It is anticipated that, in Winter 2017-2018, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s (OCDSB) Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) will debate a motion asking for better funding for professional development (PD) relating to special education programs and services.
There are many great reasons why OCDSB teachers (and by extension students and the community at large) would benefit from more extensive and targeted professional development relating to special education. Several key arguments are presented below.
(1) OCDSB provides a large number of special education programs and services across a range of exceptionalities, as follows: Asperger’s Syndrome; Autism; Behaviour Intervention; Blind / Low Vision; Deaf / Hard of Hearing; Developmental Disabilities; Dual Support; General Learning; Gifted; Language Learning Disabilities; Learning Disabilities; Physical Support; and Primary Special Needs.
(2) All schools in the District use a tiered approach in determining how best to support students with special education needs. This process includes assessment and intervention which is meant to increase the intensity of instructional support for students requiring special education programs and services. These programs and services include: Regular class with specialized support; Regular class with learning support teacher (LST) or learning resource teacher (LRT) monitoring; Regular class with LST or LRT support; Specialized program; and Self-contained special education classes.
(3) Parent feedback to the reviews of special education programs (such as Learning Disabilities and Gifted) has suggested that student assessment, identification and placement in specialized programs is occasionally inconsistent.
(4) OCDSB teaching and support staff are expected to meet the varied needs of students across the full spectrum of special education programs. This includes a multi-disciplinary intervention model (i.e., tiered approach) in working with special education students. To implement this model effectively, staff are expected to demonstrate a high degree of knowledge and complex skills. OCDSB employees’ existing qualifications and skills could be supplemented by continuous learning and professional development in this area.
The motion proposed [precise wording TBD] calls on OCDSB to:
(i) Make early intervention, formal identification and specialized program placement a top priority for the professional development of OCDSB staff for the next several years;
(ii) Establish a comprehensive plan to provide evidence-based and regularly-scheduled professional development on early intervention, identification and placement, particularly the tiered approach;
(iii) Provide training on using a consistent, transparent, equitable and documented approach to recognize students that require more intensive interventions, including placement in specialized programs;
(iv) Conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness and the outcomes of the tiered approach for students in OCDSB classrooms. In particular, interventions should be evaluated in terms of their impact on students’ academic achievement, social integration, and overall well-being.
How can you help?
Follow closely the debates at OCDSB’s SEAC and the Committee of the Whole (CoW). Talk with, or write to, the school trustee for your OCDSB zone, expressing your needs and concerns. Become part of the conversation – either online or offline. Remind elected officials (trustees) that proper training for teachers is not a luxury, but one of the necessities to ensure equity of access, and quality of education for all students.
OCDSB Calendar, where you can find the schedule and agenda for committees, including SEAC and CoW: https://www.ocdsb.ca/calendar
OCDSB Trustees: https://www.ocdsb.ca/board/meet_your_trustees