This memo was just sent out to local presidents and Local Reps about a ministry presentation to the BCTF Executive about government directions for Special Education. There was a ministry power point attached to the original message, however it does not seem to want to be forwarded. If you would like a copy of the power point please let me know and I will try and send it to folks individually.
When the liberal Government stripped class size and composition from our collective agreements they said they needed ‘flexibility ‘ in education. Translation – a naked cash grab from education of more than $250 million per year to fund their goofy tax cuts.
Now we are hearing new words from the ministry with respect to students with special needs. We are hearing ‘de-categorization’ and ‘Universal Design for Learning’. Translation – cuts to resources and funds for students with special needs.
Ministry PowerPoint: Click Here
MEMO TO: Local Presidents, Local Representatives
COPIES TO: Executive Committee, PSAC, PIAC, WLC/BAC
FROM: Susan Lambert, Jim Iker, Glen Hansman
DATE: December 21, 2012
SUBJECT: Ministry representatives present to BCTF Executive Committee
On Friday, December 14, 2012, the Executive Committee heard a presentation on government directions in Special Education from the Ministry of Education, represented by Rod Allen, superintendent of learning, and Bill Standeven, director of the ministry’s Diversity, Equity, and Early Years Division.
The Federation invited representatives from the following PSAs: the Learning Assistance Teachers’ Association, the Aboriginal Education Association, the BC Alternative Education Association, the Special Education Association, the BC School Counsellors’ Association, and the Association for Educators of Gifted, Talented and Creative Children in BC. Also, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) was invited to send representatives to the presentation; BCCPAC chose to send their president, Terry Berting, and three members of its Special Education Committee.
The special education section on the Education Plan website states that the ministry is “working with district partners to develop a number of tools and resources” linked to early intervention and classroom practice, but fails to specify what the tools and resources are, or which district partners are involved.
More information was gleaned from this Global Education Leaders’ Program document http://gelponline.org/sites/default/files/resource-files/case_study_bc.pdf, which states:
“An explicit programme of citizen and stakeholder engagement over two years has resulted in a broad consensus around the need to transform education in BC and the nature of the changes required.”
This document includes a quote from Rod Allen in which he refers to decategorization of special needs education. He refers to a new approach of “no labels and no medical model. In a 21st century personalized world,” says Allen, “I’ll tell you what a special education looks like if you can tell me what a ‘normal’ education is.”
Table officers requested that the information about changes to special education service delivery, which was being shared with other groups, be presented to the BCTF. The Federation had received a copy of the PowerPoint “Considerations for the Future of Special Education in BC” (attached) presented to a conference in October in Langley.
BCCPAC representatives who attended the presentation last Friday noted that their organization, like the BCTF, had not been consulted by the Ministry of Education or involved in a process of developing “consensus.” In fact, at their last AGM, BCCPAC passed a resolution calling for the return to targeted funding.
The content of the ministry presentation
The ministry has identified three areas of focus for change to the delivery of education programs for children with special needs:
· Response to Intervention/Universal Design for Learning
· early intervention practices
· transition years model.
The initiative borrows heavily (without acknowledgment) from Saskatchewan’s Actualizing a Needs-Based Model to Support Student Achievement document, (www.education.gov.sk.ca/Actualizing-a-Needs-Based-Model-to-Support-Student-Achievement), which describes a shift away from designations, to “needs-based” approaches utilizing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Response to Intervention (RTI).
Saskatchewan is clear of the imperative to provide such an initiative with funding and support. In contrast, Standeven and Allen’s presentation was clearly motivated by government concern about costs, “$18,000” children, and the rise, in particular of autism rates.
However, the following reasons were cited as the impetus for change:
1. Various educational jurisdictions are arguing that special education is not working to produce improved outcomes for students.
2. Paperwork has taken priority over service to students.
3. The increased prevalence of attaching of EAs to individual students, it is argued by some, appears to produce no improvement in outcomes.
Ten school districts piloting change have been granted “relief from reporting and deadline requirements,” and have received $30,000 for “Innovation” projects. The Federation is aware that teachers in at least some of these districts have not been told the scope of the projects. Beyond the grants, the implementation of the proposals are supposed to happen within the existing funding envelope.
Some of the suggestions for change seem to involve returning to old practices such as strengthening school-based teams and relying on teacher judgement in the assessment of children. While welcome, the nostalgia for what used to be normal practice was shocking. It disregards the legacy of the decade of funding cuts, the resulting deterioration in teacher working conditions and student learning conditions, and the relentless governmental policy of attacking and undermining teacher autonomy and professional judgement that has characterized this government’s carriage of the public education portfolio since 2001.
Through the presentation and the question and answer session that followed, it was clear that:
· The ministry is very concerned about current special education per pupil funding costs, and at least some of the motivation for their changes is the funding issue and the need to cut costs.
· The ministry does not appear to have a plan:
a. to fund a new model
b. to transition to it
c. for in-service
d. to address class size
e. to restore learning specialist teachers
f. for ongoing support.
All is to come from within existing school district budgets—a stance that is very concerning, especially in light of the decision on the Moore case.
· Discrepancies and apparent contradictions in the presentation were questioned. For example, the focus on RTI/UDL and early intervention was presented in contrast to our current, and implied antiquated “medical model,” a system of assessment, diagnosis, and funding. This is a false dichotomy because of course, RTI/UDL and early intervention programs, and strong assessment, diagnosis, and identification practices are not, and should not, be mutually exclusive.
The assertion that an increase in the number of children diagnosed is a problem to be addressed by not designating children in need, is both a false dichotomy and a highly cynical proposal. Especially as no other determinations for the allocation of funding were proposed.
· There is an attempt to create a disconnect between the current state of special education in BC, and any government responsibility for decisions over the past decade. “The funding is the funding,” Standeven, on behalf of government, reiterated, acknowledging that “the environment of dollars has shrunk.” The loss of 750 special education teachers should have no bearing on the education opportunities for students.
· At one point in the discussion Standeven, who has worked for the Ministry of Education for 18 years, went so far as to say that one-fifth of the ministry’s budget is being spent on students with special needs, and if a teacher feels she or he has students that need more resources, that teacher should ask the school principal for more resources and support.
Those present, including the PSA representatives and BCCPAC representatives, were able to make a few comments and ask a few questions before Allen and Standeven had to leave to attend another meeting. Before they departed, Susan Lambert implored the ministry to halt implementation of this initiative, and to start again so that proper consultation and involvement of the teaching profession can occur.
It is clear that a great deal more work has to be done in flushing out government directions, sharing the information with members and parents, and in jointly asserting the need for the necessary funding, resources, and support for children with special educational needs.