As well as examining the five issues identified in the inquiry’s terms of reference, the inquiry identified several other systemic issues that negatively affect Ontario students’ right to read. These have a negative effect on the quality of education services for students with disabilities, students from marginalized groups, and students who experience intersecting forms of disadvantage.
One significant finding is a lack of consistency across the province. School board approaches to early reading instruction, early screening, reading interventions, accommodations and professional assessments vary widely. Students’ and families’ experiences differ based on where they live in Ontario, where they live in a school board’s district and even which teacher they have. The differences are so significant that parents reported moving their children to different schools or school boards to get access to better services. Other families were frustrated and disappointed that Ontario’s education system does not have universal access to the same level and quality of services and supports. Educators also identified this lack of consistency as a challenge, and said they too want consistent direction from the province and board leaders.
Many of the inconsistencies between boards and within boards are due to a failure to set standards for services and supports at provincial and school board levels. The Ministry of Education (Ministry) has provided little guidance to school boards and has not set consistent minimum standards for early screening, intervention, accommodation or professional assessments. The current Language curriculum does not contain clear mandatory learning expectations related to early reading, or prescribe direct and systematic instruction in foundational reading skills. Boards also provide little guidance to schools and teachers in these areas.
Another consistent theme was inadequate monitoring and accountability at the board and provincial levels. Boards are not doing enough to keep track of how reading instruction is being delivered in the classroom. This includes looking at whether:
- Students are being screened for reading difficulties using evidence-based screening tools, and the results of any early screening
- Students are receiving evidence-based reading interventions and are making the expected gains
- Accommodations are helping students meet their learning goals
- Schools are exhausting all possible accommodations before modifying a student’s curriculum expectations.
Also, many boards are not keeping centralized data on professional assessments. This affects their ability to monitor how long students are waiting, and to take steps to make sure there is equity and timeliness in assessments.
Little data has been collected or analyzed to track education outcomes and safeguard education equity for all Ontario students. The data that has been collected may not be from valid measures of foundational reading skills, is not consistent and has not been linked or cross-tabulated with other data, to identify, for example, systemic barriers affecting students from Code-protected groups. Decision-making has not been data-driven. The Ministry reports that a new Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP) framework has been developed to better standardize provincial education priorities, goals and indicators. Also, as boards will all be required to conduct a student census by January 1, 2023, they should have increased capacity to analyze data for equity purposes.
Schools often fail to communicate transparently with students and parents. Some schools do not help parents understand what screening tools, interventions and accommodations are available to their children. Even when children are screened, schools do not always share the results of the screening with parents. When students receive interventions, accommodations and modifications, parents do not always know what the supports are, if they are effectively helping their child close reading achievement gaps, or if their child is on track to meet curriculum expectations. Some parents reported being ignored, or even facing reprisals, when they raised concerns about the school’s approach to their child’s reading difficulties.
Many of these issues have been identified in previous reviews and reports. There has been progress – for example, more boards are starting to collect demographic data. This is consistent with Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan and will be required by the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 by January 1, 2023. The inquiry’s findings show that more needs to be done to set standards, ensure consistency and monitoring; collect, analyze and mobilize data; monitor student outcomes and program efficacy; and ensure transparency and accountability.
Setting standards, ensuring consistency and monitoring
Ontario’s public education system is highly decentralized. Ontario’s 72 publicly funded school boards have significant discretion on how to spend funds and deliver services, including special education services. The Auditor General for Ontario reports that the Ministry’s explanation is “that school boards are each governed by an elected board of trustees who have responsibility for making autonomous decisions based on local needs.”
Despite this, the Ministry has ultimate responsibility for administering publicly funded education in Ontario. The Ministry sets the Ontario curriculum and is responsible for developing laws, regulations, policies and programs for the education system. The Ministry can set standards, outline expectations for school boards, and monitor the implementation of Ministry policies and programs. It can set provincial standards for assessment, evaluation and reporting, and require boards to collect data. The Ministry is also responsible for making sure school boards provide appropriate special education programs and supports, and it has an important role in providing guidance on special education services. The Ministry requires school boards to maintain Special Education Plans outlining the special education programs and services that the board provides.
The Ministry provides school boards with funding through a series of grants. Most school board funding is through the Grants for Student Needs program, which includes funding for teachers, classroom supplies, school administration and specific priorities such as special education (through the Special Education Grant), student transportation, mental health and Indigenous education. Boards have significant flexibility about how to spend their funding, including the Special Education Grant.
Although local decision-making may have benefits in some areas, there is no benefit to failing to have provincewide standards for teaching reading, screening all students, providing evidence-based reading interventions, implementing timely and effective accommodations or performing timely professional assessments based on clear criteria. The scientific research is clear and we know what works best for teaching foundational reading skills to all students. There is no need to deviate from evidence-based approaches based on local needs. For example, a student in one part of the province does not learn to read differently, require different screening or intervention than a student in another part of the province.
The OHRC has identified an urgent need for standardized provincewide action to protect the rights of students with reading difficulties. Several inquiry school boards said they would welcome more Ministry guidance and standardization based on the best scientific evidence to date. Boards said they have limited capacity to review scientific research and determine what approaches are supported by the most current evidence. Inquiry boards also noted benefits to having co-terminus boards (public and Catholic school boards that share the same geographic boundaries) using the same approaches. They noted this may avoid families switching boards to gain access to different services. Efficiencies can also be gained through consistency such as bulk-purchasing opportunities, partnering to provide professional development on common programs and supports, and other forms of co-operation between neighbouring and co-terminus boards.
Educators and other professionals also called for more consistency across Ontario. They described the lack of guidance and standardization as an additional burden on overworked professionals who are left to figure things out on their own. They expressed sadness and frustration that students’ experiences vary so widely and many approaches are not effective for the most vulnerable students. One teacher summarized this systemic problem:
Inconsistent practices from school to school and within staff at the same school from year to year, provide systemic imbalances which result in children fall[ing] through the cracks.
Reports and studies recommending better standards, consistency and monitoring
Auditor General for Ontario
The Auditor General for Ontario is an independent officer of the Legislature with a mandate to assess whether government and school boards work in a way that is efficient and cost-effective. The Auditor General reviews whether the government and school boards have procedures in place to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of their programs.
The Auditor General regularly reviews the operation of the public education system through “value for money” audits. Many Auditor General reports have identified issues with a lack of consistency within the education sector, and recommended establishing minimum expectations and better guidance for school boards, educators and the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). Reports have also focused on the need for better reporting by school boards and the Ministry, better monitoring, and ultimately improved accountability across the system.
The Auditor General’s 2017 Report on Ministry Funding and Oversight of School Boards stated:
…we found there are still opportunities for the Ministry to improve its oversight of school boards.
Most significantly, we found that the Ministry does not assess and address whether students with similar needs receive the same level of support no matter where they live in the province.
The Auditor General identified several concerns with lack of monitoring of how funds allocated to school boards are spent, including whether funding for specific education priorities is being spent as intended and achieving the intended results for students. Although the focus is on value for money, efficiency and effectiveness, and ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent, the identified concerns overlap with human rights concerns.
The Auditor General has identified other areas where more direction and consistency are needed. For example:
- The Ministry’s assessment policy Growing Success does not provide enough guidance to teachers on assessment, leading to inconsistent assessment of students
- Ontario students have uneven access to classroom information technology (IT) resources across schools and school boards
- IEPs vary in how well they set learning goals and expectations for students with special education needs working toward modified curriculum expectations
- School boards lack procedures to assess the quality of special education services and supports at their schools
- Boards need procedures to monitor the effectiveness of schools’ early identification practices and take corrective action where they have not been effective.
Concerns with a lack of standards, monitoring and accountability are consistent themes in Auditor General reviews of the Ministry, school boards and related education sector actors such as the EQAO. These were consistent themes in the inquiry as well.
In 2018, an independent review of assessment and reporting in Ontario schools made findings and recommendations about how Ontario can improve its assessment policies and practices. Ontario: A Learning Province addressed the need for greater consistency in understanding and practices for assessments across classrooms, schools and school boards. For accommodations, the review addressed the need to:
Provide consistency of accommodations and modifications for students with Individual Education Plans in assessments from one grade and class to another, and consider how to maintain consistency as these students transition from one school to another.
A Ministry review identified the need for consistency in data collection. Unlocking Student Potential Through Data, Final Report identified ways the Ministry can improve student outcomes through data collection, analysis and reporting. It emphasized the importance of standards for consistency in data collection and analysis across Ontario:
…allowing school boards to collect data on their own, with no provincial standards to ensure consistency, will result in gaps within the provincial picture of whether, and to what extent, education equity is achieved for students from diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities. Routine, consistent demographic data collection will allow school boards and the Ministry to close these knowledge gaps and create an education system that better serves all of Ontario’s students.
People for Education issues an annual report on Ontario’s publicly-funded schools. It describes its reports as “an audit of the education system” based on survey responses from school principals from English, Catholic and French schools across the province. Its 2016 annual report, The Geography of Opportunity: What’s Needed for Broader Student Success, identifies “considerable disparity between Ontario’s schools in staffing, resources, and learning opportunities” as “an ongoing concern.” The report noted that geography has an impact on access to services and supports, and access to special education supports is not evenly distributed across Ontario.
For example, in 2016, 91% of urban/suburban elementary schools reported having a full-time special education teacher, compared to only 66% in small-town/rural schools. Fifty per cent of urban/suburban elementary schools reported a restriction on the number of students who can receive special education assessments. That number was much higher (72%) in small-town/rural schools. People for Education noted the need for the Ministry and boards to work together to improve equal access to supports and services across Ontario:
In order to provide all students with access to a wide range of learning opportunities – regardless of the size of their schools or their location – the province must work with school boards and communities to ensure that appropriate funding and policy is in place.
The Auditor General has also found significant geographic discrepancies between school boards (for example, see the discussion of higher EQAO scores in southern boards compared to northern boards in section 5, How Ontario students are performing).
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act K–12 Education Standards Development Committee
The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is to make Ontario accessible by 2025 by implementing enforceable accessibility standards for goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation and buildings. The accessibility standards apply to the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
To create an accessibility standard, the Minister responsible for the AODA appoints people to an accessibility standards development committee. The committee develops a proposed accessibility standard and recommends it to the Minister. The public has an opportunity to give comments and suggestions on the proposed standard. The Minister reviews the committee’s proposed accessibility standard and decides whether to implement it by making it into a regulation under the AODA.
Once a standard is implemented, people or organizations covered by the standard must comply with it. There is also a process to review and revise a standard within at least five years of it being made a regulation.
In 2017 a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee (ESD Committee) was formed to provide recommendations to government on removing and preventing accessibility barriers in the publicly funded education system. These recommendations will form the basis for a proposed new accessibility standard for education.
The ESD Committee’s initial report and 197 recommendations were released for public feedback in 2021. The committee identified many barriers and recommendations relevant to the inquiry. Among many other things, the ESD Committee proposed standards:
- For inclusive curriculum that reflects current evidence and meets the needs of all students
- To clarify that accommodations must be provided to any student with a disability under the Code, and not just students identified with an exceptionality as defined by the Ministry
- To ensure consistent format, content and data collection for Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
- Requiring all boards to have a Digital and Technology Action Plan to identify, remove and prevent technology barriers for students with disabilities.
The ESD Committee’s report also noted several inefficiencies and duplication in the education system when boards each conduct their own research to find the best resources for students with disabilities. It recognized the role of the Ministry in researching and providing boards with lists of evidence-based options to choose from.
Throughout its report and recommendations, the committee noted a lack of accountability mechanisms (including annual progress reviews and public reporting) to make sure policies, regulations and the delivery of programs and services to students are appropriately implemented.
The committee addressed concerns with existing accountability mechanisms to promote the rights of students with disabilities. It recommended standardizing and improving these mechanisms, including by requiring school boards to develop accessibility committees and multi-year accessibility plans that identify barriers, establish plans to eliminate the barriers and ensure compliance with accessibility standards. The committee recommended standards for board accessibility plans.
The ESD Committee recommended that each school within a board also have an accessibility committee to identify and address accessibility barriers unique to the school as quickly as possible.
The committee called on the Ministry to set standards to ensure consistency among board accessibility committees and accessibility plans. It recommended that the Ministry provide boards with:
- Templates and resources to promote consistent processes and documentation for accessibility committees and accessibility plans
- Accessibility expectations for programs and services
- A way to publicly share best practices for accessible education programs, services and facilities with other boards and stakeholders.
The committee also recommended central oversight of board accessibility committees and accessibility plans by the Ministry.
A consistent theme in the ESD Committee’s findings and recommendations is that the Ministry should assume greater responsibility for ensuring consistency, accountability and oversight of school boards to make sure they meet the needs of students with disabilities by, among other things:
- Monitoring, auditing, surveying and gathering feedback on compliance with the AODA, Code and Charter
- Designating an assistant deputy minister with authority to ensure a barrier-free and accessible school system for students with disabilities
- Creating an ombudsperson/oversight office to investigate and resolve student and parent concerns about education of students with disabilities
- Collaborating with the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility to publicize effective special education and accessibility practices.
The ESD Committee also identified several recommendations for school boards to make them more accountable. For example, it said that boards should be required to report to the Ministry (and the Accessibility Directorate) each quarter on their “successes and challenges” in meeting the ESD standards recommendations, along with “proposed solutions or remediation efforts.”
The committee recommended that the Ministry and boards work together to create “accountability tools and processes to survey, monitor and communicate student engagement and performance data.”
The committee emphasized the need for measurable performance metrics and timelines for implementing education standards. It also recommended that the Accessibility Directorate (under the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility) play a direct role in monitoring compliance with any new education standard under the AODA, including by conducting on-site inspections and implementation reviews of selected school boards. The Accessibility Directorate should also conduct a compliance review or audit of the Government of Ontario on a quarterly basis.
Inquiry findings on setting standards, ensuring consistency and monitoring
Information collected from multiple sources revealed that, as other reviews and reports have found, there is little standardization, consistency, monitoring or accountability in the five areas that are essential to meeting students’ right to read. Processes in place at the time of the inquiry do not hold boards to a standard of excellence in reading instruction and related services, do not ensure equitable access to evidence-based interventions and accommodations, and do not allow boards or the Ministry of Education (Ministry) to identify problems or disparities in the system.
