Romy, 12, had always struggled with school. Until she could use a calculator and spell checker in class. His life had changed. But the mother of this sixth-grade student was shocked in recent days: she was told that her daughter was not allowed to use these tools for the ministerial year-end exams.
“Without these tools, my daughter cannot succeed. It’s like asking a nearsighted person to take a driving test without glasses,” says Marie-Élaine Chénier, the girl’s mother.
Without these tools, my daughter cannot succeed. It’s like asking a nearsighted person to take a driving test without glasses.
After contacting her daughter’s teacher, her principal, the Center de services scolaire Marie-Victorin, the Ministère de l’Éducation et du Taskthis mother from Saint-Lambert, on the south coast, received good news on Friday: Romy will finally be able to use her calculator and the Word software’s autocorrector for her ministerial tests.
School staff initially believed that the calculator and Word self-corrector were banned for sixth-grade exams, although the teacher allowed Romy to use these tools during the school year, explains Marie-Élaine Chénier. After verification, they concluded that its use is possible, except for the mathematical reasoning test, which requires mental calculation.
Marie-Élaine Chénier is relieved. But she laments the relentless struggle she and thousands of parents of special needs students face to help their children succeed in school. The rules for the “housing measures” for the exams of students in difficulty are complex: they are detailed in a 15-page document.
These rules are also unknown. Every teacher, principal and parent seems to interpret them in their own way. “Every year it starts again. You have to explain to the teachers that my daughter has an intervention plan and fight for shelter. I hope it won’t be the same way of the cross in high school,” says the mother of two primary school children.
Marie-Élaine Chénier points out that her daughter’s teacher, the principal and the school service center are doing a good job. Romy needs special support: she is dyslexic (difficulty reading), dysorthographic (difficulty writing) and dyscalculia (difficulty counting), in addition to an attention deficit. All this is confirmed by a diagnosis obtained at great expense in a private clinic.
The girl is smart, trendy and quick-witted. A neurological disorder simply prevents him from learning like other children. However, she understands all the reasoning that leads to solving problems in mathematics, explains her mother.
“Thanks to the calculator and the Word autocorrector, Romy feels able to succeed in school for the first time in sixth grade. I discovered a new little girl I never knew before: she gains more autonomy, she gains self-confidence, and there, tree! We all wanted to take that away from him for the exams of the ministry’, Marie-Élaine Chénier complains.
Give students a chance
Department of Education rules provide for the establishment of “housing measures” for students with disabilities or social maladjustment or learning difficulties (ADHD). For the exams of the Ministry, certain measures are automatically allowed: accompanying person to support a student with physical difficulties, for example, to help him turn the pages; adapted furniture; use of a reading device or magnifying glass; use of noise canceling shell, timer, anti-stress tools.
The intervention plan for each student in difficulty should include other forms of help, prepared by the school team and parents: extra time to take the exam, isolated supervised room, breaks, aids reading or writing aids (including spell checker), and many others… These measures vary according to the school level and the subjects being studied.
“As part of the ministerial test of 6and years of math, the calculator is only authorized for the part of the test that evaluates the solution of a problem situation,” said Bryan St-Louis, spokesman for the Department of Education.
However, the calculator “cannot be authorized for the parts of the test that assess mathematical reasoning, [car] part of the test involves mental calculation. As a result, the calculator instead of the student would carry out the processes covered by the ministerial evaluation”.
Parents on the lookout
Parents of special needs students should be patient, laments Annie Goudreau, HDAA Student Services Advisor at the Federation of Parents’ Committees of Quebec. Her two high school boys have been diagnosed with learning disabilities.
“Parents have to repeat their children’s needs every year and fight for services,” she says. Many also know little about the rights of their children. We provide training for 100 or 200 parents who do not know what an intervention plan is. †
Difficult under these circumstances to demand that we include in an intervention plan that the child is entitled to a calculator or a spell check…
Annie Goudreau also notes that the school community remains reluctant to allow the use of a calculator for students who cannot count because of a neurological condition. “Some still think it’s unfair compared to other students. However, everyone thinks it is not for nothing that a person with a physical disability has a wheelchair. †