Little tricks to cut costs – that punish vulnerable students

Last year it was brought to light that to get funding for special assistance in exams, students needed to be assessed by an outside professional to establish their disability, at a cost of around $400-700 a pop – a serious disadvantage to poorer students. This year, the alternative of a free observation by a teacher was offered, and schools breathed a sigh of relief as this new innovation breathed equality into the Special Assessment Conditions system. Ha! Of course, that’s way too good to be true.

This year comes a new and crappy revelation about the system. It turns out that to qualify for a reader-writer, extra time, or a separate space to sit the exam, you must be achieving at the expected grade level for reading and writing. If, in addition to your disabilities or because of them, you’re not at the expected level for your age, then you simply don’t get assigned the extra help you need and should be entitled to.

This hits low-decile students harder than those at higher-decile schools, because the poorer schools do not have the same time and resources to devote to keeping their students of varying abilities up to speed with their peers. Poor schools just don’t have the money to throw at the problem of students with disabilities, and it shows in their ability to stay up at the level required of them by the state.

This policy takes the inequality that results from kids coming from a poor area, and underlines it with an artificial barrier to even attempting to achieve. What is it with this education system and trying to shaft underprivileged kids?

I can understand the argument that it might be a waste of resources, dedicating them to kids who will obviously not pass the exams anyway, but here we’re putting extra barriers in the way of kids that are struggling as is. Of course they’re not going to pass if, in addition to being behind, they’re deprived of the things that they need in order to even have a fighting chance at it. Reading and writing ability are also not the only determinants of how well a child will do in a science or maths exam! Students have to be seen as a good candidate before they can be put forward for NCEA, so these are not kids with no hope. They’re kids the schools have decided have a decent shot at succeeding.

What this is, is taking kids that have been tossed around by the education system, and giving them a good kicking to add to their woes. It creates disadvantaged, disillusioned young people with no respect for a system that screwed them over repeatedly. It’s perpetuating a cycle of disenfranchisement that needs to be broken by kids who are supported by their school to learn and achieve, so they can pass that sense of pride and achievement on to their kids

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