Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education

Annual Report to the Minister for the Year 1996-97

May 6, 1997

Honourable John Snobelen
Minister
Ministry of Education and Training
900 Bay Street
22nd Floor, Mowat Block
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1L2

Re: Annual Report of the Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education

Dear Mr. Snobelen:

It is with considerable pleasure that I submit to you this report on the activities of your Advisory Council on Special Education during 1996/97.

You will note that, despite our reduced meeting schedule and an almost completely new membership, your Council has had an active and productive year.

  • Council formed sub-committees on finance and secondary school reform. The reports and recommendations from these sub-committees have been submitted to you. More recently, sub-committees on interministerial coordination and transition to work have been formed and are continuing to work.
  • We have recently submitted, for your consideration, 23 resolutions deriving from our February 20 meeting, and which reflect our deliberations over the past year.
  • We have met frequently with senior officials of the Ministry in order to ensure that the perspective, concerns and recommendations of your Council are understood by those who have responsibility for developing and implementing policies and programs.
  • We have frequently and willingly provided representatives to Ministry consultation meetings on a variety of issues including: education finance reform, curriculum, provincial report cards, provincial testing, and secondary school reform, and we have assisted in the training of staff of the district offices.
  • I and members of the Council have addressed audiences throughout Ontario providing information about your Advisory Council and inviting input.
  • The Council has developed procedures to collect information on best practices and concerns of the special education community. We have also developed procedures to evaluate our own effectiveness (see attached).

At its first meeting, on June 18 1996, the Council established three priority issues for the year. These were accountability, special education funding, and secondary school reform. These issues remain of critical importance to exceptional students and to your Council. As your Advisory Council, we believe it to be our role to document best practices as well as the concerns of the special education community and to recommend to you appropriate actions in response to this information.

Best Practices

On behalf of your Council, I would like to express our appreciation to you and the staff of the Ministry for maintaining this Council, and for your time and efforts on behalf of the Council. We believe that our meetings with you and your deputy, and our frequent meetings with senior managers in the Ministry have created mutual understanding and a valuable working relationship. We particularly appreciated your attendance at our November meeting and our frank discussion at that time.

While we continue to believe that there should be a distinct organizational unit in the Ministry dedicated to special education, we also believe that the current placement of special education policy staff in the Policy Branch of the Ministry is the next best alternative.

As you will read below, Council is very concerned about school board cuts to special education, especially cuts to support staff who enable many exceptional students to attend school and to benefit from school attendance. We note with approval that you have repeatedly and consistently informed school boards and the public that the monies for special education, included within the provincial grants to school boards, have been maintained at 1995 levels despite overall reductions in provincial grants. We also appreciate your repeated reminders to school boards of their obligations in law to provide special education programs and services to their exceptional students.

In the following paragraphs, I highlight some of our most significant issues and recommendations in Council’s three priority areas and also with respect to school board amalgamation.

Accountability

The Education Act makes school boards responsible for the provision of special education programs and services for the exceptional students of the board. Despite the fact that per pupil funding for special education has been maintained by the Ministry at 1995 levels, school boards across Ontario have been reacting to reductions in provincial funding by reducing the range of placement options for exceptional students and cutting back on the professional support services which these students need in order to attend school, to participate in class and to learn. We urge you, Minister, to inform school boards that expenditures on programs for exceptional students and professional support personnel are classroom expenditures which must be exempt from school board expenditure reductions. We also urge you to take meaningful and effective action to protect Ontario’s exceptional students from school boards’ continuing cuts to special education expenditures in their classrooms.

We also believe that the cause of accountability will be well served through the release of the revisions to Regulation 305 and the Categories and Definitions of Exceptionality. The speedy release of these documents would be a positive sign of the government’s continuing interest in exceptional students.

Funding

The way in which funds are distributed by the province to school boards has a significant effect on programs and services delivered by the boards. With greater provincial control over school funding, the province’s rationale for its distribution of funds to special education will become critically important to the provision of needed programs and services for exceptional students in our schools. Your Council’s advice is that funds provided in support of special education programs and services should be clearly identified and that school boards should be held accountable by the Ministry for the expenditure of these funds to ensure that needed programs and services are provided for our exceptional students.

