Trustees: Say no to “one size fits all” policy for special education

This article is directed to Ontario voters, all those who will hopefully get out and vote tomorrow, Monday, October 25th, 2010. What I am asking is that when you mark your ballot for one or more school board trustee candidates, please vote only for those who have openly recognized that a “one size fits all” special education policy for children with special needs does not work.

To put it bluntly, full classroom integration, or mainstreaming as it is called in the U.S., is NOT usually about what is best for children requiring special education accommodations. Rather, it is primarily what is best for boards of education and the provincial government. In other words, it is about saving money. 

Yes, I am a conservative and I don’t like large government and high taxes. But no, I don’t want smaller government and fewer taxes if it is at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society.  There is an old expression: “pay now or pay later.” In special education, what that means is that we either spend what is necessary to educate and treat children now or we pay much more later through higher social assistance, criminal justice and health care costs.

When I was in private practice, I can’t begin to tell you the tragic stories I heard about kids being integrated into the regular classroom. While it may be politically incorrect to say out loud, the reality is, that even with the help of a teaching assistant, there are just too many children in a regular classroom for a teacher to give  individual attention to a few. However, if a teacher does give individual attention to only a few, such as those with special needs, all the other children are short changed.

What I used to help parents fight was the lack of options, the lack of choice in the public school system, whether secular or Catholic. You see, it all depends on the child and the identified needs of that child, not some ideological notion of fairness that simply is not actually fair at all. If a child can thrive in a regular classroom, then by all means, assign them an assistant and integrate them. But, if a child has behavioural, attention and/or concentration problems, then he or she should be placed in a segregated environment, at least part of the time.   

I also understand this situation as a parent. As a mother of a special needs child, we had to pull our son out of a regular public school when he was 13 years old in order to send him to a private, segregated, special needs school.  Financially, it was tough. But, I would do it over again in a minute.  He had been in a segregated primary special education class and then integrated for grade 6. By Grade 7, he was unable to cope. His teachers did what they could but he just could not concentrate and his behaviour was disrupting other students.

And, then there was the after-school bullying. Sure, in principle it makes sense that everyone get used to living and working with people with special needs, but unfortunately once a child is off the school grounds, it’s a jungle out there. Every day he would come home crying. Finally, the last straw for us was the day he arrived home covered in blood.

Eventually, after a long fight with the school board (where both my husband and I worked as teachers) and the provincial government, we got funding for him to attend a segregated independent school. As a result, he finished high school and is now a fully functioning adult — albeit receiving some disability benefits.

So, Ontarians, vote for the trustees who are willing to consider that integration is not applicable for every child with special needs, that some segregated classes are necessary. Moreover, vote for trustees that understand there needs to be recognition that public dollars may have to be spent when a child is identified as “hard to serve” (e.g., for specialized treatment like IBI or to send them to a private school or facility that specializes in dealing with their particular special need).

36 thoughts on “Trustees: Say no to “one size fits all” policy for special education

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  3. A good thing you have done here, but the problem is that we rarely hear the views of trustees during elections. In Toronto, they tend to vote out ineffective trustees and try new ones. There needs to be more review done so that we can improve the education system across the province. But people like you are making a difference Sandy. Thanks.

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  4. A good thing you have done here, but the problem is that we rarely hear the views of trustees during elections. In Toronto, they tend to vote out ineffective trustees and try new ones. There needs to be more review done so that we can improve the education system across the province. But people like you are making a difference Sandy. Thanks.

    Like

  5. Trustees are faced with a challenging dilemma – they have to try to please as many voters as possible. They also lack the power to increase taxes in order to please the voters and their often individual demands. Special Education funding (and ESL funding too) seem to be the areas that are picked from when other things need to be funded. I see transportation as a major source of funding problems. Some parents want funding for their children to be bussed even if they live a kilometre away from the school. If there is a busy street, then parents might pressure the trustees and boards to bus their children even if the distance from home to school is only several hundred metres. I have read many articles in local papers about the poor child who has to walk to school instead of taking the bus. The money to please these kind of issues often come from using money allocated to something else, like special education.

    Sandy, intergration of students with special needs should be the number one focus. We will have a better society if children have an opportunity to socialize and learn with children who have an exceptionality. It’s very much up to our children to teach compassion and understanding to their parents when it comes to interacting with people with an exceptionality. But, there are times when perhaps a segregated learning environment is better for the child and those options should also be available to students and their parents.

    The school boards may have pushed for more inclusion, but many parents and support groups also have played a role in pushing for more inclusion. It’s then the teacher who has to try and manage the hot potato issues that arise when politics and philosophies push their way into the classroom. It’s also unfortunate when other parents see a child with an exceptionality and view this child as a problem in their goals for their own child.

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  6. Trustees are faced with a challenging dilemma – they have to try to please as many voters as possible. They also lack the power to increase taxes in order to please the voters and their often individual demands. Special Education funding (and ESL funding too) seem to be the areas that are picked from when other things need to be funded. I see transportation as a major source of funding problems. Some parents want funding for their children to be bussed even if they live a kilometre away from the school. If there is a busy street, then parents might pressure the trustees and boards to bus their children even if the distance from home to school is only several hundred metres. I have read many articles in local papers about the poor child who has to walk to school instead of taking the bus. The money to please these kind of issues often come from using money allocated to something else, like special education.

    Sandy, intergration of students with special needs should be the number one focus. We will have a better society if children have an opportunity to socialize and learn with children who have an exceptionality. It’s very much up to our children to teach compassion and understanding to their parents when it comes to interacting with people with an exceptionality. But, there are times when perhaps a segregated learning environment is better for the child and those options should also be available to students and their parents.

    The school boards may have pushed for more inclusion, but many parents and support groups also have played a role in pushing for more inclusion. It’s then the teacher who has to try and manage the hot potato issues that arise when politics and philosophies push their way into the classroom. It’s also unfortunate when other parents see a child with an exceptionality and view this child as a problem in their goals for their own child.

    Like

  7. Matt — Most of what you say is true. But, I know that the notion of equity and inclusion are based on a pie-in-the-sky progressive philosophy that is driving the “let’s all just get along” full integration band wagon.

    I was just talking to my son (who has learning disabilities and moderate autism) on the phone. He and his wife, who has multiple special needs, do not fit into regular society no matter how much the agency that is helping them believes. Moreover, most employers are not in a financial position, like Wendy’s and McDonalds, for example, to pay wages to someone who is slow or occasionally socially inappropriate. Because, for each special worker, another buddy worker is also needed.

    In other words, integration and inclusiveness are nothing more than a nice ideology that doesn’t really work. People are people and most average people feel uncomfortable with anyone who is different, even when that special needs person is in their own family — unless the person with special needs is high functioning or only has a sensory or physical disability (e.g., requiring a wheelchair).

    My son is high functioning so he knows when he is being shunned or discriminated against. It hurts him still and he is now in his mid 40’s. He and I talked today about the three years he was “away” at school. He reminded me of his pain, his feeling rejected, unloved and lonely. It brings tears to my eyes every time he shares that. Because, it actually would have been easier not to send him away to a residential situation. But, I knew at that time, nearly thirty years ago now, what I had to do for him in the long run — much like going to the dentist.

    Anyway, somewhere in the conversation, he paused and said something to the effect, “you know, it was hard but I’m now old enough to realize it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I probably would have ended up in jail.” Sometimes those insights come out of nowhere and I realize, as nice a person as he is today, what he would have been like had the doctor given me a “C” section instead of allowing a difficult birth that resulted in a loss of oxygen during the birthing process.

    When I was in practice, I would have parents come to see me as Dr. Crux. We would talk about how their child could compensate for or overcome dyslexia for example. But, they always held back a bit until I slipped into the conversation that I had a son with pretty much the same problems. As soon as I shared even a little bit, you could see them visibly relaxing. In fact, almost to a person, what was usually said was “Oh my, you really do understand.”

    Try being a parent of such a child and you will quickly understand why, for years, parents try their darnest to make their children “normal.” There is a movement afoot, for example, where parents of children with autism, refuse to get their child into an IBI program — a decision that will come back to haunt them once their child is an adult and has no case history to access adult programs.

