Special Education The proportion of children and youth who receive special education services in Ontario schools continues to grow. This year, an average per school of 18% of elementary students and 24% of secondary students are receiving some form of special education assistance.
The special education pipeline: waiting lists Over the last decade, waiting lists for special education services have been on the decline – from approximately 46,000 in 2000/2001 to approximately 35,000 this year. There are a number of possible reasons for the drop. First, the budget for special education has increased by 86% since 2000/01, to over $2.5 billion this year.1 But new data from this year’s survey suggests another reason: many schools report that there are restrictions on the number of students they are allowed to place on waiting lists. In 47% of secondary schools and 50% of elementary schools, principals told us there is a cap on the number of students they can recommend for assessment.
Caps on waiting lists limit students’ access to appropriate support Psycho-educational assessments can be a vital part of the special education process. They help to clearly identify a student’s learning needs and guide the programming and accommodations that will help the child succeed in school. They are also a requirement for IPRC’s, which are a prerequisite for recognizing a child’s right to special education services. To find out more about these caps, People for Education emailed 400 principals asking for more information about caps at their school. We offered to withhold board’s names. Their responses show there is a wide variety of practices across the province. Generally, where they exist, caps are set at the board level, and in most cases relate to the availability of psychologists.
The Board decides on the cap on number of assessments. Each school gets two assessments each year. The number two is the same no matter the size of your school (ranging from 80 to 800 students). We do get the odd emergency assessment for students going into Section classes or in the case of a serious mental health situation.
Quick Facts For 2011/12 • 18% of elementary students receive some special education assistance, an increase from 11% in 2000/01. • 24% of secondary students receive some special education assistance, up from 14% in 2000/01. • 47% of secondary schools and 50% of elementary schools report there is a cap on the number of students who can be recommended for special education assessments. • In elementary schools, the average ratio of special education students to special education teachers is 36:1, up from 22:1 in 2000/01 • In secondary schools, the average ratio of special education students to special education teachers is 69:1, up from 48:1 in 2000/01.
I would not call it a cap but rather an allocation. As a school of [over 600] students K-8, we are allocated 3 psycho-ed assessments for the year. We decide who the “lucky ones” will be through discussion through School Based Team. The need far exceeds the availability. In other schools or boards, principals talked more about assessments being limited by the availability of psychologists, regardless of whether ‘caps’ were a part of board policy. For some of these boards, there may be room for advocacy for extra assessments where there is an emergency.
If you were to query the board they would respond by saying there are no caps. However the reality is that there is a limited number of assessments available and schools, in most cases, are only able to submit one request at a time. Occasionally there seems to be an ‘opening’ and schools are told that they can submit an additional one or two requests. Also in emergency situations or in cases where something has escalated very quickly it is usually possible to get an assessment in a relatively short timeframe.
People for Education © 2012 1
Percentage of elementary schools reporting no psychologist available, by region 40%