Approximately 25 per cent of Upper Canada District School Board students are receiving special education support, which is slightly higher than the provincial average of 17 per cent.
That is one of the findings of a report Superintendent Ron Ferguson presented at the board’s most recent meeting.
Trustees approved a pilot program after learning that 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 remains constant.
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.
Staff suggested that the UCDSB implement a pilot project in the 201920 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 individual education plans are developed and implemented in the district, and clarify general expectations for how they are to be developed, monitored and updated.
“Through these changes and the pilot-program, we hope to see longterm 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.”
The report also suggested, “Consideration should be given to enhancing staff training in areas such as differentiated instruction and behavior management in light of the changing profile of our students.”
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.