MINISTRY OF EDUCATION SPECIAL EDUCATION POLICY AND PROGRAMS UPDATE. September 2004

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1 MINISTRY OF EDUCATION SPECIAL EDUCATION POLICY AND PROGRAMS UPDATE SPECIAL EDUCATION ACTIVITIES September 2004 The Special Education Policy and Programs Branch is a permanent structure within the Ministry of Education. The primary functions of the Branch are to: $ advise the Minister and senior management within the Ministry on special education policy; $ work with stakeholders/education partners to identify issues requiring policy responses; $ support the achievements of exceptional students through the development of policies and programs that are evidence-based; $ provide policy information and clarification to assist school boards and their Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) members in undertaking their legislated roles and responsibilities; $ contribute special education expertise to policy and program development and implementation in other parts of the Ministry of Education to ensure that the specific issues associated with students receiving special education programs and services are considered and addressed; and $ ensure policy integration for cross-ministerial policy initiatives aimed at serving children with disabilities and children with special needs. Alexander (Alex) Bezzina is the Branch Director. Three units report to him. These are: 7) The Program Policy Unit is responsible for: $ leading and managing/coordinating the development and implementation of policy in such areas as the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) process; Individual Education Plans (IEPs); and School Board Special Education Plans; $ leading and coordinating activities with other Ministry Branches on such policy matters as curriculum and assessment; secondary school policy, etc.; and $ coordinating administrative support for the Minister=s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) and the Ontario Special Education Tribunals. The Program Policy Unit is managed by Bruce Drewett. Ministry of Education Special Education Web Site:

2 2) The Strategic Policy & Coordinated Services Unit is responsible for: $ leading/managing/coordinating policies related to service coordination for students with special needs; $ tracking inter-jurisdictional special education trends, providing evidence-based information for policy development, analysis and implementation; and $ developing/maintaining relationships with the research community with regard to special education. The Strategic Policy & Coordinated Services Unit is managed by Éric Mézin. 3) The Corporate and Program Resource Unit, is responsible for: $ providing corporate supports, including stakeholder relations, as well as the development of materials and related activities which support corporate projects; and $ developing resources and implementing projects aimed at quality improvements in special education. The Corporate and Program Resource Unit is managed by Tracy Odell. All of these units are located on the 7 th Floor, Suite 710, 2 Carlton Street, Toronto. Individual Education Plan (IEP) Standards In September 2000, the Ministry released a policy document entitled Individual Education Plans: Standards for Development, Program Planning, and Implementation. The purpose of the standards is to improve program planning for students who are receiving special education programs and services. The standards are also intended to improve communications with parents regarding how their child will progress through the Ontario Curriculum, taking into account their individual strengths and areas of need, and indicating how that progress will be monitored. The Ministry has recently completed revisions to its Individual Education Plan Resource Guide, which will provide further support to school boards in their implementation of the IEP Standards. The Guide can be accessed on the Ministry of Education=s website at the following addresses: (English) (French) Hard copies of the document was mailed to school boards/school authorities and individual schools and provincial parent associations in early October The Ministry continues to meet individually with many boards to further discuss their IEP Review results, as well as their IEP templates, processes, and the development of mechanisms for reviewing the quality of their IEPs.. 2

3 Secondary School Literacy Graduation Requirement 1. Policy/Program Memorandum No. 127 (PPM 127) PPM 127: Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test in English-Language Secondary Schools - Accommodations, Deferrals, And Exemptions, and the corresponding French language policy document, addresses the obligation of school boards and schools to provide accommodations for students with special needs when they write the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). This policy document also outlines the procedures for deferring the writing of the test for some students or exempting other students who are not working towards an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). PPM 127 can be accessed at the following website: Additional information about permitted accommodations can be found in the Education Quality and Accountability Office=s (EQAO) Guide for Accommodations, Special Provisions, Deferrals, and Exemptions document, which is posted on the EQAO website at: 2. Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course In 2003 the ministry developed and introduced the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC). Policy requirements for taking the OSSLC are contained in the policy document: The Ontario Curriculum, English, The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC), Grade 12, 2003, which can be found at the following web site: < Students who pass the course obtain the literacy graduation requirement. The reading and writing competencies required by the OSSLT form the instructional and assessment core of the course. The course differs from other courses in outlining specific requirements for evaluation in order to ensure alignment with the requirements of the OSSLT. For the school year, students who had had two opportunities to take the OSSLT and had failed it at least once were eligible to enrol in the OSSLC. However, on June 4, 2004, policy was changed to grant principals the discretion to allow students to enrol in the OSSLC before they have had a second opportunity to take the OSSLT, if the principal determines that it is in the best educational interests of the student. Accommodations specified in a student=s Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be available to students throughout the course. However, because achievement of the expectations in this course represents achievement of the literacy requirement for graduation, no modifications of the expectations are permitted. 3. Adjudication Process In June 2004, the ministry introduced an Adjudication Process. Boards and School Authorities may establish Adjudication Panels at the end of the school year to provide a select group of students an additional opportunity to meet the literacy graduation 3

