Oh Mr.Hancock, what are you thinking?

I have dealt with the education system and special needs funding from both sides, as a service provider and also as a parent.  I am scared, on both fronts, of the new “setting the direction initiative” proposed by the Alberta government.  From what I can put together from the website filled with “government-ese” and the interviews with Minister Hancock I have heard the plan looks something like this:

Funding for special needs students will no longer be allocated based on coding, which in turn, is based on diagnoses.  The needs of each individual student will be decided by the teachers in collaboration with the parents and administrative teams at each school.  Thus providing a better environment for all students.  Services that are currently provided by health services and child and family services will be more closely tied in to education, to ensure that families get the support that they need.

Okay, blue sky, this is a good plan.  Having the services tied in from all sectors would be a lovely idea.  Rolling this plan out however, is going to be BAD.  I would love it if every teacher and administrator took the time to get to know, and understand every child and family that they work with.  Got to know them well enough to be able to design a custom-made educational program for them.  What an amazing school that would be.  But the reality is, this is not going to happen.  Teachers as stretched too thin, have too many students to make this happen.  Teachers would have to be experts on a wide variety of special needs, understanding what each one’s challenges are, and what learning strategies would work best for each.  In a classroom of 25 to 35 kids? This is not a realistic expectation.  Not without increasing the number of educational assistants in each class.  And if you are a high school teacher?  With 6 to 8 different classes, that switch each semester? With 7 classes of 25 kids over 10 months that is 350 kids.  Decide which ones of those have different learning needs with no diagnostic information!  Not all teachers understand or accept special needs designations, and taking away coding is going to make that worse.  Coding and diagnoses give teachers and parents a starting point, a place to begin developing learning strategies that may work.  Diagnostic tests not only “label” challenges, but give a better picture of strengths and weaknesses for that child, and areas where they excel, and where they need more support.  Diagnoses are NOT, Mr.Hancock, for the sole purpose of securing funding, although that is a nice perk.

I work with behaviourally challenged kids, and live with one too.  They are not bad just to make us angry, they are not all lacking discipline.  The kids who are non-verbal, or non-ambulatory are going to get services, teachers will see their needs and understand their needs.  Kids who can talk, and walk and tell you where to go and how to get there? Not going to get services.  They are going to get sent to the principle’s office.  As horrible as it may sound teachers are overwhelmed and have too much on their plates to understand the reasons behind bad behaviour.  They do not have the time or energy to find the function of these behaviours and then teach appropriate ones.  This is what the educational aides are doing, which are paid for by funding provided by coding.  Taking away this coding will likely take away the funding for behaviour and emotionally challenged kids.

As a parent it is equally concerning that there will be no accountability for support for my child.  In the current system I can demand to see what services are being provided for the funding my daughter receives through her coding.  When this coding is gone, what do parents have to hold classrooms accountable for supporting their children?  My fear is that the schools will begin to say that this is “just a behaviour” and that it is a “bad” kid and that it needs to be dealt with at home, not at school.  This as a parent is the LAST thing I want to hear.  And yet, I can understand why a teacher would feel this way.  There are 25 other kids to deal in that classroom…

Kids are going to fall through the cracks and this scares me.  It will fall into the laps of families who already have too much to deal with.  Please, Mr.Hancock, re-consider…

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About mcwhclan

Mom of two, student, wife, daughter... where does one keep all these hats?
This entry was posted in parenting issues, up on my soapbox and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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