Provincial and Demonstration Schools in Ontario: Moving Forward

Centre Jules-Léger Discussion Paper

The ministry is consulting with our education and community partners to explore ways to provide a range of quality programs and services that best meet the needs of students served by Centre Jules-Léger (CJL). This paper is intended to provide some background information on Centre Jules-Léger (CJL) for those who will be participating in the ministry’s consultation sessions and/or providing feedback through the online survey.

INTRODUCTION

In 2014, Ontario released its renewed goals for education in Achieving Excellence. These goals build on the education system's priorities and reach deeper and broader, raising expectations for the system and the potential of our children and students.

These four renewed goals for education are:

  • Achieving Excellence: Children and students of all ages will achieve high levels of academic performance, acquire valuable skills and demonstrate good citizenship. Educators will be supported in learning continuously and will be recognized as among the best in the world.
  • Ensuring Equity: All children and students will be inspired to reach their full potential, with access to rich learning experiences that begin at birth and continue into adulthood.
  • Promoting Well-Being: All children and students will develop enhanced mental and physical health, a positive sense of self and belonging, and the skills to make positive choices.
  • Enhancing Public Confidence: Ontarians will continue to have confidence in a publicly funded education system that helps develop new generations of confident, capable and caring citizens.

These four goals are interconnected – success in one contributes to success in the others. In this context, Ontario is launching a consultation with students, families and education and community partners to explore how programs and services for students at provincial and demonstration schools can evolve to best support them so they can develop the knowledge, skills and characteristics to be personally successful, productive and actively engaged citizens.


PROVINCIAL AND DEMONSTRATION SCHOOL HISTORY

Provincial and demonstration schools in Ontario provide education programs and services for children and students with special education needs who require intensive supports – Deaf or hard of hearing, deafblind, blind or have low vision, or have severe learning disabilities (LDs). Schools for the Deaf have a long history in the province:

  • Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville opened in 1870
  • Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton opened 1963
  • Robarts School for the Deaf in London opened 1974
  • Centre Jules-Léger (CJL) in Ottawa added programs and services for the Deaf or hard of hearing in 1986 to serve the needs of the Francophone population
  • Specialized programs for students from K-12 who are blind or have low vision and deafblind are provided at W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford which opened in 1872.

The opening of demonstration schools occurred around the same time that Bill 82 made amendments to the Education Act. Prior to the enactment of Bill 82, children with disabilities were often excluded from Ontario’s school system. The changes gave all students access to publicly funded education and required school boards to ensure special education programs and services were in place for exceptional students. Demonstration schools were originally established to provide a one year residential education program for students with severe learning disabilities, to provide students with sufficient skills and learning strategies to be able to return to local school board programs, and to provide in-service teacher education programs in instructional techniques for students with learning disabilities to build capacity in school boards to serve these students. These schools are located at the same sites as the provincial schools for the Deaf and include:

  • Sagonaska School in Belleville, opened in 1982
  • Trillium School in Milton, opened in 1979
  • Amethyst School in London, opened in 1982
  • CJL in Ottawa, opened its demonstration school in 1979 for students with severe learning disabilities under the stewardship of the University of Ottawa.