4 requirement. This group of students includes those who would otherwise be eligible to graduate in June but, through no fault of their own, have not been able to take advantage of the normal opportunities to write the OSSLT and/or have not been able to enrol in or complete the OSSLC due to unforeseen circumstances. Also eligible are students who were receiving special education programs or services, and had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) documenting required accommodations that due to unforeseen circumstances were not available when they were taking the OSSLT. School Board Special Education Plans In January 2003, the Ministry=s District Offices sent instructions for the July 2003 Special Education Plans submissions to school boards and school authorities. In these instructions, the Ministry indicated that the 2000 Standards for School Boards= Special Education Plans will form the basis of the boards= submissions. Plans were submitted to the Ministry District Offices during Summer The plans were reviewed by the district offices to assess completeness of information required by the standards. School boards and school authorities received individualized feedback. Each school board and school authority was required to submit any amendments that it makes to its plan by July 31, (Contact: Bruce Drewett). Pilot Project The pilot project of a standards-based approach to the planning and delivery of special education programs and services using standards for students with PDD / ASD concluded on June 30, 2004 as scheduled. The eight English-language and two French-language school boards that participated in the pilot have provided the requested information to the independent researcher including: baseline information with regard to each board=s current delivery of programs and services for their students with autism; a gap analysis comparing and contrasting the baseline information with the proposed requirements of the standards document; and a hypothetical implementation plan outlining how each board would plan to meet the requirements of the standards document. The boards represent a cross-section of the province. As required, each board reported to the Ministry three times during the school year on the activities undertaken by the board to fulfil the requirements of the project and the board staff who were involved in these activities. The independent researcher maintained on-going communication with the school boards through telephone calls and face-to-face meetings and have collected all information from the school boards, as required. The researcher is scheduled to submit a final report to the Ministry by September 30, The report will provide an analysis of the information provided by the individual school boards and will look at provincial trends. (Contact: Tracy Odell) 4

5 Autism: Enhancing the Capacity of Ontario's Schools September 10-12, Targeting school board staff responsible for program planning, over 1000 delegates attended from school boards, school authorities, conference partner organizations, faculties of education and ministry representatives. Conference presentations, including a video link to the Keynote Address by Dr. Rita Jordan, have been captured on a CD- ROM. The CD also contains links to exhibitors' and Ministries' websites, as well as the IEP template and explanatory notes. As a follow-up to the autism conference, seven Regional Forums on Teaching Students with Autism were held in May and June Six English-language forums were held in each of the six regions that align with the Ministry of Education=s District Offices. A province-wide forum was held for the French-language education sector. While the conference supported school boards at the system level in the planning and delivery of programs and services for students with autism, the forums were designed for the teachers, teachers= assistants, principals, and vice-principals who work with these students every day. Presentations at the two-day forums focussed on: effective classroom strategies; resources available to support school-based programs; and raising awareness of the complexity of learning needs for students with autism. The forums also provided a venue for the exchange of successful practices. Additional attendees at some of the forums included superintendents, child and youth workers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and community service providers. All district school boards, school authorities and Provincial and Demonstration Schools were invited to attend a forum. Early Literacy and Numeracy Initiatives On June 24, 2004, the Minister announced the Education Foundations Program for improved literacy and numeracy aimed at assisting more students each year to reach high levels of achievement. As part of the supports being offered to school boards, the following two initiatives are being undertaken: 1. Expert Panel An Expert Panel is being convened by the Ministry of Education to establish a research and practice base for improving and reinforcing the effective teaching of reading, writing, and mathematics to English- and French-language students, Kindergarten to Grade 6, who have special education needs. The Panel will be composed of Englishand French-language practitioners and researchers from Ontario who are recognized throughout the province for their demonstrated expertise and leadership in the teaching of reading, writing and mathematics with respect to students with special education learning needs. 5

