David Lepofsky OPVIC letter to ministry of education on TVI Training issues
To: Yael Ginsler
Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, Student Achievement Division
Via email: Yael.Ginsler@ontario.ca
From: David Lepofsky Board Member, Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children
Date: August 3, 2021
Re: July 15, 2021 Roundtable on Reforming Ontario Training for Teachers of the Visually Impaired
We thank the Ministry of Education for convening the helpful July 15, 2021 virtual roundtable, a meeting called at our request, to discuss the need to substantially improve Ontario’s training requirements for Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs). As Ontario’s organization of parents of children who are blind, low vision or deafblind, Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children has advocated for over three and a half years for THIS roundtable meeting, to bring about much-needed and long-overdue reform. Our key points in this letter are summarized as follows:
- The Ontario Government officially recognized that it is necessary to improve Ontario’s training requirements for Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs).
- Ontario should establish a required post-graduate Masters program to qualify to work as a TVI in Ontario.
- There is no merit to a supposed concern About a TVI Masters degree requirement creating a barrier to entry into the TVI profession.
- There is a pressing need to substantially increase Ontario’s supply of properly trained Teachers of the Visually Impaired.
- It is wrong that students with vision loss now receive wildly varying levels of TVI service and support across Ontario.
- The needed comprehensive reform strategy must include multiple components to succeed.
- Prompt next steps should be taken to implement overdue reforms in this area.
1. The Ontario Government at Last Officially Recognizes that it is Necessary to Improve Ontario’s Training Requirements for Teachers of the Visually Impaired
It is commendable that at the start of this roundtable, the Ministry of Education explicitly recognized that there is a need to improve the training required in Ontario for a teacher serving as a TVI for blind, low vision or deafblind students an Ontario schools. The meeting began with Yael Ginsler, the senior Ministry of Education official convening the roundtable. On the Governments behalf, Yael Ginsler acknowledged for the first time at a formal meeting that the Government recognizes the importance of improving training programs and qualifications for TVI’s to better support the education of our students. No senior officials from the Ministry of Education, the Ontario College of Teachers, or any other stakeholder at this meeting disputed this need.
The roundtable focused on what shape that improvement should take. This is a helpful first step for those of us speaking for parents of children with vision loss and for those speaking for vision loss rehabilitation specialists outside the Government. For over three and a half years, we have repeatedly identified the serious deficiencies in Ontario TVI training. We have spoken with the Minister of Education, The Deputy Minister, and a revolving door parade of officials at the Ministry of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers. The Ministry has apologized to us several times for its protracted delays in taking action on this unmet need.
During the Ministry of Education’s introductory presentation, it was explained that under Ontario regulations, a teacher only needs to complete one “Additional Qualification” or AQ course to qualify to serve as a TVI in an Ontario school board. We understand that this is a 120 or 125 hour course, with no practicum, taught by instructors with no graduate degree in the TVI field. Under Ontario regulations, a teacher must complete three such TVI AQ courses to work at the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind (operated by the Ministry of Education). It is also our understanding, from information obtained outside this roundtable, that a teacher only needs to attend one week in person during the AQ course required to qualify to work at an Ontario school board as a TVI. The rest of the course is taught via distance learning.
We wish to clarify a point on the Ministry of Education’s slide deck. Regarding the existing TVI AQ courses. The slide deck states:
“The Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Additional Qualification courses (Part 1, 2 and Specialist) are offered by the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario.”
Having reviewed this after the roundtable, we wish to emphasize an important clarification that OPVIC presented to the Ontario College of Teachers over one year ago, in its June 25, 2020 brief to the OCT on TVI qualifications. No one has disputed its accuracy in the year since then. We shared that brief at the time with the Ministry of Education, as well as the OCT. It states in material part:
“From information we obtained from the W. Ross Macdonald School, UWO’s involvement in those TVI AQ courses is purely administrative. It is our understanding that these AQ courses are not offered by the UWO Faculty of Education. They are not taught by professors at the UWO Faculty of Education. Their substantive curriculum is not set by or approved by the UWO Faculty of Education. Even if, despite all this, UWO had provided some oversight of the College’s TVI AQ courses, we have no information that anyone on the UWO faculty or staff have any expertise in the education of students with vision loss, or in how to effectively train TVIs. It would therefore be wrong to treat UWO’s purely administrative involvement as lending any quality control or credibility to the TVI AQ courses.”