The Ministry told the inquiry that it gives school boards flexibility on how to spend funds to support special education, because students’ needs are best addressed at the local level, and boards have the greatest knowledge of their students and local needs. Boards also afford considerable discretion to individual schools and teachers for the same reasons and to respect teachers’ professional judgement. This means that students’ experiences vary widely by board, school and teacher.
Regulation 306 under the Education Act requires every school board to prepare and approve a report on the special education programs and special education services the board provides, and to submit it to the Ministry every two years. Each board is required 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 for review. One of the purposes of a school board’s Special Education Plan is to inform the Ministry and the public about special education programs and services the board provides in accordance with legislation and ministry policy on special education.
A Ministry policy document sets standards for these Special Education Plans. It states that each plan must be designed to comply with the Charter, the Code, the Education Act and regulations, and any other relevant legislation. The board must include a statement confirming the plan has been designed in accordance with this requirement. Plans must address early identification procedures and intervention strategies, the IPRC process and educational assessments, including average waiting times for assessments and the criteria for managing waiting lists if they exist.
The Ministry says it reviews each school board’s Special Education Plan to determine if it complies with the Ministry’s requirements to make sure certain standards are maintained across Ontario in developing and providing special education programs and services. Where the Ministry determines that a board’s plan does not comply with the standards, it will require the board to amend its plan.
The Ministry says that there should be provincewide standards for Special Education Plans:
These standards support the government’s goal of ensuring that exceptional students in Ontario receive the best-quality education possible. System-wide implementation of these standards will make school boards more accountable to students, parents, and taxpayers.
Until November 2020, school boards were also required to provide a Board Improvement Plan to the Ministry each year. Board Improvement Plans were to include school board data, including data related to literacy achievement and identify the actions the board would take to respond to areas of concern about student achievement. The Ministry told the inquiry that boards typically included goals related to improving student achievement in literacy.
The Ministry did not indicate what follow-up occurs after boards provide their Special Education Plans and, until November 2020, their Board Improvement Plans, or what standards based on scientific research in education are used to evaluate the plans. It was unclear if and how the Ministry monitors the quality of boards’ special education programs and services, or their progress in improving student achievement in literacy. It was also not clear if the Ministry requires boards to take any corrective action if concerns are noted. It was therefore not possible to determine if and how requirements for Special Education Plans are being enforced. The various reports described above and the inquiry’s findings suggest that to date, this process has not been particularly effective in ensuring minimum standards, consistency and accountability.
The OHRC reviewed a sample of boards’ Special Education Plans to see how they address the issues in the inquiry. Some observations about the lack of consistency and standards in Special Education Plans include:
- Overall, the plans vary considerably between boards, with little consistency in what information is provided. This makes comparing special education approaches across boards very difficult
- Only some of the plans refer to universal design for learning (UDL), usually in a very minimal way and not specifically related to evidence-based classroom reading instruction (in other words, boards do not recognize that direct, explicit, systematic instruction in foundational word-reading skills that conforms to the scientific research is good for all students and essential for at-risk students)
- Not all plans identify a tiered approach to instruction, assessment and intervention, or if they do, they do not accurately lay out an evidence-based RTI/MTSS approach
- The plans vary in terms of how thoroughly they explain available assessment/screening, intervention and accommodation processes
- Few plans discuss specific evidence-based screening processes
- Few plans discuss specific evidence-based reading intervention programs
- Many plans do not include the wait times for formal assessments or the board’s strategy (if any) for managing wait lists
- Only some boards include detailed professional development plans related to special education. Professional development plans do not reflect what is required for students with or at risk for reading difficulties, including related to evidence-based instruction interventions
- Not all boards break down service delivery models by types of exceptionalities and include information on available supports and programs for students with learning disabilities.
In September 2021, the Ministry released a Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP) framework. The Ministry reports that this framework identifies improving literacy achievement as a goal and establishes three provincial literacy achievement performance indicators. These relate to reading and writing EQAO scores, reading and writing report card assessments, and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.
The Ministry reports that within the BIEP Data and Planning Tool, boards will be asked to provide demographic data that will be used to identify disproportionalities among students for every student-related indicator. Boards will be expected to analyze how various marginalized student populations are faring against these performance indicators (in other words, analyze any disproportionalities in outcomes) and set targets and develop actions to address those disproportionalities. Boards will submit the BIEP annually, starting in May 2022. The Ministry says it will review school boards' BIEPs annually.
The BIEP tool is a good step forward. However, report card data is currently not a good measure of reading achievement. As discussed below, report card marks may not be based on objective measures of reading skills, and the inquiry heard many examples of students receiving good grades that masked their reading difficulties. The Auditor General has also found provincial report cards are not meaningful assessments of achievement for students with IEPs. Standardized measures of reading skills described in this report will provide a better basis for boards and the province to assess provincial literacy achievement for young students.
The Ministry’s other efforts to create some consistency and provide some direction to boards are often in the form of voluntary guides and resources. Where there are more directive Policy/Program Memoranda related to screening, professional assessments, learning disabilities and other matters relevant to students with reading disabilities, they are mostly outdated, do not reflect current science or evidence, or hamper boards’ ability to promote consistency and standardization (for example, see discussion of PPM 155 in section 9, Early screening).
A Ministry document that all teachers are required to follow is the Ontario curriculum. The curriculum sets out what teachers are required to teach and the knowledge and skills students are expected to achieve at the end of each grade. The Language curriculum is therefore an essential tool for setting standards and ensuring consistency in evidence-based reading instruction in every classroom across the province. However, the curriculum promotes a problematic cueing system approach to reading instruction, and does not outline the research-based skills that are fundamental to reading acquisition. It provides no guidance on evidence-based approaches to instruction to make sure all students learn to read. As well as not aligning with evidence, the curriculum leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Several school board personnel and many educators who responded to our survey said they are looking for more explicit and evidence-based guidance in the Language curriculum:
I don't think there is enough consistency. There are broad curriculum goals without direction on how to get there. Too much is open to interpretation and many children, in my opinion, get left behind because a teacher is using outdated methods or hasn't been informed about the best way to reach all learners.
I see a wide range of mish mash approaches and materials. Inconsistency and lack of knowledge prevail.
Similarly, there is little consistency in early screening. Section 9, Early screening, details how Ontario lacks universal evidence-based early screening. School boards are currently limited to circulating a list of approved screeners, but cannot mandate and oversee their use. The screeners boards have approved and the procedures for their use, are generally not aligned with evidence-based measures and practices. Thus, the current approach to screening is not evidence-based and is ad hoc, inconsistent between teachers, schools and boards, and misses identifying many students who should be given early intervention and supports.
The OHRC asked the inquiry school boards to list the screeners they have approved for use by teachers. There were over 40 screeners approved across the eight inquiry boards. Boards did not know which screeners are being used, which students are being screened and when and how often they are being assessed. The validity of the screeners and the processes of their use largely do not align with the evidence.
Many educator survey respondents highlighted inconsistencies in the approach to early screening:
It seems to vary across not only school boards, but even across classrooms! There is no consistency, which is very worrying.
Different standards for different teachers lead to kids falling behind or even falling between the cracks. Everyone needs to be screened.
In contrast, the U.K. has instituted a single national phonics screen using one common screening tool. This standardization and consistency allows the U.K. to collect, analyze and publish national data on the results of a valid and reliable early screening measure. Other jurisdictions such as North Vancouver District School Board require all students be screened using only one screening tool. This approach has been very effective in early identification and intervention for students with reading difficulties.
The eight inquiry school boards identified over 20 different interventions. Educator survey respondents named 13, as well as additional unnamed “others,” such as “general balanced literacy approach during intervention time” and “general structured literacy approach during intervention time.” As reviewed in section 10, Reading interventions, many of the named interventions were not consistent with the research. The variation and use of interventions that do not follow evidence-based approaches is concerning.
Many educators described inequity in access to interventions:
There are many effective reading interventions available, which require varying amounts of expertise and time to administer. Availability of reading interventions for students is currently very inconsistent within/between schools and school boards depending on ideology and budget priorities.
They also described unfairness associated with inconsistent approaches:
Benchmarks for screenings and recommended intervention approaches are needed because without [them] we see large inconsistencies across schools, school boards and the province which is not fair to students.
This significant variation and the many ineffective and unsupported screeners and interventions chosen by boards means that the needs of many Ontario students with reading difficulties or at risk for later reading difficulties are not being met. Combined with a curriculum and pedagogical classroom approaches that emphasize ineffective cueing systems and balanced literacy, it is no wonder so many students are struggling. Inconsistent access to timely and effective accommodation then multiplies these students’ struggles. Students and parents report having to “fight” to have accommodations implemented from class to class, grade to grade and when transitioning to a different school or school board.
Finally, boards lack clear and consistent criteria for referring students for psychoeducational assessment. The level of discretion in this process creates a significant risk of bias and inequitable access.
Since the launch of the OHRC inquiry, boards have been allocated additional funds for reading supports. A 2021 Ministry transfer payment agreement attempts to provide more guidance around screeners and reading interventions by using examples of literacy programs that include direct instruction in core word-reading skills. This is a good start, but it is still framed as guidance and not direction. Explaining good approaches and providing examples of good programs is not the same as requiring boards to only choose from measures, approaches and programs that are supported by scientific evidence. Boards need clear direction that they must not use measures, approaches and programs that are not validated and proven to be effective for students with reading difficulties.
There is an urgent need to set clear standards and requirements consistent with evidence that must be followed by all schools across Ontario. In contrast, over 40 U.S. states have reading disability/dyslexia-specific laws that raise awareness about dyslexia and provide guidance to school districts on how to identify children at risk for dyslexia, and provide early evidence-based interventions. These laws often also address teacher education, providing accommodations, and the overall rights of people with dyslexia.
Data helps verify, monitor, measure and address achievement gaps for identified groups of students. Used well, it improves the quality of decision-making, service delivery and programming. Further data collection may be needed to help probe, identify and better understand the factors potentially contributing to the observed unequal outcomes. Data is important for tracking student achievement and outcomes, and for accountability.
Lack of data collection, analysis and reporting has been a major accessibility barrier in Ontario’s education system. Both the ESD Committee and the OHRC have identified the need for better data collection across the province as critical to the rights of students with disabilities.
The OHRC has long said that data collection is essential for promoting and protecting human rights. Examples of collecting data for purposes consistent with the Code include collecting data to:
- Monitor and evaluate potential discrimination
- Identify and remove systemic barriers
- Lessen or prevent disadvantage
- Promote substantive equality for people identified by Code grounds.
Organizations must be proactive in ensuring equity and non-discrimination. Data collection is often necessary to make sure all groups benefit equally from services. In the context of education, school boards must monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of special education services and supports and take steps to measure student achievement and outcomes, particularly for students who come from Code-protected and disadvantaged groups.
The OHRC’s Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities states:
Collecting data – both quantitative and qualitative – can help an education institution understand the barriers that exist, and identify and address concerns that may lead to systemic discrimination. Organizations should collect and analyze data when they have, or ought to have, reason to believe that discrimination, systemic barriers or historical disadvantage may exist. For example, data collection would be warranted where there are persistent allegations or perceptions of systemic discrimination, or where it is an organization’s intent to prevent or ameliorate disadvantage already known to be faced by persons with disabilities. Where problems are identified, data analysis can provide useful direction for remedies to address systemic discrimination as well as evaluate the success of such measures. This is in keeping with the remedial purpose of the Code, and with human rights jurisprudence that finds organizations have an obligation to take into account a person’s already disadvantaged position within Canadian society.
When the OHRC released its accessible education policy in August 2018, it made recommendations to improve education outcomes for students with disabilities. Several were aimed at improving data collection. The OHRC recommended that school boards collect intersectional, demographic data on students with disabilities, including data on the nature of the disability, whether the student identifies with any other Code ground (for example, race, sex, gender identity, Indigenous ancestry); the amount of time taken to provide accommodations and resolve accommodation-related disputes; drop-out rates; and disparities in special education supports for students in urban wealthy school districts versus rural, Northern, remote, and/or lower-income school boards. The recommendations emphasized that the Ontario government should require that school boards collect this data and provide it to the Ministry, and the province should analyze system-wide data to identify barriers and address concerns that may lead to systemic discrimination.
In a December 2018 submission to a provincial consultation on education, the OHRC recommended that the Ontario government measure access to student opportunities, achievement and outcomes by collecting and publicly reporting on disaggregated human rights-based data.
Data is a means and not an end in itself. Data literacy and training are required to effectively collect and use it. An independent report commissioned by the U.K. government, Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management, aptly stated:
Nobody intentionally sets out to create unnecessary workload, and everybody involved in education – from Government ministers to classroom teachers – has a role to play in reducing burdens.
Rolling out data systems must be approached with care and thoughtfulness to avoid undue burdens on educators, which can contribute to unnecessary resistance.
Reports and studies recommending data collection
Many reports, studies and plans about the Ontario education system have long noted the need for better data collection, management, analysis and mobilization. These documents have recognized that data is important for student equity as well as to support effective evidence-based program delivery. They have also found significant deficiencies in the education system’s current approach to data collection.
Auditor General for Ontario
Many of the Auditor General’s findings and recommendations about education relate to the need for better data collection, analysis and reporting.
In 2008, the Auditor General noted deficiencies in evidence-based decision-making:
Moving the education sector’s decision-making and educational practices from the traditional intuitive/experience-based approach to an evidence/research-based approach requires the collection of better and more detailed data about students, their educational programs and services, and their performance.
The Auditor General went on to say:
…the school boards we audited were not yet recording on their systems sufficient information regarding students with special education needs and the services and supports they received to support detailed analyses. As a result, the boards could not yet use information systems in significant ways to help manage and oversee special education programs.
The 2008 report recommended that the Ministry identify (and help boards collect and use) information required to support “evidence-based program delivery models” for students with special education needs. This would include information about education programs for students with special education needs (for example, the type, timing and amount of services and supports provided) as well as the results the students achieve.
In 2009, the Auditor General recommended that the Ministry develop:
…more comprehensive indicators for measuring and reporting on its effectiveness in improving student achievement…[including] how specific student cohorts perform over time while participating in the programs and initiatives intended to improve their performance.
The Auditor General has also made recommendations about EQAO reporting, including that the Ministry should report the gap between top-performing and lower-performing student groups and schools, as well as how specific student cohorts perform over time while taking part in the programs and initiatives intended to improve their performance.
