Special Education: A Series by Cathy Abraham Part 1December 10, 2011
reprinted from the November 2004 BCCPAC magazine ImPACt
Part 1: Special Education Evolves as We Learn More About Learning Differences
Ministerial Order 150/89 established the rights of all students to be educated alongside students who did not have special needs. This entitlement is often referred to as inclusion.
Students with special needs were defined as those having a disability of an intellectual, physical, sensory, emotional, or behavioural nature, a learning disability, or exceptional gifts or talents.
From 1994 to 1996, the Ministry of Education modified and refined guidelines and ministerial orders to assist in defining special needs, to outline expectations for placement and services, to clarify the role of parents, and to establish requirements for Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for these students.
Since 1987, the number of students labeled as special needs has more than doubled. In 2003, it was reported as approximately 61,000. This change came in part because of increased recognition and understanding of learning differences and better assessment, but also because school districts had the incentive of additional funding for labeled students.
Special education was further influenced by contract language which often directed how students with special needs were to be identified and served. Some districts had extensive contract provisions for special education, others had very little. For example, in some districts, contract provisions limited the numbers of students with special needs who could be placed in individual classrooms, or reduced the total number of students in a class if that class included a student with special needs. Other provisions covered ratios of specialist teachers based on student population.
In 2000, the Ministry of Education undertook a Special Education Reviewto assess how services were meeting the needs of students, and to recommend areas needing change. The review produced 47 recommendations to improve services, many of which have been implemented, including removal of contract language which might interfere with the rights of these students.
Special education continues to evolve as we learn more about learning differences and develop tools to give all children the best possible education. Parents in their PACs, DPACs, and BCCPAC have been strong and persistent advocates for high quality, inclusive schools.