Toronto’s publicly funded Africentric “high school” has 6 students!

What is it about the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) that they consider a total of 6 students enough to keep a new high school open? Yet, that is exactly what is happening. As Moira MacDonald wrote a couple of days ago, the Africentric High School will indeed stay open. Talk about misreading political correctness!

A little background: Last fall the TDSB decided to open an Africentric high school, eventually settling on space in Scarborough’s Winston Churchill Collegiate because of the community backlash to the initial plan to locate the school in Oakwood Collegiate.

To be called the Africentric Leonard Braithwaite Program, after Ontario’s first black MPP, the final location was hardly central and the public backlash hardly a good beginning to say the least.

Readers may remember a similar level of public debate went on when the Africentric elementary school was approved back in 2007. Although I can’t find my posts that far back, I can confirm I was both for and against the idea — albeit more against than in favour.
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Colorado’s Joshua School for autistics

Click for school’s website.

Politicians, educators and parents in Englewood (near Denver) and Boulder Colorado are miles ahead of those who live and work in most cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Why? Because they seem to recognize that not all children and youth should be thrown into regular classrooms in the “belief” that kids with special needs cannot be prepared for a successful life outside a regular classroom setting.

In Canada, we refer to that “ideology” as inclusiveness or integration, while in the U.S. it’s called “mainstreaming.” 

For example, check out this article about The Joshua School in Englewood — which has just announced another campus will be opened in Boulder. 

As the school’s About TJS page indicates, the school provides ABA therapy and a wide variety of programming options for kids aged 2 1/2 to 21. Plus, all decisions are based on the assessed learning and treatment needs of the children and youth in their care — what professionals are now referring to as evidence-based treatment (particularly in medicine).

Why is that type of decision-making relevant? Because it bases programming and therapy decisions, not on any particular philosophy, or saving money, but on exactly, or as close as possible, to what each child or youth in their care needs.

On the inclusive integration debate, check out what Paul Bennett wrote at EduChatter last spring, as well as what I wrote regarding Harold Doherty’s radio interview on the Province of New Brunswick’s near obsession for one-size fits all.  

However, change could be in the air in Canada, New Brunswick in particular, given we are “finally” starting to hear alternative points of view. As Doherty posted a couple of days ago at Facing Autism in NB,  Yude M. Henteleff made a presentation at the Atlantic Human Rights Conference on June 15th, 2012 about the necessity for a new special education placement “paradigm” that would widen the concept of inclusiveness.

What might such a new concept of inclusiveness look like? Well, it wouldn’t be based on the rigid ideology popular now that a regular classroom is the least restrictive environment. In actual fact, a single option like that is the very opposite of inclusion — rigid and inflexible. As this online definition of inclusive states, inclusive actually means comprehensive within a wide scope, such as the numbers from 1 to 10 are inclusive of all the numbers in between.

Anyway, my point for writing this post about The Joshua School is to provide a concrete example of what Henteleff’s new paradigm of inclusion might look like. It is inclusive because children with special needs are placed in a wide range of situations that are based on their age, their grade and their their special “diagnosed” needs. 

My congratulations to Doherty, Henteleff and Joshua’s Board of Directors, for being ahead of the curve and getting it right!

Grand opening of Bayfield’s Virtual High School June 1st at 6pm

Click for website.

Click for website.

Interested in alternative education and technological innovation AND can get to Bayfield, Ontario on the eastern shores of Lake Huron?

Well, there will be a grand opening ceremony tomorrow, June 1st, 2012 for Virtual High School’s (VHS) new community presence at 27 Main Street North in Bayfield.

Only available online or by telephone up to this point, VHS will now have an administration address. As readers can see in the photo image above, the office building is a restoration of what was once the Martha Ritz hotel.

The ribbon cutting will be tomorrow at 6pm sharp, with tours of the facility until 9pm.

I wrote about Bayfield Ontario’s Virtual High School in 2010 as an example of an alternative high school. Well, it seems a lot has happened in just two years.

Here, for example, is VHS’s main page.  It now has 64 high school credit courses, all approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education, an administrative staff of 14 and 60 teachers (all accredited members of the Ontario College of Teachers).  Unlike most high schools, however, the teachers are located all over Ontario.

Of course, most important of all, there are some 4,600 active students — a phenomenal number by any standard!

Congratulations to Principal Steve Baker and his team at VHS, not only for being such technological innovators, but for providing an alternative choice to students who are self-directed and/or prefer to learn in a virtual way!

For further information or to contact the school for a later tour of the new facility, the telephone numbers are at this link.