SAC Review Update
In March 2014, Ministry of Education and NZQA released a review of the Special Assessment Conditions (SACs) provided for students with learning differences sitting NCEA level exams. The review highlighted huge disparity and inequity in accessing SACs across schools in New Zealand, with students at decile 10 schools much more likely to have a SAC application made than those at decile one schools. Some 35% of schools made no SAC applications at all.
From the review, two major changes were slated for 2014. Firstly, the application process was to be made quicker and easier, with school based evidence accepted instead of requiring an independent expert’s report. Secondly, MoE was to target 250 mainly low decile schools, of the country’s 518 secondary and composite schools, to ensure eligible students applied for SACs. In the last few years we have seen more SAC applications across schools, this is good news, but the equity gap still persists.
In 2014 the nine short-term recommendations for change from the review were:
- The Ministry and NZQA work closely with schools to further develop the alternative evidence process for SAC applications made under the learning category – this work is to commence following the completion of the current examination cycle
- NZQA makes the application tool more user friendly for 2014
- NZQA improves the information, support and implementation processes for the current system, recognising the current processes are seen by some as too complex and unclear
- NZQA reviews the application deadlines to enable entitlements to be approved earlier through an application process open to schools from October to the end of term one
- The Ministry works with RTLBs and schools to ensure early identification and ongoing support of students who need additional teaching, learning and assessment support
- The Ministry works with RTLBs, NZQA and schools to make better use of the availability of National Standards achievement data for identifying students who may require SAC in the future, transferring information about students as they move through school, and particularly as they leave year 8 and transition to secondary school
- The Ministry incorporates discussions about SAC into current and future school support strategies (with an emphasis on the Ministry’s Achievement, Retention Team’s work with 141 priority schools in 2013, for example)
- The Ministry reviews the material for schools on dyslexia and refreshes the information booklet to incorporate effective teaching, learning and assessment approaches
- NZQA publishes data and analysis on access to and use of SAC annually as part of its regular statistics and data reporting cycle
Since the review there have been numerous improvements in the NZQA model, in particular there is now a SACs rollover so that students do not need to put in yearly applications for entitlement. Also, applications are now web based (real time) so the process is less time-hungry for schools and SENCO’s than before.
Another critical change is that the MoE has made it clear to RTLBs that supporting schools in their engagement with the SAC process is an important part of their briefs.
For 2016 data and comment click here.