    So, sometimes the inclusiveness ideology can do more harm than good. I once found poem and it describes how God looked high and low for just the right parent for the special child. That’s what has kept me going all these years.

    Like

  8. Matt — Most of what you say is true. But, I know that the notion of equity and inclusion are based on a pie-in-the-sky progressive philosophy that is driving the “let’s all just get along” full integration band wagon.

    I was just talking to my son (who has learning disabilities and moderate autism) on the phone. He and his wife, who has multiple special needs, do not fit into regular society no matter how much the agency that is helping them believes. Moreover, most employers are not in a financial position, like Wendy’s and McDonalds, for example, to pay wages to someone who is slow or occasionally socially inappropriate. Because, for each special worker, another buddy worker is also needed.

    In other words, integration and inclusiveness are nothing more than a nice ideology that doesn’t really work. People are people and most average people feel uncomfortable with anyone who is different, even when that special needs person is in their own family — unless the person with special needs is high functioning or only has a sensory or physical disability (e.g., requiring a wheelchair).

    My son is high functioning so he knows when he is being shunned or discriminated against. It hurts him still and he is now in his mid 40’s. He and I talked today about the three years he was “away” at school. He reminded me of his pain, his feeling rejected, unloved and lonely. It brings tears to my eyes every time he shares that. Because, it actually would have been easier not to send him away to a residential situation. But, I knew at that time, nearly thirty years ago now, what I had to do for him in the long run — much like going to the dentist.

    Anyway, somewhere in the conversation, he paused and said something to the effect, “you know, it was hard but I’m now old enough to realize it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I probably would have ended up in jail.” Sometimes those insights come out of nowhere and I realize, as nice a person as he is today, what he would have been like had the doctor given me a “C” section instead of allowing a difficult birth that resulted in a loss of oxygen during the birthing process.

    When I was in practice, I would have parents come to see me as Dr. Crux. We would talk about how their child could compensate for or overcome dyslexia for example. But, they always held back a bit until I slipped into the conversation that I had a son with pretty much the same problems. As soon as I shared even a little bit, you could see them visibly relaxing. In fact, almost to a person, what was usually said was “Oh my, you really do understand.”

    Try being a parent of such a child and you will quickly understand why, for years, parents try their darnest to make their children “normal.” There is a movement afoot, for example, where parents of children with autism, refuse to get their child into an IBI program — a decision that will come back to haunt them once their child is an adult and has no case history to access adult programs.

    So, sometimes the inclusiveness ideology can do more harm than good. I once found poem and it describes how God looked high and low for just the right parent for the special child. That’s what has kept me going all these years.

    Like

  9. Opening things up to parents is actually a good thing. Many are very well read as far as techniques and therapies. But, how those would be incorporated into curriculum guidelines is, of course, not something parents can do without that kind of specialized training. So, we have two areas of expertise that are needed, how to design curriculum guidelines between a level one course and a level three or four and all the latest research on special education techniques in dozens of special needs areas. It is a huge undertaking. Anyway, it all sounds very political to me. The COT is giving parents the impression that it is consulting. Can only be a good thing, that. But, and here is the big but, it should NOT only be P4E that gets to do this. What about SQE? As an organization, they now what they are talking about and should have input as well.

    I’m busy today but I’ll look into this tomorrow if I get time. It’s something that would take a great deal of looking and thinking.

    Like

  10. Opening things up to parents is actually a good thing. Many are very well read as far as techniques and therapies. But, how those would be incorporated into curriculum guidelines is, of course, not something parents can do without that kind of specialized training. So, we have two areas of expertise that are needed, how to design curriculum guidelines between a level one course and a level three or four and all the latest research on special education techniques in dozens of special needs areas. It is a huge undertaking. Anyway, it all sounds very political to me. The COT is giving parents the impression that it is consulting. Can only be a good thing, that. But, and here is the big but, it should NOT only be P4E that gets to do this. What about SQE? As an organization, they now what they are talking about and should have input as well.

    I’m busy today but I’ll look into this tomorrow if I get time. It’s something that would take a great deal of looking and thinking.

    Like

  11. In answer to your question, the present Ontario Liberal government has never acknowledged SQE as a stakeholder group. Although we have asked for meetings with the various ministers of education and offered to provide input to various task forces and committees, our overtures have not been acknowledged, far less accepted.

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  12. In answer to your question, the present Ontario Liberal government has never acknowledged SQE as a stakeholder group. Although we have asked for meetings with the various ministers of education and offered to provide input to various task forces and committees, our overtures have not been acknowledged, far less accepted.

    Like

  13. Thanks for the clarification Malkin. I guess the Liberals see you as a threat to public education. However, they would be wise to hear what you have to say so as to improve said public education.

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  14. Thanks for the clarification Malkin. I guess the Liberals see you as a threat to public education. However, they would be wise to hear what you have to say so as to improve said public education.

    Like

  15. Well, both Simeon Drakich and Linda Crouch lost in their respective public trustee elections. In St. Catharines/Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the public trustee race, two incumbents got back in, while there are two new faces. In fact, most incumbents got back in all across the Niagara peninsula. Why? I simply don’t understand. People complain nothing ever gets done, or done in a way they don’t like, and then they vote them back in.

    However, there was one upset in my area in Niagara Falls. Ted Salci (a local conservative) had been Mayor for seven years. He lost last night to Jim Diodati, a former Councillor. And, you know why Salci lost big time? Because he shut down the option for an indepedent review of the Niagara Health System. Diodati not only wants such a review, but promised he would fight for one. Remember, two Niagara area hospitals were closed last year with little say by the people they were to serve — in Fort Erie and Port Colborne. And, Salci’s vote on Regional Council set the tone. No, Diodati started off with a 10 point lead and never looked back.

    So, conservatives would be very wrong to draw any conclusions to Rob Ford winning in Toronto. Ford won because of his message “to stop the gravy train at City Hall”, just as Diodoti did with “accountability in our health care system.”

    That said, McGuinty and company’s days are numbered. That said, if there is labour unrest in Toronto should Ford get Council to agree to contracting out, all bets are off. People are very fickle. They say they want change, but then, like Harris did, when that change is disruptive and nasty, they chicken out.

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  16. Well, both Simeon Drakich and Linda Crouch lost in their respective public trustee elections. In St. Catharines/Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the public trustee race, two incumbents got back in, while there are two new faces. In fact, most incumbents got back in all across the Niagara peninsula. Why? I simply don’t understand. People complain nothing ever gets done, or done in a way they don’t like, and then they vote them back in.

    However, there was one upset in my area in Niagara Falls. Ted Salci (a local conservative) had been Mayor for seven years. He lost last night to Jim Diodati, a former Councillor. And, you know why Salci lost big time? Because he shut down the option for an indepedent review of the Niagara Health System. Diodati not only wants such a review, but promised he would fight for one. Remember, two Niagara area hospitals were closed last year with little say by the people they were to serve — in Fort Erie and Port Colborne. And, Salci’s vote on Regional Council set the tone. No, Diodati started off with a 10 point lead and never looked back.

    So, conservatives would be very wrong to draw any conclusions to Rob Ford winning in Toronto. Ford won because of his message “to stop the gravy train at City Hall”, just as Diodoti did with “accountability in our health care system.”

    That said, McGuinty and company’s days are numbered. That said, if there is labour unrest in Toronto should Ford get Council to agree to contracting out, all bets are off. People are very fickle. They say they want change, but then, like Harris did, when that change is disruptive and nasty, they chicken out.

    Like

  17. Pingback: Is McGuinty gov’t “inclusive” with parent advocacy stakeholders? | Crux-of-the-Matter

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  19. Further to the issue of “one size does not fit all” in special education: trustees can have some minor influence on specific program provisions under a school board’s jurisdiction. However, the driving force behind the current inclusive movement in Ontario is the Ministry of Education. Sandy is correct that the underlying motivation is financial, rather than genuine concern for the best outcome for individual students. But it is more complex than that.

