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Canadian Education Association
Equity - Blog
CEA posts Blog by IEC Director Gordon Porter on website - check it out and post a comment on the CEA website.
Are We Star Gazing? Can Canadian Schools Really be Equitable and Inclusive?
Leadership is the issue. It’s not the students and not the teachers. They can handle the challenges of “inclusive education”.
7 December 2011 Author: Gordon Porter, C.M., Director of Inclusive Education Canada
Tags: community equity inclusive education public schools
Other Blog Posts on the CEA Website
An equity lens beyond the traditional approaches
Isn’t it about time we admit that race matters?
Teachers Need Feedback Too
The Children Left Behind
CEA Contributes Canadian Context to American Education Documentary, Waiting for Superman
Improving Assessment and Reporting with Performance Standards
Are We There Yet?
Odyssey Conference 2010
Alberta Responds to Inclusive Education Framework
Education Canada's Summer 2010 Edition is Now Available
Is inclusive education realistic? You bet it is!
By Gordon Porter
Submitted to Community Living Ontario Tue, 2011-03-29
I talk to many people who wonder how they can support inclusive education when the reality of what is called IE in many schools is not good. It is a real dilemma.
It is great to be a visionary and support inclusion in a theoretical sense – but what do you say when confronted with the reality of poor practice in the school and classroom.
The examples are quite common. We have all heard about:
• teachers who have a child in their class … but … don’t really think that is the best place for him;
• teachers who are willing but declare they have no training or experience with a child with special needs;
• a school principal who agrees to accept a child but only if supports that are not available are provided;
• a school that agrees to a child’s placement but if anything at all doesn’t go well – the deal is in off;
• a school permits inclusion but fails to ensure the teacher has access to a resource/support teacher or a paraprofessional when needed.
These and other things can and do happen.
Schools may not properly train and support their teachers; districts may say no money is available for needed accommodations; teachers may say the child’s placement in the class will disrupt other children’s learning; principals say the child with special needs will simply take up too much of the teacher’s time.
And so it goes. In the face of all these and other challenges it is easy to conclude that inclusive education may be a worthy goal, however it is not easy and it may well be unrealistic!
BUT … it doesn’t have to be that way. We have more than enough examples of quality inclusive education in Canada to demonstrate it can be done. Check out the examples provided in the interviews with school leaders on the Inclusive Education Canada website (www.inclusiveeducation.ca). They tell the stories of success in schools in throughout the country. The gloomy and dark descriptions of inclusion are outweighed by these stories of people who are making it happen now.
The fact is teachers can develop – and keep - positive attitudes toward including kids with diverse needs in their classes. Principals can provide leadership and support their teachers and their students. Districts can develop policies and programs that empower and make quality inclusive education a reality.
The dark and gloomy reality of today’s inadequate inclusion programs can be changes. Working to make inclusion successful can lead to more positive outcomes for our children in the future.
We need to focus on the fact that access to an inclusive education is a right – one now included in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 25) – as well as human rights legislation in Canada.
Not only is inclusion a right – but it is also good educational practice.
In my experience schools that are successful and provide quality education can provide inclusive education – if they chose to take on the challenge.
Teachers, principals and parents can mobilize to make inclusion not only a progressive vision – they can also make it a reality. Problems can be solved, challenges can be met.
Thousands of teachers in Canada are doing it today. More need to do it in the days ahead.
So – is inclusive education realistic? You bet it is!
Segregated Schools for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
Canada still has provinces and school districts and boards that have segregated schools for students with intellectual disabilities. This is the case despite the more than 25 years since the Charter of Rights & Freedoms came into force in Canada. Indeed, this discriminatory practice continues despite the Charter and human rights laws and despite compelling evidence that such schools and classes are not needed to provide these students with a quality education.
But in some communities they continue. Guess what? You don’t typically find them in the small rural parts of the country or in the least prosperous parts of the country. Segregated schools are found most easily in some of our biggest, wealthiest cities.
Why is that? A good question. The reasons are varied but inevitably connected to lack of vision; specific interests that resist change; lack of leadership; and mindless adherence to following the path of least resistance. While these programs may be well intentioned, they are a remnant of the past and do not meet the expectations we have for our children in 21st Century Canada.
We want to build an information bank on the segregated schools for students with disabilities still operating in Canada. We want to raise awareness that these institutions are not needed and that there are practical and successful alternatives to them found across Canada. In many communities good alternative approaches exist and even in the same provinces as the remaining segregated schools.
Our primary interest is schools that serve students with intellectual disabilities. Typically they are stand alone schools but some may be located in a wing or section of a school serving other students, but is a completely separate operation. We welcome your help in developing this data bank. If you have personal knowledge of these schools please send your comments to InclusiveEducation@cacl.ca.
