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(TRENTON) — Legislation Senator Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matt Milam sponsored to promote best practices for teaching students with reading disabilities and difficulties with language skills was signed into law Saturday by acting Gov. Stephen Sweeney.

The lawmakers’ effort was inspired by Samantha Ravelli, a sixth grader from Ocean City Intermediate School who was able to overcome severe dyslexia through specialized reading courses. Since beginning the specialized curriculum two years ago, Sammy has since made the honor roll and has become more involved in student activities.

“Special education classes are too costly and inappropriate for students who, like Sammy, are only being held back because of a reading disability,” said Van Drew. “Rather than providing generic special ed to kids who should be classified differently, we must focus our limited educational reDests to meet the students’ unique needs.”

“Having the ability to read is vital to succeeding in school and getting a good job,” said Albano. “We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that every child is able to read and to overcome difficulties that can lessen their future prospects for success.”

The law (A-880/S-2400) creates the New Jersey Reading Disabilities Task Force to study best practices for diagnosing, treating and educating students with reading disabilities. The task force also will examine how state educational laws and regulations impact students with special reading and language skill needs.

“Special education teachers need the full support of state leaders who recognize the need for every classroom to implement the best and most successful practices,” said Milam. “Ensuring that every student has access to the tools they need to be successful in the classroom will increase the likelihood that they will become successful adults.”

About 85 percent of students in special education classrooms are language- or reading-deficient. Many students also do not receive proper training to overcome their deficiency. The task force’s overarching goal will be to identify new practices and strategies to provide greater educational benefits to special needs students.

The lawmakers said that doing a better job of reaching out to students with reading disabilities early in their education to provide them a foundation to achieve their maximum potential, would save money in the long-run on unnecessary special education expenses.

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