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Appendix 3: Glossary of terms

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Academic courses: the most academically challenging course options in Grades 9 and 10. They are required for university preparation courses taken in Grades 11 and 12, which are needed if a student intends to apply to university.

Alphabetic knowledge: knowledge of letter names, shapes and letter-sound associations. The alphabetic principle refers to the idea there is a systematic relationship between letters (or groups of letters) and the spoken sounds of words.

Applied-level courses: course options in Grades 9 and 10 that prepare students for college preparation courses in Grades 11 and 12 and to enter college after high school.

Assistive technology (AT): any device, piece of equipment or system that helps students with disabilities access grade-level curriculum. Access to the curriculum means that students can take in and understand the material being taught in school, understand and complete assignments, and show what they have learned.

Automaticity: in reading, the ability to read words accurately and rapidly; that is, fast, effortless word recognition characteristic of skilled reading.

Balanced literacy or comprehensive balanced literacy: approaches that are aligned with a whole language approach to teaching reading. They propose that immersing students in spoken and written language will build foundational reading skills. These approaches do not systematically develop phonological awareness and phonics skills. In these approaches, teachers “gradually release responsibility” from modelling reading texts or books, to shared reading with students, to guiding students’ text reading, to students’ independent text reading. These approaches are not consistent with effective instruction for foundational word-reading skills, as outlined in the scientific research on reading instruction.

Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP): a new planning tool that school boards will submit annually starting in May 2022. It will outline the board’s plan for the coming year (replaces the former Board Improvement Plan and Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement). The Ministry of Education says the BIEP establishes provincial education priorities, goals and performance indicators to support continuous quality improvement, and will provide a standardized tool for boards to identify local actions that will lead to improved achievement (including in literacy), human rights and equity, well-being and transitions for all students.

Cueing system(s): a type of discovery and inquiry-based learning that promotes using clues or cues to read unfamiliar words (also known as three cueing system). Students are encouraged to predict words using semantic cues (what would make sense based on context and prior knowledge); syntactic cues (what kind of word could this be, such as a verb or a noun); and graphophonic cues (what do the letters suggest the word might be).

Decodable text: text where a high proportion of words comprise letter-sound relationships that have already been taught. It is used to provide practice with specific decoding skills and is a bridge between learning phonics and applying phonics in independent reading.

Discovery or inquiry-based learning: an approach to learning where students are left to discover, rather than being directly taught, a concept.

DSM-5: a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that health professionals use to diagnose, communicate about, study, and treat people with specific “disorders.

Dyscalculia: a specific learning disability that is characterized by difficulty learning and understanding math.

Dysgraphia: a specific learning disability that affects writing such as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper.

Dyslexia: a specific learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word reading, and/or poor decoding and spelling abilities. These word-reading difficulties are assumed to be neurobiological in origin. They may also result in problems with reading comprehension and can limit acquiring vocabulary and background knowledge from reading. According to the DSM-5, “Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.” Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. It may also be referred to as reading disability, a learning disability in reading, reading difference, or reading “disorder.”

English Language Learners (ELL): a term currently used in Ontario to refer to multilingual learners. The MOE defines it as “students in provincially funded English language schools whose first language is a language other than English, or is a variety of English that is significantly different from the variety used for instruction in Ontario’s schools, and who may require focused educational supports to assist them in attaining proficiency in English. These students may be Canadian born or recently arrived from other countries.”

Exceptionality, exceptionality group: section 1 of the Education Act defines an “exceptional pupil” as one “whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program.” Categories of exceptionality (or condition that may affect a student’s ability to learn) are: behaviour, communication, intellectual, physical and multiple exceptionalities. Learning disabilities are listed as an example of a communication exceptionality.

Exclusions: where a school board refuses to admit a student to a school or classroom. This is different from suspension or expulsion.

Fluency: reading texts accurately and at a good rate compared to same-age peers, as well as with appropriate expression when reading aloud. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.

Gifted: A type of intellectual exceptionality under the Education Act defined as an unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated. Students who are gifted are often excluded from Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) data about students with special education needs.

Grapheme: printed letter(s) that represent a sound or phoneme.

Grapheme to phoneme correspondence, grapheme-phoneme relationship: the correspondence between printed letters and the sound these represent.

Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC): A committee that decides if a child should be identified as exceptional, identifies the areas of a student’s exceptionality according to the categories and definitions of exceptionalities provided by the Ministry of Education, decides an appropriate placement for a student, and reviews the identification and placement at least once in each school year.

Indigenous: a term used to collectively describe First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Individual Education Plan (IEP): a written plan describing the special education program and/or services a particular student needs, including a record of the accommodations needed to help the student achieve their learning expectations. An IEP must be developed for a student who has been identified as exceptional by an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC), and may also be developed for a student who has special education needs but has not been identified as exceptional. An IEP is a working document that identifies learning expectations that may be modified from or alternative to the expectations given in the curriculum policy document for the appropriate grade, subject or course. It outlines the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed and evaluated for reporting student achievement.

Intersecting, intersectional, intersectionality: a framework or approach that considers how someone’s identification with more than one Code-protected ground or characteristic can result in unique or compounded barriers or discrimination (for example, how a student’s First Nations, Métis or Inuit identity, race, gender, socio-economic status, being a newcomer, refugee, English-language learner or being in the child welfare system, can combine with a reading disability to create unique and overlapping experiences of disadvantage and discrimination).