CLASS SIZE AND COMPOSITION...A SLIPPERY SLOPE FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
By Anne Kresta, Inclusive Education and Community Development Specialist, Community Living Manitoba
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society recently released a report that summarizes its work assessing the increased feelings of stress teachers are experiencing province wide. This report indicates that majority of teachers feel overwhelmed with their workload and lists a series of recommendations to address this challenge.
While these recommendations seem designed to best support the classroom teacher, it is important to understand that some of the implications of these measures may have detrimental impacts upon students with disabilities and their families. This is especially true of recommendations regarding class composition, where children would be ranked according to how much of the teacher’s time and energy would be required to educate them. The suggested ranking system, noted in an appendix to the report, does not take into consideration any support that the student may bring into the classroom with them such as an educational assistant or potential support from resource teaching staff. It also does not consider what the potential benefits of having that student placed within the classroom might be. Examples include:
• promoting teamwork among the students,
• providing opportunities to learn about diversity and inclusion, and
• allowing for the use of alternate teaching styles that can benefit all of the other students within the classroom, particularly those with invisible disabilities or those who may have borderline struggles with learning.
It was particularly alarming to read suggestions that “alternative programs” be instituted to provide “the most enabling environment” rather than have all students placed within the regular classroom. The amendment to the Public Schools Act: Appropriate Educational Programming, places particular emphasis upon the need to have students placed within the regular classroom at their neighbourhood schools. This is a cornerstone to inclusive education. Historically, phrases like “most enabling environment” and “alternative programs” have been used to segregate students with disabilities, and their interpretation is more often subjective, usually in the hands of administrative staff and without thorough consultation with the families and students involved in those placement decisions.
The suggested recommendations made within the Manitoba Teachers Society report should in no way, shape or form, lead to a debate on the merits of inclusive education versus segregated programming. That debate ended with the proclamation of the Amendment to the Public Schools Act. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities affirms the proclamation.
Our children belong in the classroom with their peers, and our teachers must receive the supports that they need to ensure that all of the children in their classroom can obtain an appropriate education. This support should include more professional development, consultation with specialists who can provide their insights into barriers to the provision of the curriculum, and the use of educational assistants to support classroom practices that encourage learning opportunities. The use of educational assistants can range from providing opportunities for the teacher to engage in smaller group or one-on-one work with specific students, to addressing the unique support needs of specific students who are in the classroom. Alternatively, using the categorical funding available for the appropriate educational programming for specific students can offset the costs of hiring additional teaching or resource staff. Those decisions need to be made by a collaborative team of stakeholders that includes the parents (and student whenever appropriate). Too often, even with the amendment to the Public Schools Act, parents are left in the dark about the programming for their children with special needs. Not surprisingly, parents in this position can feel very defensive and want their child to have direct support (in the form of an educational assistant) to ensure that their learning, social and emotional needs are met during the school day.
It is important that classroom teachers are able to take ownership of all of their students and that the school and school division ensure that classroom teachers are encouraged and supported to do so.
Public education is about preparing all of our children for a future world that is inclusive, socially just, and diverse. By working collaboratively to root out the barriers to attaining these goals and supporting each other in the process, we will be able to move towards these goals and our children and society will be richer for it.
Kerri Joffe and Roberto Lattanzio, Staff Lawyers at ARCH Disability Law Centre have written an article – “Inclusive Education: Opportunities for Re-Design”. They presented it at the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education (CAPSLE) Conference held April 25 – 27, 2010.
Recent developments in international law and Canadian education policy have affirmed Canada’s commitment to inclusive education. Canada has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“CRPD”), thereby binding itself to fulfill the obligations set out in the treaty. One such obligation is article 24, which recognizes the right of people with disabilities to education and obligates States Parties to provide inclusive education systems. The objective of inclusive education, as articulated in the CRPD, is reflected in Canadian domestic laws, such as Ontario’s Human Rights Code (“Code”) and other provincial human rights statutes. In addition, recent Ontario education policy has articulated Ministerial expectations regarding inclusive education.
Despite these developments, inclusive education in Canada, and in Ontario, continues to be a source of tension among stakeholders in the delivery of public education services. At the root of these tensions are debates regarding the interpretation of individual versus collective rights, limited funding and resource allocation, collective agreements, disciplinary measures, and what constitutes appropriate accommodation. The very definition of inclusive education and how it is implemented can, in and of itself, be a great source of tension.
One factor that contributes to the persistence of these and other tensions...
-For the full article – Click here to download PDF
Toronto Star article focuses on Inclusive Education Forum in Toronto February 13 at OISE
-Check out the details
Community Living Ontario – Discussion of Philip Burge Article on Public Perception on Inclusive Education in Ontario.
Web posted article - Community Living Ontario Website
New study on inclusive education focuses on public perceptions Author says study highlights areas that can be improved upon Wednesday, February 04, 2009 --
Philip Burge says knowing how your community thinks is an important step towards addressing areas where improvements can be made.