The Auditor General made recommendations to improve the Ministry’s centralized data collection and information-sharing with school boards. This included recommending that school boards have better access to information in the Ministry’s database to be able to use the data for decision-making and monitoring.
In 2011, the Auditor General recommended that the Ministry and boards:
…assess the viability of calculating student success indicators by a variety of attributes such as ethnicity, language, and socioeconomic status, and consider a system or process for collecting data based on student self-identification.
The Auditor General also found that:
- Boards use different methods for calculating graduation rates so it is difficult to meaningfully compare rates across the province
- Boards need better information on graduates’ level of preparedness for post-secondary studies and employment.
The Auditor General recommended that the Ministry and boards develop a common method for calculating and reporting graduation rates and other student success indicators, set reasonable targets for graduation rates and student success indicators, and require more formal reporting on whether these targets are being met at the provincial and board level.
In 2017, the Auditor General once again looked at data collection by the Ministry and boards and found that the Ministry does not collect enough data to make sure its grants, especially grants for special education, get allocated equally to all students who need them. The Auditor General recommended that the Ministry “assess whether the funding of grants intended to serve the needs of a specific group of students or for a specific purpose is achieving that purpose.”
The Auditor General has also made findings about board information management systems and how boards report student data to the Ministry. In its 2018 audit, the Auditor General found there is no single common centralized student information system at the provincial level, and boards use different student information management systems. The Auditor General recommended that for the sake of efficiency and consistency, the Ministry work with school boards to investigate implementing one common, centralized student information management system, and noted that British Columbia has a centrally managed electronic student information system.
The Auditor General’s 2020 follow-up report said that the Ministry reported this recommendation would be implemented by June 2021. The Ministry advises the investigation took place but found that moving all boards to a single information system was not feasible. Instead, the Ministry worked with boards to try to develop a common model for interoperability (the ability for computer systems to connect and exchange information with each another).
Ministry reports and plans
Ministry reports, studies and plans have identified the need to better measure factors that support student success and well-being. In its 2014 document, Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario, the Ministry emphasized the importance of demographic and perceptual data (for example, from student censuses and school climate surveys) for program and service enhancements and to address the specific needs of students who struggle.
In Ontario’s 2017 Education Equity Action Plan, the Ministry acknowledged that “collecting and analyzing voluntary demographic data and perceptual data can enable our school and system leaders to more precisely address the barriers to student success.” The Ministry stated that relevant demographic data includes exceptionalities, immigration status, language first spoken, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and indicators of parental socioeconomic status. The Ministry noted that as of 2017, only one Ontario school board was collecting demographic data, and while other boards were collecting data on exceptionalities, immigration status and language first spoken, there is province-wide variation in how boards mobilize this data to close equity gaps.
The Education Equity Action Plan recognizes:
A consistent approach to collecting and analyzing voluntarily provided identity-based data will help local school boards identify where systemic barriers exist, and will help determine how to eliminate discriminatory biases in order to support equity and student achievement and well-being through training and targeted programs and supports. This work will support the mandate of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate and will align with data standards developed by the Directorate.
The Education Equity Action Plan includes a plan to work with school boards to develop a consistent approach to collecting voluntary student identity data. It also commits to working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners to co-develop indicators of Indigenous student success and well-being. Performance measures for the Action Plan include:
- Co-developing indicators of Indigenous student success and well-being with partners (2017–2019)
- Launching provincewide collection of voluntarily provided data on key identity-based data points for students (2017–2019)
- Using student identity and achievement data when developing multi-year strategic plans, Board Improvement Plans for Student Achievement and School Improvement Plans for Student Achievement (2019–2020+)
- Evidence of closing gaps in achievement and well-being (2019-2020+)
- School boards reporting on data collection of disaggregated identity-based data for students (2019-2020+).
The Education Equity Action Plan connects to the work of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate and is meant to align with data standards developed by the Directorate. Under Ontario’s Anti-Racism Act, 2017, all school boards must collect race-based data by January 1, 2023. They must combine this data with other information to determine the impact of race on outcomes, and identify and monitor racial inequalities.
In 2017, the Ministry, in partnership with York University, conducted another study on data collection. Unlocking Student Potential Through Data, Final Report identified ways the Ministry can better use the data it already collects; advance its equity agenda by collecting additional data including demographic, perceptual, program and student learning data; and use data to follow children and youth from birth to post-secondary. The report noted the importance of collaborating with partners to strengthen data collection, performance measurement, evaluation and public reporting on education in Ontario. It described deficiencies in data currently collected by the Ministry and school boards:
While school boards currently collect a range of demographic data on students, there are a few key aspects of social identity that most school boards and the Ministry do not currently collect data on, including: race, ethnicity, creed (religion), disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. In addition, these key demographic data are not asked as part of perceptual surveys, such as the School Climate Surveys. Furthermore, allowing school boards to collect data on their own, with no provincial standards for consistency, will result in gaps within the provincial picture of whether, and to what extent, education equity is achieved for students from diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities. Routine, consistent demographic data collection will allow school boards and the Ministry to close these knowledge gaps and create an education system that better serves all of Ontario’s students.
The report made many recommendations on how to improve data collection and use data to improve decision-making and education outcomes for students. Some of the recommendations more relevant to the inquiry include:
- Recommending that the Ministry take a leadership role in mandating and supporting additional provincewide demographic data collection, and making sure this data is collected in a way that can be reported to the Ministry’s central data repository, the Ontario School Information System (OnSIS). The report recommended that the process to initiate additional data collection begin by the 2018–2019 school year.
- Addressing ways program and process data can be improved. The report recommended the Ministry identify key program and process data that should be collected, analyzed and integrated with OnSIS, such as data about student participation in specialized programs, intervention and instructional processes intersected with achievement information, to identify achievement trends related to program type.
- Recommending the Ministry, in collaboration with education partners, examine processes for identifying students with disabilities, exceptionalities and special education needs. Identifications, placement recommendations, exclusions from school and supports provided should be tracked using an intersectional framework analysis (for example, exploring disproportionate representation of racialized students in special education programs).
- Recommending the Ministry, in collaboration with education partners, explore collecting early years provincial baseline data using Kindergarten entry assessments, especially for foundational literacy and numeracy skills. The report also addressed older students and made recommendations on how to better track post-secondary registration and outcomes, including by demographics, to identify disparate outcomes for sub-groups, including students with special education needs.
Reports about Education Quality and Accountability Office assessment data
In 1995, the Royal Commission on Learning recommended Ontario introduce large-scale provincial assessments of literacy and numeracy in Grade 3, and of literacy in Grade 11. It recommended assessments be administered by a proposed Office of Learning Assessment and Accountability, which would provide reports to the Minister of Education and to the public about provincewide data on student achievement overall and for sub-groups of students, according to gender, race, ethnicity and socio-economic status. The recommendations resulted in the EQAO being established as a Crown agency through the Education Quality and Accountability Office Act, 1996.
In 2018, Ontario: A Learning Province made recommendations about classroom assessments and EQAO assessments and reporting. The report recommended that data from the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which measures physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, communication and general knowledge of Kindergarten students, be better used to help schools, communities and the province understand the needs of their youngest learners. It concluded that EDI data should be used at the provincial, district and school levels for early childhood development and transitions from early years to primary schooling, and to support decision-making for prioritizing improvements and allocating resources.
The report recommended transforming reporting on EQAO data. It said the EQAO should produce:
A provincial annual report, including provincial results for elementary and secondary provincial large-scale assessments, considerations of equity, sub-group analyses with disaggregated data, cohort data, questionnaire responses, relevant provincial data and research, and in years when pan-Canadian and international assessment results are released, key findings for Ontario.
The report also recommended two-way data sharing between the EQAO and Ministry, and data sharing with First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners.
In October 2021, the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) released Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores. The IDA requested and analyzed data from the EQAO’s Grade 3, Grade 6 and OSSLT (Grade 10) annual reading assessments from 2005 to 2019. The IDA looked at:
- The rate of AT/scribing use by all students, and for students with an IEP
- The percentage of students who passed the test independently (without accommodations) and who passed using AT/scribing
- Participation rates
- The percentage of students with an IEP and IPRC-LD designation
- The “pass rate” for students who wrote the test using AT/scribing
- The discrepancy in the rates of special education support and formal LD exceptionality identification for English language learner (ELL) and non-ELL students
- The discrepancy between “pass rates” for ELL and non-ELL students.
The IDA found that the rate of AT/scribing accommodations for students with IEPs has been increasing. It noted that when students are receiving these accommodations, the EQAO assessment is not measuring their ability to read words unassisted, as the words are read aloud by the technology. As discussed in section 8, Curriculum and instruction, the ability to read words is a critical component of reading comprehension. Therefore, pass rates for students taking EQAO tests with AT/scribing do not accurately reflect the true state of Ontario students’ reading skills. The IDA also found little to no improvement in the unassisted pass rate for students with IEPs, with only 8% of Grade 3 students with an IEP passing the reading assessment without technology in 2019 compared with 10% in 2005.
The inquiry’s findings were similar. As discussed in section 5, How Ontario students are performing, the accommodations provided mean that the EQAO reading data, which is already concerning, likely significantly under-represents the magnitude of reading difficulties among Ontario students. The inquiry also found that very few students with an LD exceptionality in the eight inquiry school boards met the provincial standard without accommodation.
The IDA report identifies concerns with EQAO data reporting. It recommends greater transparency in EQAO reporting and calls on the EQAO to publish the following information annually in addition to current measures:
- The percentage of all students who met the provincial standard independently – without the use of AT/scribing
- The percentage of students who met provincial standard while using AT/scribing
- The percentage of participants who used AT/scribing
- The percentage of participants who used AT/scribing and were successful
- OSSLT results for all students rather than focusing attention on the results of the highest performing subset of students, the "First Time Eligible participants"
- The percentage of Grade 10 students not considered eligible for writing the OSSLT
- A breakdown of all provincial, and board-level results by demographic groupings including gender, race, English language learner status and socio-economic status, to provide a greater understanding of issues of equity in education.
Without this information, the EQAO data does not serve its purpose of promoting accountability and continuous improvement in Ontario’s public education system.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee
The ESD Committee identified “the lack of data collection regarding accessibility and students with disabilities,” as well as the “challenges of comparing data from across the province” as a “major barrier” impeding delivering services to students with disabilities. The committee also noted the need to track data about all students with disabilities, rather than only on students who have been identified as “exceptional.”
The ESD Committee made many recommendations for boards and the Ministry to improve and standardize data collection, analysis and reporting. Some of the recommendations most relevant to the inquiry include that school boards:
- Collect consistent, comparable and disaggregated data on students with all types of disability as defined in the Code and AODA, and not just on students with an “exceptionality” as defined under current Ontario special education laws
- Collect data on the accommodations, programs and services that are to be provided to the student
- Collect data on students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials
- Collect data on the number of students who are on a modified day, including the reason for modified day, duration and appeals, if any, as well as about the alternative education program provided
- Collect, analyze and publicize annual data on the number of students who access professional services and assessments provided by regulated health professionals and other specialists, including the number of days students wait for the assessments
- On an annual basis, publicly report data about disabilities, exclusions, modifications, wait times for professional assessments, and data about the number and types of staff who instruct students with disabilities.
According to the ESD Committee, the Ministry should roll up the school board data into centralized provincial data, publicly report on it, identify areas for improvement, and develop a plan for the province to respond to unmet student needs. The committee said the Ministry should:
- Collect the data from each school board and:
- publicly report on the data, as an aggregate and by board
- identify changes over previous year(s) and any areas for improvement
- develop a provincial action plan to resolve gaps or unmet needs
- Redesign the mandatory contents of IEPs to support data collection about students with disabilities and the accommodations, or programs and services, that are required to support their needs
- Provide a standardized provincial rubric for documenting the number of professional and specialist assessments that each school board provides annually, including information on the criteria used to prioritize student assessment referrals, and the length of time from identifying the need for the assessment to assessment completion.
The committee also addressed the need to collect, analyze and report on intersectional student census data including information about disability, such as the type of disability, or disabilities, and the intersection of disability with other key factors such as race, Indigenous identity, sexual identity and socio-economic factors. Importantly, the committee stated that data collection should be based on processes and questions that are consistent for all school boards. The committee recommended the data be linked to student outcome and achievement data including graduation rates, credit accumulation, course selection and other measures. The data should be analyzed to identify gaps and develop plans to improve outcomes and achievement of students with disabilities.
Inquiry findings on data collection
There was significant overlap between inquiry findings and previous report findings about deficiencies in data collection and needed improvements, particularly about students with disabilities.
Student information management systems
It was apparent that boards are either not using centralized information management systems, are using different student information management systems, or have varying abilities to generate information from their student information management systems. In several cases, boards could not provide us with the requested data. Some boards reported that it was not collected at all, only kept by individual teachers, or stored only at the school level. For example:
- Most boards said that information about students’ progress in reading is only kept at a teacher or school level
- Few boards had data on the progress of students who took part in reading interventions. One board said “the District monitors individual student data at the school level and is investigating ways to manage collective data centrally.” Other boards provided some data kept by individual reading intervention teachers
- One board could not provide the number or percentage of students identified with a learning disability at their board, as this information is kept at a school level
- One board said that data about students who have self-identified as First Nations, Métis or Inuit and who also have special education needs is school-level data that is “not easily acquired.”
In other cases, boards said they manually compiled the data we requested (for example, data on whether students with learning disabilities are taking mostly applied or academic courses and their wait lists for psychoeducational assessments). Some boards did not appear to collect or analyze this data, or similar data, for their own purposes (for example, to monitor student outcomes or the effectiveness of the programs delivered).
It therefore appears that little has been done to address the Auditor General’s 2018 recommendation that boards move to a common, centralized student information management system.
The Ontario School Information System
Once boards collect information in their different student information management systems, they submit some of that information to the Ministry’s data repository, OnSIS. OnSIS collects data on school boards, schools, students and teachers and courses three times per year. Student information collected includes biographical information, incidents and infractions, and special education information, including data on student exceptionalities. Students’ unique Ontario Education Number (OEN) allows OnSIS data to be linked to other datasets and indicators which allows better tracking of student achievement and other outcomes for a given cohort or group of students.