KEY FACTS

  • CJL Investigation Report recommendations: In July 2015, the French language Services Commissioner of Ontario released a report where he made eight recommendations about the operation and governance of Centre Jules-Léger. He has encouraged the Ontario government to act upon those recommendations before the start of the 2016-17 school year.
  • Current enrolment: Approximately 425 students attend the five provincial schools and 153 students attend four demonstration schools across Ontario.
  • Historical enrolment: From 2004 to 2014 enrolment in schools for the Deaf has decreased 34 per cent, and in the case of Centre Jules-Léger, enrolment has decreased by 67 per cent.
  • Declining enrolment can impact the range of quality programs and services: To allow students to achieve their potential, they must be able to learn from each other. Based on projections, enrolment in CJL is expected to further decline in 2016-17.
  • Centre Jules-Léger Provincial School for the Deaf provides a Bilingual and Bicultural Environment: Ontario recognizes Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) and American Sign Language (ASL) as languages of instruction to be used in the classroom for Deaf or hard of hearing students. Sign language is the first language of a large number of members of Ontario’s Deaf or hard of hearing community and it is integral to the culture of the Deaf or hard of hearing community. The number of students that master both languages (LSQ/ASL and French/English) or live in both cultures (Deaf and hearing) is limited. There is also a limited pool of individuals with the appropriate skills to support the bilingual (use of LSQ/ASL and French/English) and bicultural approach (Deaf and hearing cultures).
  • Programs in School Boards: A range of programs and services exists in school boards to serve the Deaf or hard of hearing population and students with learning disabilities.
  • Growing evidence that students with LDs can be successfully supported in district school boards: These include developments in research, technology, pedagogical perspectives (e.g., Learning for All, Kindergarten to Grade 12) and school board’s improved ability to meet the needs of these students. In August 2014, the Ministry of Education issued Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) 8 Identification and Program Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities, found here. The PPM promotes consistent practice across the province that are research-informed and evidence-based in the identification and program planning for students with learning disabilities.

Purpose of the Consultation

The purpose of this consultation is to:

  • Identify effective programs, practices and services for students attending both schools at CJL, Robarts School for the Deaf and the English Demonstration Schools, and
  • Explore the governance of CJL in accordance with the ministry’s commitments under the Consultation Policy on Governance of French Language Education (2011).

Out of Scope

The other schools for the Deaf (EC Drury School for the Deaf, Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf) and the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind are not being included at this time.

Principles to Guide this Consultation:

  • Ontario is committed to the success and well-being of every child and student to achieve high levels of academic performance, acquire valuable skills to become personally successful and demonstrate engaged, good citizenship.
  • There should be a range of education choices supported by early intervention.
  • Provincial funding is allocated to support an evidence-based and quality delivery model for programs and services that meet student needs.
  • Provision of elementary and secondary French-language education is supported.
  • Resources are focused on ensuring the best outcomes for student achievement and well-being in the context of declining enrolment.

Centre Jules-Léger

Consultation participants are asked to consider the following discussion questions:

  • What knowledge and skills do Centre Jules-Léger students need to have when they leave school?
  • What are the best ways to prepare Centre Jules-Léger students to enter the workforce, post-secondary education or other pathways and become productive and actively engaged citizens?
  • Moving forward, what programs and services would provide a positive school experience to Centre Jules-Léger students and families?
  • What models could be used to ensure these programs and services are operated by and for Francophones, and enable provincewide support for these students?
  • The French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario Report recommends that the Centre Jules-Léger be governed by one of the 12 French-language school boards. What are the challenges and benefits of this approach?

Centre Jules-Léger Provincial and Demonstration School Survey

Background: Centre Jules-Léger

Centre Jules-Léger (CJL) provides preschool, school (elementary and secondary), residential and consultation services (to French-language school boards) aimed at Francophone children and students who: are Deaf or hard of hearing, blind or have low vision, are deafblind, or have learning disabilities, and their families. Centre Jules-Léger includes two schools: a provincial school for Francophone students who are Deaf or hard of hearing and a demonstration school for Francophone students who have severe learning disabilities. Centre Jules-Léger also provides resources services for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, deafblind or who are blind or have low vision in school boards. The schools have a capacity to serve approximately 330 students with 5-8 students per classroom. The combined enrolment for the two schools is expected to be 45 in the 2016-17 school year. In Canada, Ontario and one other province directly operate schools for the Deaf. Within the Ministry of Education, the Provincial Schools Branch operates Centre Jules-Léger (e.g., funding, recruitment of staff, administrative support). The French-Language Education Policy and Programs Branch provides policy direction for programming purposes.


Centre Jules-Léger Provincial School

The CJL provincial school is an elementary and secondary school for Francophone students up to 21 years old who are Deaf or hard of hearing. There are 35 staff employed at Centre Jules-Léger Provincial School. Deafblind students attend a “satellite” classroom at École élémentaire Marius-Barbeau and these students are part of the local school board, Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre‑Est. Blind students are served in local communities.