    What we are seeing today is not the “mainstreaming” movement that had its origins in the ’80s and ’90s, and the distinction is important. “Mainstreaming” was/is a movement in Special Education that emphasized having Special Education students participate in the “mainstream” (regular classes with same-age peers) to the greatest extent possible. It typically meant providing instruction for the Sp. Ed. children in a separate class with specialized staff for part of the day, and graduated participation in other curriculum areas — starting with gym, art, music, drama and then social studies, science and the core subjects — depending on the student’s needs and ability to benefit. This gradual mainstreaming was often part of a student’s return from an intensive support program (such as a Learning Disability or Behaviour class, which had a low pupil-teacher ratio — as low as 4:1) to a regular class as the student made gains in academic and behavioural areas. For students with more severe disabilities, some mainstreaming was still valued as a way to foster better social adjustment and interpersonal/life skills. When decisions are made based on local conditions and the needs and strengths of the individual student, mainstreaming is a very positive initiative.

    What we have today is a significantly different movement, that goes by other names — “full inclusion,” “radical inclusion” and “inclusive classrooms” being some of the most commonly used. What differentiates the “inclusion” movement from “mainstreaming” is that it goes well beyond being a “special ed” movement. Proponents of inclusion in its most extreme form reject any and all labelling or classification of students (except by age, apparently), or any “segregation” or separation of students for instructional purposes. Special Education law in most jurisdictions gives “special ed” kids (and their parents) legal rights; by minimizing the importance of a “special education” designation for a student, and putting subtle barriers in the way of obtaining one, the Ministry of Education reduces the number of people with legal rights to particular services and can instead provide services according to its own (changing) priorities and current ideologies. A leaked memo from the Deputy Minister of Education clearly directed school boards in Ontario to steer parents and schools away from referring struggling students to the IPRC (Identification, Placement and Review Committee) process for gaining a formal “Special Ed” designation, such as LD, Intellectual Disability, etc., and to instead encourage all parties to consider that addressing students’ individual needs through an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and “differentiated instruction” (DI) is the way to go. No formal process is needed for an IEP — no psychological testing, educational assessments of a formal type, special classes or teachers. All students will be effectively served in the regular classroom (without aides or educational assistants) by the classroom teacher who will “differentiate” for each learner.

    This worldview is shared by many parents of struggling students, too, who do not want their children assessed, labelled or given “special” instruction of any kind, even when they are well aware that their child has a disability. Unfortunately, critics of special education can point to many meta-analyses that show that special class placement and instruction is generally costly and ineffective (I can provide the cites if needed — there are many, and they are comprehensive). Generally speaking, children with mild to moderate intellectual handicaps do better in the regular class (with NO assistance) than matched controls in “special” classes. Say what? You have to investigate further, and learn that the majority of special education staff (certainly in Ontario) are NOT trained in effective teaching practices, alternative methods, proven curricula for special needs students etc., but simply encouraged to do what the late Dr. Ogden Lindsley, of Precision Teaching fame, called “SLOBS” –the same stuff as the regular class, but Slower, Louder, One thing at a time, Bigger, and Simpler, over and over again. Like giving more of the wrong prescription drug, for longer. Results show it doesn’t work.

    So today’s “equity” ideology insists we “include” all students, all the time, no matter what. The old “mainstreaming” movement provided for withdrawal assistance and small-group instruction for struggling students, but the new “full inclusion” movement rejects the notion of taking kids out of the regular class. A “learning support” teacher can come into the class, but nobody goes out. This idea too has merit (at times) but for some problems, like reading disabilities, having the children who need the most assistance coached in front of their peers is humiliating as well as ineffective. They learn better, and faster, when given the dignity of a secure and protected setting and specialized instruction to master the skills which come so easily to some of their peers.

    Some ways boards and the MOE limit access to the IPRC process in Ontario are by requiring many more steps in the process, much more paperwork, and making the required psychoeducational assessment hard to obtain in a timely manner (some students in my school have waited for 4-6 YEARS). Of course, well-off families simply get the assessment done privately and proceed quickly to IPRC (accompanied by their lawyer). So what is intended as an “equity” policy actually results in better services for the middle class and reduced options for the lower-income families. A Ministry document called “Shared Solutions” encourages the development of advocacy services, but our immigrant communities are lacking in these for the most part, and language and cultural factors impede effective parent participation. To give credit where credit is due, People for Education has done a great deal to provide information, networking, resources (in many languages) and support to parents of children with special education needs. Much more is needed, however.

    I posted some suggestions of what needs to be done to make inclusion work at the Educhatter blog a month or two ago. The link is here:

    http://educhatter.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/the-looming-special-education-crisis-will-inclusion-survive-its-biggest-test/

    My comment with suggestions is second to the last, one up from the bottom.

    Like

  20. Further to the issue of “one size does not fit all” in special education: trustees can have some minor influence on specific program provisions under a school board’s jurisdiction. However, the driving force behind the current inclusive movement in Ontario is the Ministry of Education. Sandy is correct that the underlying motivation is financial, rather than genuine concern for the best outcome for individual students. But it is more complex than that.

    What we are seeing today is not the “mainstreaming” movement that had its origins in the ’80s and ’90s, and the distinction is important. “Mainstreaming” was/is a movement in Special Education that emphasized having Special Education students participate in the “mainstream” (regular classes with same-age peers) to the greatest extent possible. It typically meant providing instruction for the Sp. Ed. children in a separate class with specialized staff for part of the day, and graduated participation in other curriculum areas — starting with gym, art, music, drama and then social studies, science and the core subjects — depending on the student’s needs and ability to benefit. This gradual mainstreaming was often part of a student’s return from an intensive support program (such as a Learning Disability or Behaviour class, which had a low pupil-teacher ratio — as low as 4:1) to a regular class as the student made gains in academic and behavioural areas. For students with more severe disabilities, some mainstreaming was still valued as a way to foster better social adjustment and interpersonal/life skills. When decisions are made based on local conditions and the needs and strengths of the individual student, mainstreaming is a very positive initiative.

    What we have today is a significantly different movement, that goes by other names — “full inclusion,” “radical inclusion” and “inclusive classrooms” being some of the most commonly used. What differentiates the “inclusion” movement from “mainstreaming” is that it goes well beyond being a “special ed” movement. Proponents of inclusion in its most extreme form reject any and all labelling or classification of students (except by age, apparently), or any “segregation” or separation of students for instructional purposes. Special Education law in most jurisdictions gives “special ed” kids (and their parents) legal rights; by minimizing the importance of a “special education” designation for a student, and putting subtle barriers in the way of obtaining one, the Ministry of Education reduces the number of people with legal rights to particular services and can instead provide services according to its own (changing) priorities and current ideologies. A leaked memo from the Deputy Minister of Education clearly directed school boards in Ontario to steer parents and schools away from referring struggling students to the IPRC (Identification, Placement and Review Committee) process for gaining a formal “Special Ed” designation, such as LD, Intellectual Disability, etc., and to instead encourage all parties to consider that addressing students’ individual needs through an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and “differentiated instruction” (DI) is the way to go. No formal process is needed for an IEP — no psychological testing, educational assessments of a formal type, special classes or teachers. All students will be effectively served in the regular classroom (without aides or educational assistants) by the classroom teacher who will “differentiate” for each learner.

    This worldview is shared by many parents of struggling students, too, who do not want their children assessed, labelled or given “special” instruction of any kind, even when they are well aware that their child has a disability. Unfortunately, critics of special education can point to many meta-analyses that show that special class placement and instruction is generally costly and ineffective (I can provide the cites if needed — there are many, and they are comprehensive). Generally speaking, children with mild to moderate intellectual handicaps do better in the regular class (with NO assistance) than matched controls in “special” classes. Say what? You have to investigate further, and learn that the majority of special education staff (certainly in Ontario) are NOT trained in effective teaching practices, alternative methods, proven curricula for special needs students etc., but simply encouraged to do what the late Dr. Ogden Lindsley, of Precision Teaching fame, called “SLOBS” –the same stuff as the regular class, but Slower, Louder, One thing at a time, Bigger, and Simpler, over and over again. Like giving more of the wrong prescription drug, for longer. Results show it doesn’t work.

