I have just come across this interesting letter published in this weeks NZ Listener. Looking past how a school feels after a little more than 13 weeks teaching a little professional development can report 'in relation to the national standards' this parent makes very good points about what parents actually want to know. In essence the COMPLETE picture.
Recently I received my dyslexic 11-year-old’s first report using the National Standards. It contained his scores from six tests (spelling, reading, listening, comprehension, numeracy and maths). On all these he was below or well below average. It then showed his level on the three national standards – reading, writing and maths. Again on each of these he was either just below or below the standard.
My son had a diagnosis of dyslexia from an educational psychologist last year (at considerable personal expense, because this is not government-funded). Although I knew about my son’s struggles with literacy and numeracy, I found his report extremely depressing. There was no mention of his progress in sport, art, social studies, science or any of the other curriculum areas (in which he does much better), as these are not reported on. Nor was there any mention of his social skills – how he gets on with his peers. How happy he is at school. Nothing on this.
It is vital that parents are given a comprehensive picture of how their child is doing at school. It is vital to parents and child that all strengths are identified and highlighted. There was nothing positive about my child in that report. Additionally, there was no indication of the kinds of support that will be put in place as a consequence of his scores.
A number of children with significant learning needs will never meet the National Standards. How would you feel to be told you are failing, report after report, year after year? This can surely only deepen the sense of shame and fear experienced by many dyslexics.
The glossy taxpayer-funded propaganda that National sent out to all households to promote the National Standards said that millions of dollars had been put aside to help children identified as struggling. This is great news. However, when I contacted the Education Minister’s office, staff were unable to tell me which programmes and interventions were in place to help my son and the thousands like him who struggle with literacy and numeracy.
Parents want assurance that communication from schools about their child’s progress contains some good news as well as bad; they want a full picture of the child’s abilities and they want reports to contain details of what the school is doing to help the child’s learning. It is with the Ministry of Education that the deep shame rightfully belongs.
name and address withheld