Connecting the dots from Primary to high school years

Connecting the dots from High School to Primary Years

What is very clear now is that all New Zealand High Schools must proactively identify and assess students they suspect are dyslexic. For NCEA level students that qualify, this means access to legally mandated special assessment conditions (SACs) such as reader or writer assistance, computer use, or extra time.

If all dyslexic students are now getting appropriate SACs for their external, NZQA managed exams – then clearly the same SACs can be and must be provided in Years 9 and 10.

Providing these accommodations is the students right and will make a huge difference to how they engage and achieve – its that simple.

Equally clear, is that Primary Schools have the same obligation and opportunity, but without the NZQA framework and process as a barrier. Primary Schools can immediately and without consequence provide accommodations and adjustments that support the teaching and learning of a student that they suspect is dyslexic.

Here are two case studies that demonstrate the value and power of knowing which students have dyslexic tendencies and simple accommodations that can make a world of difference:

Real Student Case Study One:

At the start of year 4, our student is required to sit the usual PAT [Progressive Achievement] tests. These are a multi-choice test covering a wide range of areas. He comes home and declares “they were easy”. Asked why, he replies “cause the teacher showed us what to do. The box at the top of the paper showed the answer”.

What our dyslexic student did was he copied the answer from the sample box such that he marked “C” for all answers to all questions. Ironically, he may have done better that way, because his reading age was at a Year 1 level.

When this student was read the questions and answer options and then allowed to give the answer orally, he was comfortably in the upper quartile for NZ students of his age.

Real Student Case Study Two:

Our year 4 student heads off for a class trip to the museum. The focus of the trip is the study of spiders. They get to see spiders and hear from the staff about spiders. A great day was had by all.

The next day, the teacher asks the students to write about the outing. Our student writes:

“We went to the museum and we saw the spiders”

When his parents saw this, they decided to initiate some homework and sat down with their son and asked him to tell them about his visit to the museum and what he had learned. He dictated two and half pages which went into complex detail about spiders.

In both instances the teacher had been made aware of the child’s dyslexia, but clearly didn’t choose to engage strategies that would allow the students intelligence to show. In the Case Study One, the parents in fact asked that the student be excused from taking the PAT tests and although the teacher had said yes, this was not in fact what transpired.

And to finish this email, we will leave you with story of advocacy from this week:

“My 13 year old (with dyslexia) had a very difficult start to Year 9 – new to high school this year.  I have been very busy meeting with every teacher, the SENCO, pushing for support, explaining dyslexia more in-depth, advised of the screening of The Big Picture, and handed out brochures.  In the end the Dean was, and is, fantastic.  I ended up employing a Year 13 student as a peer mentor who comes to our home and tutors our son, going over homework etc.  He is also available for him throughout the day, on call, at school, and provides support around timetabling, being kept in, not knowing what to do next etc etc.  I have never seen my son respond with such positivity to homework, and he is engaged and working hard for the first time at school.  Amazing.  I taught the tutor ways to work pictorially and externally, and this young man is really helping.”

Advocacy in action with school, parent, and student all winners – that’s what this week is all about!

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The team at DFNZ