    So today’s “equity” ideology insists we “include” all students, all the time, no matter what. The old “mainstreaming” movement provided for withdrawal assistance and small-group instruction for struggling students, but the new “full inclusion” movement rejects the notion of taking kids out of the regular class. A “learning support” teacher can come into the class, but nobody goes out. This idea too has merit (at times) but for some problems, like reading disabilities, having the children who need the most assistance coached in front of their peers is humiliating as well as ineffective. They learn better, and faster, when given the dignity of a secure and protected setting and specialized instruction to master the skills which come so easily to some of their peers.

    Some ways boards and the MOE limit access to the IPRC process in Ontario are by requiring many more steps in the process, much more paperwork, and making the required psychoeducational assessment hard to obtain in a timely manner (some students in my school have waited for 4-6 YEARS). Of course, well-off families simply get the assessment done privately and proceed quickly to IPRC (accompanied by their lawyer). So what is intended as an “equity” policy actually results in better services for the middle class and reduced options for the lower-income families. A Ministry document called “Shared Solutions” encourages the development of advocacy services, but our immigrant communities are lacking in these for the most part, and language and cultural factors impede effective parent participation. To give credit where credit is due, People for Education has done a great deal to provide information, networking, resources (in many languages) and support to parents of children with special education needs. Much more is needed, however.

    I posted some suggestions of what needs to be done to make inclusion work at the Educhatter blog a month or two ago. The link is here:

    http://educhatter.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/the-looming-special-education-crisis-will-inclusion-survive-its-biggest-test/

    My comment with suggestions is second to the last, one up from the bottom.

    Like

  21. Many many thanks TDSB. It is as I suspected. Inclusive has become the politically correct term for every child with needs, no matter what those needs are.

    I want to point out, though, that I have always shied away from labels. When parents used to come to see me, most paying my fees themselves. Some had health insurance that would cover most, if not all the fee, but some were just desperate and gave me a series of post-dated cheques.

    Once I completed the assessment, if the child or youth showed an ability to learn strategies and had no significant behavioural problems, I always told the parents to keep their child in the regular classroom — to avoid the label of being special needs. I would provide both the parents and their child with training on how to use learning strategies and electronic aids.

    Labelling is especially a problem in post-secondary settings. I did my best to help my colleagues in other departments understand the nature of learning disabilities but if a student was referred from the Special Needs Office, those students didn’t usually get good marks.

    Moreover, I have been a classroom teacher like you are. We both know how disruptive it can be when the Learning Resource Teacher comes by and pulls a child out of class for half an hour. The child misses what the rest of the kids are learning, often a math or social studies unit or even sometimes in the middle of a language arts lesson. Now, how helpful is that in the long run? I used to ask the LRT what she did with each student. Usually it was vocabulary development or something similar, important but not as important in the long run as the child missing the lesson on “flight” because they would inevitably do badly on the unit follow-up report or test.

    A case in point regarding labelling. I worked closely with two fellows, both referred to me through Community and Social Services, Voc Rehab at the time. I thought since they were working with me in the background, they could avoid registering with the special needs office because for the most part, all that will do is allow the provision of a notetaker and more time doing exams. And, here’s the kicker. Both wanted to go on to grad school. So, I didn’t want the profs to label them as LD.

    I am very against having a notetaker except if the person does not have the use of their hands. Why? Because the only person who learns anything is the notetaker and even if the student’s notes are lacking, they will have tried to concentrate on what is being said, not day dreaming.

    Anyway, student (a) registered anyway and was allowed to do his tests and exams in a separate room. Student (b) struggled but carried on as a usual student. Both were about equal in terms of ability and both could go on to grad work, with some type of assistance.

    You guessed it! Student (a) was not able to go on to grad school as the professors refused to provide a reference because of his “learning disabilities.” They felt that at that level, accommodations shouldn’t be given. Student (b) not only went on, but was invited to go on even before he chose to apply. The last I heard he didn’t ask for any extra help during his Master’s because he used the strategies I had taught him. So labels can and do limit choices.

    I could tell many stories like that. My point is, we shouldn’t label unless absolutely necessary. Just teach the kids how to study, how to keep track of what they are reading, how to use a phonetic spell checker, how to use an electronic dictionary, etc.

    But, for those kids who really do need a segregated classroom, even part of the time, they should have access to said classroom — not be denied because of ideology or in an attempt to save money.

    As a society, we pay now or we pay later in terms of health care, social assistance, criminal justice and other costs. In any event, TDSB, I will link your comment to the comment threads of a couple of other more recent posts.

    Like

  22. Many many thanks TDSB. It is as I suspected. Inclusive has become the politically correct term for every child with needs, no matter what those needs are.

    I want to point out, though, that I have always shied away from labels. When parents used to come to see me, most paying my fees themselves. Some had health insurance that would cover most, if not all the fee, but some were just desperate and gave me a series of post-dated cheques.

    Once I completed the assessment, if the child or youth showed an ability to learn strategies and had no significant behavioural problems, I always told the parents to keep their child in the regular classroom — to avoid the label of being special needs. I would provide both the parents and their child with training on how to use learning strategies and electronic aids.

    Labelling is especially a problem in post-secondary settings. I did my best to help my colleagues in other departments understand the nature of learning disabilities but if a student was referred from the Special Needs Office, those students didn’t usually get good marks.

    Moreover, I have been a classroom teacher like you are. We both know how disruptive it can be when the Learning Resource Teacher comes by and pulls a child out of class for half an hour. The child misses what the rest of the kids are learning, often a math or social studies unit or even sometimes in the middle of a language arts lesson. Now, how helpful is that in the long run? I used to ask the LRT what she did with each student. Usually it was vocabulary development or something similar, important but not as important in the long run as the child missing the lesson on “flight” because they would inevitably do badly on the unit follow-up report or test.

    A case in point regarding labelling. I worked closely with two fellows, both referred to me through Community and Social Services, Voc Rehab at the time. I thought since they were working with me in the background, they could avoid registering with the special needs office because for the most part, all that will do is allow the provision of a notetaker and more time doing exams. And, here’s the kicker. Both wanted to go on to grad school. So, I didn’t want the profs to label them as LD.

    I am very against having a notetaker except if the person does not have the use of their hands. Why? Because the only person who learns anything is the notetaker and even if the student’s notes are lacking, they will have tried to concentrate on what is being said, not day dreaming.

    Anyway, student (a) registered anyway and was allowed to do his tests and exams in a separate room. Student (b) struggled but carried on as a usual student. Both were about equal in terms of ability and both could go on to grad work, with some type of assistance.

    You guessed it! Student (a) was not able to go on to grad school as the professors refused to provide a reference because of his “learning disabilities.” They felt that at that level, accommodations shouldn’t be given. Student (b) not only went on, but was invited to go on even before he chose to apply. The last I heard he didn’t ask for any extra help during his Master’s because he used the strategies I had taught him. So labels can and do limit choices.

    I could tell many stories like that. My point is, we shouldn’t label unless absolutely necessary. Just teach the kids how to study, how to keep track of what they are reading, how to use a phonetic spell checker, how to use an electronic dictionary, etc.

    But, for those kids who really do need a segregated classroom, even part of the time, they should have access to said classroom — not be denied because of ideology or in an attempt to save money.

    As a society, we pay now or we pay later in terms of health care, social assistance, criminal justice and other costs. In any event, TDSB, I will link your comment to the comment threads of a couple of other more recent posts.

    Like

  23. I alluded to the need for background on why many parents of children with disabilities resist “special education” designation or placement, so here is some.

    The seminal work that kick-started the inclusion movement was Lloyd Dunn’s  1968 study,  Special education for the mildly retarded– Is much of it justifiable? , which  surveyed the available evidence and concluded that both the diagnostic and labelling criteria in use were highly suspect, and the “special” programs offered were frequently inferior. Dunn called for a more rigorous special education system overall with highly skilled teachers, intensive instruction based on identified learning needs (as opposed to disability labels — there is no empirical basis for different teaching methodologies or practices based on students’ supposed “diagnoses;” reading-delayed students, for example, have similar instructional needs whether they are labelled mildly retarded, learning-disabled, communication-impaired, behaviourally-disordered, or whatever). 

    His article was a call to action to make “special education” more than well-meaning daycare with lots of arts and crafts, vocational training and low expectations. Sadly many of his criticisms remain true today.
     