The purpose of OnSIS is to gather accurate and reliable data for analysis, policy development and evidence-based decision-making across policy and program areas, and ultimately to improve student achievement. Data collected through OnSIS is transferred to the Ministry’s data warehousing environment and used to support public reporting and analysis by Ministry staff and school boards. However, from the information gathered in the inquiry, it was unclear how much of the OnSIS data is being analyzed for equity purposes, or if the information collected would be adequate to do so. The Ministry reported that it analyzes EQAO data but what was less clear is whether the Ministry currently uses OnSIS data to monitor and publicly report identified indicators to promote equity, achievement, well-being and public confidence in the education system, recommended in reports such as Unlocking Student Potential Through Data, Final Report.
The EQAO administers and reports on provincial assessments (as described in section 5, How Ontario students are performing). While the EQAO reports to the Ministry of Education (Ministry) and school boards on achievement results for self-identified First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, it does not report on sub-groups of students according to race, ethnicity and socio-economic status as recommended in the 1995 Royal Commission report that led to the EQAO being established. The EQAO also does not provide regular, detailed public analysis on the achievement of students with special education needs. However, in 2019, the EQAO provincial report stated:
The persistent discrepancy in achievement between students with special education needs and those without requires attention. EQAO data show that students with learning disabilities are the largest group in the cohort of students identified as having special education needs. Historically, students with learning disabilities have had a low level of achievement despite having average to above average intelligence. It would be beneficial to review supports available and strategies for success.
Other than this statement, the EQAO has done little to identify equity issues or disparities in student achievement according to demographics in its public reporting. Boards have access to EQAO data about their students with special education needs broadly and by exceptionality. However, it was unclear if boards analyze this data for potential disparities or use it to respond to inequities. The Ministry told the inquiry that it annually analyzes EQAO board and school-level data, including data about students with special education needs. However, it was not clear how the Ministry acts on this data or responds to the consistently low provincial reading scores of students with special education needs generally, students with learning disability (LD) exceptionalities, or the large number of students failing to learn to read who do not have any identified special education need, exceptionality or diagnosis.
As discussed in section 5 How Ontario students are performing, and consistent with the IDA’s report Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores, because of exemptions and accommodations, EQAO results are not a true reflection of the reading skills of Ontario students, and do not shed light on the reading skills of students with reading disabilities. The overall provincial success rates on EQAO reading assessments fail to account for the many students who cannot read words unassisted.
Data about students with reading disabilities or special education needs
The OHRC asked boards for information about students with special education needs. The responses revealed that boards have different ways of defining special education needs. Some equate special education needs with having an IEP. One board appears to only consider students to have special education needs if they have an exceptionality identified through the IPRC process. Some include students who have been diagnosed with a disability through a psychoeducational assessment even if they have not gone through an IPRC process. Other boards provided information about students with special education needs without explaining how they defined having these needs.
A major limitation in assessing the situation of students with reading difficulties and reading disabilities was that most boards only had data on students with a formally designated learning disability exceptionality (meaning students who had gone through the IPRC process and been designated under the learning disability exceptionality category). Many students with reading difficulties are never formally identified. Even where students have been formally identified, they may have more than one exceptionality. These students are categorized under a catch-all “multiple exceptionalities,” which obscures the nature of the exceptionalities and may not allow meaningful data collection on students with learning disabilities who have co-existing disabilities, which can be common.
One board appears to recognize the limitation of only counting students identified with an exceptionality by an IPRC. This board also keeps data on students diagnosed with a learning disability through a psychoeducational assessment (30% of whom did not go through the IPRC process). Although this may capture more students with learning disabilities than using only the IPRC designation, many students with learning difficulties do not have a psychoeducational assessment. Therefore, many students with reading disabilities/dyslexia will still not be captured in data collection.
Concerningly, one board could not provide any data on the number of students with a learning disability because the data is kept at the school level.
Also, as discussed in section 12, Professional assessments, learning disability exceptionalities are not categorized, so it was not possible to confirm whether the students identified have a learning disability in reading or another area such as math. However, given that reading disabilities are the most prevalent learning disability, it is likely that many or most of these students do have a learning disability in reading.
Demographic data and data about students with reading disabilities
At the time of our data request, in the 2019–2020 school year, only two of the eight inquiry school boards, Peel and Ottawa-Carleton, were conducting a student census to collect demographic data about equity indicators such as race, ethnicity, creed (religion), disability, gender identity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Since then, Thames Valley, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic and Hamilton-Wentworth have started collecting demographic data. Lakehead piloted a student census at two schools in 2020.
We reviewed four boards’ censuses, for the youngest age range. Boards’ approach to collecting demographic data is not consistent, making comparing data across boards or at a provincial level challenging. Unlocking Student Potential Through Data, Final Report warned:
Allowing school boards to collect data on their own, with no provincial standards to ensure consistency, will result in gaps within the provincial picture of whether, and to what extent, education equity is achieved for students from diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities.
First, the censuses we reviewed did not appear to have consistent age groupings. Peel does not appear to survey students before Grade 4. Hamilton-Wentworth’s survey for the youngest age range ends at Grade 4, while Ottawa-Carleton and Thames Valley surveys for the youngest age range go up to Grade 6.
All surveys reviewed gathered demographic data relating to:
- Ethnicity/cultural origin
- Indigenous identity
- Racial background/race
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
There are variations in the questions related to certain identity data. For example, some boards asked what language the student first learned to speak. Other boards asked about what language the student first learned to speak and still understands. Some but not all boards also ask what language the student speaks most often at home or can communicate in fluently.
All boards asked for the student’s ethnic or cultural background, but some also asked if the student considers themselves “a Canadian.” Similarly, while all boards asked about the student’s “racial background” or “racial group(s),” only one also asked if the student identifies as a “racialized person or as a member of a racialized community.”
There are also differences in questions about disabilities. One board asked if the student has an IEP and what primary exceptionality is listed on the IEP. However, other boards said they have other ways to link IEP and IPRC data with census responses. All boards asked if the student identified as having a learning disability, but only one board included dyslexia as an example of a learning disability. None of the boards asked what specific type of learning disability the student has.
Socioeconomic status is an important type of identity data, and many reports have recommended collecting it. There are variations in how this data is collected. Among the boards that asked about socioeconomic status, some asked how many people live in the student’s home; one asked about total household income; and one asked about the parent or guardian’s highest level of education, employment status, and job or occupation. Some boards collect data on socioeconomic status using student postal codes.
In all the above areas, the options for potential answers to choose from varied from board to board, although all boards offered the option to provide an answer that was not listed.
At the time of the inquiry, boards did not appear to be analyzing data to identify intersections between having a learning disability and other Code grounds. For example, the inquiry boards had little or no data about gender identity, race, co-existing disabilities, Indigenous ancestry or socioeconomic status of students identified with a learning disability exceptionality. As more boards start to collect student census data (as required by January 1, 2023), it will be important that they conduct intersectional analyses and link the demographic data to other available data in their student information systems (for example, student achievement data).
Data about early screening, reading interventions and accommodations
The inquiry asked for data on early screening, reading interventions, accommodations and professional assessments. With few exceptions, the boards had little centralized data on student achievement or outcomes or to measure the effectiveness of their reading instruction, early screening, intervention programs and accommodation approaches.
As discussed in section 9, Early screening, boards have little or no data on early screening, including on who is screened, when they are screened, the screening instrument used, and the results of the screener. One major obstacle to collecting this data is PPM 155, which limits boards’ ability to collect and analyze screening data centrally. Only one board reported collecting data on the results of early screening as board SLPs conduct the screening instead of teachers. PPM 155 does not apply to screening done by speech-language pathologists (SLPs).
In contrast, the U.K. collects and publishes national data on the percentage of students who achieved the expected phonics standard broken down by demographic data including gender, income, ethnicity, special education needs and first language other than English. The data is published on the Internet and the public can provide feedback on improvements to this data collection.
Boards also have little data measuring the effectiveness of their reading intervention programs. They each measure the effectiveness of these programs differently. Some boards compile board-level reports on programs such as Reading Recovery® and Empower.TM In some boards, data is kept manually by reading intervention teachers. Other boards keep some data manually, at a school level.
Several boards acknowledged they need to find better ways to gather and centrally manage data on reading intervention participation rates and success. For example, one board said:
System level data to measure the overall effectiveness of our reading interventions is difficult to come by and cannot easily be accessed. Schools maintain the individual results…and while they submit copies to central staff, the information is presented on paper and we do not have a digital means to collect it.…We are reviewing the way in which we collect intervention data and are exploring ways to collect it centrally in an electronic format so that it is easier to analyze.
Another difficulty is that the measures used pre- and post-test are often specific to the intervention program. This impedes knowing if core foundational skills, such as word-reading accuracy and fluency, have been effectively addressed. This also impedes comparing the effectiveness of different programs; a question boards should be investigating.
School boards and schools also do not have a standard system where every educator who works with a student is made aware of their accommodation needs. The inquiry also heard that when a student transfers from one board to another, their OSR is not always immediately available to the new board. Boards do not appear to have a consistent data management system where a student’s accommodation needs are predictably written up in IEPs, and sharable among staff who support the student.
In some cases, schools provide students with technology as an accommodation. However, data is not collected about whether technological supports are available to all students who need them and if the accommodations are implemented and effective when provided. In 2020, the Auditor General found that some boards do not know exactly what technology their students currently use, what more technology they need, or if students across their board have equal access to technology. The Auditor General recommended that boards perform an assessment to evaluate students’ needs for classroom technology.
Data on student success indicators
The OHRC asked boards for data on several indicators of student success and outcomes such as academic pathways (whether students are taking mostly academic or applied courses in Grade 9), graduation rates and post-secondary attendance. The OHRC wanted to assess any disparities between these measures for students identified as having a learning disability compared to all students in the board. With few exceptions, boards were not able to provide meaningful data.
Seven of eight boards shared whether students with a learning disability took mostly applied or academic courses. However, only a few boards could further disaggregate this data by gender, First Nations, Métis and Inuit self-identification, and co-existing disabilities.
All boards were able to provide their graduation rates. Boards only have access to information about students who started Grade 9 in their board and stayed with the board for four or five years. They cannot track student outcomes when the student leaves the board. Only the Ministry has a methodology for calculating graduation rates that tracks students across four and five years of secondary school and accounts for student mobility between boards. Although several boards were able to provide graduation rates for students with a learning disability exceptionality, others were not. Only a few boards could further disaggregate or break down graduation rates (for example, by First Nations, Métis or Inuit self-identification, gender, or co-existing disabilities). One board had data on the dropout rate for students who identify as Indigenous and/or who live in “a low-income neighbourhood,” but they could not cross-tabulate it against whether the student identified as having a learning disability. Boards advised that they can only disaggregate graduation data for subsets of students who graduate from the same school district they started their secondary schooling in.
The boards were also not able to provide the OHRC with a picture of their students’ pathways after graduation. For example, they could not provide data on acceptance to college or university for graduating students with and without an LD exceptionality. Despite the Auditor General’s 2011 recommendation and the Ministry’s 2013 commitment to monitor students beyond secondary school, it appears that neither the Ministry nor boards keep good data about what happens to high school graduates, including where they apply, and if they get accepted or rejected where they apply.
Boards that did provide information got it from the Ontario Colleges Application Centre (OCAS) and Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC). However, those sources do not appear to provide a clear picture of where each high school graduate applied, was accepted, was rejected, and ultimately enrolled for post-secondary studies.
One inquiry board, Ottawa-Carleton, has identified the importance of linking its census data with other data to support equity in student access and outcomes. In a report on its 2019–2020 student census, it says it will link survey data to other data sets to quantify:
- Disparities in student outcomes (for example, achievement, suspension rates, graduation rates) and experiences in school (including sense of belonging and safety)
- Disproportionate representation of different groups across programs and services (for example, academic/applied/locally developed level courses; English with core French/French immersion programs).
Ottawa-Carleton recognizes the need to work with community organizations and stakeholders to better understand any underlying systemic issues that may contribute to these outcomes.
There have been some positive developments and more improvements are planned, but overall, more progress is needed to address deficiencies and implement recommendations from many reports on improving data collection for decision-making, program planning and instruction, resource allocation and public reporting. There is an urgent need for clear provincial standards on data collection, use, analysis and reporting.
Lack of communication and transparency
Schools and school boards need to be transparent by providing information on their policies, practices and procedures that is visible and accessible to students, parents, educators and the community. They also need to be transparent in their dealings with students and parents. This helps make schools and school boards accountable, and enables them to continually work towards improving their services.
A key measure of transparency in education is the level of communication between schools and parents. In its 2010 publication, Parents in Partnership: A Parent Engagement Policy for Ontario Schools, the Ministry stated:
Respectful, ongoing communication and transparency are essential if we are to fulfil our vision of parent engagement. Effective, ongoing communication results in positive and respectful relationships and an appreciation of the roles played by all partners in education. Multiple channels of communication about student progress that connect boards, schools, parents and families, students, and communities need to be in place, and all partners should be encouraged to use them. An effective network includes clear two-way channels for communications from home to school and school to home.
The Ministry has acknowledged that parents’ involvement in their children’s education can help schools “become even better places to teach and learn, and student achievement often improves.” The Ministry said that more parental involvement leads to students having “more positive attitudes about school, more success with homework, higher rates of high school graduation, more consistent school attendance, fewer behavioural problems,” and more success later in life.
Outreach to parents also fosters equitable, inclusive schools. In its 2017 Education Equity Action Plan, the Ministry committed to “working with school boards to establish formal structures to promote and enforce human rights and equity” and prioritized, among other things, “increasing parent engagement in equity and inclusive education, particularly by identifying strategies to reach out to parents who may be disengaged from the education system.”
Schools will be more transparent and more effective if they share information on student performance with parents (and with students, where appropriate) in an accessible, plain-language way that invites their involvement and feedback; provide context so information is useful and clear to students and parents; and foster a positive education environment that makes parents feel welcome.
Schools still have work to do for students who struggle with reading. The OHRC identified situations where schools failed to share important details with parents about screening, interventions, accommodations, modifications and professional assessments. Existing information-sharing tools like report cards, IPRC recommendations and IEPs are generally not detailed, accessible, frequent or dynamic enough to provide students and parents with the information they need to understand how the student is progressing and what extra supports they may need. Some parents told the inquiry they are ignored, or even face reprisals, if they raise concerns about the school’s approach to their child’s reading difficulties.