Admissions Criteria

Admission criteria outlined in Ontario Regulation 296 includes (but is not limited to):

  • students who are under twenty-one (21) years of age;
  • because of a visual or an auditory handicap, or both, as certified by a legally qualified medical practitioner, the student needs a special education program in the School;
  • student must be in need of the specialized program offered in provincial schools for the Deaf; and
  • student must demonstrate the potential to benefit from instruction in programs offered in the Provincial School for the Deaf.

Please see Ontario Regulation 296 for more information.  In circumstances where doubt exists regarding the applicant's ability to profit from instruction in the program at the Provincial School for the Deaf, admission may be for a trial period.

Student Population

Currently, 11 students are enrolled at Centre Jules-Léger’s provincial school from Grade 1 to Grade 12. Projections suggest that enrolment will decrease in 2016-17. There is a 27-bed residence attached to the provincial school, however students who are Deaf or hard of hearing currently in residence are co-located in the demonstration school residence. The majority of students attending CJL school for the Deaf  do not stay in the residential program.

Residences

Students aged five or older will be considered for admission if they live more than 70 minutes from the school and have social, emotional, physical or medical needs which can be met within a residential setting. Ontario remains the only Canadian province to maintain Provincial Schools for the Deaf with residences. While other provinces have closed residences at schools for the Deaf, they provide alternatives for families living outside of commuting distance to the school, through homestays or group homes.

Programs and Services

Centre Jules-Léger Provincial School provides instruction for K-12 students, follows the Ontario curriculum and parallels courses and programs provided by school boards. The school provides a bilingual and bicultural school and residence program which facilitates students’ language acquisition, learning and social development through Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) and French. In a bilingual program, LSQ and French are used and maintained as the languages of instruction and study. Each student has an Individual Education Plan and courses are accommodated or modified according to the individual learning strengths and needs of students.

Centre Jules-Léger Provincial – Demonstration School

The CJL demonstration school is a short-term residential school program for Francophone students with severe learning disabilities. This program is limited to 40 students divided into five groups of eight children. Students between the ages of 6 and 21 can attend the demonstration school. Students are accepted for one year with a possibility to attend for a second year in certain program areas. Currently, the school employs 24 staff members. The demonstration school program is designed to be a one year program. Historically, if there are not enough 1st year students to make up the full 40 student cohort, admission for a second year would be offered to existing students. In 2015/16 for example, between approximately one third to one half of the students at demonstration schools were returning for a second year.

Admissions Criteria

Admission criteria outlined in Policy/Program Memorandum 89 includes the following:

  • because of the nature of the learning disability and/or other factors, the student is in need of a residential education program;
  • the student has a severe learning disability;
  • a psychologist or other mental health professional has determined the student is not in need of treatment for emotional or behavioural disorders;
  • an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) has recommended to the school board that the student be placed in a demonstration school; and
  • the student has been assessed by a resource services consultant from a demonstration school.

Student Population

For the 2015-16 school year, 39 students are enrolled in CJL’s demonstration school from Grade 1 to Grade 12. Analysis of District School Boards referring students to the program shows that out of 12 French-language school boards, students from nine French-language school boards are currently enrolled at CJL. There is a 56-bed residence attached to the school and residence is mandatory to the program. The goal of residence is to extend the application of educational intervention to the child’s social life.

Residences

The residential experience focuses on the student’s health, security, well-being and development of autonomy. There is a progression plan in place that outlines individual objectives; recreational activities based on physical, social and emotional needs of students and regular communication with parents and guardians. The intervention team is engaged in students’ cognitive, social and emotional well-being.

Programs and Services

With respect to the demonstration school programming, all admitted students undergo an educational assessment and an intervention plan is developed focusing on strategies to address their severe learning disabilities. Services in the areas of speech-pathology, psychology and social work are available and educational assistants are on staff to support educational interventions. Staff regularly participates in professional development activities to maintain currency in latest intervention strategies.

The program was designed to take advantage of research informed rehabilitative interventions. Special education materials specific to students’ needs are developed and students have access to computers, innovative technology and work areas. The school works within an environment in harmony with Ontario’s Aménagement linguistique policy.

