Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended guidelines for gathering and using data about accessible teaching and learning.
Data About Accessible Teaching and Learning
The Committee recommends that school boards and the Ministry of Education should collect data about the education students with disabilities have access to. This data will help school boards and the Ministry recognize how to improve their services so that more students can fully participate in the education system.
For example, the Ministry should learn how many students need specialized support in school, such as:
- Teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing
- Teachers of the blind or visually impaired
- Applied behavioural analysists
- Speech-language pathologists
- Occupational therapists
- Assistive technology professionals
The Ministry should compare these findings to data about the number of qualified staff who can fill these roles. The Ministry may discover a staff shortage, or that qualified staff and students are in different locations. As a result, the Ministry can take steps to help students receive the support they need. For instance, the government can alert teachers to the need for these professionals, so that more teachers will consider these career paths and gain required qualifications. Alternatively, the Ministry could arrange for already-qualified staff in other locations to work with students remotely, where possible.
Schools and school boards should also gather data about the number of students who need accessible learning resources. For example, students, their families, and their teachers can respond to school board surveys about whether students receive the resources they need in a timely manner.
Similarly, school boards should gather data about the accessibility of specialized programs, such as:
- French immersion
- Art or music programs
School boards should note the number of students with disabilities enrolled in these programs, and verify the accessibility of:
There may be correlations between the accessibility of these programs and the number of enrolled students with disabilities.
Current data collection focuses on students defined as “exceptional” under the Education Act. Instead, data should include students with disabilities under the AODA and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ministry and school boards should know what disabilities students have, and what accommodations, programs, or services they need. Furthermore, the Ministry should know about other aspects of students’ identities that intersect with their disabilities, including:
- Indigenous identity
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Socio-economic status
The Ministry should analyze data about students’ intersecting identities, to recognize relationships between these identities and successful school outcomes, such as:
- Course selection
- Credit accumulation
- Graduation rates
The Ministry can then take steps to improve outcomes for students who are disadvantaged due to intersectional discrimination.
Moreover, the Ministry should also gather data from school boards about the number of students who have individual education plans (IEPs). Furthermore, the Ministry should also have records about students with disabilities who have been excluded from school, either partially or fully. Likewise, school boards should gather data about students who are waiting for professional assessments to identify their disability-related needs. School boards should know about the criteria assessors use to determine which students to assess first. In addition, school boards should note the length of time that students must wait for these assessments. If school boards find a shortage of timely access, they can request support from the Ministry of Education to remove access barriers.
School boards should collect all this data every year and report it to the Ministry. The Ministry should then analyze this data, both as a whole and within each school board. This analysis will allow the Ministry to recognize how students’ needs are changing, and create an action plan to improve students’ access to education across the province.