A year 12 student, with a significant dyslexic disability, has had his second appeal for EXTRA TIME denied in his exams by SACE.
To protect his identity, let’s call him Tom. Tom has been formally identified as a classically dyslexic student. His disability is genuine and significant. His long-term, dyslexic impairment has been comprehensively documented throughout his time at school and existed long, long before he began his SACE studies. It affects everything he does.
What you must keep in mind is that all Tom is requesting from SACE is 10 minutes of extra time for each one hour in an exam. That’s all – got to keep this in perspective!
What you gain from the SACE Officer’s reply (see below) is that SACE have a series of eloquently pre-worked responses for every consecutive contingency. This response may be empathic and reassuring in parts, but the decision is final and Tom’s exams are now just hours away.
Denying Tom’s request for extra time is offensive. SACE has got it wrong, and has persisted at getting it wrong for years when it comes to recognizing and accepting learning disability. Basically, SACE does not and will not recognise learning disability – dyslexia. No one seems to be able to move them on this, despite huge individual efforts.
I believe SACE’s criteria for assessing specific learning difficulties is non-existent, or at best misguided. In fact, their attitude towards Specific Learning Difficulties tends to mirror our Education Department’s rejection of dyslexia over the years, and its inability to regard it as a legitimate disability worthy of legitimate support.
What the SACE Officer’s letter does, quite effectively, is to make Tom and those supporting him feel as though they are trying to cheat the system.
And, what about Tom teachers at school? What about their amazing silence and apparent indifference. This is frightening and a huge flaw in the overall process! They know Tom’s struggle. They’ve witnessed it every day for years. They should be in there, fighting for him. They should have been relentless in advocating for him with SACE. They too have let Tom down and must share responsibility.
Here’s Tom’s ‘real problem’.
Tom should have tried much, much harder to completely fail SACE’s Progressive Achievement Tests in Reading (PAT-R) and their 3 handwritten tests offered to him at the beginning of year 12. Tom was a fool (I say this tongue in cheek as he’s such a dear soul, with such a positive attitude) to try at all in these tests. And, there’s another aspect to Tom’s ‘real problem’ (this is said tongue in cheek too) – it is his amazing work ethic.
You see, Tom has put in 5x the amount of worry, time, effort work and effort each day at school, and each night at home over homework for years, compared to a keen, switched-on non-dyslexic counterpart. This is the reason he passed SACE’s inadequate and ill-founded tests. Might Tom have been better off feeling defeated, indolent, angry, reacting against learning, reacting against teachers, missing days of school and not caring too much for school.
And, here’s the light bulb moment or the simple reality! These are the students who SACE seem to be advocating for – who’ve suffered all kinds of disadvantage. It is vital to advocate for these students too, but not at the expense of students with high level learning difficulties.
SACE are not advocating for students with a significant dyslexic learning disability accompanied by great attitude and great work ethic. These students, likely to be our contributors and leaders in the future, do not register on SACE’s radar. Shame on you SACE! Why have you got this so wrong, and why are you prepared to let this continue when it has been brought to your attention year in and year out for years? What’s your real agenda?
Until SACE makes some fundamental changes, and recognizes dyslexia, we must all make a pact.
We must actively train all dyslexic students who come our way to very cleverly fail SACE’s Progressive Achievement Tests in Reading (PAT-R) and their 3 handwritten tests offered to him at the beginning of year 12. This is something within our control. Who would like to join with me to alert families to this injustice, and offer genuinely dyslexic year 10 and 11 students in this state an opportunity to gain SPECIAL PROVISIONS?
Mark Le Messurier
Letter written by a SACE Officer Special Provisions and Verification
Dear (Tom’s father),
I am responding to your email which expresses your concerns regarding the decision made by the Appeal Panel for your son Tom’s application for special provisions.
As outlined in the letter you have recently received, the policy regarding special provisions is based on the principle of granting provisions to students to assist them to access the requirements of the assessment. Tom should be reassured that he demonstrated that he can access the reading and writing requirements of the examinations well, without extra time provided. His reading speed and comprehension were above the level required to access the questions in the examinations, his handwriting is productive and the spelling errors evident in his writing do not impede the meaning of his responses.
This was confirmed by the appeal panel members, subject experts, his teachers and an educational psychologist who all reviewed his handwriting in an examination context and confirmed that the meaning of his writing was not impacted by his spelling or handwriting.
Examination markers are trained to mark to specific criteria and award evidence of the student’s understanding. The markers are also instructed not to penalise or be influenced by spelling errors, handwriting style or other distractors.
It is not an issue that Tom writes beyond the lines or on spare pages to continue his answers – this is acceptable practice in an examination and it helped to demonstrate Tom’s appropriate handwriting productivity in the tasks reviewed. Markers are also trained to assess any responses provided through the examination paper, whether these are outside of the lines provided, or on additional pages. The examination papers have spare pages throughout the booklets to allow students to write responses that do not fit in the space provided or to add to or correct responses they have already written. Labelling the question numbers that any responses on extra pages are related to will assist the markers in allocating appropriate marks.
The Appeal Panel is confident that Tom has the skills required to read the examination questions and demonstrate his understanding without extra time in his examinations.