    Subsequent studies and meta-analyses of the research reached similar conclusions. Carlberg and Kavale’s 1980 meta-analysis found that special class placement was significantly damaging to students with mild to moderate intellectual delays but segregated settings were beneficial for emotionally disturbed and LD students. Mildly retarded kids in special classes showed a definite drop in standard scores vis-a-vis their peers in “mainstreamed” settings, indicating that they not only did not hold their own, they lost ground despite the “special” placement, lower class size, etc.
     
    Epps and Tindal in 1987 examined the literature on segregated class vs. inclusion placement over the period from around 1930 onward and concluded that no benefit could be attributed to special class placement, generally speaking. They found no evidence for the efficacy of the academic programming or the teaching provided.
     
    Wang, Anderson and Bram published another exhaustive meta-analysis of studies involving thousands of students that showed large achievement differences for mildly delayed students in mainstreamed setting versus ones in segregated classes (including segregated classes with part-time integration in the mainstream), these differences being in favour of the former.
     
    In short, there is no available evidence that segregated special classes for students with cognitive disabilities generally  produce better outcomes for students than the regular class; in fact, exactly the opposite is true.
     
    However, here another important distinction must be made.  The statistics tell us about the “big picture,” but they tell us nothing about the individual case.  Just as a drug might be effective for 95% of patients presenting with a certain clinical profile, and detrimental to the other 5% (but without more data you cannot infer into which of the two groups a particular individual might place), the fact that “special classes” as a rule deliver a poorer outcome than “regular” classes as a rule does not mean that individual schools, or special classes, might not be vastly superior.  The number of these would be too small to affect results in large-scale studies.  Effective teaching depends on teacher skill and knowledge, availability of the appropriate curriculum materials, and some other variables. Given these, a “special class” can produce outstanding, even “miraculous” results.   Zig Engelmann did this in his preschool program back in the ’60’s . See his “Teaching Reading to Children With Low Mental Ages” (1967) and “The Effectiveness of Direct Verbal Instruction on IQ Performance and Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic” (1968).
     
    There are effective teaching programs for students with developmental disabilities that can assist in their becoming capable of semi-independent (or independent) living and employable.  Effective private schools and some public school programs as well have always provided these. What the research shows should not surprise anyone: that most public school programs offered these students are ineffective and a waste of time and money, not to mention the troubling issues of equity and the crippling of life opportunity.  Of course, by inference, it also suggests that the standards in the “regular” class are not all that high either. I won’t go there, for the moment.
     
    Other benefits to inclusion that have not been separately validated as effective, but which make sense as contributing factors, are: more time on task, higher expectations, better peer models, more instructional time, fewer transitions, and a more enriched learning environment (low IQ students benefit as much from interesting and engaging curricula as “normal” students do). 
     
    If the low-ability student were one in my own family, I would be looking for a public or private program with effective curricula, highly trained and demanding but caring staff, and some opportunity (perhaps through extra-curricular or arts programs) to interact with “normal” students.  Or I would home-school the student. With special education, as with many other things, it is caveat emptor.
     
    References: 
     Carlberg, C., & Kavale, K. (1980). The efficacy of special versus regular class placement for exceptional children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Special Education, 14, 295-309.
     
     Dunn, L. M. (1968). Special education for the mildly retarded– Is much of it justifiable? Exceptional Children, 35, 5-22.
     
    Engelmann, Siegfried.(1968) The Effectiveness of Direct Verbal Instruction IQ Performance and Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic. In Jerome Helmuth (ed) Disadvantaged Child, v. 3

    Engelmann, Siegfried (1967) Teaching Reading to Children With Low Mental Ages, from Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, v.2, no.4 Council for Exceptional Children, Arlington, Va.
     
     Epps, S., & Tindal, G. (1987). The effectiveness of differential programming in serving students with mild handicaps: Placement options and instructional programming. In M. C. Wang, M. C. Reynolds, & H. J. Walberg (Eds.), Handbook of special education: Research and practice (vol. 1 pp. 213-248). Oxford: Pergamon Press.
     
     Wang, M. C., Anderson, K. A., & Bram, P. J. (1985). Toward an empirical data base on mainstreaming: A research synthesis of program   implementation and effects. Pittsburgh: Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh.
     

    Like

  24. I alluded to the need for background on why many parents of children with disabilities resist “special education” designation or placement, so here is some.

    The seminal work that kick-started the inclusion movement was Lloyd Dunn’s  1968 study,  Special education for the mildly retarded– Is much of it justifiable? , which  surveyed the available evidence and concluded that both the diagnostic and labelling criteria in use were highly suspect, and the “special” programs offered were frequently inferior. Dunn called for a more rigorous special education system overall with highly skilled teachers, intensive instruction based on identified learning needs (as opposed to disability labels — there is no empirical basis for different teaching methodologies or practices based on students’ supposed “diagnoses;” reading-delayed students, for example, have similar instructional needs whether they are labelled mildly retarded, learning-disabled, communication-impaired, behaviourally-disordered, or whatever). 

    His article was a call to action to make “special education” more than well-meaning daycare with lots of arts and crafts, vocational training and low expectations. Sadly many of his criticisms remain true today.
     
    Subsequent studies and meta-analyses of the research reached similar conclusions. Carlberg and Kavale’s 1980 meta-analysis found that special class placement was significantly damaging to students with mild to moderate intellectual delays but segregated settings were beneficial for emotionally disturbed and LD students. Mildly retarded kids in special classes showed a definite drop in standard scores vis-a-vis their peers in “mainstreamed” settings, indicating that they not only did not hold their own, they lost ground despite the “special” placement, lower class size, etc.
     
    Epps and Tindal in 1987 examined the literature on segregated class vs. inclusion placement over the period from around 1930 onward and concluded that no benefit could be attributed to special class placement, generally speaking. They found no evidence for the efficacy of the academic programming or the teaching provided.
     
    Wang, Anderson and Bram published another exhaustive meta-analysis of studies involving thousands of students that showed large achievement differences for mildly delayed students in mainstreamed setting versus ones in segregated classes (including segregated classes with part-time integration in the mainstream), these differences being in favour of the former.
     
    In short, there is no available evidence that segregated special classes for students with cognitive disabilities generally  produce better outcomes for students than the regular class; in fact, exactly the opposite is true.
     
    However, here another important distinction must be made.  The statistics tell us about the “big picture,” but they tell us nothing about the individual case.  Just as a drug might be effective for 95% of patients presenting with a certain clinical profile, and detrimental to the other 5% (but without more data you cannot infer into which of the two groups a particular individual might place), the fact that “special classes” as a rule deliver a poorer outcome than “regular” classes as a rule does not mean that individual schools, or special classes, might not be vastly superior.  The number of these would be too small to affect results in large-scale studies.  Effective teaching depends on teacher skill and knowledge, availability of the appropriate curriculum materials, and some other variables. Given these, a “special class” can produce outstanding, even “miraculous” results.   Zig Engelmann did this in his preschool program back in the ’60’s . See his “Teaching Reading to Children With Low Mental Ages” (1967) and “The Effectiveness of Direct Verbal Instruction on IQ Performance and Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic” (1968).
     
    There are effective teaching programs for students with developmental disabilities that can assist in their becoming capable of semi-independent (or independent) living and employable.  Effective private schools and some public school programs as well have always provided these. What the research shows should not surprise anyone: that most public school programs offered these students are ineffective and a waste of time and money, not to mention the troubling issues of equity and the crippling of life opportunity.  Of course, by inference, it also suggests that the standards in the “regular” class are not all that high either. I won’t go there, for the moment.
     
    Other benefits to inclusion that have not been separately validated as effective, but which make sense as contributing factors, are: more time on task, higher expectations, better peer models, more instructional time, fewer transitions, and a more enriched learning environment (low IQ students benefit as much from interesting and engaging curricula as “normal” students do). 
     
    If the low-ability student were one in my own family, I would be looking for a public or private program with effective curricula, highly trained and demanding but caring staff, and some opportunity (perhaps through extra-curricular or arts programs) to interact with “normal” students.  Or I would home-school the student. With special education, as with many other things, it is caveat emptor.
     