Centre Jules-Léger Provincial Pre-School and Consultation Services for Students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, deafblind, blind or have low vision

Pre-School Services

Centre Jules-Léger offers consultative services for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, blind or have low vision and deafblind and the educators that support them. These services target students who are pre-school age and those who attend an Ontario French-Language school board. Consultants travel throughout the province to support educators including those in French-Language school boards and childcare settings in offering: functional assessments, transition plan support, professional development, recommending individual equipment (assistive technology), participation in Identification Placement Review Committee (IPRCs), school team meetings, and cultural activities.

Consultation Services for the Deaf or hard of hearing

These services, offered by consultants specializing in hearing loss, allow students who are Deaf or hard of hearing to access the Ontario curriculum, respecting their needs and cultural and linguistic identity. They focus on the development of the child’s communication skills to reach his or her full potential. Consultants support school staff to develop and adapt strategies to ensure the student’s global development in their cognitive, language, communication, cultural, behavioural, organizational and social-emotional plan, according to his/her developmental stage and learning style. The consultants may also help with the provincial school application.

Consultation Services for Deafblind

Consultation services are provided to students who are deafblind if they have a combined loss of the two distance senses of vision and hearing such that neither can be the primary means of learning. There is ateam of deafblind consultants who have developed recognized expertise in this highly specialized field. Research and knowledge shared among deafblind consultants world-wide has resulted in an evolution of pedagogy for deafblind students. In supporting district school boards, the team participates in training, symposiums and conferences. The team also works on the publication of written resources.

Ontario School Boards’ Programs and Services for Students who are Deaf or hard of hearing

In Ontario, during the 2013-14 school year, approximately 2000 students were identified by an IPRC as Deaf or hard of hearing, a deficit in language and speech development because of diminished or non-existent auditory response to sound.

Placement decisions and options

A range of placement settings are offered by school boards to students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Many students who are Deaf or hard of hearing are placed in regular classrooms. A few school boards have special education classes for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, where LSQ or ASL is the language of instruction. Some school boards have dedicated itinerant resource teams to support this student population, including itinerant resource teachers, interpreters, speech and language pathologists. A range of programming options means that families have greater choice in their child’s educational placement. Across the province, school board programs and services vary. School boards in larger centres tend to offer a range of supports for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Intervention strategies and assistive technology

New medical procedures and in particular, the introduction of cochlear implants have had an impact on programs and services for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. For example, some school boards report large decreases in enrolment for ASL classes. As well, school boards may retain students who are Deaf or hard of hearing with complex needs as parents/students would like to learn with non-Deaf students and do not want to leave their family, local school or community.

The majority of students who are Deaf or hard of hearing follow the Ontario curriculum with accommodations in the classroom through appropriate instruction and assessment. For example, as hardware and software advance and are more widely available, educators, students and parents improve their knowledge of and skills using assistive technology. The technology varies and depends on the needs of individual students. Sound fields, FM systems, tablets, recording devices, and computers are examples of hardware.

Practices, resource sharing and professional development

School board teams of professionals work to support students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. These teams may include the classroom teacher, the resource teacher, itinerant teacher (Deaf or hard of hearing), educational assistants who may be required to sign, or interpreters. Some school boards have Educational Audiologists and/or Teachers of the Deaf or staff who provide a wide range of supports including in-class support, in-school resource withdrawal, audiological support and Itinerant Hearing Resource team support. Parents and school boards recognize that finding staff with qualifications to support Deaf or hard of hearing students is challenging because there are few skilled candidates.

School boards continue to implement practices guided by research and evidence to support students who are Deaf or hard of hearing through a range of professional learning for educators. In addition, community organizations have developed programming to help educators better support students. For example, organizations including the Canadian Hearing Society, Regroupement des parents et amis des enfants sourds (RESO) and VOICE for hearing impaired children are both active in developing resources to support educators, students and families.

