many more schools will now be joining this important conversation, a conversation that Carroll has helped to lead ever since it opened its doors more than five decades ago. And I’m eager for our community to support other schools as they begin to explore more effective ways to help their own students reach their potential.
My hope is that the work we do at Carroll, and the refuge it provides, extends outwards to become a reality for all.
For more information on the legislation, take a peek at this recent WBUR article.