Time sensitive assessment – what does that really mean?
To a parent who has struggled trying to get their child an educational assessment through their education board, it probably means an assessment as soon as possible before their poor child who has waited for what feels like forever ….is never able to catch up. Time sensitive is for that parent the possibility of losing their child forever or at the very least that child’s future.
To an educational board, however, time sensitive assessment refers to the timing needed for an assessment. For boards and trustees voting on policy change and program implementations, it means those having Primary Language Class Assessments and Grade 4 Gifted Assessments – because they need to be done quickly to meet the needs of a specific grade or program entry point.
For HDSB, however, time sensitive assessment now means an additional thing. To them it also means those having the Primary Gifted Assessments. For this year, approximately 360 students happen to require testing to quality to go into this board’s new Gifted Primary program in September. Although their testing takes less time than a regular assessment, with no additional staff hired, how can the resources normally allocated to perform full assessments not be impacted? Has this new program that was approved last fall requiring partial assessments allowed some to queue in front of others who have waited?
Sitting through last night’s board meeting was not nearly as informative as some would like to believe. Listening to clarification regarding the Special Education report that outlined excessive numbers of children on the wait list for educational assessment testing and the additional details asked for by trustees, offered very little new information to those in the audience. To hear some children’s needs referred to as ‘time sensitive’ because those children should not possibly miss out on entering the new program our board decided to implement met with disbelief by members of the community.
Trustees asked in-depth questions on recycling, standardization of school equipment and policy/procedure details. What did not seem to follow were in-depth questions on how a wait list could have occurred not servicing our most needy, what criteria was used to approve a new program adding hundreds of children to the list, and questions/rationale as to why such a program was approved or should continue in light of the excessive backlog.
As a reporter…. I got it. Every parent sitting in the audience got it and the other reporter sitting beside me got it as well.
To suggest the official report online might be misleading, inflammatory or that our reporting of the facts was based on anything but the statistics provided is nothing short of insulting but I get it …..one must defend one’s decisions.
So what did last night’s meeting or the official report presented highlight:
1. Time sensitive refers to very different things depending on whether you are a parent or a trustee.
2. HDSB did not provide evidence that an existing plan/document that outlined steps, procedures or options providing a sustainable plan for Special Education or educational assessment delivery already existed or that if it did exist, that it could answer some of the questions/concerns raised by some trustees. Following a motion presented last evening, however, the board did agree to develop a plan/document addressing some of the questions trustees raised and that it would be available for review in the next month or 2.
3. HDSB trustees voted last fall to implement a Primary Gifted program which requires a testing process for 360 children with the expectation that is ‘time sensitive’. The program was approved without having the document now being developed, without adding any additional staff to complete the Gifted Primary assessments. Are these children being allowed to jump the queue in front of many other needy children and if not, how does the same amount of staffing possibly not get pulled off the children already on the list?
4. Primary Gifted screening takes less time than regular assessments. Regardless of whether more assessments can be done in the same time period, HDSB approved the implementation of this program without adding any additional resources to complete the task thus potentially impacting those already waiting.
5. Primary Gifted program vote occurred before trustees were provided the startling numbers presented in the report before them.
6. Gifted children tested at such an early grade level may have an academic advantage to be able to catch up unlike some left waiting who may not be able to.
7. This new board of trustees did not implement this program. This new board, however, did not question the rationale of allowing the Gifted Program to be approved or recommend suspending the Primary Gifted program to ensure that the existing backlog be first cleared.
8. Gifted Primary testing does not test for other issues. Gifted children can have other identifications which are not included in this screening.
9. Grade 4 Gifted Program may be at risk after this new program is fully implemented.
10. Information noted by the Special Education report attached to the minutes and submitted at the time of the board meeting indicated staffing issues and remedies to assist staffing requirements to clear up some of the backlog on the wait list. The information noted provided options to be considered to increase either hours for existing staff or outsourcing assessments. Recommendations included increasing workload on existing staff (March Break or Summer break) or contracting out workload to outside resources.
What business runs a whole new product line without having done proper analysis, developing a strategic plan and ensuring proper staffing to produce the product. If you were building widgets you would determine your costs, know what materials were required, ensure you had staff to build the widgets, etc. Surely if mid way you discovered facts that caused concern you would suspend operation and solve the issues or at the very least offer concrete options. Not so some believe when the widgets happen to be education.
So yes…Dear Trustee we all get it. The decision made by the HDSB last fall to introduce a new program for only some students potentially allowing them to jump the queue could impact some of the 700 student from having a full assessment.
Yes we get it……..that some parents leave this board and go elsewhere either for testing or even for education because they are tired of dealing with backlog and politics.
Yes we get it….this little decision is costing approximately $800,000 to fully implement. As stated during the board meeting, the Ministry is not funding this program directly leaving many to ask where the money is coming from.
Yes we get it…..that once again there are those in our community who believe that favouring some and segregating them is unfair.
As always we welcome all members of HDSB to comment and/or provide information regarding this issue.
Let us know what you think.