Ontario School Boards’ Programs and Services for Students with Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities (LDs) represent the largest exceptionality group in Ontario. During the 2013-14 school year, students with LDs represented approximately 76,000 (25%) of all students identified by an Identification Placement Review Committee (IPRC) It is reasonable to approximate that many students among the 151,820 who are receiving special education programs and services and are not identified by an IPRC, may also have learning disabilities.

In 2014, the Ministry of Education released the revised Policy/Program Memorandum No. 8 (PPM 8): Identification of and Program Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities that defines learning disability as one of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders that persistently and significantly has an impact on the ability to learn and use academic and other skills and that:

  • affect the ability to perceive or process verbal or non-verbal information in an effective and accurate manner in students who have assessed intellectual abilities that are at least in the average range;
  • result in (a) academic underachievement that is inconsistent with the intellectual abilities of the student (which are at least in the average range) and/or (b) academic achievement that can be maintained by the student only with extremely high levels of effort and/or with additional support;
  • result in difficulties in the development and use of skills in one or more of the following areas: reading, writing, mathematics, and work habits and learning skills;
  • may typically be associated with difficulties in one or more cognitive processes, such as phonological processing; memory and attention; processing speed; perceptual-motor processing; visual-spatial processing; executive functions (e.g., self-regulation of behaviour and emotions, planning, organizing of thoughts and activities, prioritizing, decision making);
  • may be associated with difficulties in social interaction (e.g., difficulty in understanding social norms or the point of view of others); with various other conditions or disorders, diagnosed or undiagnosed; or with other exceptionalities;
  • is not the result of a lack of acuity in hearing and/or vision that has not been corrected; intellectual disabilities; socio-economic factors; cultural differences; lack of proficiency in the language of instruction; lack of motivation or effort; gaps in school attendance or inadequate opportunity to benefit from instruction.

Placement decisions and options

An IPRC applies the above definition to their identification and placement decisions about students with LDs. The regulation governing the identification and placement of exceptional pupils directs the IPRC to consider integrating exceptional pupils into regular classes. Before considering placing a student in a special education class, the committee must first consider whether placement in a regular class, with appropriate special education programs and services, would meet the student's needs and the parent's preferences.

In Ontario school boards, a range of placement settings are offered to students with LDs. The majority of these students are placed in regular classrooms for more than half of the instructional day, receiving indirect support, resource assistance or withdrawal assistance. Some school boards have special education classes for students with LDs, where their attendance varies from halftime to fulltime.

Intervention strategies and assistive technology

School boards, schools and educators may use intervention strategies to support students with learning disabilities through a tiered approach, in which high-quality, evidence-based assessment and instruction are provided and respond to an individual student’s strengths and needs. Applying the principles of Universal Design for Learning and differentiated instruction, personalized and precise learning and teaching strategies are implemented to match the unique learning profiles of students with LDs.

Most students with LDs follow the Ontario curriculum, with some accommodations, as needed. For example, as hardware and software advance and are more widely available, educators, students and parents improve their knowledge and skills using technology. Assistive technology is extensively used to support students with LDs. The ministry’s Special Equipment Amount (SEA) application process allows school boards to purchase hardware, software and related training for their staff and students to use assistive technology. The technology varies and is personalized depending on the needs of the student. Tablets, recording devices, and computers are examples of the hardware used by school boards.Text to speech / speech to text and organizational software may be used to maximize students with LDs access to the curriculum.

Practices, resource sharing and professional development

Teams of professionals in school boards work to support students with LDs. These professionals may include classroom teachers, resource teachers, educational assistants and other professionals, as necessary. As the field of LDs is consistently evolving, the ministry and school boards recognize parents’ concerns about building educator capacity. They work with key partners representing parents of students with LDs to develop and share resources, and provide professional learning opportunities for educators online and/or face to face. These resources reflect current research in LDs and promote evidence-based practices to identify, assess and plan programs across the province.

School boards continue to implement practices guided by research and evidence to support students with LDs through a range of professional learning for educators. In addition, community organizations have developed programming to help educators to better support students with LDs. For example, the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO) has developed educator resources, including the websites LD@school and TA@l'école. The organization also holds an annual summer institute for educators and has regional chapters that support students and families.