In October 2016, fundamental changes to the Reasonable Accommodations in Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme were rolled out to Principals, Deputy Principals in a nationwide series of information days. This same information was disseminated to students and parents, quietly, via an announcement on the State Examinations website, namely:
A review of the RACE process has been ongoing since 2015, and was instigated in response to protests over a lack of fairness and transparency connected to eligibility and implementation, and late decisions on eligibility for supports.
Principally, the following changes to RACE have been activated with immediate effect:
- Examination accommodations granted at Junior Certificate can be automatically ‘reactivated’ for the Leaving Certificate on the strength of confirmation from the post-primary school, as a function of ‘identified and continuing need’.
- The category of Specific Learning Difficulty has been replaced with a category for ‘Learning Difficulty.’
- Crucially, the new deadline for application for accommodations in the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate examinations in 2017, is the 9th December 2016.
Schools are the principal information providers on eligibility for RACE
- Schools will identify the need for RACE and assess eligibility by undertaking testing to provide evidence.
- Schools will make applications to State Examinations, recommend supports, manage expectations, communicate with students and parents about their eligibility and decisions, and engage with a Quality Assurance panel.
National Educational Psychology Service (NEPS)
- Will provide advice, information and support to schools, and engage with State Examinations on Quality Assurance.
State Examinations Commission
- Makes the decision on granting of examination accommodations, and advises on complex cases.
- In general, State Examinations Commission accepts school recommendations.
- Provides the Quality Assurance.
- Uses discretion in sanctioning special centres.
- RACE is part of the Continuum of Support umbrella (see the new general allocation of resources to primary and secondary schools as explained by Mary Byrne 18thmarybyrneseptember2015ilsaannualconference)
- Examination accommodations should reflect the students normal way of working, and therefore ‘practice’ sessions should not be necessary.
- They should be based upon a prior identified need.
- They should go hand in hand with learning supports.
Management of the scheme
- All existing circulars and guidelines are revoked with immediate effect.
- The definitive RACE document underpinned by Expert Advisory Group report (has anyone seen this?) and an updated Framework of Principles.
- There are new application forms : Reactivation Form RA1, New Accommodation Form RA2, Late Application Form RA3, Emergency Form RA4.
- All deadlines will be strictly adhered to, no exceptions..
- An Independent Appeals Committee will consider appeals and outcomes will be communicated to parents by schools.
- Formal management of special examination centres in certain schools may be audio recorded to ensure integrity.
- State Examinations will make the decision about their necessity, as not all RACE needs require a special exam centre.
- The need for a special centre will not be automatically reactivated
- Shared centres may be used for use of a PC, reading assistance, medical conditions, emotional / behavioural disorders.
- Individual centres will be used for a scribe or recording device, full reader, contagious medical conditions.
Testing and assessment of need for RACE
- Only standardized and normed tests should be used e.g. WIAT and WRAT 4
- Results must provide standard scores and must have been assessed within 12 months of the date of application.
- No change to criteria in terms of standard scores, percentiles, speeds etc. for eligibility.
- There is no longer any need to test for cognitive ability, as there is no need to distinguish between general learning difficulty and Specific Learning Difficulty.
- It is anticipated that all testing will be carried out by schools.
- In the absence of school tests, results from Educational Psychologist reports are acceptable “where they are already available to the school” (i.e. not new?), and where testing was conducted within 12 months of date of application. However, the required counts of error rates for reading and spelling may only be obtained from school assessments, results from external reports may not over-ride the school assessment.