That reasoning led him to co-author a new study entitled, A Quarter Century of Inclusive Education for Children with Intellectual Disabilities in Ontario: Public Perceptions, which surveyed 680 adults from across Ontario to find out their opinions on inclusive education.
Despite increasing movement towards inclusive education, which he says gathered steam in the 1980s with the introduction of Bill 82, the public's opinion of its utility remains divergent.
When asked what type of school is best for children who have an intellectual disability, 52 per cent of the public viewed some degree of inclusive education in schools as best while 42 per cent believed that education in a segregated setting was best.
Burge, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at Queen's University, says that despite conducting the survey in southeastern Ontario, which provides greater opportunities for inclusive education, these results were unanticipated.
"We know that certain Ontario school boards, especially in the Toronto and Ottawa areas, have a long and ongoing history of favouring segregated schools than do most other Ontario jurisdictions," says Burge.
"Given the norm of greater opportunities for most children with intellectual disabilities in southeastern Ontario (where the survey was conducted) to receive part of most of their schooling in integrated classrooms it was surprising to uncover such a high proportion of respondents who believed (segregated) schools was best for children who have an intellectual disability."
Reasons for the public's opinion may be explained in a follow-up question of the survey. When participants were asked what they perceived as obstacles to inclusion 79 per cent said schools lacked the resources needed and 69 per cent of the respondents believed teachers were unprepared to teach students who have an intellectual disability.
Burge says due to the limitations of the survey he is unable to comment on whether the perceived barriers are real or only perceptions but the study's outcomes should be used to dig deeper into the issues.
"What appears clear is that these perceptions are likely held by a significant proportion of the adult public and these views likely impact their support level for efforts to expand inclusion in schools," he says.
From the findings the authors conclude that it is imperative for school boards to further explore and ultimately address the lack of preparedness perception held by the public.
The authors further suggest that the public may be unaware of recent policy developments to enhance inclusive education such as Education for All in 2005, meant to strengthen student's learning through greater needs identification and allocation of resources, and a proposal from the college of teachers which recommends adjustments of the content to the program of professional education that would make special education a required element.
The authors add that boards of education, educators and government ministries can play a key role in better communicating to the public recent developments in order to further strengthen support for inclusion and increase available educational resources to address the remaining challenges.
Also important to the study’s findings was the positive link between people who know someone who has a disability and their positive opinions of inclusion education. People who know someone with an intellectual disability are more than twice as likely to favour inclusive school environments.
The authors recommend disability awareness programs and personal success stories from children would be helpful to informing the public of the potential benefits of an inclusive school environment.
“Inclusive Education: The Way of the Future”
Diane Richler, President of Inclusion International, was a speaker at the International Conference on Education held in Geneva in November 2008. She was representing the non-government (NGO) sector. The conference theme was “inclusive education” and was attended by Ministers of Education and senior officials from dozens of countries from every region of the world. Diane’s address provides a clear statement on why inclusive education is important, and answers several key questions on what it will take to move ahead. Diane Richler lives in Toronto and is a former Execitive Vice President of The Canadian Association for Community Living. She was a co-editor of Changing Canadian Schools and is a member fo the Order of Canada. She is currently serving a second 4 year term as President of Inclusion International.
To Read Diane’s Commentary – CLICK HERE – and when you read it go to our feedback page and share your thoughts – Be part of the Discussion.
Recent Article on Inclusion in Ontario
Philip Burge from Queen's University and his colleagues have written an interesting article on inclusive education in Ontario. Check it out.
New Article on Inclusion in EDUCATION CANADA – the Journal of the Canadian Education Association.
The current issue of Education Canada has an article by Gordon Porter titled: Making Canadian Schools Inclusive: A Call to Action. Porter was invited to write the article to follow-up on his selection as a recipient of the CEA Whitworth Award for research in Education. Click HERE for a PDF copy of the article as it appears in the Spring 2008 issue is attached. Click HERE for a second copy that might be used for printing is also attached.
Speech at Inclusion Event
Alice Bender, an educator from Montreal provides a passionate description of her perspective - "Inclusion - from the heart". It is the text of a speech she delivered recently at a session for teachers & parents in Fredericton, NB. In English & French, Alice shares her own journey towards inclusive
Click Here to read Alice Bender's speech...(pdf 57KB)
Keynote Speech at Inclusion Event
Dr. Michael Bach, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Community Living was the keynote speaker at a major inclusion event held in New Brunswick November 26-28, 2006. Dr. Bach opened the session by addressing over 300 teachers and educational leaders in attendance. He spoke about the context in which the demand for inclusive education occurs in Canada and analyzed critical factors that require discussion and reflection. For a full copy of the speech check the link in our LEARN Section.
See also Bach Paper NB IE Conf Nov 06