He has to take math and science and history and English – what you’d expect as part of any education – but he also has some choice in non-academic courses like construction technology and drama. The courses are part of a well-thought out high-school curriculum designed by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
The reason this was a treat was that for three years we have lived in the world of ‘alternative expectations’ – read no expectations – at the segregated school Ben attended.
Alternative expectations are courses that are not tied to the Ontario curriculum and tend to focus on life skills. They include speech, social skills, personal care and transit training. At the high-school level, they are non-credit courses.
"For the vast majority of students, these programs would be given in addition to modified or regular grade-level expectations,” reads The IEP – A Resource Guide from the Ministry. “A very small number of students who are unable to demonstrate even the most basic literacy or numeracy skills may receive only an alternative report."
Although Ben does read, and is now writing, for three years he received only alternative courses and an alternative report. In his last year the courses were things like art appreciation, gym, social skills (which was a cooking class) and ‘math’ – which involved tasks like putting flashlights together.
Four courses were offered per semester. They didn’t follow the general Ontario curriculum and my understanding is that they didn’t follow any Ministry-mandated content. It was up to the school to decide what it would offer.
The value of having a province-wide curriculum, I imagine, is that if students are taught the same material across schools, to meet one set of standards, you have a way of measuring progress and ensuring accountability.
I’m not sure why the same approach wouldn’t be taken with students with disabilities in segregated schools. Why would the same thought and energy not be put into developing a standard curriculum – ideally that draws on the general curriculum all students receive?
Why is it okay for students in these segregated high schools to have no Ontario-directed course content and no choice of courses and for students and parents to simply accept whatever learning is put forward in a particular class and school?
Last night I got to go through the standard credit high-school courses with Ben, in a document (above) aptly called: Life is the sum of all your choices.
Doesn’t it seem like there’s a double standard here?