2. Should Ontario Create a TVI Post-Graduate Masters Program or Diploma Program?
There was no dispute at this roundtable that what is needed is a post-graduate program dedicated to teaching TVIs, and that this program needs to include a practicum component, working hands-on with students with vision loss. The core issue that the Ministry of education presented for discussion was whether this post-graduate program should be a diploma program or a Masters program.
We note that the slide deck does not accurately reflect this. It describes the roundtable as focusing, among other things, on the following:
“To discuss a TVI post-graduate diploma program.”
As written, that slide deck makes it sound as if the Ministry of Education had already decided that this post-graduate program must be a diploma program, and not a Masters program. However, despite that, the roundtable did not treat this as having been a pre-decided matter and a foregone conclusion.
Key points that participants raised included:
- It has been the shared position of OPVIC, speaking for parents of students with vision loss, and of CNIB and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), speaking for blindness education and rehabilitation professionals and experts, that this needs to be a Masters program taught in a university faculty of education.
- It was common ground at this roundtable that a practicum needs to be added as part of Ontario’s TVI training requirement. No one spoke against this. OPVIC has previously emphasized that a proper practicum needs to be carried out under a Faculty of Education’s TVI faculty in a Masters program.
- The only participant invited to this roundtable who has completed a TVI Masters was OPVIC board member Shelley Marks. She has also taken the Ontario TVI AQ course requirement for working in an Ontario school board. As such, she can compare the training offered at both programs.Marks said the Mount St. Vincent TVI Masters program from which she graduated was “absolutely fantastic.” It was very positive to be taught by instructors who have their PHD or Masters, and to receive training enriched by a deep dive into the research in the field. She already had her AQ Ontario specialist when she completed that degree. She did this training mid-career, while already employed as a teacher in Ontario. She worked for two years in the Maritimes, where a Masters degree is required.
- Dan Maggiacomo, the Ministry’s principal at Ontario’s W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind, said that a Masters program would be “a fantastic thing.” No one at the roundtable said that a Masters program would not be beneficial or would not be needed from the perspective of the proper training of a TVI to serve students with vision loss. No one suggested that a diploma program, rather than a Masters program, would be preferrable, nor did anyone give reasons on why it would be preferrable. Later in this letter, we address issues of supposed barriers to entry that were raised.
- On behalf of OPVIC, I said that since up to eight provinces in Canada require a Masters degree, there was no good reason why students with vision loss in Ontario deserve any less. Moreover, if a new graduate TVI training program were to be established in Ontario that does not result in a Masters degree, candidates from other provinces would have no reason to choose to come to Ontario to take this training. That Ontario training would not be recognized in most other Canadian provinces (as is the case now with Ontario’s current deficient TVI training).
- We have repeatedly emphasized that a Masters program would be enriched because it would be delivered by instructors who are qualified university professors and who are undertaking scholarly research in the field. That is missing from the current deficient Ontario TVI training.
- We have told the Ministry of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers many times that Prof. Cay Holbrook (head of the UBC TVI graduate program and an internationally recognized expert in education of students with vision loss) has MADE AN OPEN OFFER for an Ontario faculty of education to serve as a satellite campus for the UBC program. This would HELPFULLY save Ontario the costs, delays, and workload of inventing a new Ontario TVI Masters program from scratch. Were Ontario wisely to take up her generous offer, it would be absurd for a student in that program to get a Masters degree if they go to UBC, but only to get a diploma if they take the same program in Ontario.
- The Ontario College of Teachers stated at this roundtable that it is interested in hearing from the roundtable about which is the best approach, post-graduate diploma or Masters, and then to see if there will be regulatory amendments to put this into effect. The Ontario College of Teachers indicated at this roundtable that the feedback they heard during their consultations was that adding additional AQ courses would not solve the deficiencies in Ontario’s current training for TVIs. That is why the Ontario College of Teachers has wisely not chosen to establish five TVI AQ courses, rather than the current three TVI AQ courses.