LGBTQI2S+: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and Two-Spirited.

Locally developed course: a Ministry of Education authorized credit course developed by school boards, school authorities, provincial schools or inspected private schools. A locally developed course can count as a compulsory or optional credit towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. These courses help students meet their education needs if they are not working at grade level.

Matthew Effect: A term first used in reading acquisition by Canadian psychologist Dr. Keith E. Stanovich, to explain the tendency for early differences in students’ foundational word-reading abilities to become significant gaps over time. Also called accumulated advantage.

Miscue analysis: observational tool where the teacher listens to a student read a passage (or book) of unfamiliar text. The teacher observes the student’s mistakes, or miscues, to assess how the student approaches the process of reading, which cueing strategies they need to work on, and their overall comprehension of the passage.

Modifications, modified learning expectations: changes made to the grade-level expectations for a subject or course to meet a student’s learning needs. They place students below the standard grade level of their peers and can interfere with students’ access to future learning at the same level as their peers.

Morphemes, morphemic: the smallest meaningful units within words. A morpheme can be a whole word or a part of a word such as a prefix or suffix. Morphology refers to the study of these structures in words.

Non-word: A group of letters that looks like an actual word but is not (for example, pib). Non-word reading helps to measure students’ phonics knowledge.

Onset: the initial sound(s) of a word or syllable that come before the vowel sound (for example, the k sound in cat).

Ontario Student Record (OSR): an ongoing record for each student enrolled in a school operated by a school board or the Ministry of Education. The OSR is established on school entry and accompanies the student if they move to another school within Ontario.

Orthography: the code of a written language.

Phoneme(s): individual sounds in spoken words. There are about 44 phonemes in the English language and 36 phenomes in French.

Phonemic awareness: the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. This ability is a foundation that supports and develops with students learning to read and spell.

Phonics: the relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (printed letter(s) that represent a sound), and how to use these to read and spell words (for example, blending to “sound out” and read words, and segmenting spoken words to spell out each sound in a word).

Phonological: relating to the speech sounds of a language/sound structure of spoken words (the phonology).

Phonological awareness: the ability to focus on and manipulate units of language, including phonemes and larger spoken units such as syllables.

Phonemic awareness is the important aspect of phonological awareness for learning to read words.

Pre-service teacher: a person enrolled in an accredited teacher education program offered by a faculty of education, who must successfully complete degree requirements including course work and field experience and obtain their teaching certification from the Ontario College of Teachers. Also called a teacher candidate.

Reprisal: an action or threat that is intended as retaliation for claiming, enforcing or refusing to infringe a right under the Code.

Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS): a framework that describes students receiving increasing levels of support (or tiers) according to their needs, but always using high-quality classroom instruction and interventions consistent with the scientific research.

Rime: the part of a syllable that contains the vowel and any consonant sounds that follow it (for example, at in cat).

Running record: an observational tool used to assess a student’s oral reading behaviours, and in particular their correct responses, substitutions, omissions, insertions, attempts, repetitions, requests for help, told words and self-corrections.

Scaffolded instruction, scaffolded practice: instruction that breaks down tasks so students can concentrate on specific, manageable objectives and gradually build on their prior knowledge to increase their competence and skill. Teachers provide temporary support through modelling or other means, and ample opportunity for practice. Scaffolding provides students with a supportive structure for learning and developing the ability to independently apply newly learned skills and knowledge.

Scribing: writing down verbatim the words dictated by a student.

Students with special education needs: for the purposes of the Education Quality and Accountability Office assessments, this includes all students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) who may or may not have been identified as “exceptional pupils” through an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC), but excludes students whose only exceptionality is giftedness.

Socio-economic status: the social and economic standing or class of a person or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation. Socio-economic status is often linked with inequities in access to resources, and issues related to privilege, power and control.

Special Education Plan: a plan based on provincewide standards that describes the special education programs and services a school board provides. Regulation 306 under the Education Act requires each board to maintain a special education plan, review it annually, amend it from time to time to meet the current needs of its exceptional students, and submit any amendment(s) to the Minister of Education for review. The plan must also be made available to the public.

Structured literacy: direct and systematic instruction in the structures of spoken and written language to teach foundational reading skills.

Substantive equality: a legal principle that focuses on equal outcomes, not necessarily equal treatment (formal equality). It is achieved through equal opportunity and access, and providing services and benefits in way that meets any unique needs and circumstances, such as cultural, social, economic and historical disadvantage. The goal of substantive equality is to acknowledge and overcome the barriers that have led to the inequality in the first place.

Syllable: a unit of speech or word part that contains only one vowel sound (for example, e-vent, news-pa-per).

Systemic discrimination, systemic barriers: consists of attitudes, patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an institution, sector or system, that create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for groups identified under the Code such as students with disabilities. The attitudes, behaviour, policies or practices may appear neutral on the surface but nevertheless have an adverse effect or exclusionary impact.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL): an educational approach that emphasizes designing curriculum and instruction to make them effective and accessible for all students.

Vocabulary: knowledge of words and what they mean.

Whole language philosophy: the view that children learn to read naturally, largely through meaningful and authentic literacy experiences and exposure to books and other literacies.

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