Some staffers call
it Ontario's secret treasure. It seems an extravagant label for the sprawling
60s-era school building in Ottawa's east end that houses the Jules-Léger
But the centre is unique: a think tank and teacher training workshop in
a provincial school for the deaf and a resource centre for the blind.
There is a two-year residence program for seriously learning disabled
students (including ADHD) that serves as a teaching lab. The centre also
runs satellite programs and wide-ranging partnerships in the community.
Gets Advice on Special Education Funding
of the messages Mordechai Rozanski heard as chair of the Education
Equality Task Force during public consultations last fall was that
funding for Ontario's 190,000 exceptional students was inadequate.
School boards currently receive a Special Education Grant in two
parts: a Special Education Per Pupil Amount (SEPPA), based on the
school board's total enrolment, and an Intensive Support Amount
(ISA), based on the proportion of a board's students who need high
cost, specialized programs. But the current per-student funding
formula was introduced in 1998 and used 1997 financial figures that
have not been updated.
In a brief to the Rozanski task force, the Minister's Advisory Council
on Special Education recommended the ministry improve: standards,
funding levels, the speed with which it provides money to boards,
administrative backlogs, co-ordination with other ministries, student
transportation, research, accountability and professional development
In a 2001 value-for money audit of Ontario's special education programs,
the provincial auditor said that neither the ministry nor the boards
"have the information and processes to determine whether special
education services are delivered effectively, efficiently, and in
compliance with requirements." Boards, he said, spent $95 million
more on special education than they received in grants.
In December, as part of his assessment of the government's funding
formula, Rozanski recommended new investment of $269 million for
special education as well as $88 million to update the formula over
a three-year period.
Rozanski's report, Investing in Public Education: Advancing the
Goal of Continuous Improvement in Student Learning and Achievement,
recommended that the ministry:
allocate $130 million to school boards for ISA claims in 2002-03
fund all approved ISA claims in 2003-04
develop a funding policy for the transportation of special needs
increase the SEPPA for secondary students by $19 million
publish new standards for spending to improve boards' accountability.
government responded by announcing $250 million in new funding,
bringing to $1.624 billion the allocation for 2002-03. Since 1998,
special education funding has increased almost 40 per cent.
Rozanski report is available at www.edfundingreview.on.ca/index.html.
"We were the
pioneers and we have a huge mandate," says the centre's director-general,
André Duguay. The operation was created by the University of Ottawa
in 1979 and taken over by the Ministry of Education in the mid-80s. It
serves francophones aged two to 21.
"We couldn't wait for experts," says Duguay, "we had to
invent the wheel, because there weren't appropriate francophone models
in Ontario or Quebec. We had to produce and generate teacher qualifications
and the process has been edifying."
The centre has developed definitions of cases, types of intervention and
created new services. It began serving as a lab for advancing the teaching
of children with ADHD.
Every Sunday night,
youngsters from Windsor to Hearst fly or bus in to Jules-Léger
for the school week. Day students from the Ottawa region also attend the
The school's director, Jean-Marc Sauvé, signs to the students as
he tours the hallways. There are few concerns about the deaf children
living away from home. It's more a problem for the parents, say the experts.
Deafness is another culture, Sauvé points out and the children
are longing to communicate and be communicated with.
Perhaps that gives the centre its special feel, a quiet cafeteria filled
with kids, calm corridors with a wide range of visuals on the walls. In
a video studio, high school seniors prepare a sign-language version of
the Three Little Pigs, requested by a Grade 2 teacher. There are 22 teachers
and 13 consultants on staff.
The slogan "Tu veux, tu peux" (If you want to, you can) pops
up throughout the school.
Being away from home
is not as appropriate for students with visual impairments because they
can integrate better into the regular school system, says Duguay. For
overall mobility, sight-disabled children need to become autonomous, so
taking them away from home often doesn't work well. In this area, the
centre mainly provides consulting services.
Besides the residence and the provincial school, in which 38 students
are enrolled, Jules-Léger houses a demonstration residential school
for 37 children with severe learning disabilities and ADHD. Teams of teachers
work with the children, chosen so that a wide a range of difficulties
is represented, to develop teaching models. "When they leave, the
children will still have learning disabilities," says Duguay, "but
they will also have coping strategies."
Currently, the centre is involved in a project with the University of
Ottawa to study whether the social strategies and practices of children
with learning disabilities are those of mainstream students.
The centre works on professional development for its own staff and meeting
school board requests to train teachers for specific students. One major
goal, says Jean-Marc Sauvé, is "to create the first generation
of teachers who are deaf and hard of hearing." Seven students are
now studying for university degrees at the centre. University of Ottawa
professors come in to teach courses interpreted simultaneously into sign
language by centre staff.
The success rate of the graduates is impressive. Sauvé estimates
the centre has contributed to the scholarship of 500 Franco-Ontarians
and has developed and trained at least 15 professionals per year. And
hundreds of children have benefited from the consulting services.
"But look," says Sauvé, "It's the teachers who are
the real heroes."