Special Exam Arrangements for Dyslexia Veering Out of Control

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Anne Glennie
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Special Exam Arrangements for Dyslexia Veering Out of Control

Post by Anne Glennie »

https://theconversation.com/special-exa ... trol-43298
The new GCSE, which will be taught from September 2016, requires students to remember a number of poems and analyse at least one. Mary Meredith, a teacher and blogger who works with pupils with special learning needs, argued in an open letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan that those with dyslexia may be disadvantaged unfairly because they typically experience problems with verbal memory. She has asked for the exam to be adjusted for dyslexic pupils.

There are a number of problems with this argument. The usage of the term “dyslexia” has expanded to the point that it has now lost much of its explanatory value. Initially it was used to describe very rare cases in which people could make little or no sense of the written word. Now it has become the diagnosis of choice to describe individuals exhibiting one or more of a wide range of cognitive difficulties involving areas such as memory, speed of processing, attention, concentration, analysis and synthesis, organisation and self-regulation – controlling oneself and one’s actions.

While not all those with reading difficulties experience memory problems, and not all those with memory problems struggle with literacy difficulties, there is clear evidence that a greater proportion of pupils with reading difficulties encounter problems with short-term or working memory. However, working memory appears not to be a particularly powerful predictor of reading difficulties. Short-term memory essentially involves holding information in your mind for short periods of time, for example trying not to forget a phone number while you struggle to find a pencil. If this information slips away, it is typically gone forever – what is called “catastrophic loss”.
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Re: Special Exam Arrangements for Dyslexia Veering Out of Control

Post by Debbie_Hepplewhite »

Mandy Nayton responded to the article in the message above re 'adjustments' in Australia (via the DDOLL network), and I have her permission to share her response:
Hi All

Just a quick note on this. It is actually quite difficult to get adjustments in all States and Territories in Australia. The picture painted by Joe Elliott in his Conversation piece definitely does not apply to current policies and procedures in Australia.

It does vary across jurisdictions but essentially the process requires both evidence of a learning disorder diagnosis and specific evidence relating to functional impact. The level of functional impact must be severe enough to suggest that without adjustments the student will experience discrimination (as per the DDA and the Education Standards). There is – if anything – an overemphasis on the prevention of ‘unfair advantage’ in the Australian system. The process is definitely not designed to ‘maximise potential’!

All Australian final year exams (contributing to ATAR scores) are theoretically set at a reading age of 15 years or below – therefore to qualify for adjustments on the basis of a reading disorder most States / Territories look at the FI in relation to this level of competence. The PAT R – a very blunt instrument at the best of times - is often used to determine FI in reading.

I tend to think that the major issue for most students with specific learning disorders in their final year of schooling (in both reading and/or written expression) is not their capacity to read (although this certainly can be an issue for some students) but more their capacity to write – both essays and short responses - under timed conditions. This is particularly the case for students aiming for an ATAR score / university entry. Frequently this area of functional impact is not identified and therefore not accommodated (in SLD cases) appropriately.

Of course - in this area we are faced with the same issue we face in reading – is it an SLD with impairment in written expression or is it yet another instructional casualty?? Given that (in my view) instruction in the foundation skills underpinning successful writing is even poorer in most Australian schools than instruction in reading … I think we have an IC epidemic of poor writers.

We have to push for the same three tier / RTI approach to writing instruction that we endorse for reading instruction – only assessing a student for an LD in writing after they have received appropriate tier one, tier two and potentially tier 3 instruction and intervention.
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