- Ross Macdonald School for the Blind principal Dan Maggiacomo properly noted that merely establishing a Masters program in Ontario alone will not solve the problem, since we will need to take action to get teachers to take that program. That is why OPVIC has been advocating for a provincial funding program to incentivize teachers to take a new TVI Masters program.
- In the past, the only argument that we have heard from anyonefor making this a diploma program came from a former Ontario College of Teachers official. This former official is no longer with the College or involved with this issue, and had no expertise in the training of TVIs. She tried to justify a diploma program rather than a Masters degree on the sole grounds that a diploma is what the York University Faculty of Education’s program for teachers of the deaf confers. It is helpful that no one revived that unpersuasive argument at this roundtable.At this roundtable, I explained that two wrongs do not make a right. The York University program for teachers of the deaf is, we understand, functionally equivalent to a Masters program. It should therefore be a Masters program. It is not a Masters program only for arbitrary historical reasons. If Ontario creates a new TVI post-graduate training program, such an irrational bureaucratic historic tail should not wag the pedagogical dog.
- The current Ontario College of Teachers regulatory structure centers around the “Additional Qualifications” or AQ course structure. It may be that this structure may work in other contexts. However, it has irremediably failed when it comes to training Teachers of The Visually Impaired. To solve this issue, we should not have to cram the reform to Ontario TVI training into an arbitrary and ill-suited regulatory relic. The Ontario Government can and should enact or amend regulations as needed to mandate the proper training requirements for which we advocate. The Ontario College of Teachers indicated that such regulatory changes may be needed. It pointedly did not advocate against them.
- The Ministry of Education asked this roundtable how a reformed TVI training program should be designed. In addition to the preceding points, I explained that the most knowledgeable and qualified people to answer that question were unfortunately excluded from this roundtable. I referred to those university faculties that have spent years training successive Teachers of The Visually Impaired in a dedicated TVI Masters program. When I was asked in advance to provide names of who should be included in this roundtable, I had proposed Dr. Cay Holbrook, head of the UBC’s TVI Masters program, and Dr. Kevin Stewart, who is on the faculty of the TVI graduate program at Mount St. Vincent University. Both are leading Canadian experts in the field. Dr. Holbrook is internationally recognized for her work in education of students with vision loss. Dr. Stewart has extensive experience in the Ontario school system. He previously was the former director of the blind low vision program at the York Region District School Board.
The Ministry told me that these two experts were not included in this roundtable because it was decided to limit the roundtable to people within Ontario. With respect, that is no reason for excluding them, especially since Ontario has no proper program for training TVIs. If anything, theirs is the most vital expertise needed at the table.
Speaking for the Ministry, Rachel Ryerson said that it is crucial to hear from all the important players that need to be involved in making improvement happen. We agree. That is why the omission of Dr. Holbrook and Dr. Stewart from this roundtable was counterproductive.
3. Refuting A Supposed Concern About Barriers to Entry into the TVI Profession
- Ross Macdonald School for the Blind principal Dan Maggiacomo expressed a concern that to require more training for TVIs would serve as a barrier to entry into the TVI field. He said that the low barrier to entry is a positive feature of the current AQ system. He said the current system has worked to draw people into the TVI field and has maintained a steady flow of teachers into the field. He stated that the Part 1 TVI AQ course last year had 36 participants, which he called an impressive figure, and said that there is no Masters program in North America that has drawn that number of teachers into their program.
No one else at this meeting spoke up to support his view. We fundamentally rejected his position, for these compelling reasons:
- Ontario’s substantially inadequate TVI training requirements result in inadequately trained TVIs. Students with vision loss deserve better-trained TVIs. We do not mean to criticize the dedication of those TVIs working in Ontario. They no doubt try their best with the limited tools at their disposal. A teacher who completes a TVI Masters degree has a far more substantial toolkit at their disposal.By comparison, we could quickly and easily reduce barriers to entry to the medical profession by reducing the required multi-year medical training down to a much shorter six months. However, no one would want to be treated by a physician who is so poorly trained.
- A teacher who only completes a 120 or 125 hour AQ TVI training course shows far less commitment to the TVI field than does a teacher who undertakes a Masters degree. We have received reliable reports of some teachers who strategically use Ontario’s short TVI training as a stepping-stone to get into a permanent TVI job. After that, they leave their TVI job as quickly as they can to transfer to another permanent job, no longer teaching students with vision loss. As such, the weak Ontario TVI training program can be easily leveraged to get around barriers to entry and into permanent teaching jobs in Ontario that are unrelated to the TVI field and students with vision loss.
