These parents and educators will decide how Tennessee should help kids with dyslexia

A newly required advisory council will tackle the way students with dyslexia learn in Tennessee schools and will include parents, advocates and educators who already have spent years on the challenge.


State lawmakers ordered creation of the council when they passed the Say Dyslexia Act this spring. Now, the Dyslexia Advisory Council will explore ways to screen students for the disability, which could affect how up to 20 percent of students learn how to read and write.

Council members include a Nashville mother who has called for greater efforts to detect dyslexia; a teacher from a Memphis private school that is helping local public schools serve students with learning disabilities; and the top school psychologist in the state.

The group will meet quarterly starting this fall. Each year, it must give lawmakers recommendations about how the state can serve students with dyslexia. The Say Dyslexia Act also requires all Tennessee students to be screened for the disability and all schools to tailor their teaching to students who need it.
“All students deserve the opportunity to succeed and receive the supports necessary to do so, regardless of learning differences,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a press release. “This group of education leaders and advocates will bring insight and expertise as we discuss concrete ways we can strengthen our screening processes and interventions for students with dyslexia.”

Members of the new Dyslexia Advisory Council are:

  • Theresa Nicholls, director of School Psychology Services, Tennessee Department of Education
  • Eileen Miller, advocate and parent, Decoding Dyslexia Tennessee
  • Allison McAvoy, special education teacher, Hamilton County Schools
  • Melissa Miller-Benson, elementary school teacher, The Bodine School
  • Mercedes Chartrand, middle school teacher, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Briana Patrick, high school teacher, Lauderdale County Schools
  • Anna Thorsen, parent
  • Morgan Ashworth, speech language pathologist, Loudon County Schools
  • Emily Dempster, president, International Dyslexia Association
  • Erin Alexander, school psychologist and assistant director for clinical services, Tennessee Center for Dyslexia
  • Susan Porter, instructional coach, Metro Nashville Public Schools