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Extra time for dyslexic students - is it fair?

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by eyeofmyapple, May 24, 2011.

  1. What do people think about the fairness allocating extra time in public exams for dyslexic students?
    And does anyone know of any studies that link extra time with success for dyslexic students in a measurable way i.e. do dyslexics students do significantly better compared with any student given fifteen extra minutes per hour?
    BritishDyslexics.co.uk says of this: Imagine you needed spectacles to read and write effectively but you are told you can not use them during an examination because this was not allowed. Without your spectacles you found it so difficult to take the exam that you only managed to answer 3 out of the 5 questions before you ran out of time. You subsequently discover that you scored an average of 60% for the 3 questions that you answered and you believe you could have done equally as well on the final 2 questions had you had more time. Unfortunately, you failed this examination miserably with only 36% overall and you will continue to fail each exam you sit until you are either allowed extra time or allowed to use spectacles to correct your poor vision.
    By this logic, any student would benefit from extra time - and would do better in each question. And how can we accept that dyslexia comes in different forms and to different extents, and still apportion a blanket 15 minutes per hour?
    I am currently doing my Finals, and seeing people who can and have coped with the time constraints of public exams suddenly diagnosed as dyslexic and being allowed additional time, which, let's face it, all of us could do with, is very frustrating.
    I'm not saying that I don't take dyslexia seriously - I really do, but I really don't think extra time in exams is the fair answer to this problem. Exams should be a fair way of testing everyone of all abilities, under the same conditions.
    I'd be happy for my mind to be changed by someone more educated about this than I am, and I would really like to read some research on this if anyone can point me towards some.
  2. I had extra time in GCSEs, A Levels and university exams and I also had a transcript of my exam papers done at GCSE and A Level. I am not dyslexic but I do have dyspraxia and Aspergers Syndrome. My coordination is impaired so I struggle when writing by hand and I have processing issues due to my Aspergers. In mock exams and end of year exams where extra time was not allowed, I either got very low marks or failed them completely as I ran out of time to answer them. Exam concessions do not entitle people to extra marks or an unfair advantage-they simply allow people who are disadvantaged by specific difficulties to express what they know. Also, I'm not sure if you knew this but there isn't a "blanket approach" to extra time. At GCSEs, I had 25% extra time but, during A Levels, I only had 10% extra time, suggested by the College SENCO, as she felt my need wasn't severe enough for 25% extra time. At university, everybody seemed to have 25%, though, including me. I have, however, known people who have been awarded 50% extra time and even 100% extra time (this was for a young lady who had severe visual and hearing impairment and cerebral palsy). One of my work colleagues, who has dyslexia and dyspraxia, was awarded extra time in his GCSEs but not in his A Levels. It's done on a case by case basis.

    As for the person who mentioned people on the autistic spectrum being allowed extra time to digest the information (sorry, I can't remember the name of the poster and I can't see their post on the Reply page), I believe this happens already. Certainly there were people in my secondary school who were awarded extra time who had no diagnosis other than Aspergers Syndrome.
  3. Perhaps it would help you to know that dyslexia is a registered disability? I'm all in favour of dyslexic students being allowed extra time to enable them to achieve what they are potential capable of. For many dyslexic students it can be a very frustrating and dibilitating condition when having to write or compose lengthy essays and bring spelling into the mix... makes it even more of a frustrating time....
    Listen to what your dyslexic students are telling - they know how difficult things are for them.
  4. Sorry, but it's right that she shouldn't have extra time for CATs. This is because they are used by the school to see if SEN may be present. They act as a kind of bench mark. If scores fall well below the 100 mark, then the school can put extra provision in place. However, schools don't just use CATs, but past performance, observations etc to determine if a child might have SEN.
  5. In that case all students should have the letters move around on the page when they are trying to read them. It's quite easy to do - hold a glass of water in front of the page and move it around and try reading through it.

    Then you also need to shine a really bright light through it so some of it is not visible at all but dazzles you.
  6. That would be fine if those phenomena were experienced by all 'dyslexics'. But they are not.
    I feel the real problem is that 'dyslexia' is a vague blanket term used to cover a vast range of 'difficulties'. What I think is unfair is the fact that, having saddled a person with the label, there is usually very little effort put into pinpointing the real cause of the difficulty and targetting support on that. So you end up with a group of people whose needs are accommodated but not addressed.

  7. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It's harder to get a handle on this as I don't have to invigilate. In the reasonably recent past - science exams were set on the basis of I minute per mark. This seemed to allow a sensible amount of time for candidates to complete the exam. On this basis, I never felt that the small number of candidates who needed extra time as a consequence of special needs were getting an unfair advantage.
    Now, A level candidates are suggesting that there is a fair element of time pressure. If there is this pressure, then the fairness of extra time becomes more of a debateable element. Unfortunately, only invigilators and markers are now in a position to judge the time element of assessment. I feel that exams should allow sufficient time for the tasks to be completeted thoroughly by a large majority of candidates.