    References: 
     Carlberg, C., & Kavale, K. (1980). The efficacy of special versus regular class placement for exceptional children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Special Education, 14, 295-309.
     
     Dunn, L. M. (1968). Special education for the mildly retarded– Is much of it justifiable? Exceptional Children, 35, 5-22.
     
    Engelmann, Siegfried.(1968) The Effectiveness of Direct Verbal Instruction IQ Performance and Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic. In Jerome Helmuth (ed) Disadvantaged Child, v. 3

    Engelmann, Siegfried (1967) Teaching Reading to Children With Low Mental Ages, from Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, v.2, no.4 Council for Exceptional Children, Arlington, Va.
     
     Epps, S., & Tindal, G. (1987). The effectiveness of differential programming in serving students with mild handicaps: Placement options and instructional programming. In M. C. Wang, M. C. Reynolds, & H. J. Walberg (Eds.), Handbook of special education: Research and practice (vol. 1 pp. 213-248). Oxford: Pergamon Press.
     
     Wang, M. C., Anderson, K. A., & Bram, P. J. (1985). Toward an empirical data base on mainstreaming: A research synthesis of program   implementation and effects. Pittsburgh: Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh.
     

    Like

  25. A propos of the “labelling” issue, I would concur with Sandy’s observation that the majority of children with normal ability, but who struggle to succeed in one or more academic areas, do not need a “special education” diagnosis or label. The MOE points out, correctly, that the “label” rarely impacts what services the school system provides. An IEP can outline accommodations, and there are regulations in place to ensure these accommodations are provided; they can then be removed if desired, and no paper trail will remain. Only IEPs of formally-designated students must go in the Ontario Student Record.

    However, the “label” may be extremely important in particular cases, not so much for school purposes as to allow the child and family access to services outside the school system: respite care, support from agencies such as the Geneva Centre, teen counselling and social skills training from the Integra Foundation, parent support groups, and so on. Access to some secondary programs is also restricted, not necessarily exclusively to “identified” students but to students who meet criteria for such “identification.” An outstanding secondary program for students with intellectual disabilities, for example, is limited to students who have been identified by an IPRC as having a mild or moderate developmental disability OR as qualifying for such a designation even if the family has not gone through the IPRC process. Services for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and eligibility for Special Equipment Allowance (assistive technology) also require some “labelling” although they do not always require an IPRC designation.

    While middle-class parents frequently access the needed information themselves, and know what services their child needs and what assessments or procedures are required to access them, lower-income and visible minority families usually lack this information or the pipeline to access and use it to their advantage. Meanwhile, their child with a severe developmental delay, language impairment or mental health issue may be “included” in a setting where 0% of the instructional content is within his or her learning one. Picture the thirteen-year-old with an IQ of 40 and a mental age of 5, sitting through a rotary Grade 7 timetable — factoring equations, New France, writing persuasive essays. This child cannot follow a Beatrix Potter storybook read aloud, much less The Diary of Anne Frank. Furthermore, the skills he or she urgently *needs* to learn — simple money concepts and operations, how to use a telephone, simple (literal) reading and writing skills — are not taught in such a setting. How, realistically, can an intermediate grade teacher “differentiate” for this student, and perhaps for two or three others like him? And what support outside the school system will be available for the student and family as adolescence and young adulthood approach, and he or she struggles with the lack of friendships, independence, and with hormonal surges? This student, and many others, *need* a “label” to access the services provided for them. Often their parents are not given the information needed to make a decision that is in the child’s best interest — and advocacy groups have too little participation in minority cultural communities to make the difference needed.

    I believe things may have changed in the post-secondary world since the examples Sandy cites. I have no direct experience here, but I have heard from a number of sources, including one who is very knowledgeable about education law in Ontario, that it is precisely in post-secondary settings where a “label” like LD is beneficial for the student, because it guarantees him or her certain rights that must be honoured, regardless of the professor’s opinions or beliefs. Teachers are now routinely required to provide notes to identified students, for example (so no need for a note-taker). Human Rights cases and changes to the Ontarians With Disabilities Act (I believe that’s the one) mandate that students with LD be given whatever accommodations are required, and they cannot be discriminated against in admissions on these bases.

    Adaptive technology has opened many doors for students with low literacy skills in the post-secondary world. A speaker came to our staff meeting to tell us how she got a B.A. with honours and then a Master’s degree from York (in sociology I think) with only Grade 2 reading skills. She used adaptive technology — screen readers, voice-input software — and got very high grades. She was intelligent but severely reading disabled. The “label” was essential for her success.

    The problem with full inclusion as the default setting, and with inadequate information regarding the legal benefits of “labels” and the services and rights they confer, is that it is actually INequitable. As Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka said in ruling on the Eaton vs. Brant County Board of Education case, there can be no presumption of integration because it may deny the disabled student a right to an effective education. These high-needs students, and exceptional learners, must be provided for on a case-by-case basis, and their families must have adequate information, counselling and support.

    Like

  26. A propos of the “labelling” issue, I would concur with Sandy’s observation that the majority of children with normal ability, but who struggle to succeed in one or more academic areas, do not need a “special education” diagnosis or label. The MOE points out, correctly, that the “label” rarely impacts what services the school system provides. An IEP can outline accommodations, and there are regulations in place to ensure these accommodations are provided; they can then be removed if desired, and no paper trail will remain. Only IEPs of formally-designated students must go in the Ontario Student Record.

    However, the “label” may be extremely important in particular cases, not so much for school purposes as to allow the child and family access to services outside the school system: respite care, support from agencies such as the Geneva Centre, teen counselling and social skills training from the Integra Foundation, parent support groups, and so on. Access to some secondary programs is also restricted, not necessarily exclusively to “identified” students but to students who meet criteria for such “identification.” An outstanding secondary program for students with intellectual disabilities, for example, is limited to students who have been identified by an IPRC as having a mild or moderate developmental disability OR as qualifying for such a designation even if the family has not gone through the IPRC process. Services for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and eligibility for Special Equipment Allowance (assistive technology) also require some “labelling” although they do not always require an IPRC designation.

    While middle-class parents frequently access the needed information themselves, and know what services their child needs and what assessments or procedures are required to access them, lower-income and visible minority families usually lack this information or the pipeline to access and use it to their advantage. Meanwhile, their child with a severe developmental delay, language impairment or mental health issue may be “included” in a setting where 0% of the instructional content is within his or her learning one. Picture the thirteen-year-old with an IQ of 40 and a mental age of 5, sitting through a rotary Grade 7 timetable — factoring equations, New France, writing persuasive essays. This child cannot follow a Beatrix Potter storybook read aloud, much less The Diary of Anne Frank. Furthermore, the skills he or she urgently *needs* to learn — simple money concepts and operations, how to use a telephone, simple (literal) reading and writing skills — are not taught in such a setting. How, realistically, can an intermediate grade teacher “differentiate” for this student, and perhaps for two or three others like him? And what support outside the school system will be available for the student and family as adolescence and young adulthood approach, and he or she struggles with the lack of friendships, independence, and with hormonal surges? This student, and many others, *need* a “label” to access the services provided for them. Often their parents are not given the information needed to make a decision that is in the child’s best interest — and advocacy groups have too little participation in minority cultural communities to make the difference needed.

    I believe things may have changed in the post-secondary world since the examples Sandy cites. I have no direct experience here, but I have heard from a number of sources, including one who is very knowledgeable about education law in Ontario, that it is precisely in post-secondary settings where a “label” like LD is beneficial for the student, because it guarantees him or her certain rights that must be honoured, regardless of the professor’s opinions or beliefs. Teachers are now routinely required to provide notes to identified students, for example (so no need for a note-taker). Human Rights cases and changes to the Ontarians With Disabilities Act (I believe that’s the one) mandate that students with LD be given whatever accommodations are required, and they cannot be discriminated against in admissions on these bases.

    Adaptive technology has opened many doors for students with low literacy skills in the post-secondary world. A speaker came to our staff meeting to tell us how she got a B.A. with honours and then a Master’s degree from York (in sociology I think) with only Grade 2 reading skills. She used adaptive technology — screen readers, voice-input software — and got very high grades. She was intelligent but severely reading disabled. The “label” was essential for her success.