Secondary School Reform

While it is appropriate for Ontario to be brought into line with other jurisdictions by reducing secondary education from five to four years and by increasing emphasis on curriculum standards, we hope that you will take special care to ensure that Ontario’s exceptional students do not become victims of Ontario’s drive for excellence. Some exceptional students will require more than four years to achieve the learning outcomes required for a secondary school diploma. Others will require program modifications, special learning materials, technical aids, human supports and/or adjustments to testing procedures. These are necessary

accommodations and modifications to ensure equal opportunity for all students regardless of ability or disability. Very careful attention is required to ensure that provincial testing procedures and the provincial report card include our exceptional students while highlighting their abilities – not just their differences.

School Board Amalgamation

There are concerns about the implications of Bill 104 for Special Education Advisory Committees. These committees are strong voices for special education and, in this last year, have frequently found themselves in opposition to school board cuts to special education programs and services in the classroom. There is grave concern that school boards will prevail in having the role of Special Education Advisory Committees downgraded or removed. As fiscal pressures continue to challenge special education programs and services, the role of the Special Education Advisory Committees becomes increasingly important. The Council and the special education community need your assurance, Minister, that our Special Education Advisory Committees will continue to play their crucial role in Ontario.

These are just some of the more significant issues and concerns of the Council. Resolutions on many additional topics were submitted to you recently and are included with this report.

I am delighted to have learned on April 29 that the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario has signed an Order in Council granting an additional three year term for your Advisory Council. I am certain that the Council will continue to provide you with valuable advice over the next three critical years for Ontario education.

In closing, I would like to thank you, Minister, on behalf of all of the members of the Council for your attention to our exceptional students and for your support over the past year. Council members were very appreciative of the time you gave us at our November meeting, and we look forward to a further exchange with you, hopefully at our upcoming meeting on June 19.

Yours sincerely,

Lynn Ziraldo
Chair


Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education


Mandate and Structure of the Council

The Advisory Committee on Special Education was established in 1974 and has been renewed continually from that date, with a name change to the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education in 1986.

The Council advises the Minister of Education and Training on any matter related to the establishment and provision of special education programs and services for exceptional students, including the identification and provision of early intervention programs for students with special needs.

In particular, the Council:

  • responds to proposals or positions of the Ministry of Eduction and Training or other ministries, as submitted to the Advisory Council from time to time;
  • identifies concerns in the delivery of special education programs and services for exceptional pupils and provides information, advice and recommendations for Ministry consideration;
  • submits an annual report and recommendations to the Minister; and
  • meets up to three times a year for a maximum of three days per year.

In April 1996, a new Council was appointed for a one-year term ending March 31, 1997. In accordance with the recommendations of a 1994 sunset review, the basis of membership on the new council was changed. Instead of seats for specific organizations, the new Council has:

  • one seat for each of nine exceptionalities;
  • one seat for each of nine professional categories;
  • a seat reserved for a student member;
  • two non-voting seats for the Ministries of Health and Community and Social Services; and
  • two representatives each for the Francophone and Roman Catholic communities, appointed from among the members above.

Members are appointed by the Minister from nominations received from over 80 organizations with an interest in special education. Each member is responsible for liaising with and representing the interests of all organizations in his or her constituency.

The new Council was appointed for one year only pending the results of the Bob Wood Task Force on Agencies, Boards and Commissions. That Task Force recommended the continuation of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education as an entirely volunteer body. Council’s budget were reduced and meetings cut back from 6 to 3 days per year.

On April 29, the chair of the Council was advised that the Council has been renewed for an additional three year term from April 1997 to March :31, 2000, with a sunset review to occur during the final year.



Activities of the Council in 1996/97

The Council held meetings on June 18 and November 20, 1996 and on February 20, 1997.

The June 18 meeting was devoted largely to orientation for the new members. At that meeting the Council decided that its three priorities for the year would be special education funding, accountability and secondary school reform.

Following the June 18 meeting, two sub-committees were formed, one on special education funding and the other on secondary school reform. The report of the special education funding sub-committee was submitted to the Minister on October 7, 1997 for consideration in the Ministry’s Meeting Students’ Needs consultation. Council’s letter of transmittal highlighted three key conclusions:

  • the need to identify special education funding as a distinct allocation so that school boards will no longer be able to claim that the added costs of meeting the needs of exceptional pupils are not recognized by the Ministry;
  • the need for clear and measurable accountability criteria, procedures and follow- up with school boards to ensure that they fulfil their legislated obligations to meet the needs of their exceptional pupils;
  • the need for an interministerial / inter-agency service co-ordination framework to ensure that exceptional pupils are able to learn and derive maximum benefit from their educational experience.

