Our research shows that across the province, the number of students on special education waiting lists has declined from a high of 48,000 in 2003/04, to a low of approximately 31,000 this year. But this still represents a huge number of children waiting to be assessed or to receive appropriate identification or support.
Because assessments must be conducted by a limited number of school board psychologists, many boards and schools report they must ration their assessments or only put those students in the highest need on waiting lists.
But there’s more to the debate than the number of students waiting for support. Recent Ministry of Education consultations (which are discussed in more detail in our newsletter) raised a number of other questions:
• How can the Ministry develop a method of funding special education that reflects the actual needs of students?
• How can and should the Ministry define and measure success in special education programs? Are EQAO tests a valid way to measure effectiveness?
• How can the Ministry and school boards ensure that all students who need special education support receive it in a timely and equitable fashion?
• How can the Ministry ensure consistency from board to board, so that parents and kids don’t have to go through multiple special education processes if they move?
All of these questions need answers. And they all feed into the biggest question of all:
How should we define success overall in our education system, and how can we ensure that all students in all boards have access to the broad range of programs, curriculum and support they need to succeed, not only in school, but in their lives?