    The problem with full inclusion as the default setting, and with inadequate information regarding the legal benefits of “labels” and the services and rights they confer, is that it is actually INequitable. As Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka said in ruling on the Eaton vs. Brant County Board of Education case, there can be no presumption of integration because it may deny the disabled student a right to an effective education. These high-needs students, and exceptional learners, must be provided for on a case-by-case basis, and their families must have adequate information, counselling and support.

    Like

  27. As you no doubt know, the “label” is absolutely necessary to get any kind of special education assistance or, once out of school, access to ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) programs and services. I noticed the L.Dunn (1968) source you gave. I wonder if he or she is related to the R. and K. that came much later of learning styles model fame.

    In other words, integration if at all possible or partial-integration at the very least. Of course that is all on the basis that the classroom teacher will have an EA for the more severe cases, such as a non-verbal child with autism or similar severe disability. And, in the case of severe autism, access to some form of IBI therapy so that the child can learn to attend to some degree.

    Now, given all that, I can see why ETFO is calling for a lower pupil-teacher ratio in the junior and intermediate grades. Teachers simply cannot deal with 3 or 4 special needs children, no matter what their special need, without help and fewer students.

    No wonder we have a problem communicating to parents and the general public what is really going on in schools today! Teachers are expected to be all things to all children — parent, teacher, social worker and advocate!

    Like

  28. As you no doubt know, the “label” is absolutely necessary to get any kind of special education assistance or, once out of school, access to ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) programs and services. I noticed the L.Dunn (1968) source you gave. I wonder if he or she is related to the R. and K. that came much later of learning styles model fame.

    In other words, integration if at all possible or partial-integration at the very least. Of course that is all on the basis that the classroom teacher will have an EA for the more severe cases, such as a non-verbal child with autism or similar severe disability. And, in the case of severe autism, access to some form of IBI therapy so that the child can learn to attend to some degree.

    Now, given all that, I can see why ETFO is calling for a lower pupil-teacher ratio in the junior and intermediate grades. Teachers simply cannot deal with 3 or 4 special needs children, no matter what their special need, without help and fewer students.

    No wonder we have a problem communicating to parents and the general public what is really going on in schools today! Teachers are expected to be all things to all children — parent, teacher, social worker and advocate!

    Like

  29. TDSB at 10:13am — All true and very thoroughly presented. I don’t know who you are, but you sure know your stuff. And, I am glad you are a regular here. We need someone within the system to tell us like it is. Even after retirement, I continued to teach a course or two a year so I am aware of all the changes you speak. But, I still recommend that, when possible, university students not get labelled. Now, of course, I could do that because I was providing the support they needed. Sometimes, I would also work closely with the counselling office who provided study help as well. The last university I taught at, and from I retired, was McMaster. They were very good at what you describe.

    It’s complicated. My son is average in many areas but LD in the skills required for problem solving and daily living. And, he is mildly autistic so can’t stand crowds of people and stress. Meaning, a competitive job or a diploma program was not possible for him — although he tried. He and his spouse are receiving ODSP benefits and he volunteers and is self-employed doing handyman jobs in his high rise and local area. It is what he can handle and we are very proud of him.

    So, as I say, one-size cannot be made to fit all. And, therein lies my concern with the notion of inclusion, that it has become or will become like Procrustes theory — stretching them or cutting off their legs to fit a one-size fits all bed.

    Like

  30. TDSB at 10:13am — All true and very thoroughly presented. I don’t know who you are, but you sure know your stuff. And, I am glad you are a regular here. We need someone within the system to tell us like it is. Even after retirement, I continued to teach a course or two a year so I am aware of all the changes you speak. But, I still recommend that, when possible, university students not get labelled. Now, of course, I could do that because I was providing the support they needed. Sometimes, I would also work closely with the counselling office who provided study help as well. The last university I taught at, and from I retired, was McMaster. They were very good at what you describe.

    It’s complicated. My son is average in many areas but LD in the skills required for problem solving and daily living. And, he is mildly autistic so can’t stand crowds of people and stress. Meaning, a competitive job or a diploma program was not possible for him — although he tried. He and his spouse are receiving ODSP benefits and he volunteers and is self-employed doing handyman jobs in his high rise and local area. It is what he can handle and we are very proud of him.

    So, as I say, one-size cannot be made to fit all. And, therein lies my concern with the notion of inclusion, that it has become or will become like Procrustes theory — stretching them or cutting off their legs to fit a one-size fits all bed.

    Like

  31. TDSB — My husband (also a retired educator) and I just went to lunch and we chatted about the conversation that is going on here at CotM on a couple of threads. He pointed out that both he and I have been this route before. Only the vocabulary has changed.

    I went to teacher’s college in 1971/72 and got my first job teaching Grade 6 and art on rotary. It was a time when there were few jobs and art specialists were needed. The reason? Four years before, the Hall Dennis Report came out and set classroom methodology on its head. We were the new wave. But, we didn’t use terms like “equitable” or “inclusive” then. Rather we used terms like “child-centered” and “individualization.” Whether inclusive or child-centered, they essentially mean the same thing. Didn’t matter if kids were learning English, whether they were from economically depressed neighbourhoods or had special needs, for the most part they were in our classrooms — although there were a few segregated classrooms called SLD, GLD or ER (educable retarded — not a nice term).

    In my second year of teaching, I had a 3/4 split. And, in that classroom, I had four reading groups, four math groups, a reading centre, a math centre and a listening centre — and remember having at least five or six kids with special needs. We didn’t call their problems special needs then. They were just labelled as LD, ADHD, with a sensory problem (e.g., hearing impaired) or with behavioural problems (including those identified as autistic). Autism then was totally different. For those old enough to remember, autism then meant “Dibs). And, there was no such thing as a teaching assistant.

    Our reading program was completely individualized and pretty much the same as discovery or reading experience is now. Except, and this is the big difference, we squeezed in 15 or 20 minutes a day of phonics and spelling. In math time, I also squeezed in timetables practice and did a daily ten test.

    So, that saying what goes around comes around is true. I just think what we managed to squeeze more into our curriculum units than they do now.

    At the same time we doing all that, we were parents of a child who was initially diagosed as ADHD with learning disabilities. But, even though we both worked in the system where he went to school, we experienced the same kind of frustrations as other parents. In fact, it was worse because the powers that be didn’t think we should be advocating for our son. We had to ignore them to get the help he needed but it was an endless struggle. How much worse for parents who couldn’t just call up the Supt of Special Education and say “what’s happening?”

    My point is that it would be a mistake to think things today are that different than they were four decades ago or even two decades ago– as long as they were after the Hall Dennis report. What has changed, however, is the impact of the unions on practice. The only prep time we had were the 20 minutes a day for French and if you taught Grades 7 & 8, the half day they went to shop and home ec. Sharing lunch duty, yard duty, bus duty and recess duty was a given. So, most of our planning and marking were done at night and on weekends. Meaning, if teachers complain today about not having enough prep time, all they are going to get from folks like me is a rolling of the eyes.

    Just some reflections.

    Like

  32. TDSB — My husband (also a retired educator) and I just went to lunch and we chatted about the conversation that is going on here at CotM on a couple of threads. He pointed out that both he and I have been this route before. Only the vocabulary has changed.

    I went to teacher’s college in 1971/72 and got my first job teaching Grade 6 and art on rotary. It was a time when there were few jobs and art specialists were needed. The reason? Four years before, the Hall Dennis Report came out and set classroom methodology on its head. We were the new wave. But, we didn’t use terms like “equitable” or “inclusive” then. Rather we used terms like “child-centered” and “individualization.” Whether inclusive or child-centered, they essentially mean the same thing. Didn’t matter if kids were learning English, whether they were from economically depressed neighbourhoods or had special needs, for the most part they were in our classrooms — although there were a few segregated classrooms called SLD, GLD or ER (educable retarded — not a nice term).

    In my second year of teaching, I had a 3/4 split. And, in that classroom, I had four reading groups, four math groups, a reading centre, a math centre and a listening centre — and remember having at least five or six kids with special needs. We didn’t call their problems special needs then. They were just labelled as LD, ADHD, with a sensory problem (e.g., hearing impaired) or with behavioural problems (including those identified as autistic). Autism then was totally different. For those old enough to remember, autism then meant “Dibs). And, there was no such thing as a teaching assistant.