Reports and studies recommending communication and transparency
Ministry reports and plans
A positive school environment is equitable and inclusive and paves the way for effective communication and transparency. In its 2014 Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation, the Ministry noted that boards should create a procedure to “enable students and staff to report incidents of bullying, harassment, and discrimination safely and have confidence that they will receive a timely response,” and they should make sure information about the procedure “is communicated to all students, staff, and others in the school board.”
In Shared Solutions: A Guide to Preventing and Resolving Conflicts Regarding Programs and Services for Students with Special Education Needs (2007), the Ministry shared the “hallmarks of a positive school climate.” These include:
- Everyone is treated with respect
- The school is a caring and responsive environment
- Educators encourage and maintain regular interaction between schools and families
- The school culture develops a sense of community and caring relationships to provide all students with greater opportunities to achieve success
- Parents are involved in school activities
- Everyone feels safe and secure
- There is a strong focus on prevention and early intervention in conflicts
- Everyone is invited to contribute ideas and offer feedback
- Cross-cultural communication is valued
- Educators have received training on anti-racism and ethno-cultural equity and on avoiding ableism, sexism, and homophobia.
Where a positive school climate does not exist, communication can break down leading to a lack of transparency and a rise in conflict between parents and educators. In Shared Solutions, the Ministry provided these examples:
- Planning conflicts happen when parents and educators do not have access to the same information about the student and/or have a different understanding about the student’s strengths and needs and the special education programs and services that would be most appropriate
- Implementation conflicts happen when parents perceive that plans for special education programs and services have not been adequately implemented
- Relationship conflicts may arise because of cultural differences, styles of interaction, breakdowns in communication, and/or a loss of trust between parents and educators.
In Shared Solutions, the Ministry noted that boards and schools can promote positive school environments and effective communication between parents and schools by:
- Making sure parents and school staff receive common messaging about special education programs and services
- Providing training and professional development to help educators strengthen their communication skills – including both their ability to present information clearly, tactfully and with empathy, and their ability to interpret others’ messages and behaviours accurately and with insight and to understand how the other party is feeling
- Providing a school board communication guide, developed in consultation with the board’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), to help parents know who to talk to and when they should do so.
All educational leaders have a role to play in creating positive, transparent school environments. In Shared Solutions, the Ministry provided an overview of the existing roles and responsibilities of various education leaders, many of which relate to transparency. For example:
- The school principal must: communicate the ministry and board’s special education policies and procedures to staff, students and parents; make sure parents are consulted when their child’s IEP is developed and make sure they are provided with a copy of it; and obtain appropriate consents for assessments
- The school board must: report on special education expenses; develop and amend a special education plan to meet the current strengths and needs of students in the board; and prepare a parent guide about special education programs and processes
- The Ministry must: require school boards to report on their special education expenses; establish the Ontario Special Education (English and French) Tribunals to hear disputes between parents and school boards about identification and placement decisions; and establish a “Provincial Parent Association Advisory Committee on Special Education Advisory Committees.”
Information for Accountability: Transparency and Citizen Engagement for Improved Service Delivery in Education Systems
In January 2017, the Brookings Institution issued a Global Economy & Development Working Paper entitled Information for Accountability: Transparency and Citizen Engagement for Improved Service Delivery in Education Systems. In this paper, it discussed many elements of effective transparency in education including clear, active and accessible communication.
The paper discussed how communication falls on a spectrum, ranging from passive statements to those that invite action. For example, posting a finalized school policy on a website is passive, while distributing a draft school policy with opportunities for discussion and feedback invites action. In the same way, a report card in and of itself is a passive communication, but a reporting process that invites questions and feedback, offers an interview and provides students and parents with a process to resolve any outstanding concerns, invites action. Communication is most likely to trigger positive change if it invites action.
Even if communication invites action, parents cannot act unless they have the time, resources and confidence to do so. If, for example, education providers insist on inconvenient meeting times, fail to allow necessary support persons or translation support, fail to engage during meetings or offer insufficient time for discussion or offer no recourse to people who feel they have not been heard, then meaningful communication will not occur. Advocacy can be particularly challenging for students, parents who are First Nations, Métis or Inuit, racialized or English language learners, who have a low income, and/or who identify with other marginalized communities. They may have limited time and resources to expend, and may be more vulnerable to or afraid of being ostracized for raising concerns. The paper explains:
Even when interventions succeed in reaching the most marginalized, they generate additional concerns. Poor communities have the least amount of time and resources to, for example, attend school-based management meetings, monitor activities of teachers, give feedback through redress mechanisms, or track school budget allocations – a form of “time poverty” as illustrated in widely cited research by Mullainathan and Shafir (2013). In addition, such marginalized populations often face the highest social cost to action, such as facing repercussions from those in positions of power.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee
If a school plans to implement a policy, accommodation plan or other procedure that will affect a particular student, then it must invite feedback from that student and their parents during every step of the planning process and rollout. The school should also invite feedback from other affected parties, such as the classroom teacher and other support staff.
In its initial report, the ESD Committee recommends that schools, with Ministry and Board support:
- Provide students and parents with a clear overview of what supports are available to them
- Help students communicate their own observations and reflections on education supports provided to them, so teachers can use that feedback to refine their instruction plans
- Facilitate open communication with students, parents and other stakeholders by actively seeking input on planning and implementing the student’s education plan/program, and also through surveys, policy reviews and other measures
- Provide dispute resolution services to students and parents who feel they have received insufficient education supports.
Parents need to know who exactly to turn to, to get help. The ESD Committee emphasizes the importance of schools and boards assigning responsibility for oversight and dispute resolution to particular individuals or offices, and widely distributing their contact information.
Students and parents will be most comfortable engaging with schools and providing feedback, if schools make an effort to make them feel welcome. The committee noted that the following additional factors (among others) can make parents more comfortable in interacting with their child’s school:
- Giving parents notice of who will attend school meetings
- Encouraging parents to bring support people to school meetings
- Encouraging parents to take part in meetings in their preferred format (by phone, online or in person).
Transparency is important not only between education providers and parents, but also among education providers. Education providers will expand their skills if they can build on the best practices of their peers.
The ESD Committee discussed the value of educators sharing their best practices with one another. For example, it recommended making the following tools publicly available:
- An accessibility hub with continually updated resources and research-based initiatives
- A list of best practices for enhancing student/parent engagement.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Even if a school communicates extensively with students and parents, disputes may arise over how the school implements screening, interventions and/or approaches to accommodation. To be truly transparent and accountable, schools and boards must offer a straightforward and timely dispute resolution process.
The UN Committee has called for such a process, explaining:
States parties must ensure that independent systems are in place to monitor the appropriateness and effectiveness of accommodations and provide safe, timely and accessible mechanisms for redress when students with disabilities and, if relevant, their families, consider that they have not been adequately provided or have experienced discrimination.
Existing tools for communication and transparency
Schools and boards share information with students and parents through websites, printed guides, report cards, formal and informal meetings with students and parents, the IEP process and the IPRC process. Parents (and students, where appropriate), can challenge school and board decisions through IPRC appeals and human rights complaints.
Schools and school boards also receive non-binding recommendations on their special education programs and services from SEACs.
Special Education Plans
Under Regulation 306 of the Education Act, school boards must create and share a special education plan. These plans foster transparency by clarifying opportunities for students and parents to become more informed about:
- The [role of the] Ministry, board, SEAC, principals and teachers
- Early identification and intervention strategies
- The IPRC process and appeals
- Educational and other assessments
- IEP development and application
- Equipment requests
Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs)
Ontario Regulation 464/97 under the Education Act requires every district school board to establish a Special Education Advisory Committee which includes up to 12 representatives drawn from certain local associations that “further the interests and well-being of one or more groups of exceptional children or adults” and one or two people to represent the interests of First Nations pupils, and members of the board. Ontario Regulation 464/97 says the SEAC may:
- Recommend establishing, developing and delivering special education programs to exceptional students
- Take part in the board’s annual review of its special education plan
- Take part in the board’s annual budget process related to special education matters
- Review the financial statements of the board on special education matters.
Ontario Regulation 464/97 requires that before they make a decision about any SEAC recommendation, school boards must “provide an opportunity for the committee to be heard before the board and before any other committee of the board to which the recommendation is referred.” According to Shared Solutions, the SEAC also “provides information to parents, as requested.”
School boards are not required to follow SEAC recommendations.
In Ontario, elementary teachers are required to provide a Fall progress report, a Winter provincial report card, and a year-end provincial report card. Secondary school teachers provide two report cards per semester, or three report cards in a non-semestered program. In the quadmester model used during the COVID-19 pandemic, secondary teachers provide a progress report midway through the quadmester, and a provincial report card at the end. Each report card follows a template created by the Ministry.
An IEP lays out the special education program and/or services that a student requires. Teachers create an IEP by assessing the student’s strengths and needs, and the effect of those strengths and needs on the student’s ability to learn and demonstrate learning. The IEP “must typically have a direct progress reporting link to the Provincial Report Card.”
In Special Education in Ontario: Kindergarten to Grade 12, Policy and Resource Guide (2017), the Ministry explained that an IEP is in part a transparency tool, in that it is:
an accountability tool for the student, the student’s parents, and everyone who has responsibilities under the plan for helping the student meet the stated goals and learning expectations as the student progresses through the Ontario curriculum.
Schools sometimes create IEPs through an informal process initiated when a teacher reaches out to a parent or a parent reaches out to a teacher to discuss ways to address the student’s learning challenges and needs.
IEPs sometimes arise out of a more formal IPRC process. Principals must request an IPRC meeting for the student, upon receiving a written request from the parent; and may, with written notice to the parent, refer the student to an IPRC when the principal and the student’s teacher or teachers believe that the student may benefit from a special education program. An IPRC is composed of at least three people, one of whom must be a principal or supervisory officer of the board. At least 10 days before the IPRC meeting, the chair invites parents (and students, where appropriate) to attend and provides them with documents the committee has relating to the student. If the IPRC meeting time does not work for the parent (or the student where appropriate) the parent (or student) may contact the school principal to arrange an alternative date and time.
The IPRC decides “whether the student is an exceptional pupil and, if so, what type of educational placement is appropriate.” The IPRC can also “recommend the special education programs and/or services that it considers to be appropriate for the student.” Students and parents can provide input to the IPRC, but do not have ultimate control over what the committee decides.
In its 2017 Special Education in Ontario: Kindergarten to Grade 12, Policy and Resource Guide, the Ministry explained how the IPRC process can improve accountability:
There is no requirement in O. Reg. 181/98 for a transcript or any other record of an IPRC meeting to be prepared. However, it is effective practice to document discussions at meetings where important decisions are made. Such records, including reports submitted to and relied on by the IPRC, support accountability for decisions, enable processes to be reviewed and improved, and assist future committees in understanding past decisions…
Special Education Appeal Board (SEAB) and Special Education Tribunal (SET)
Some formal avenues for appeal do exist, including the Special Education Appeal Board (SEAB) and Special Education Tribunal (SET). The SEAB and SET are open to parents (and students, where appropriate) who have concerns about the school board’s identification or placement of a student with exceptional learning needs.
If an IPRC has issued a decision, and the parent or student disagrees with the committee’s finding regarding identification or placement, they can ask the committee to reconsider its decision at a second meeting.
If they are not satisfied with the reconsideration decision on identification or placement, or if they want to bypass a second IPRC meeting, they can file a notice of appeal with the secretary of the school board. The school board will then establish a SEAB to hear the appeal. The SEAB is comprised of one person nominated by the parent (or student, where appropriate), one person nominated by the board, and a chair chosen by the two nominees. The SEAB will hear submissions from the parent (or student, where appropriate), and the board will make recommendations that the board must consider. However, the board is “not limited to the actions recommended by the appeal board.”
If the student or parent is not satisfied with the outcome of the SEAB process, they can apply to the SET. The SET is an “independent adjudicative agenc[y] of the Government of Ontario,” and is “mandated to provide final and binding decisions to resolve disputes between a parent and a school board concerning the identification and/or placement of an exceptional student.”
The SET may consider issues relating to services and programs, which technically fall outside of its jurisdiction, if they are closely related to issues related to identifications or placements, which are in its jurisdiction. As the SET stated in C v Simcoe County District School Board, “it may be appropriate to consider services and programs that can be provided in a placement. These are undoubtedly closely interrelated and therefore difficult to separate and deal with individually.”
School boards will implement IPRC placement decisions either after parents consent to it, or after the time limit for appeal has expired. The Ministry explains:
Many school boards have a policy of asking the parents to sign their names to the statement of decision to indicate agreement with the committee’s identification and placement decision. The statement of decision may be signed at the IPRC meeting or taken home and returned. Parents should be encouraged to give serious consideration to their child’s identification and placement prior to signing the IPRC form.
If the student’s parents did not attend the IPRC meeting, the statement of decision and a consent form should be mailed to the student’s home to be signed and then returned to the school principal. If the parents do not sign the consent form and do not appeal the decision within the time limit, the school board will implement the IPRC decision, with written notice to the parents.
Annual IPRC reviews are held after the initial committee decision – unless parents dispense with them in writing. Parents (or students, where appropriate) “may request a review IPRC meeting any time after their child has been in a special education program for 3 months.”
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO)
Regardless of whether an IPRC process has been initiated, students and parents can file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) if they believe the student has experienced discrimination, or if they feel the school has failed to accommodate the student. For example, they may file if they believe the special education programs or services provided by the school and board discriminate against the student based on their disability and/or another Code ground, or the school’s failure to provide particular programs or services is discriminatory, or the school’s programs or services (or lack thereof) fail to accommodate the student’s disability and/or other Code-protected needs.
Board human rights offices
In its 2017 Education Equity Action Plan, the Ministry acknowledged it needs to “ensure accountability at all levels of school boards for equity, inclusion and human rights” and said it would work “to establish formal structures to promote and ensure compliance with principles of human rights and equity in every school board, to enable the building of a culture of respect for those principles. The Ministry further aimed to “work with school boards to review their policies and ensure procedurally fair and locally sensitive complaints processes to address human rights matters.” The Ministry laid out the following goals:
- Years 1 and 2 (2017–18 to 2018–19)
Stakeholders are engaged in reviewing and strengthening school board structures and identified policies, programs and practices that promote and enforce equity and human rights across the public education system.