The report of the Secondary School Reform sub-committee was discussed by Council at its November 29 meeting with the Minister’s Parliamentary Assistant, Toni Skarica, present. Following the adoption of the report by the Council, it was submitted to the Minister for consideration in the Ministry’s Secondary School Reform consultation.

At its November 20 meeting the Council addressed a number of issues including accountability. An accountability sub-group considered and made recommendations (later endorsed by the full Council) concerning possible future revisions to Regulation 306 and criteria for the biennial school board reports to the Minister on special education programs and services. We understand the Ministry has acted on Council’s recommendations concerning the biennial reports and is requesting information from school boards on their parent guides, the range of placements offered and professional support services provided. (NOTE: In addition to the biennial reports, school boards are required by Regulation 306 to maintain a special education plan for programs and services for exceptional students, and to submit annually to the Minister, any amendments to their special education plan.)

The Minister of Education and Training joined the Council at its November meeting for an exchange of views on special education issues. Members of the Council were reassured and pleased to hear from the Minister of his personal commitment to exceptional students and his appreciation for the role of his Advisory Council on Special Education. Deputy Minister, Veronica Lacy, attended the February 20 meeting of the Council and reinforced the Minister’s commitment both to exceptional students and for the role of the Council.

At its meeting on February 20, 1997, the Council considered issues including provincial report cards, provincial testing, transition to work, and (again) interministerial coordination. Following the meeting, with the aid of mail and FAX communication, Council refined a set of 23 resolutions on these and other issues. These resolutions (appended to this report) were submitted to the Minister on April 1 for his consideration.

During the year, members of Council have participated as Council representatives in numerous Ministry consultations.

  • Members of the Council attended a number of meetings on secondary school and curriculum reform. They reviewed a draft curriculum unit and provided feedback for the consideration of the Ontario Curriculum Project. They have also reviewed Background Papers and assisted with a framework for curriculum guidelines.
  • Members of Council attended a day long consultation on secondary school reform on October 30, 1996.
  • Members of the Council attended a meeting on education finance reform with key ministry staff on March 4.
  • In the Spring of 1997 Members of Council participated in a consultation on the proposed Provincial Report Card.

Between Council meetings, the Chair (Lynn Ziraldo), and other members have met frequently with ministry officials to pursue issues of concern to the Council

In anticipation of its continuation beyond March 13, 1997, the Council has made arrangements to hold its next meeting on June 19, 1997. The Minister has been invited to attend.


Issues in Special Education

Following its reorganization in the Spring of 1996, the Council adopted a new mechanism for bringing forward best practices and concerns from all organizations with an interest in exceptional children (not just those organizations which have members sitting at the Council table). This process has grown in its use and effectiveness throughout the year. A copy of the form used by the Coucncil to collect this information is appended.


Self-evaluation

In keeping with the government’s emphasis on quality, efficiency and effectiveness, the Council has instituted a self-evaluation feedback process focussing on strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities (SWOT). A copy of the form used to collect this information is appended. While this analysis is intended primarily for internal communication among Council members for ongoing quality improvement, we have also provided results of this feedback regularly to Ministry staff.


Minister's Advisory Council on
Special Education: Members

April 1, 1996 to March 31, 1997


Exceptionality/
Community of Interest
Represented

Members


Exceptionalities:
Emotional / Behaviour Disorder
Pervasive Developmental Disorder
Deaf & Hard of Hearing
Learning Disabilities, All Exceptionalities, Chair
Gifted
Developmental Disability, Vice Chair
Blind & Low Vision
Physical Disability
Multiple Exceptionalities, Catholic Community
James Arthur
Kristen Spring
Jim Roots
Lynn Ziraldo (Chair)
Joanne Lee
Louise Bailey (Vice Chair)
Beverley Ginou
Derryn Gill
Karen Balind (resigned)
Educator Groups
Trustees
Supervisory Officers, French Language Community
Principals
Teachers, French Language Community
Educational Assistants
John Hendry
Jean-Louis Schryburt
Terry Geddes
Suzan Garlock
Jeanne Robinson
Professional Support
Medical
Psychologists
Social Workers
Speech and Language Pathologists
William Mahoney
Janice Prock
John Wilhelm
Susan Bassili
Non-voting
Ministry of Community and Social Services
Ministry of Health
Joan Belford
Jean McCartney or
Anna Burwash



Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education: Subcommittees

Special Education Funding: Interministerial Coordination:
John Hendry (Chair)
Terry Geddes
Jim Roots
Joanne Lee
Lynn Ziraldo
James Arthur (Chair)
Janice Prock
Susan Bassili
Derryn Gill
William Mahoney
John Wilhelm
Carol Appathurai (MCSS)
Anna Burwash (MOH)
Tracy Odell (MET)
Secondary School Reform: Transitions
Susan Garlock (Chair)
Terry Geddes
Bill Mahoney
Louise Bailey
Derryn Gill
Joanne Lee
John Wilhelm
Lynn Ziraldo
Louise Bailey (Chair)
Jim Roots
Jean-Louis Schryburt
Jeanne Robinson
Kristen Spring

Resolutions resulting from the February 20 meeting of the Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education


Provincial Testing and Report Cards Sub-Group

Provincial Report Card

97.1.1 That Council have input into the secondary school report card to be developed next year.
97.1.2 That either a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) be attached to the report card or a sign-off on the report card indicate that the parent has seen the IEP.
97.1.3 That the Student Self-assessment/Conference form be mandated for use across Ontario in grades 1 to 12.

EQAO

97.1.4 That Council work with EQAO around the issue of accommodations and exemptions for exceptional students.



Transitions Sub-Group



97.1.5 That Council establish a sub-committee which focuses on ways that exceptional students can gain meaningful employment.
97.1.6 That there be a basic requirement that Ministry funded projects for transition to work, co-operative education, etc., include a component for the participation of exceptional students.
97.1.7 That Council in co-operation with the Ministry seek out role models and success stories of exceptional students who have made a successful transition from school to work.



Interagency Co-ordination / Health and Psychosocial Supports



97.1.8 That the school be the "hub" of service delivery and that it be recognized as the appropriate and desirable setting for programs and services for compulsory school age children.
97.1.9 That there be separate line items in the basic, per pupil grant for professional support staff and para-professional support staff.
97.1.10 That there be a designated allocation in the line item for professional support staff and that the allocation at least maintain present levels of service.
97.1.11 That role descriptions for service delivery be developed in line with professional, para-professional and teaching staff qualifications.



Ontario Secondary Schools

Accommodations for Exceptional Students

97.1.12 That provisions for accommodations/modifications for exceptional students be articulated in clear, well defined and absolute terms throughout the Ontario Secondary School policy document.

The Ontario Student Transcript

97.1.13 That the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education be invited to participate fully in the development of the Ontario Student Transcript policy.
97.1.14 That the policy include an appeal process to waive full disclosure.

Teacher Education

The Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education recognizes that staff education is a critical element to the implementation of the Ontario Secondary School policy document.

97.1.15 That a collaborative training program be implemented for all secondary school staff in this province. A focus on accommodations/modifications for exceptional pupils in a range of programs and services must be included in this program. All secondary school teachers must participate in this program.

Provincial Testing

The Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education recognizes the potential impact of provincial testing for exceptional students in the province.

97.1.16 That the special education community be adequately and actively involved in the establishment and implementation of provincial testing policies for secondary school students in this province.
97.1.17 That provincial testing policies include well-defined provisions for accommodations/modifications for exceptional students.

Co-operative Education/Work Experience

97.1.18 That Co-operative Education/Work Experience be expanded to provide all students of this province with the opportunity to experience the workplace firsthand. All experiences in this program should be for credit attainment. The policy must ensure that adequate support be provided for exceptional students participating in this program.

Community Partnerships

The Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education recognizes that the development of key partnerships is vital to the implementation of the Ontario Secondary School policy.

97.1.19 That the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education be involved in the development of the framework for building partnerships among various organizations. This would ensure that the needs of exceptional students will be considered.


Implementation

97.1.20 Considering the breadth and scope of restructuring initiatives within the MET, that time lines regarding the implementation of Ontario Secondary Schools policy be readjusted.



General

97.1.21 That Advisory Council supports the existence and the vital role of school board SEACs and recommends that SEAC’s role be affirmed and that the Ministry of Education and Training and the school boards ensure that school councils will be made aware of SEAC and special education issues on an on-going basis.
97.1.22 That the Ministry release the revised Categories and Definitions and amend Regulation 305 as soon as possible, and that Council have further input before they are finalized.
97.1.23 That appropriate training in special education and working with exceptional children be made available to all staff in schools.



Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education

Communication: Collaborating with the Community



SUBMITTED BY: ______________________________________



BEST PRACTICES/
WHAT’S WORKING WELL IN
SPECIAL EDUCATION

CHALLENGES/ISSUES























Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education

SWOT Analysis Meeting



STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES











OPPORTUNITIES

THREATS