    Our reading program was completely individualized and pretty much the same as discovery or reading experience is now. Except, and this is the big difference, we squeezed in 15 or 20 minutes a day of phonics and spelling. In math time, I also squeezed in timetables practice and did a daily ten test.

    So, that saying what goes around comes around is true. I just think what we managed to squeeze more into our curriculum units than they do now.

    At the same time we doing all that, we were parents of a child who was initially diagosed as ADHD with learning disabilities. But, even though we both worked in the system where he went to school, we experienced the same kind of frustrations as other parents. In fact, it was worse because the powers that be didn’t think we should be advocating for our son. We had to ignore them to get the help he needed but it was an endless struggle. How much worse for parents who couldn’t just call up the Supt of Special Education and say “what’s happening?”

    My point is that it would be a mistake to think things today are that different than they were four decades ago or even two decades ago– as long as they were after the Hall Dennis report. What has changed, however, is the impact of the unions on practice. The only prep time we had were the 20 minutes a day for French and if you taught Grades 7 & 8, the half day they went to shop and home ec. Sharing lunch duty, yard duty, bus duty and recess duty was a given. So, most of our planning and marking were done at night and on weekends. Meaning, if teachers complain today about not having enough prep time, all they are going to get from folks like me is a rolling of the eyes.

    Just some reflections.

    Like

  33. I remember those days, too. But I worked for a diferent board and got no prep time at all for at least ten years, and thought nothing of it. Planning, preparing and marking were done evenings and weekends, then as now.Even today teachers at my last three schools stay well into the evening (7-8 o’clock), and go in on Saturdays or Sundays when we can get in. By working 12-hour days and one day each weekend I managed to keep on top of things in the “good old days” but that is not enough time now. Supervision time, however, is about the same now as then — we still do bus duty, recess duty, lunch duty, yard supervision and so on, about 80–100 minutes per week.

    I’ve always thought the term “prep time” is a misnomer. It suggests that the time is needed for lesson preparation and marking. But that is rarely the real need. Lesson preparation and marking are only somewhat more time-consuming than they were twenty or forty years ago (the expectation in some quarters that teachers will write all their own curricula is relatively recent). What has made “prep time” necessary is the amount of paperwork required. It has increased by at least a factor of ten, more likely a factor of twenty. Much of it must be done on the board’s intranet or network, thus it cannot be taken home. Some time must be allocated or provided for this to be done at school. I’ve suggested many times at union meetings that the priority should be negotiating a cap on administrivia, rather than increasing prep time — for every increase in prep time, the MOE will hire another $250 000 Superintendent of Useless Projects to make work for teachers to do in their “free” time (only half kidding here) .

    My point is that it would be a mistake to think things today are that different than they were four decades ago or even two decades ago– as long as they were after the Hall Dennis report.

    Sorry, but I disagree with you completely on this. I think the system has profoundly changed; indeed, I’d call it a metamorphosis — the system has evolved into something entirely different from what it was in the 70’s and 80’s, for better and worse. Superficial similarities exist, but at its core it is a different animal. The differences are fundamental, far-reaching and systemic. Much education reform talk misses the mark because it address issues in a system that does not in fact exist. There’s an absence of grounded empiricism in the debate.

    Which reminds me… you deleted the thread about If You Could Have One Wish for the Education System (or something like that) before I could complete a response. It was going to be about making education, as a profession, move towards an evidence-based model, similar to the direction medicine and psychology have taken. Not relevant to this thread however.

    Because things have changed substantially, many of the “old” solutions and approaches are no longer feasible or relevant. Whether new directions such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the “layered curriculum” will bear the hoped-for fruit remains to be seen. We won’t know for some decades, and there’s an absence of data at this point in time.

    Like

  34. I remember those days, too. But I worked for a diferent board and got no prep time at all for at least ten years, and thought nothing of it. Planning, preparing and marking were done evenings and weekends, then as now.Even today teachers at my last three schools stay well into the evening (7-8 o’clock), and go in on Saturdays or Sundays when we can get in. By working 12-hour days and one day each weekend I managed to keep on top of things in the “good old days” but that is not enough time now. Supervision time, however, is about the same now as then — we still do bus duty, recess duty, lunch duty, yard supervision and so on, about 80–100 minutes per week.

    I’ve always thought the term “prep time” is a misnomer. It suggests that the time is needed for lesson preparation and marking. But that is rarely the real need. Lesson preparation and marking are only somewhat more time-consuming than they were twenty or forty years ago (the expectation in some quarters that teachers will write all their own curricula is relatively recent). What has made “prep time” necessary is the amount of paperwork required. It has increased by at least a factor of ten, more likely a factor of twenty. Much of it must be done on the board’s intranet or network, thus it cannot be taken home. Some time must be allocated or provided for this to be done at school. I’ve suggested many times at union meetings that the priority should be negotiating a cap on administrivia, rather than increasing prep time — for every increase in prep time, the MOE will hire another $250 000 Superintendent of Useless Projects to make work for teachers to do in their “free” time (only half kidding here) .

    My point is that it would be a mistake to think things today are that different than they were four decades ago or even two decades ago– as long as they were after the Hall Dennis report.

    Sorry, but I disagree with you completely on this. I think the system has profoundly changed; indeed, I’d call it a metamorphosis — the system has evolved into something entirely different from what it was in the 70’s and 80’s, for better and worse. Superficial similarities exist, but at its core it is a different animal. The differences are fundamental, far-reaching and systemic. Much education reform talk misses the mark because it address issues in a system that does not in fact exist. There’s an absence of grounded empiricism in the debate.

    Which reminds me… you deleted the thread about If You Could Have One Wish for the Education System (or something like that) before I could complete a response. It was going to be about making education, as a profession, move towards an evidence-based model, similar to the direction medicine and psychology have taken. Not relevant to this thread however.

    Because things have changed substantially, many of the “old” solutions and approaches are no longer feasible or relevant. Whether new directions such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the “layered curriculum” will bear the hoped-for fruit remains to be seen. We won’t know for some decades, and there’s an absence of data at this point in time.

    Like

  35. Of course I am aware of the metamorphosis that TDSB talks about but from the other side of the classroom — as a faculty of ed supervisor/counsellor. I only recently stopped doing that. But, sitting at the back of a classroom observing is interesting to say the least. Routines and classroom management are similar to what they were “in my day” (LOL) but yes, my grad students, all practising educators, complained constantly about the paper work. Re the curriculum, it seems to me it is much more prescriptive now. Over the 70s and 80s the guidelines were very general and we had to hand in all our written curriculum units at the beginning of each year. The principal kept them in his or her office cabinet in case parents wanted to see them.

    Then, in the 90’s when I was teaching undergrad curriculum design and development, I had to teach my students (mostly future teachers) how to use the curriculum documents developed between boards in partnerships. Now, from what I have seen, even the guidelines are prescriptive. So, from where I am sitting, curriculum is in essence much easier.

    But, not being on the front lines, I’ll take your word that the paper work is now worse — or perhaps it is simply different.

    Like

  36. Of course I am aware of the metamorphosis that TDSB talks about but from the other side of the classroom — as a faculty of ed supervisor/counsellor. I only recently stopped doing that. But, sitting at the back of a classroom observing is interesting to say the least. Routines and classroom management are similar to what they were “in my day” (LOL) but yes, my grad students, all practising educators, complained constantly about the paper work. Re the curriculum, it seems to me it is much more prescriptive now. Over the 70s and 80s the guidelines were very general and we had to hand in all our written curriculum units at the beginning of each year. The principal kept them in his or her office cabinet in case parents wanted to see them.

    Then, in the 90’s when I was teaching undergrad curriculum design and development, I had to teach my students (mostly future teachers) how to use the curriculum documents developed between boards in partnerships. Now, from what I have seen, even the guidelines are prescriptive. So, from where I am sitting, curriculum is in essence much easier.

    But, not being on the front lines, I’ll take your word that the paper work is now worse — or perhaps it is simply different.

    Like

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