On March 30, like students throughout Ontario, YMCA Academy students participated in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Unlike a vast majority of them, however, Academy students make use of a full range of accommodations to enable them to write the test on an equal footing with all of their peers.
Because The Academy is a school for students who learn differently, there are many potential barriers to their access to the testing process. Students with dysgraphia, for example, can have extreme difficulty with writing or typing. Students with language-based learning disabilities can have difficulty reading text from a page. Others, by virtue of learning disabilities or learning style differences, cannot access test materials in ways common to most learners. Such students can be fully literate (and after all, the purpose of the OSSLT is to determine a basic literacy level for all Ontario Students), but would not appear to be so without accommodations.
What are the accommodations available to students for the OSSLT? Students have access to a wide array of supports. The test is made available in a variety of formats, including text to speech, large type and Braille versions. Laptops are available to access these formats. As well, students can use computers to compose their responses. According to their specific learning needs, students can type their responses, dictate them using speech to text software, or even have a person scribe their answers.
Students with processing speed issues can be given extra time to complete the OSSLT; those with attention issues can be given an individual or small group setting for their test. They are allowed periodic supervised breaks and the supervising adult can prompt them back to work as needed.
Students with learning style differences can be at a disadvantage if they are not appropriately supported. At The YMCA Academy, we ensure that the full range of supports is in place to give our students the best possible opportunity for success – on the OSSLT, in school, and beyond.