Reading is an essential skill that will serve students well in school and later on in life. For students with reading-related learning disabilities, reading poses additional challenges that impact the rest of their school performance.
In October of 2019, the Ontario Human Rights Human Rights Commission (OHRC) began an inquiry to determine whether or not learning-challenged students were facing human rights violations in the course of their education in public schools since learning to read is a fundamental right for all students.
Are Ontario schools adequately meeting the needs of at-risk readers?
In essence, the Commission is working to determine if Ontario public schools are meeting the reading instructional needs of learning-disabled students.
The findings, due to be released February 2022, could also benefit low-income, First Nations, English language learners, new arrivals, and other marginalized student groups, as well as students at risk of developing learning disabilities.
The commission’s inquiry is focused on accounts from educators, students, and parents across Ontario. Additionally, the commission is reviewing teacher training, school reading curricula, and consulting with experts. They are also reviewing school board policies and procedures as they relate to students with reading-related learning disabilities.
The OHRC is interested in hearing about the concerns and challenges faced by students in Ontario’s public school system.
The OHRC is focusing on the following benchmarks in their inquiry:
- Universal design for learning
- Reading intervention programs
- Mandatory early screenings
- Effective accommodations
- Psycho-educational assessments (if needed)
COVID19's impact on student learning outcomes
The commission also learned of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on learning-challenged students. School closures and distance learning posed extra challenges, and created a negative impact on student learning, compounding the students’ ongoing difficulties.
Both the OHRC and disability rights groups raised concerns in the following areas:
- Professional services
- Personal contact
- Specialized programming
- Summer learning programs
- Shared legal responsibility
- Identification, Placement, and Review Committees (IPRCs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and the duty to accommodate
As of October 2021, the commission began the process of finalizing the Right to Read Inquiry report. The report will contain detailed recommendations and findings for school boards, government, education faculties, curriculum/instruction, reading interventions, learning accommodations, professional assessments, early screenings, and systemic issues faced by learning-challenged students.
The final report is expected to be released in February 2022.
Reading is a fundamental skill that needs to be accessible to all students, regardless of their learning status or achievement level. The Right to Read Inquiry will determine if the needs of Ontario’s learning-challenged students are being met, and whether or not these and other at-risk students are experiencing human rights violations in the course of their education.
We are grateful to the many professionals who generously gave their time and guidance throughout the public inquiry, including Dr. Siegle from UBC and Dr. Jamie Metsala from MSVU, a well-known name in our local community and a Literacy Researcher & Advocate for Effective Early Reading Instruction & Reading Interventions.
The results of the inquiry could help to shape educational public policy in the years to come, and to remedy inequalities present in Ontario public schools. We also anticipate that the policy may have an impact on other areas of Canada and we hope to see its influence here in Nova Scotia.
Learn more and follow report details here.