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What should "Program" mean?

Draft statement - The Coalition for Inclusive Education - February 2000

Inclusive education means that students can receive a range of supports to learn as members of regular classrooms in their neighbourhood schools.

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are very important.

They are the best way to bring help to the student, as well as the teacher.

They are now required by law, in Ontario (Regulation 181).

The Ministry of Education plans to make IEPs work better for students.

People who talk about a range of placements believe that some students should be segregated.

Sometimes school officials say that a student needs a "special" program. What they usually mean is that he or she should go away from the neighbourhood school to get help - usually into a segregated class or school, such as a communication or life skills class, or a provincial school for the blind. Program might also involve certain kinds of professional help, available usually to groups of students - like speech therapy.

School boards usually speak about program as a way they organize their special education resources for groups of students.

Often this really means "placement".

The Education Act says "special education program" means:

  • a plan for an individual student
  • modified by and based on how that student learns
  • setting out the goals for that student
  • outlining the help that student needs

So program should mean IEP; it should be about one student at a time.

We are concerned because the Ministry of Education seems to be using the word "program" in a different way. They want to develop "program standards for each exceptionality". They say this could help students get the same kind of help when they move from one school to another.

This seems to mean that they think there are ways to treat all students who have the same label the same way. This is really against the law now.

Instead, we think the Ministry should make sure schools work with students and their parents just on better IEPs - to get exactly the help each student needs to learn in regular classrooms, without being segregated.

Plans like this would help students when they move to high school or around Ontario. They would become Transition Plans, changing as students get older - making sure all students - as individuals - get better opportunities for more education or employment when they leave school.


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