6 2. Planning Entry to School for Children with Special Needs The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS), the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and key stakeholders, has completed research on school board practices for planning entry to school for children with special needs who are receiving preschool programs and services. The research included: $ A review of planning entry to school procedures in selected English-language and French-language school boards across Ontario; and $ A literature review, including both English and French-language, from jurisdictions other than Ontario school boards. Reviews were conducted to: $ Collect data on existing policies and practices; $ Provide evidence of successful practices; and $ Identify key indicators of successful planning procedures. Based on the findings of the reviews, the Ministry is developing a Resource Guide to assist school boards with the planning entry to school process for all children, including children with special needs. (Contact: Éric Mézin) 3. Early Screening and Intervention Tool The Ministry of Education provided the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO) with funding support for the development and piloting of a tool to assist teachers with early screening and intervention strategies for children ages 4 to 8 who are having learning difficulties. Beginning with the school year, the Ministry is making this tool, also known as the Web Based Teaching Tool, available to all schools across the province. This tool is an integral component of the Ministry=s Education Foundations Program to improve literacy and numeracy. The LDAO is acting for the Ministry as the delivery agent of this tool. The Ministry support of this project means that the tool is available to all JK/SK and Grade 1 teachers without cost to the school boards. (Contact: Tracy Odell) Coordinated Services Advisory Committee (CSAC) To assist in accomplishing policy initiatives related to Co-ordinated Services, the Ministry of Education has established the Coordinated Services Advisory Committee (CSAC), comprised of researchers, representatives from the Minister=s Advisory Council on Special Education and school boards, as well as from MCSS and MOHLTC and a selection of their agencies. In recent meetings, the CSAC has been advising Ministry staff on the elements of a policy framework for coordinating services for students with special education needs. (Contact: Éric Mézin) Special Education: A Guide for Educators (2001) This publication reflects legislation, regulations, policy, and educational practice related to special education. It includes the following sections: Program Planning; Ontario=s 6

7 Approach to Special Education; Meeting the Needs of Exceptional Pupils; the IPRC Process; the IEP; Programs and Services for the Identified Pupil, Funding Special Education; Legislation and Policy; Roles and Resources of Related Ministries and appropriate appendices. The Guide can be accessed and downloaded from the Ministry of Education=s website at the following address: Transition Planning Resource Guide A Ministry of Education document titled Transition Planning: A Resource Guide was released to school boards, parent organizations, postsecondary institutions and health and social service agencies in October This Guide provides school boards and school authorities with suggestions for the implementation of the requirement in Regulation 181/98 that a transition plan be included in the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for exceptional students (except gifted) age 14 and over. The Ministry is responding to requests from school boards for and Regional Special Education Councils for presentations concerning transition planning. SEAC e-learning Information Program In response to a need identified by the Minister=s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) and other stakeholder groups, the Ministry of Education has developed an Internet based e-learning Program for all SEAC members and alternates in the province. This need was linked to the number of changes in special education legislation and policy that have occurred since the Ministry last provided SEAC training sessions on the role of SEAC in the Spring of The purpose of the program is to provide information to assist SEAC members in fulfilling their advisory role to school boards and school authorities, as set out in Regulation 464/97 under the Education Act. The content of the program includes an historical overview of special education in Ontario; roles and responsibilities of school boards, school authorities and SEACs; related legislation and policy; and special education funding. Since the program is Internet based, it will enable current SEAC members and alternates to access e-learning modules at their own pace, while also enabling future members to gain an orientation to their new role. The Ministry delivered eight face-to-face training sessions (seven in English and one in French) in February and March, 2004 for up to three SEAC members, one special education administrator and one computer technical staff support person, from each board. School authorities were invited to send up to two representatives. Those people who attended the training sessions were asked to act as a support team, in their respective boards or authorities, to ensure that all SEAC members and alternates have the technical knowledge and skills they need to individually access the e-learning Information Program on the Internet. 7

8 The English language website can be accessed at: The French language website can be accessed at: Minister s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) The Council last met on June 9 and 10, Council held discussions concerning its Position Papers on: Transportation; Education Funding; Accountability and Standards; Program Standards; and Transition issues. Council was updated on: Funding for Student Transportation, the status of Special Education Funding, and initiatives involving the Ministries of Community and Social Services/Children and Youth Services, Health and Long Term Care, and Colleges, Universities and Training. Council guests included: representatives from EQAO who discussed "The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, October Students with Special Needs: Results and Types of Accommodations Provided". Richard Franz, from the Ministry s Policy and Programs Branch provided an overview of the literacy and numeracy strategy. The Council is scheduled to meet next on October 20 and 21, Ontarians with Disabilities Act On September 30, 2002, proclamation brought into law the sections of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA) which outline specific accessibility obligations on the part of the broader public sector (BPS), including school boards. Under the ODA, BPS organizations such as public transportation organizations, school boards, hospitals, and colleges and universities, were required to prepare and publish annual accessibility plans within one year of proclamation, i.e., by September 30, The next round of plans are to be prepared by September 30, To assist BPS organizations in meeting their obligations, the Ministry of Citizenship has developed resource information about the ODA, BPS obligations under the act and other accessibility information. This information is available at the following website address: (Contact: Tracy Odell) 8

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