- Year 3 and beyond (2019–20+)
Progress is made towards building a culture of respect for human rights, evidenced in part by a significant reduction in the number of human rights matters that are resolved at the HRTO.
In a 2019 memorandum to directors of education on the 2019–20 Priorities and Partnerships Fund, the Ministry described the “Human Rights and Equity Advisors” project to provide “support for school boards to employ the services of Human Rights and Equity Advisors (HREAs).” It explained:
HREAs work with the Director of the board and with the board’s senior team to foster a culture of respect for human rights and equity, help identify and address systemic human rights and equity issues, and increase the board’s human rights compliance.
HREAs’ responsibilities include developing human rights complaint procedures. Some school boards have created human rights and equity advisor positions, or offices, to assist staff, parents (and students, where appropriate) to understand and enforce the human rights they have under the Code and the Charter.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) processes
The AODA Integrated Accessibility Regulation requires that obligated organizations (including education institutions), establish a customer service feedback process for receiving and responding to feedback specifically about the way they provide accessible goods or services to people with disabilities. Obligated organizations must also make the information about their feedback processes available to the public. The processes must allow for feedback in a variety of ways including in person, by telephone, in writing or via email. The processes must also specify the actions organizations are required to take when complaints are received.
Inquiry findings on communication and transparency
The inquiry found several issues with communication, transparency and accountability that adversely affect students with reading difficulties and their parents.
Lack of effective communication with parents
Ontario schools need to do a better job of communicating with parents about their children’s reading development and difficulties. The OHRC heard that schools do not always tell parents when a reading difficulty has been observed or suggested by the child’s teacher. We also heard that schools do not consistently tell parents how long their child will have to wait for intervention when a reading difficulty has been identified. Parents said they often remain confused about what interventions their child is receiving, and how well they are progressing. Some parents are unaware of what if any accommodations their child is receiving, and some schools appear to modify students’ curriculum expectations without explaining the long-term consequences to parents. We heard that many schools and boards do not provide clear information to parents about what professional assessments are, how and when students can access them, and how schools will apply any recommendations that arise.
One parent said there is no “system for parent support” or “method to help parents with frequently asked questions to help them figure out the system and how to help their children”, and there “are not enough parent information nights.” Another parent said: “Parents need to be provided with better information relating to services or lack of services.” Yet another described the school system as “not transparent, and I would even suggest willfully opaque when it comes [to] dealing with students and parents with special needs.” One parent and physician said:
…There is [a] fundamental lack of transparency and fairness in our school system that leaves students and families adrift without proper guidance to support kids with learning differences…to access the curriculum. This is deeply unjust and infringes on the fundamental right of these little people to have equal opportunity for education.
One parent of a child with a reading difficulty even felt cut off during a bullying situation, explaining that her son experienced “bullying all through school” and that she and her son were “frustrate[ed]…with the lack of transparency by the schools and teachers as to what is really happening in the [classroom].”
Another parent explained how the school’s lack of transparency had caused the family to feel “stress[ed], sa[d], angry, tens[e], overwhelmed [and] lost:”
[I experienced the] stress of advocating, researching and trying to figure out what to do/ask for at school, constant battle with school to get needs addressed, constant runaround from school, minimal communication, not forthcoming about anything, being told not to come back in to discuss support for our child…all the lip service from the school, the passing the buck, the “talk to this person” saga, months go by with no effective support or willingness to change anything instruction related. Wasted, precious time...lost to the bureaucracy of the educational institution…Stress of not getting the right support for our child despite trying, stress of the system failing him, the indifference, the constant push back, the “secrecy” of the schools.
A speech-language pathologist highlighted that communication with parents should be prioritized early on, when the child is identified as “at risk,” instead of the current system where “we wait for children to fail.”
Current reporting methods such as report cards appear to sometimes be part of the problem rather than the solution. In its 2008 report on Special Education, the Auditor General commented on the limited ability of report cards to provide transparent communication to parents of children with special education needs. The Auditor General noted:
We found examples, particularly at the elementary school level, where report cards discussed the student’s positive attributes but did not provide a candid discussion of the student’s performance relative to expectations. As a result, some parents may not fully understand their child’s rate of progress and areas for improvement.
As discussed in section 11, Accommodations, some teachers may not want to have a “difficult conversation” about a child’s performance with parents at reporting time. Some parents reported being caught unaware after long periods of positive feedback. For example, the inquiry heard that a student, who had been on a modified program, was “bringing home report cards with passing grades and glowing reviews, [and her parents] had no idea she was in line to never get a high school diploma.” In the inquiry surveys, a parent told us that “[n]one of the years of IEPs prepared us for the conclusion that [our son] would enter high school in locally developed – a level he was probably not appropriate for in truth.” Many parents told the inquiry they would have rather been told their child was not meeting grade-level expectations, or even “failing” a course. Parents have a right to know when their child is struggling with foundational reading skills, and schools have a responsibility to tell them.
The current IPRC process appears to have mixed success in terms of transparency. Some parents said that IPRC meetings and documentation did keep the school “accountable.” However, other parents said they did not add value. One parent noted that IPRC reports included no milestones or objectives tied to definitive timelines, and no particular educator was assigned to be accountable for items in the IPRC.
One parent shared that the IEP and IPRC processes need to be significantly changed to be transparent:
Parents are not properly informed of what is involved in the IEP and IPRC process and what the terminology means for their children. [There is a] huge learning curve. We showed up to a meeting and six [school board] specialists were present and we did not know beforehand [to expect them], and we were overwhelmed and felt like our opinion did not matter.
Some parents reported being ignored, labelled or even penalized for raising concerns with the school. One parent said that until a psychoeducational assessment was done, the school treated her like she “was complaining and imagining everything.” Another parent said that school board personnel try to “prove the parent wrong” rather than “looking for any evidence-based interventions that actually help the child,” and the only recourse for parents is to “try and access private intervention to support their child’s learning.”
One parent said the “onus is always on the parents to be the watch dogs and then [when] we go in to push for the proper accommodations, we are the problem parents.” Another parent stated:
Accountability at our school board is non-existent. All these years, starting from [Grade] 2, we have been submitting complain[t]s, writing to [the] Director of Education, [the Ministry], only to be returned back to the source of the issues. We feel we have been bullied by the school administrators with misinformation, and [they have been] ignoring our concerns and requests.
School boards are taking some positive steps to improve communication with parents. The inquiry boards provide guides for parents either on special education in general or on specific topics within special education. Certain boards have made additional resources publicly available, in various formats and sometimes in different languages, on topics such as:
- The board’s special education services including assessments, IEPs, SEACs, placement options and the referral process for specialized classes, AT and SEA claims, the identification process and IPRCs
- Student/parent rights and responsibilities in the context of special education
- Communication, and complaint resolution policies and procedures.
Some boards also make sample copies of IEP forms and special education equipment request forms publicly available online.
One board provides information sessions and a workshop series for parents of pre-school children with special needs, to help with the transition into Kindergarten. Another board provides monthly training for parents and caregivers on how to use SEA equipment. However, the OHRC is not aware of boards providing interactive education sessions specifically for parents of children with reading difficulties (who may or may not have been formally identified or diagnosed).
Some boards host information sessions, consultations and workshop series on special education topics. One board described how once every two years, its SEAC conducts a “Special Education Parent/Guardian consultation,” which it uses to “set future direction for special education programs and services with[in]” the board. This is good practice for encouraging and facilitating dialogue between students, parents and schools.
According to the consultation results for 2019–2020, some parents were content with the existing special education system. In response to survey questions, the majority of responses suggested that the board’s special education procedures were transparent.
For example, one parent suggested that the board maintain the current “information sessions about how to navigate the system.” However, a significant number of respondents – over 30% – indicated that: they were not “consulted regularly on the progress of [their child] regarding their language and literacy development,” they had not been “provided learning opportunities to support [their child’s] learning at home and school,” and they had not been “provided tools to support [their child’s] learning at home and school.” One parent said they felt “there is very little communication from the classroom teacher outside of the requirements such as report cards/parent/teacher interviews.” Another said “[p]lease consider what a parent has to say. I know that educators know their stuff, but please don’t doubt the parent of that child.”
During this board’s consultation, parents offered suggestions for change. For example, one parent said “[f]eedback each month would be great to make sure [my child] is on the right path and staying on.” A major recommendation arising from the consultation was that the board “create better forms of communication between school and home to assist with supporting student educational goals as well as accessibility to SEAC website, PIC [Parent Information Centre] website and Special Education Plan processes including IEP and IPRC information which will be easily understandable.”
In its 2019 report We Have Something to Say, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth said it “rarely heard of situations in which a student with special needs received all the support and assistance they needed to succeed,” and instead found situations where the “parent struggled to stitch together all the pieces [they] could find to make their lives and the situation of their child tolerable within a confusing and unhelpful education system.” One family told the Advocate:
At one point the conflict got so ugly the Superintendent of Special Education was yelling at us and our advocate in an IPRC meeting because we had pointed out our son’s principal was making statements that our son was falling behind academically – but the report cards she was signing indicated steady academic progress since Grade 1 and that he was meeting his goals.”
The Advocate called for ongoing dialogue between students and school staff, where teachers “routinely ask students if their learning program is working and, if not, what could help change the situation.” The Advocate found that students should “have more say” in developing their IEPs given that they “generally know themselves best; yet most are never asked for their input or opinions.”
Schools and boards should regularly consult with students and parents to learn about challenges they are facing with their learning plan, how well their current accommodation plan is working, and what accommodations they would find helpful moving forward. Using this information and their own knowledge of reading development, effective interventions and measures of reading progress, schools and boards can develop an effective learning program for the student.
Lack of information-sharing among educators
Many educators advocated for more effective information-sharing between teachers and other school staff.
For example, one teacher suggested that screening results:
should be kept on a data base rather than a paper copy in an OSR and shared with the student[‘]s teachers, administrators, support staff, and any other relevant individuals (people or professionals that support the student). Transparency is key.
A school child and youth worker explained that simply sharing a student’s accommodation plan with the student’s educational support team may not be enough to ensure transparency. Schools must also clearly state who is responsible for implementing the plan:
It may be that everyone on the team agrees that accommodations are needed – but the how, when, by who and why is not clearly understood/defined. This may lead to conflict among team members, communication breakdowns and a failure of students getting what they need.…Then…once a plan is in place, the question comes up as to who is responsible [and] how are they held ACCOUNTABLE for ensuring accommodation is in place. What is the complaint mechanism and what power do students have in asking for what they are entitled to?
Some parents reported an apparent lack of communication between educators about how to implement accommodations amidst transitions. For example, some parents found that their children experienced different accommodations from class to class (and in some cases they received no accommodations at all).
Schools and boards should use reporting and recording tools for screening, intervention and accommodation approaches, results, and strategies that enable a student’s educators from one class to the next and from one year to the next to share information with each other and develop a coherent multi-year education plan. In turn, educators should provide regular updates on this plan with parents, and explain the rationale for any amendments or developments.
Onus on parents to get supports
Parents reported that the education system is complex and hard to navigate. Parental advocacy often determines what services and supports are provided.
In their 2018 report If Inclusion Means Everyone, Why Not Me?, Community Living Ontario and other organizations noted there are many “complex processes in the education system geared towards identifying children who have disabilities and supporting their educational needs,” these processes are often “bureaucratic and confusing,” and parents “often did not feel well informed about the process.” Parents reported “it was often up to them to initiate communication and information sharing” with the school, and often “the onus was on them to request meetings regarding academic accommodations and the development of IEPs.” Many parents reported “a pattern of poor communication and lack of follow-through on the part of the school,” which often led to “a more confrontational style of communication than a collaborative one.”
The inquiry heard that some parents felt that they had to deal with “red tape at the school level.” One parent explained that “interventions on [her] daughter’s IEP are/were not actioned or assessed,” and after a first intervention failed, the school did not provide her with options for an alternative intervention. She instead “was required to research and provide a request for another intervention.”
Schools and boards cannot wait for parents to complain before they initiate needed change. They must proactively follow students’ progress, determine possible solutions, and raise those solutions in a discussion with parents (and students, where appropriate). No student should fall through the cracks because they or their parents do not have the time, ability or power to vigorously advocate for them.
Problems with current complaints processes
In their 2018 report If Inclusion Means Everyone, Why Not Me?, Community Living Ontario and other organizations noted that parents often “expressed frustration that there was not an appropriate conflict resolution mechanism available to them when dealing with schools.” The report also said:
Almost half of parents reported that they did not have access to a proper conflict resolution mechanism to deal with an accommodation issue. When parents did have access to a conflict resolution mechanism, it often appeared to fall short in many ways. For instance, 69% of parents involved in a conflict reported that they were not given access to necessary information during the process and 64% of parents reported that their knowledge of their own child was not recognized by decision-makers.
The lack of effective dispute resolution processes in schools and boards has caused significant stress for students, parents and educators. The OHRC concluded in its Accessible education policy:
The purpose of a dispute resolution mechanism should be to identify problems and determine ways to solve them that would permit the student access to educational services with a minimum of delay. Educational institutions should facilitate this process and provide reasonable assistance to students, and where applicable, their parents/guardians. Dispute resolution procedures that are not timely or effective could amount to a failure of the duty to accommodate.
Many parents find the complaints system confusing and inaccessible. For example, the February 2020 Review of the Peel District School Board found “widespread confusion” arising from the board’s processes for “parent complaints, workplace grievances, and human rights issues.” Many people reported they “felt that they were not being listened to or their issues were not being dealt with in a fair, respectful, transparent, timely, and equitable manner.” Complainants “shared stories of repeated frustration of not being notified of progress or the outcome of a complaint they had made about a teacher or principal at their children’s school.”
In its initial report on the Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Accessibility Standards, the ESD Committee said parents often report that it is “very difficult” to learn how to, among other things, “raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s disability-related education needs.” The committee explained that in the current patchwork system, “when it is left to each principal, without clear requirements and pre-prepared materials for parents, guardians and students,” some families resort to filing a human rights complaint with the HRTO.
Parents reported similarly frustrating experiences to the inquiry. In one striking situation, a parent described the intense advocacy she had to undertake over 21 months to get a reading intervention program for her child. She raised her concerns with the learning support teacher, principal, superintendents, the director of the school board, her trustee, the chair of the board’s SEAC, the learning disabilities association of her city, her MPP, the Ministry, and the Ombudsman’s office. She explained how it took this extensive type of advocacy just for her child to access a reading intervention program.
