BROCKVILLE — As part of ongoing efforts to modernize programming for students, Superintendent Ron Ferguson presented a review of the district’s Special Education Program at the May 22 Board meeting. The review contained recommendations that would enhance the current direction for delivering special education in the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB).
The recommendations presented were the result of a review done of the program by an independent consultant. The review involved 13 school visits and seven focus groups comprised of staff, parents, trustees, labour representatives and members of the board’s Special Education Advisory Committee.
Key findings of the report found the following:
- Approximately 25 percent of UCDSB students access special education in our schools, compared to 17 percent provincially.
- More students with Autism Spectrum Disorder are accessing special education in the UCDSB and fewer with identified learning disabilities, although the overall number of students receiving these special education services remain constant.
- The current process for establishing an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a student – which provides access to special education services – should be re-examined. Currently, an IEP can be issued to a student without a formal diagnosis of a learning disability, or a review by the Identification, Review and Placement Committee.
- Consideration should be given to enhancing staff training in areas such as differentiated instruction and behaviour management in light of the changing profile of our students.
- In 2018-19 the school board exceeded provincial funding for special education by $8.6 million, and has had limited success in accessing specialized provincial funding known as the Special Incident Portion (SIP) allocation for the 2019-2020 school year.
Using these report findings and recommendations, staff suggested that the UCDSB implement a pilot project in the 2019-20 school year to test a multi-disciplinary team approach to special education planning, intervention and support. It was also recommended that staff re-examine how IEPs are developed and implemented in the district, and clarify general expectations for how they are to be developed, monitored and updated. A third recommendation was that the financial forecasts/revised estimates reports presented to the Board in 2019-20 include specific updates from staff about the SIP allocation received from the Ministry of Education. The Board of Trustees approved these recommendations.
“Through these changes and the pilot-program, we hope to see long-term benefits for our schools. It has become obvious that the needs of students are changing, so our programming needs to reflect that,” said Director of Education Stephen Sliwa. “It’s our expectation that these initiatives will allow our schools to continue to be responsive to the evolving needs of our students, while establishing a better alignment between these program commitments and the resources and opportunities that are provided by the Ministry of Education.”