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Making good in the classroom

Issue: Volume 94, Number 4

Posted: 02:03pm, 09 Mar 2015
Reference #: 1H9cqb

Dyslexia Advocacy Week (DAW) happens this year from 16–22 March, and is focused on improving dyslexic students’ experience and achievements in the classroom. Creating ‘dyslexia-friendly’ classrooms is a means of including students by adapting classrooms to meet student needs.

Numbers and letters fridge magnets

So what can teachers do? At both primary and secondary school level, simple changes make a big difference. These include noticing and adjusting classroom teaching, and ensuring that accommodations are available to assist students to learn. Looking out for ‘red flags’ in learning and literacy in order to – when necessary – refer students to Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs), Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs), and Resource Teachers Literacy (RTLits) is important. At primary school level, proactive identification of students who are having difficulty acquiring basic skills is key. At secondary school level, the Ministry of Education is now preparing case studies of schools who have made Special Assessment Conditions (SACs) business as usual in their schools – a fully integrated part of their mission to improve outcomes for their students.

For all teachers, the Dyslexia Foundation’s 4D resources provide a comprehensive resource of simple classroom changes, which fit with the expectations of the National Curriculum. You can also now use the Inclusive Education web space on TKI (inclusive.tki.org.nz).

A personalised approach lies at the heart of the National Curriculum and the Inclusive Education drive. For students with dyslexia, as for other students who require additional support to learn, accommodations are necessary to ensure all can learn to their best potential.

This year’s DAW builds on the framework of DAW 2014 which focused on the legal rights of dyslexic students, equipping parents to advocate for these rights and informing boards of trustees as to how they can bring about change in their school community.

Since 1989 schools have been responsible for meeting the needs of all students, so what’s changed now? We now have tangible tools, which broaden horizons and recognise the different strengths and abilities of all learners.

Special Assessment Conditions – such as reader or writer assistance, computer use or allowing extra time for students with learning differences sitting NCEA level exams, are key tools for providing students in secondary schooling with support to get over the NCEA starting line.

Central to these accommodations is understanding the needs of each learner, their strengths and abilities and the type of support that will assist them to reach their potential. Equity in education means doing the right thing for each individual: providing equity creates equal opportunity.

Review results in 2012

The SAC review of 2012 had important implications beyond the secondary school system. The review signaled the widening of the SAC model to earlier school years, with the recommendation that the Ministry work with RTLBs, NZQA, and schools to make better use of the National Standards achievement data, in order to identify students who may require SAC in the future. The transfer of student information across schooling transitions – particularly between primary and secondary – was acknowledged as critical. This means supporting primary schools to identify and support students who are dyslexic, and ensuring that information about accommodations is transferred to a student’s next school.

Detailed findings from the review include:

  • a student attending a decile 10 school was seven times more likely to have an application made for a SAC entitlement, compared with a student attending a decile 1 school
  • a third of all schools (35 per cent of schools) did not access SACs at all
  • 349 schools applied to receive SAC entitlements for 4,507 students in 2013, compared with 321 schools applying to receive SAC entitlements for 4,405 students in 2012
  • 87 per cent of applications were approved or confirmed, with 178 students declined any SAC entitlements
  • 71 per cent of SAC applications were made for students with specific learning disabilities in 2013
  • the rates of approved and declined applications were similar across all categories (i.e. sensory, medical, physical, learning).

The types of accommodation provided by SACs are supported by a wealth of neurological science and research, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) mapping at Yale University, which shows that dyslexic people receive and retrieve information in a different part of the brain to usual word-based thinkers. In simple terms, learning differences rob students of time and accommodations give it back.

For 2015, the Dyslexia Foundation’s spotlight is on SACs both as a secondary school achievement indicator, and as an opportunity for lifting NCEA student engagement and results. From the outset, students with learning differences need to be identified and supported with accommodations and differentiated learning opportunities, creating seamless progress towards NCEA exams.

Central objectives for Dyslexia Advocacy Week are to further activate parent advocacy, and highlight the roles of all education stakeholders, including schools, RTLBs, principals and boards of trustees.

Find out what you can do for dyslexia advocacy by emailing: esther@4d.org.nz

Or visit:

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

The Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero is produced by NZME for the Ministry of Education for teachers, leaders, and other education professionals working in New Zealand.

Posted: 02:03pm, 09 March 2015

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