  8. And what prey are these 'real' causes?
  9. p1j39

    p1j39 New commenter

    The solution: do away with time restraints!
    I want to know what a student knows/can do, etc. I do not want to test their ability to speed read/write. Allow students to fully demonstrate their abilities and do away with a time limit.
  10. v12


    Excellent solution, but what about the bloody-minded examinee who will simply never allow their paper to be collected in citing their 'right to as long as they need'? What about meal/coffee/loo breaks for the wreckers and schemers?
    A huge problem is that there will always be a section of society who don't play fair - it starts at Common Entrance with the extra few minutes for those with either a suitable diagnosis or parents who claim they're thisly or thatly challenged - you'll see the children completing their papers at exactly the same speed as the others - all quite able, and then they'll deliberately sit there for the extra 15 or 20 minutes after everyone has gone, making sure you are as inconvenienced as possible before deigning to allow their paper to be collected - and not adding one jot to their answers.
    If a candidate has extra time, a good solution might be to deny them the ability to leave the exam hall before the complete time is up, with a forfeiture of further time concessions if they do.
    That's the cause for which I pray!
  11. I definitely think they should be allowed extra time. It's a registered disability and it gives them the same chance to show what they know as everyone else. I do however feel that time should be worked our on an individual basis by a special needs professional so that it is fair for everyone. I can see your frustration at those students who have managed to get through GCSEs and A-Levels but now have been given extra time, but just trust that they have been professionally diagnosed by a doctor and therefore do deserve the time. And tamtams, some ASD pupils can be given extra time. I know for KS2 SATS this is allowed - not sure about GCSEs/A-Levels though.
  12. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    I was about to suggest the same! I can't think that a well-prepared student would need to take an awful lot longer than is currently given and it would remove "panic" mistakes for those that feel they are running out of time. Are there any subjects where speed of answering is a valid assessment measure?
  13. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    Sounds like you feel that these students are getting an unfair advantage. in their defence you do not know if they didn't have extra time during gcse and a level, but there are people who try to pull the wool over exam board's eyes - and then brag about it at uni. For me, it was the ones who were having some sort of emotional crisis - down the bar. Grit your teeth and concentrate on your own exams, not anyone else's - will your final degree classification matter that much? Probably not, unless you fail! In terms of academic rigour I suspect it's more important which uni you go to, and which subject you study. Good luck.
  14. If you need a redaer, you need extra time without it being an unfair advantage as being read to takes longer than fluently reading yourself
    If you cannot write quickly or fluently, for neurological or physiological reasons, you needextra time
    and so on
    but schools and parents undoubtedly push it - miss p's school wanted to apply for extra time for her at gcse - they say she has some dyslexia and dyspraxia - but as the only practical results of these are appalling handwriting and spelling, neither of which would be improved by all the extra time in the world, the effect would have indeed been unfair advantage
    i squashed the suggestion

  15. Wow! I pray for people to stop being prejudice towards people with a disability.
  16. v12


    If that last sentence is aimed at me, it's not the truly disabled I mind helping, but those who claim that they need extra time and who don't need or use it.
  17. "You want my extra time, would you also like my disability?"
    I am dyslexic. Who is it hurting having extra time? It's a disability. I take longer than I should to read and write, and need more time to process my thoughts into a logical order. I am entitled to extra time but I rarely take it. Stress exacerbates dyslexia, so knowing I have the time there should I need it really helps.
    Dyslexia is frustrating. What is the problem with people with special educational needs having those needs accommodated?
  18. I can understand an argument for getting more time/extra consideration for a temporary condition, but extra time for, say dyslexia, distorts the meaning of the qualification; candidates with the same grade are not demonstrating equal skills.
  19. That is simply not true. As head of a small school with a variety of SEN pupils I can honestly say that the point is that when a student needs 25% extra time it is to produce the same end result. If someone then drags out the same tired argument as I see you have used above and follows the argument to its logical conclusion that they would not be able to function as well in the workplace I start to get really annoyed. It is only in exams that we create a situation in which dyslexics cannot use alternative strategies to cope with the issues that their disability causes them. I also lecture at University where most of the marks are now awarded for coursework. I find that every year I have dyslexic students who are overjoyed at the different practices employed by Universities (voice recorders in seminars etc etc) and have had in two years two students with Dyslexia and Irlens both getting Firsts in a reading and essay based humanities degree.

    My father (85) is very very dyslexic. He left school at 14 and ran away to sea. He was lucky enough to have his dyslexia spotted by a switched on engineering tutor in the 1960s and, back when educators were allowed to use their own judgement, he allowed my father to take all his exams orally. My father ran his own successful shipping consultancy business for 30 years, travelling the world with respnsibility for millions and millions of dollars worth of ship and cargo.
    Dyslexia does exist, but it is not the only problem that causes problems with exams. There is a very well written post by an Aspie in this thread. I am dyspraxic, which was undiagnosed as a child, and this also gives me problems sequencing and with spatial reasoning. I was told I was a 2 A level candidate...when at school. I now have a PhD. There are also non-specific literacy issues which we do not yet have the tools to truly analyse or overcome.
    Whilst I acknowledge that there are those who will not accept that their child's difficulties are caused by them being either not very bright or having no work ethic, they are not as common as some would seem to believe. I have worked in SEN for 12 years and some of the increase is down to better diagnosis but a great deal is just that SEN are on the increase...as to why the jury is still out. However, it is a real issue and one that needs to be properly addressed if we are not to have a huge section of society lolling around on the dole, miserable expensive and unfulfilled. It is a much bigger problem than one just at school level.
  20. Why would they not be demonstrating equal skills? No matter how knowledgable I am on a subject it will still take me a little longer to get it written down. Having the extra time means that I, and dyslexics in general, are able to show that skill. Hell, I'd much rather take exams orally so people can get a proper taste for what I know, or let me use voice-text software to answer questions, show my skills. But exams are taken in a format that does not do justice to my ability, hense extra time. Dyslexia is not related to IQ. We have the skills, but more difficulty in expressing them. Extra time bridges that gap and allows us to show what we know.

    sueemc likes this.

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