A classroom and special education teacher highlighted that existing complaints processes are used unevenly, and tend to benefit more well-connected parents:
Administration always chooses student behaviour and parent outcry as the deciding factors in who gets a psychoeducational assessment. The school board wishes to avoid SEAC, so well educated parents make noise and move up the ladder in the board in their complaints and concerns. This heavily disadvantages our less well educated/newcomer to Canada/ELL parents whose children tend to wait longer on the lists.
A child and youth worker explained that students and parents are often not aware of the school’s duty to accommodate, and how the school can be held to account if it does not meet that responsibility.
Even if parents are aware of complaints processes, such processes are not always effective. A classroom and special education teacher cautioned that the “current system” recognizes that some students need accommodations, but “it has been done in a “top/down tick-the-box way rather than actually changing the overall culture or ensuring that each kid gets the support that they need.” The teacher concluded that schools had “avoided lawsuits and human rights complaints without doing the really hard work.”
The current patchwork of complaints procedures is far too confusing. Processes are duplicative and difficult to access – and so they alienate many parents seeking recourse.
The OHRC makes the following recommendations:
Set standards and monitor
131. Many previous reports have recommended measures to set standards and improve consistency, monitoring and accountability in the education system generally, and for students with disabilities and other Code-protected identities. The Ministry of Education (Ministry) and school boards should implement all existing recommendations to set standards, improve consistency, and increase monitoring and accountability in the education system including recommendations in reports by the Auditor General of Ontario and the AODA’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee’s recommendations for a Kindergarten to Grade 12 education accessibility standard.
132. To create standardization and consistency related to the issues in the inquiry, the Ministry of Education, school boards and others should implement all recommendations in this report.
133. The Ministry should implement measures to monitor and assess whether students at risk for reading disabilities/dyslexia and students identified or diagnosed with reading disabilities/dyslexia receive the same level and high quality of special education programming and support no matter which school board they attend. The Ministry should ensure consistency across the province. If any inconsistencies are found, the Ministry should take steps to address them and align all services with standards based on the scientific evidence.
134. The Ministry should provide additional funding and support, where needed to make sure students in northern, remote, rural and small boards have equal access to special education programming, professional services and in-school supports.
135. School boards should implement measures to assess whether students at risk for reading disabilities/dyslexia and students identified or diagnosed with reading disabilities/dyslexia receive the same level and high quality of special education programming and support no matter which school they attend and which teacher(s) they have. If any inconsistencies are found, boards should take steps to address them and align all services with standards based on the scientific evidence.
136. All Board Improvement and Equity Plans should include data on reading/literacy achievement and the actions the board will take to respond to areas of concern. Data on reading/literacy achievement should be based on standardized measures of reading described in this report. These actions the boards will take to respond to areas of concern should be consistent with the findings and recommendations in this report. Boards should take steps to monitor implementation of these plans at the school and teacher levels. The Ministry should review all Board Improvement and Equity Plans annually to make sure these requirements are met, and should require boards to take corrective action if their plans do not appropriately address reading/literacy achievement and identify actions that are consistent with the findings and recommendations in this report.
137. All board Special Education Plans should include detailed information about the elements identified in this report, including how classroom instruction incorporates evidence-based, explicit and systematic tier 1 instruction in foundational word reading and fluency skills; universal early screening (including when students will be screened, what screening tool will be used, how the results will be used to provide tiered interventions and how data from screening will inform board planning and decision-making); early and later reading interventions (including what interventions are available, the criteria for accessing them, how the their efficacy will be monitored); the process for accommodations and modifications and available accommodations (including available assistive technology and how it use will be supported); and professional assessments (including the criteria and process for referring students for assessments, evidence-based psychoeducational assessments for potential reading disabilities; how wait lists will be managed and current average wait times for assessments).
Special Education Plans should also lay out the board’s Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-tier Systems of Supports (MTSS) tiered approach to instruction, screening and intervention, and should break down service delivery models by type of disability (including information about interventions, supports and programs for students with reading disabilities/dyslexia). The Ministry should review all board Special Education Plans annually to make sure these requirements are met, and should require boards to take corrective action if their plans do not appropriately address these issues in a way that is consistent with this report’s findings and recommendations. The Ministry should monitor implementation of these plans.
138. The Ministry should take steps to make sure funding provided to school boards for specific special education purposes, including money specifically ear-marked to support students with or at risk for reading disabilities/dyslexia, is spent for those purposes. The Ministry should make sure boards do not spend money on programs or supports that are not validated and proven to be effective for students with reading disabilities/dyslexia. Boards and the Ministry should explore opportunities for bulk purchasing evidence-based screening tools, interventions and the associated professional training and coaching, and other resources.
Improve data collection
139. Many reports have recommended improving data collection, analysis and reporting and using data to increase equity, improve student achievement and outcomes and for better decision-making. The Ministry of Education (Ministry), school boards and EQAO should implement all existing recommendations to related to data including:
- The OHRC’s previous recommendations to improve education outcomes for students with disabilities
- Recommendations in reports by the Auditor General of Ontario
- The AODA’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee’s recommendations for a Kindergarten to Grade 12 education accessibility standard
- The International Dyslexia Association’s report, Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores
- Recommendations in documents and reports such as Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario; Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan; Unlocking Student Potential Through Data, Final Report; and Ontario: A Learning Province.
140. The Ministry and school boards should implement all data collection recommendations in this report, including data collection about screening, intervention, accommodation and modification, and professional assessment.
141. To the extent possible, boards should use common, centralized, student information management systems. Where this is not possible, boards should be able to generate the same consistent data from their student information management systems.
142. All boards should collect data on all students with disabilities (and not just exceptionalities as defined by the Ministry and identified through an Identification, Placement and Review Committee). Data about reading disabilities/dyslexia specifically should be collected (including about students identified/diagnosed with a reading disability/dyslexia and all students who did not meet expectations in foundational reading skills by the end of Grade 1 and Grade 2, and who therefore may be at risk for a reading disability/dyslexia). When a student has multiple disabilities, data should be collected about each disability (instead of the current approach to categorize students as “multiple exceptionality”). Data should be reported centrally to the Ministry for further analysis.
143. Information boards collect about students identified/diagnosed with a reading disability/dyslexia and all students who did not meet expectations in foundational reading skills by end of Grade 1 and Grade 2 should include the services and supports they are receiving, their response to services and supports (for example, response to intervention), intersections with other identity characteristics and success indicators. Boards should analyze the data each year to identify any disparities or equity gaps, and develop action plans to close those gaps.
144. All boards should collect demographic data about equity indicators including race, ethnicity, creed (religion), disability, gender identity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. The Ministry should work with boards to explore ways to make sure all boards collect the same data to allow for analysis across the province, including by standardizing the age groupings for censuses, census questions and response options.
145. Boards’ census questions about disability should ask about all disabilities. Boards should break down learning disabilities by subtype and include an option to identify that the student has a reading disability/dyslexia, or may be at risk for or have a suspected reading disability/dyslexia.
146. Boards should consider asking demographic questions on school climate surveys to assess if students’ school experiences differ based on disability and/or other identity characteristics. For example, boards could assess whether students with disabilities, including specific disabilities, are more likely to report bullying, feeling unwelcome or other negative school experiences.
147. Boards and the Ministry should work together to develop a consistent method for measuring student success indicators including standardized reading measures, EQAO assessment results, academic pathways (whether the student has taken academic, applied or locally developed courses; and whether they have modified curriculum expectations), credit accumulation, graduation rates, and post-secondary application, acceptance and attendance. They should explore ways boards can disaggregate this data by subsets of students to identify and act on equity gaps.
148. Boards should cross-tabulate and analyze data on students with disabilities (including with suspected reading disabilities/dyslexia or who are at risk for reading disabilities/dyslexia), along with other demographic data (including race, ethnicity, creed (religion), disability, gender identity, sexual orientation and socio-economic status against student success indicators. Intersectionality between all identity characteristics and student success indicators should be analyzed. The Ministry should provide a standard provincial methodology for cross-tabulating and analyzing this data. The Ministry should centrally collect and analyze this data, and should publicly report on any disparities or equity gaps identified.
149. Any disparities or equity gaps identified in the analysis of cross-tabulated data must be addressed at a board level and a provincial level. The board and the Ministry should develop and publicize plans to improve the disparities or equity gaps.
150. Boards should ensure that data is always collected, analyzed and presented in a way that is consistent with the Human Rights Code, and does not reinforce stigma or stereotyping.
Improve communication and transparency
151. School boards, schools and educators should communicate effectively with students and parents (in a plain-language, accessible format that invites action, and that is translated into languages that reflect the school community) through regular mail and/or electronic mail, on board and school websites, and through information sessions, about:
- Screening, interventions, accommodations and professional assessments for students with reading difficulties
- When, how and why boards and schools will provide these services
- How students and parents can request these services
- How the school will update parents (and students, where appropriate) on how the services are progressing (for example, how and when it will issue progress reports on interventions and accommodations)
- Community advocacy organizations that offer support to students with reading difficulties, and their parents
- Resolution options with the teacher, school and board (including the board human rights office, if applicable), and at the Special Education Appeal Board, Special Education Tribunal and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, for disputes about screening, interventions, accommodations or professional assessments.
152. Schools and boards should use reporting and recording tools for screening, intervention and accommodation approaches, results and strategies that enable a student's educators to share information with each other from one class to the next and one year to the next, to develop a coherent multi-year education plan. In turn, educators should provide regular updates on this plan to parents, and explain the rationale for any amendments or developments.
153. School boards or schools should provide parents (and students, where appropriate) with a plain-language summary of the student’s IEP.
154. School boards and schools should establish and broadly publicize a policy to encourage parent involvement in all meetings with the school, where:
- The school board and/or school brings all key professionals who will be involved in the decision-making process
- Before the meeting, the school board and/or school tells the parents who will be attending the meeting on its behalf
- Before the meeting, the school board and/or school connects parents with community advocacy organizations that offer support to students with reading difficulties, and allows parents to bring a representative from a community advocacy organization and/or another professional support, and/or a personal support, to the meeting
- Parents are welcome to bring personal and professional supports they deem necessary
- Parents have a range of participation options (including during the day or in the evening, and by telephone, online or in person).
155. Schools and educators should consult parents when developing IEPs, and provide them with a copy of the IEP. Where appropriate, schools should instruct students in self-assessment methods so their observations on their own learning progress and the suitability of their accommodations can be considered by teachers as they refine their instructional plans.
156. School boards should, in partnership with the Special Education Advisory Committee, conduct a survey of parents with students in a special education program to determine how well developments and program updates are communicated to parents. They should publicize the results along with timelines for responding to the results, and confirm they have acted within those timelines.
157. Boards should develop, offer and broadly publicize a non-adversarial dispute resolution program. Boards should assign a staff member to be responsible for the program, and to operate at arm’s length from the board. Boards should assign a dedicated email address and phone number to the program. The program should issue timely decisions in writing. Boards should offer the opportunity for a designated senior board official to review the decision if requested. The Ministry should develop a program to offer further resolution opportunities (including mediation) for matters not resolved through the board process, and should assign a staff member to be responsible for it.
 Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan (2017) at 31–33, online (pdf): Ontario Ministry of Education http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/education_equity_plan_en.pdf [Ontario Ministry of Education, Equity Action Plan].
 Anti-Racism Act, 2017, SO 2017, c 15 [Anti-Racism Act].
 Auditor General, 2017 Annual Report, supra note 183 at s. 3.08, 429.
 See Auditor General, 2017 Annual Report, supra note 183.
 Education Act¸ s 8(1)(2).
 Education Act, Reg 306: Special Education Programs and Services.
 “Education Funding, 2021-22” (last visited 2 February 2022), online: Ontario Ministry of Education http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/funding.html.
 “What We Do: The Auditor General’s Role” (last visited 2 February 2022), online: Office of the Auditor General https://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/aboutus/whatwedo.html.
 Auditor General, 2017 Annual Report, supra note 183 at s. 3.08, 429.
 Ibid at s. 3.08, 430.
 Auditor General, 2020 Value for Money Audit: Curriculum, supra note 328 at 3.
 2018 Annual report (2018) at s. 3.12, 557, 559, online (pdf): Office of the Auditor General auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arreports/en18/v1_312en18.pdf [Auditor General, 2018 Annual Report].
 Auditor General, 2008 Annual Report, supra note 183 at s. 3.14, 366.
 Ibid at s. 3.14, 367.
 Ibid at s. 3.14, 370.
 Carol Campbell et al, Ontario: A Learning Province: Findings and Recommendations from the Independent Review of Assessment and Reporting (2018) at 6, online (pdf): Ontario Institute of Studies in Education oise.utoronto.ca/preview/lhae/UserFiles/File/OntarioLearningProvince2018.pdf [Campbell, Ontario: A Learning Province].
 Ibid at 66.
 Donna Quan, Unlocking Student Potential Through Data: Final Report (February 2017) at 46, online (pdf): York University https://news.yorku.ca/files/Feasibility-Study-Unlocking-Student-Potential-through-Data-FINAL-REPORT-Feb-2017.pdf [Quan, Unlocking Student Potential].
 People for Education, The Geography of Opportunity, supra note 1232 at 3.
 Ibid at 14.
 Ibid at 15.
 Ibid at 3.
 The Auditor General of Ontario defines boards north of North Bay as northern boards, Auditor General, 2017 Annual Report, supra note 183 at s. 3.12, 624.
 SO 2005, c 11.
 Education Standards Development Committee, Development of proposed K-12 education standards, supra note 969.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: ss. 3, 4, 5; recommendations 9, 35, 40, 43–48.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 4, recommendation 39. The Committee said:
Seventy-two school boards should not each have to duplicate efforts at studying the comparative accessibility of different virtual platforms available on the market.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 4, recommendation 39.3:
The Ministry of Education should regularly monitor and have tested the accessibility of major virtual meeting platforms, shall make public the results of its comparisons, and shall provide a list of approved accessible options for virtual platforms to school boards on a quarterly basis.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations, “Section 5 recommendations”.
 Including requiring they contain:
- Processes to identify accessibility barriers, including complaints/reports from schools, students and community members
- Plans for removing and preventing accessibility barriers
- Clear assignment of responsibilities for action
- Performance measures for monitoring progress
- Requirements to report to school board trustees regularly
- Requirements for seeking input from the school board's SEAC.
