Wondering about something going on in your school? Your school board? Wondering how to choose a college program, or about adjusting to university life?
The Star put your education questions to the experts in a recent online forum.
Q: I am writing about my 5-year-old autistic son. He is attending Senior Kindergarten with a .25 educational assistant and an up-to-date Individual Education Plan (IEP) with the Durham District School Board.
I am hoping to get him a full-time EA for Grade 1 and have been told that no one student will get his or her own EA. Is this true? I know that some boards allow one-on-one support.
As a parent, what power do I have to fight for my son's needs?
Answer from Martyn Beckett, Superintendent of Education/Special Education, Durham District School Board ... Educational assistant (EA) support is based upon the educational needs of the student. The Identification, Placement, and Review Committee considers the needs of the student as well as the supports in the form of programming strategies (including accommodations and modifications to the curriculum), human resources, and specialized equipment for the student. Principals work with a committee at the board level to consider the EA needs for the students in their schools.
Parents are encouraged to discuss the educational needs of their child with their school principal. Principals, teachers, and EAs work in partnership with parents to provide a co-ordinated approach to the education of their child.
Answer from Valerie McDonald of parent advocacy group People for Education ... Some boards do not assign EAs to individual students, but they will assign EAs to classes where there are students who need full-time support.
It’s a funny distinction, but that’s how they put it. I think it is important for you to look carefully at the IEP. It should clearly state your son’s strengths and needs and outline the specific teaching strategies and accommodations; human resources (e.g. EA); and individualized equipment.
For the human resources identified in the IEP, the following information must be recorded:
* the type of service provided
* the date on which the service was initiated
* the planned frequency or intensity of the service
* the location in which the service is provided (i.e., regular classroom, resource-withdrawal classroom, or special education classroom)
(You should also take a look at the Ministry of Education's information on IEPs.)
It sounds like the "frequency of service" is listed as .25 EA. If you fee that this resource doesn’t provide sufficient support, then you ought to raise this at the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) review meeting. The IPRC should review your son’s placement annually. Given that he is moving from Kindergarten into Grade 1, there ought to be a thorough review of his placement to make sure that he has all the supports and an appropriate classroom placement to meet his needs.
If you haven't already had the IPRC, you should ask to have one as soon as possible. Most boards are holding reviews now and tend to do them for older students who are moving schools first, and then schedule younger students.
There’s some information about IPRCs and special education in general on our website.
You can also call or e-mail our parent support person extraordinaire, Jacqui Strachan, at 416-534-0100 if you have any further questions.
Q: My son has special needs, he has an ISA1 and he is to be provided with a laptop and software programs. My son is at the Peel Region school board in the secondary panel.
The board is stating it is board policy that the laptop not be allowed home. We are greatly concerned about the lack of use and objective evalutions regarding the laptop and software program.
The board is also stating IT support is for staff only, not students. We had to sign a responsible waiver for the equipment. We have not found any documentation stating this is board policy.
We have contacted the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) and are awaiting a reply. We wish to try to support our son at home with his laptop. How do we move forward ASAP? Thank you.
Answer from the Peel District School Board ... The Ministry of Education provides 80 per cent of the funds for the purchase of ISA1 equipment, and school boards cover the other 20 per cent from their operating budgets. Each year, the Peel District School Board spends about $500,000 on ISA1 equipment. We have a consistent practice across all our schools about the use of this equipment — since the equipment is intended to help support the student's learning in school, our practice is to keep ISA1 equipment at school. This practice is discussed regularly with the board's Special Education Advisory Committee, and we make sure to let parents know as well.
The reasoning behind this practice is to make sure that the equipment is available for the student at school to support their individual learning program. If the equipment is lost, stolen or damaged off school property, there is no ministry funding to replace it—nor will the board insurance cover the replacement costs. If the student were to forget the equipment at home, an entire day's learning would be lost.
Of course, we work with parents and students to develop individualized plans for dealing with homework. We provide software to students for home use — often they use a memory key to bring home software and to take their schoolwork back and forth between home and school. For example, the Peel board has purchased at-home licenses for a complete range of premier assistive software that students can use at home free of charge.
Q: My child is going to miss the EQAO test this year because she is going on a trip. We scheduled this trip eight months before we knew when EQAO was going to be. Is it necessary for her to do it when we return?
Answer from the Education Quality and Accountability Office ... The EQAO administers the Grade 3/6 assessment between May 23-June 9 and the Grade 9 assessment between May 23-June 21.
The status of the student is conditional on the following:
* If the student is going to be away during the entire administration period then the student will be recorded as absent.
* If the student is returning after the school's selected administration period, but during EQAO's assessment dates, the school should make arrangement to accommodate the student and provide an opportunity to complete the assessment.
* If the student is returning following the administration period and the school/parents would like the child to participate in the assessment, the school is invited to contact the chief assessment officer at EQAO to determine what arrangements can be made. Please feel free to contact us either by phone, 1-888-327-7377, or e-mail.
Q: My daughter is in Grade 8 English-as-a-Second-Language. Right now her ESL level is C. She will continue in the ESL program in Grade 9 too, that is what I understood from her present school.
I have a few questions: In order for her to go for university course after completion of high school, what will be the significance of her ESL program in Grade 9? I understand that for the university course, one needs to have the academic level in English in high school. Can she be eligible for university with ESL in Grade 9? How? Is there any other means, like passing a special exam to come out from ESL at this stage before proceeding to Grade 9?
Answer from The Star's education editor ... After consulting with ESL specialists in Greater Toronto, I've been assured that taking ESL in high school in any grade is no impediment whatsoever to your daughter going on to any post-secondary institution. In fact, schools encourage students to take the ESL courses they need in high school so they can make the transition to regular classes and eventually college or university.
It's strongly recommended that your daughter continue in ESL in Grade 9, and possibly into Grade 10, and then transition into regular English. If she's in ESL C, then she'll progress to D, and even E (if her high school offers that level) and from she can transition right into Grade 11 academic English. In the final year of high school, she'll have to take the same courses as everyone else applying to college/university.
No one I spoke with said there were any negative ramifications to taking ESL; it will not affect your daughter's chances to be accepted into any university program.
This likely doesn't apply to your daughter, but if English is not a student's first language and s/he has been in Canada for four years or less, that student would be required to have to take a university-sanctioned English test (the University of Toronto, for example, has its own) before being accepted.
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