Update on Inclusive Education
in ECSD – September 2011
Inclusion is one of the foundational tenets of Edmonton Catholic Schools. For decades, inclusive education has been the first choice in programming in the district, as reflected in the following district policy:
“Flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of students is an important feature of inclusive education programming. Specific delivery models for individualized programs may vary from class to class and from school to school depending on the needs of the individual students attending.” (Administrative Regulation 305.1)
During Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 of the provincial AISI initiative ECSD focused extensively on Assessment for Learning, literacy development, and early intervention. This work resulted in building capacity within our elementary schools in reading intervention and assessment to the extent that placement of primary students in congregated district special education programs for mild/moderate student was discontinued in the 2007-2008 school term.
In the ensuing AISI Cycles, the district extended this work in literacy intervention and differentiation in programming to the upper elementary and secondary levels in order to build the capacity at this level for greater support for students with mild/moderate disabilities in grades 4-6.
In 2009-2010, the district began to phase out placements in congregated special education programs for students with mild/moderate disabilities in grades 4-12. Students in the programs were given a choice between being grandfathered for the duration of their program (up to grade 12) and returning to their community school for inclusive programming.
During this same year, the district took steps to align its work in inclusive programming with Alberta Education’s initiative on Setting the Direction by implementing the role of Learning Team Coordinator in schools. The primary role of these designated teachers was to facilitate inclusive programming by working with staff, students and parents. A series of district professional development sessions was provided for them to build their capacity for differentiation and inclusive programming.
Changes in 2010-2011
In 2010-2011 the district focused on Reimagineering Our Schools through Welcome, Witness, and Wonder. One aspect of this reimagineering was the creation of a focus for the district’s work in inclusive education under an initiative entitled Katholos – Education for Life for All. The word Katholos is derived from two Greek words that mean welcome everyone. The word Life refers to Christ, who is Life for all. The Katholos initiative focused on continued implementation of the province’s Setting the Direction -Action on Inclusion goals.
December 2010, at the direction of Superintendent Carr, the district struck a steering committee comprised of a wide variety of stakeholders (ATA, learning coaches, administrators, leadership, parents, and support staff). The mandate of the Katholos Steering Committee was to guide the district in the implementation of our vision for inclusive education in the 21st century. The work of this committee provided valuable information that informed planning, practice and budget considerations as the district moved forward with this multi-year project.
Students with mild/moderate disabilities continued to receive inclusive programming at their community school with optional placement in district programs continued for students with severe special needs.
Additional funding of 0.5 FTE for Learning Team Coordinator positions in schools was implemented with additional professional development for these staff provided by a central team of special needs programming consultants.
Staff development was provided for central office staff, administrators, learning team coordinators, teachers and teacher assistants to increase understanding of inclusion and inclusive programming. Extensive PD focused on differentiation, universal design for learning, and the resource Making a Difference.
With extensive input from stakeholder groups, the Katholos Steering Committee developed a Defining Statement of Inclusive Education in ECSD, and the Board of Trustees endorsed the statement in June 2011.
“In accordance with our District Foundation Statement, all resident* students and their parents/caregivers are welcomed into our schools. The Learning Team is committed to collaborating, identifying, applying and monitoring practices enabling all students to reach their potential, spiritually, socially, emotionally, physically and academically within the Programs of Study alongside their peers. (*as defined by the School Act).
Upcoming for 2011-2012
In June 2011, we were successful with a submission to Alberta Education for additional inclusive education funding in the Change Agent Jurisdiction category. We were informed in early July that our district will receive $815 614.00. We will also participate in a province-wide community of practice so that we can learn and share with others. Superintendent Carr requested that an expanded Katholos Steering Committee, including several ad hoc members, meet to consider some plans and recommend uses of the additional funding. Although ideas are still being developed, this group has made several recommendations, including development of a Lead Learning Coach model to support the school-based learning coaches, and extensive professional development for school-based learning teams, administrators and support staff.
The Katholos Steering Committee provided recommendations in spring 2011 to the district budget committee, resulting in district funding for 2011-2012 for a standard staffing allocation of 0.6 FTE to every school for a dedicated learning coach position to enhance the capacity of schools to address diverse learning needs. The name Learning Team Coordinators was changed to learning coach to align with Alberta Education terminology for this role. Principals were provided with information about the role of a learning coach and additional professional development will be done with principals and teachers who are designated into the role.
Three schools will pilot the new Alberta Education online Inclusive Education Planning Tool, designed to replace individual program plans and provide targeted strategies for inclusive programming.
The district will continue its focus on inclusive education programming by continuing to build capacity with schools to program inclusively for students with mild/moderate disabilities. Students already in district mild-moderate programs will continue to be grandfathered in those programs at the parent’s request. Optional placements in district programs for students with severe disabilities, based on parent choice, will continue.
Greater focus on developing school profiles for funding purposes will be initiated with the view towards a streamlined differentiated funding model.
Professional development for 2011-2012 will continue to focus on differentiated instruction, universal design for learning, and uses of educational technology to enhance student learning. Learning about broad-based universal strategies and flexible organization for instruction that enhances learning for ALL students within an inclusive setting is a main theme of professional development this year.
District special needs programming consultants have been renamed Inclusive Programming Consultants in keeping with our goal of updating to inclusive language. They will continue to work with school-based learning coaches, classroom teachers and administrators to develop individual programming for students, as well as provide district-wide and school-based professional development sessions.