- An annual report on progress towards eliminating accessibility barriers
- Feedback mechanisms to collect and review input from school accessibility committees, staff, students and the community
- Requirements to publicly report on the accessibility plan and progress to implementation, as well as a summary of feedback on accessibility barriers and strategies.
See Education Standards Development Committee, Development of proposed K-12 education standards, supra note 969 at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendations 52.1–52.5.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 52.11.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 52.7.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 52.8.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 52.9.
 This includes the Ontario Ministry of Education annually analyzing the accessibility barriers identified by each school board’s accessibility committee (and the actions identified or proposed for corrective action); posting a public report that identifies the recurring barriers experienced in Ontario school boards; and sharing corrective actions that should be taken, that are being taken, and that have been proposed; ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 52.10.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 42.1.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 42.5.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 42.3.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 42.2.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 42.6.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 9, recommendation 194.The committee noted that the Ontario College of Teachers should have the same reporting requirements.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 3, recommendation 29.5. The committee indicated that this process should be “informed by accessible curriculum, assessment and instruction practices.”
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 9, recommendation 185.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 9, recommendation 195.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 9, recommendation 196.
 RRO 1990, Reg 306: Special Education Programs and Services.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education in Ontario, supra note 198 at B2.
 Ibid at 81-82.
 Matthew Walker et al, Phonics screening Check Evaluation: Final Report (2015) at 13, online (pdf): National Foundation for Educational Research https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/yopc03/yopc03.pdf; District Literacy Plan (2014) at 11, online (pdf): North Vancouver School District https://www.sd44.ca/Board/Literacy/Documents/DistrictLiteracyPlan2014_15.pdf.
 See the following for an overview of state dyslexia laws as of 2018: Martha Youman et al (International Dyslexia Association), “Dyslexia Laws in the USA: A 2018 Update” (Spring 2018), 44:2 Perspectives on Language and Literacy 27, online (pdf): IDA Ontario idaontario.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Youman-Mather-2018-Dyslexia-Laws-in-the-USA-A-2018-Update.pdf.
 Ontario Human Rights Commission, Count me in! Collecting human rights based data (2009), online (pdf): Ontario Human Rights Commission ohrc.on.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/Count_me_in%21_Collecting_human_rights_based_data.pdf. [OHRC, Count me in!]
 OHRC, Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities, supra note 7 at 103.
 OHRC, Count me in!, supra note 1290 at 8-9.
 OHRC, Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities, supra note 7 at 102.
 Ibid at Appendix A.
 Ibid at recommendations 5, 6 and 23.
 OHRC submission regarding the Government consultation on the education system in Ontario (2018) at recommendation 3, online: Ontario Human Rights Commission ohrc.on.ca/en/ohrc-submission-regarding-government-consultation-education-system-ontario.
 Independent Teacher Workload Review Group, Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management (2016) at 4, online (pdf): Government of the UK https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511258/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-associated-with-data-management.pdf.
 Auditor General, 2008 Annual Report, supra note 183.
 Ibid at s. 3.14, 384.
 Ibid at s. 3.14, 384-385.
 Ontario, Office of the Auditor General, 2009 Annual Report (2009) at s. 3.07, 191, online (pdf): Office of the Auditor General www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arreports/en09/2009AR_en_web_entire.pdf [Auditor General, 2009 Annual Report].
 Ibid at s. 3.07, 199-200.
 See, for example, ibid at s. 3.07, 200–201.
 Ontario, Office of the Auditor General, 2011 Annual Report (2011) at s. 3.13, 278, online (pdf): www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arreports/en11/2011ar_en.pdf [Auditor General, 2011 Annual Report].
 Ibid at s. 3.13, 271.
 Ibid at s. 3.13, 276.
 Auditor General, 2017 Annual Report, supra note 183 at s. 3.08, 444.
 Auditor General, 2018 Annual Report, supra note 1249 s. 3.12, 568.
 Auditor General, 2020 Follow-up on Value for Money Audit: IT Systems, supra note 1103 at 195.
 Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario (2014) at 19, online (pdf): Ontario, Ministry of Education oise.utoronto.ca/atkinson/UserFiles/File/Policy_Monitor/ON_01_04_14_-_renewedVision.pdf. [Ontario Ministry of Education, Achieving Excellence].
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Equity Action Plan, supra note 1238 at 17-18.
 Ibid at 19 and 31.
 Ibid at 19.
Ibid at 32.
 Ibid at 19.
 Anti-Racism Act.
 The executive summary explains the genesis of the study:
In December 2015, the Ontario Ministry of Education (hereinafter referred to as the “Ministry”) announced a partnership with York University to support a joint research project aimed at improving the future of students across the province. The project explored the feasibility of the Ministry and school boards collecting additional student and educator data to gain a better understanding of Ontario student populations and school communities and to identify and address barriers to student success.
Quan, Unlocking Student Potential, supra note 1255 at 7.
 Since the Unlocking Student Potential report was released in 2017, some school climate surveys have started collecting this data.
 Quan, Unlocking Student Potential, supra note 1255 at 46.
 Ibid at 68, recommendation 10.
 Ibid at 68, recommendation 13.
 Ibid at 74, recommendation 21.
 Ibid at 74, recommendation 22.
 Ibid at 77, recommendation 25.
 Ibid at 77, recommendation 26-28.
 Royal Commission on Learning, For the Love of Learning (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 1994) at recommendations 50, 52, online: Queen’s University https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/bitstream/handle/1974/6880/rcol_short_version.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y.
 Ibid at recommendations 51, 55, 56.
 EQAO: Ontario’s Provincial Assessment Program: Its History and Influence (2013) at 5, online (pdf): Education Quality and Accountability Office eqao.com/wp-content/uploads/EQAO-history-influence.pdf.
 Campbell, Ontario: A Learning Province, supra note 1253 at 7, 41.
 Ibid at 42.
 Ibid at 69.
 Ibid at 70.
 IDA, Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores, supra note 59 at 29.
 This means students who achieved a level 3 or 4, in other words who met the provincial standard.
 IDA, Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores, supra note 59 at 14.
 See the discussion of the Simple View of Reading at section 8, Curriculum and instruction.
 IDA, Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores, supra note 59 at 13.
 Ibid at 33.
 Ibid at 3.
Education Standards Development Committee, Development of proposed K-12 education standards, supra note 969 at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendations 52.1–52.5; ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s .5, “Data Collection Recommendations”.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.1.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.2.
 This includes data about “timely access to required materials, and potential gaps needing attention” and “what is working and required for ongoing individual student learning;” Education Standards Development Committee, Development of proposed K-12 education standards, supra note 969 at Barrier area narratives and recommendations, at s. 3, recommendation 11.5.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.4.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.5.
The committee also recommended that the boards ”publicly report on an annual basis data related to disability, exclusions, modified day, wait times for professional assessments, and the number and types of staff who instruct students with disabilities.” Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.7.
 5, recommendation 51.7.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.8.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.9.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.10.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendations 51.11 and 51.12.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.11.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.12.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 51.13.
 The Ontario Ministry of Education advised that all school boards have had access to their own self-identification data as well as regional and provincial aggregate data for several years (including breakdowns of self-identification data and achievement data) through the Indigenous Education Analytical Profile Tool.
 A board noted the data asked for in the inquiry was not consistent with existing monitoring efforts or aligned with the methodology used by the Student Success/Learning to 18 Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Education.
 Auditor General, 2018 Annual Report, supra note 1249 at s. 3.12, 553.
 EQAO, Secondary School Report 2018-2019, supra note 341 at 3.
 Peel, Grades 4–6; Hamilton-Wentworth, Kindergarten–Grade 4; Ottawa-Carleton, JK–Grade 6; Thames Valley, Kindergarten–Grade 6.
 The inquiry heard that this may be due to requirements in Ontario’s Anti-Racism Data Standards for community input which may result in inconsistencies across boards; see Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate, Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism (last modified 4 November 2021), online: Government of Ontario
 Quan, Unlocking Student Potential, supra note 1255.
 As measured by eligibility for free school meals.
 U.K. Department of Education, National curriculum assessments, supra note 912.
 Individual school data is also collected, but not posted publicly likely for privacy reasons.
 Auditor General, 2018 Annual Report, supra note 1249 at s. 3.12, 559.
 Ottawa-Carleton, “Valuing Voices” supra note 366 at 57.
 Ibid at 57.
 See, for example, Lindsay Read et al, “Information for Accountability: Transparency and Citizen Engagement for Improved Service Delivery in Education Systems” (January 2017) at 8, Global Economy & Development Working Paper 99, online (pdf): Brookings Institution brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/global_20170125_information_for_accountability.pdf [Read, “Information for Accountability”].
 Parents in partnership: A Parent Engagement Policy for Ontario Schools (2010) at 26, online (pdf): Ontario Ministry of Education http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/involvement/pe_policy2010.pdf.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Parents Matter (last visited 2 February 2022), online (pdf): Ministry of Education edu.gov.on.ca/eng/multi/english/ParentsMatterEN.pdf.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Equity Action Plan, supra note 1238 at 16, 17.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation (2014) at 54, online (pdf): Ministry of Education edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/inclusiveguide.pdf.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Shared Solutions: A Guide to Preventing and Resolving Conflicts Regarding Programs and Services for Students with Special Education Needs (2007) at 17 and 18, online (pdf): Ministry of Education www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/shared.pdf [Ontario Ministry of Education, Shared Solutions].
 Ibid at 13.
 Ibid at 20.
 Ibid at 44–45.
 See, for example, Read, “Information for Accountability”, supra note 1368: at 13; Mitchell & Sutherland, What Really Works, supra note 1095 at 181–182.
 See, for example Read, “Information for Accountability”, supra note 1368 at 3.
 Ibid at 33.
 Education Standards Development Committee, Development of proposed K-12 education standards, supra note 969 at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 3, recommendations 12, 18, 19 and s. 5, recommendations 46, 47, 48, 49.
 Ibid at s. 3, recommendations 9.3, 11.6; s. 5, recommendations 42, 49.7 and 52.6.
 Ibid at s. 5, recommendation 49.11.
 Ibid at s. 3, recommendation 20; s. 5, recommendation 53.11.
 CRPD, General Comment No 4, supra note 258 at para 31.
 See Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education in Ontario, supra note 198.
 O Reg 464/97: Special Education Advisory Committees.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Shared Solutions, supra note 1374 at 44–45.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Growing Success, supra note 941 at chapter 6;
See also: Yael Ginsler et al (Ontario Ministry of Education), Memorandum to Directors of Education et al. re “Guidance on Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting” (October 2, 2020), online (pdf): Catholic Principals’ Council https://cpco.on.ca/files/1716/0165/0869/Ministry_of_Education_-_Guidance_on_Assessment_Evaluation_and_Reporting_-_October_2_2020.pdf.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, An Introduction to special education in Ontario (last viewed 22 October 2021), online: Ministry of Education edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/ontario.html.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education in Ontario, supra note 198 at E6.
 “Highlights of Regulation 181/98” (last viewed 2 February 2022), online: Ontario Ministry of Education http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/hilites.html [Ontario Ministry of Education, “Highlights of Reg 181/98”].
 “The Identification, Placement and Review Committee” (last modified 26 July 2007), online: Ontario, Ministry of Education edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/identifi.html.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education in Ontario, supra note 198 at D7.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Reg 181/98, supra note 1392. See also “Supporting the Ontario Leadership Strategy” (February 2012) Issue 12: Principals Want to Know, online: Ontario Ministry of Education edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/pdfs/issue12.pdf.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education in Ontario, supra note 198 at D26.
 Ibid at D33.
 Ibid at G5.
 C v Simcoe County District School Board, 2003 ONSET 3 (CanLII).
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Special Education in Ontario, supra note 198 at D12.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Reg 181/98, supra note 1392.
 Persons under age 18 need a litigation guardian, usually a parent or legal guardian, to file an application at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. See Tribunals Ontario “Practice direction on litigation guardians before Social Justice Tribunals Ontario” (17 October 2017), online: https://tribunalsontario.ca/documents/sjto/Practice%20Directions/Litigation%20Guardians%20before%20SJTO.html.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, Equity Action Plan, supra note 1238 at 17, 28.
 Ibid at 28, 30.
 Nancy Naylor (Ontario Ministry of Education), Memorandum to Directors of Education et al. re “2019–20 Priorities and Partnerships Fund” (26 April 2019) at 8, online: Government of Ontario https://efis.fma.csc.gov.on.ca/faab/Memos/B2019/B15_EN.pdf.
 See: O.Reg 191/11, Schedule 1.
 See also: O Reg. 191/11, Integrated Accessibility Standards at s. 80.50.
 Auditor General, 2008 Annual Report, supra note 183 at s. 3.14, 366-367.
 On December 6, 2018, the Ontario government passed Bill 57 (the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act), which eliminated the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. The Office was closed on May 1, 2019. See: Ontario Child Advocate 2019 Report to the Legislature (2019) at 2, online (pdf): Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth ocaarchives.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/annualreporten.pdf.
 Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, We Have Something to Say, supra note 1129 at 77.
 ARCH, If Inclusion Means Everyone, WHY NOT ME?, supra note 17 at 16,18.
Ibid at 18.
 OHRC, Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities, supra note 7 at 56.
 Ibid at 57.
 Chadha et al, supra note 283 at 36–37.
 IDA, Lifting the Curtain on EQAO Scores, supra note 59.
 For more information on how to collect data in a way that is consistent with the Code, see OHRC, Count me in!, supra note 1290.
 OHRC, Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities, supra note 7 at appendix A, recommendation 1. See also: Ontario Ministry of Education, Shared Solutions, supra note 1374 at 20.
 Education Standards Development Committee, Development of proposed K-12 education standards, supra note 969 at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 49.11(e).
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 5, recommendation 49.11.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 3, recommendation 12. The recommendation states:
Students be instructed in self-assessment methods so that their observations and reflections on their own learning and the experiences and suitability of accessible resources can provide valuable feedback to teachers in refining their instructional plans.
 Ibid at Barrier area narratives and recommendations: s. 3, recommendations 9.3, 11.6; s. 5, recommendations 42, 49.12, 49.13, 49.14, 52 and 52.6.