- This speculative “barrier to entry” worry is contradicted by the experience in other provinces. No one has presented proof that this supposed “barrier to entry” worry has turned out to be a problem in the several Canadian provinces that require a TVI Master’s degree to qualify to work as a TVI, or in the many other jurisdictions outside Canada that require a Masters. We have heard no suggestion that in those jurisdictions, there is advocacy from parents of students with vision loss united with TVIs to reduce their training requirements on the grounds that the Masters requirement is hurting their children.
4. There is a Pressing Need to Substantially Increase Ontario’s Supply of Properly Trained Teachers of the Visually Impaired
The roundtable heard from multiple sources that there is a pressing need to substantially increase the supply of properly trained TVIs working in Ontario. This includes both TVIs who teach in the English language school system and those who teach in the French language school system.
We emphasized that the Ontario Government lacks accurate and comprehensive information about the number of students with vision loss in Ontario schools, the number of TVIs actually working with students with vision loss in Ontario schools, the hours per week of TVI supports that students with vision loss receive across Ontario, or the training and qualifications of the supply of TVIs working in Ontario. At this roundtable, the Government circulated a slide deck on this topic from a survey of school boards that the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind conducted. We set out the text of that slide deck at the end of this letter.
This slide deck’s information is troubling and is not sufficiently systematic or reliable. Several reasons for this are:
- The survey only reached out to English schools and did not include French schools.
- The survey only includes an estimate, not a hard documented figure, regarding how many students with vision loss there are in Ontario. A reliable figure is needed.This roundtable was told that according to data that the Ontario Government collects via the Ontario School Student Information System, there are less than 1,000 students who are blind or low vision in Ontario-funded schools. Ministry staff acknowledged that this vastly understates the number of students with vision loss receiving support.From its survey, the W. Ross Macdonald School estimates that there are over 2,500 students with vision loss receiving support and services. The Ministry accepted that these data are not comprehensive.
- The information provided suggests that there are four TVIs in practice in Ontario who hold a Masters. We know of more than four, though we agree that in any event, it is a very small proportion of the working TVIs in Ontario.
- According to the Ontario College of Teachers, over 500 teachers have the Ontario TVI qualifications. (albeit, those qualifications are substantially deficient). Only 280 of them are working in Ontario schools. We do not take that as reflecting the number of TVIs who are actually working with students with vision loss in Ontario. They could hold the OCT-recognized qualifications, but be working with any students, possibly none of whom have vision loss.According to the information collected by the W. Ross Macdonald School, there are some 148 TVIs actively working as TVIs in Ontario, apart from those working at Ross Macdonald.
- According to the W. Ross Macdonald School’s information, four of those working as TVIs in Ontario schools have no TVI qualifications at all. This is a shocking revelation. It further illustrates systemic unfairness in the way students with vision loss have been treated in Ontario and the lack of proper oversight by the Ministry of Education, school boards, and the Ontario College of Teachers. It is emblematic of the variations in service that students with vision loss can experience depending on where they live and study in Ontario (addressed further below).
We wish here to supplement information discussed at this roundtable. Last year, the Ministry’s data collection officials told members of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (including myself) that they do not require school boards to report data on the numbers of TVIs each board employs. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee learned that the Ministry’s method for collecting data from school boards on students with disabilities does not produce accurate and reliable data on how many students with vision loss there are. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report to the Government is now out for public feedback. The report calls for more extensive data collection by the Ministry in a wide range of areas concerning students with disabilities and the supports available to them in Ontario schools.
I told the roundtable that OPVIC sent a survey to all 72 Ontario school boards on this topic. This survey, which was emailed to all directors of education on May 1, 2021, is included at the end of this letter.
Now, approximately three months later, only six of the 72 school boards have completed the survey. Six boards explicitly declined to complete the survey. Five boards have asked us to submit a Freedom of Information application or a research application (which we do not have the capacity to do). 13 boards have acknowledged the survey or referred it within the board, but without answering the survey itself. 42 boards, the majority of school boards, have not answered us at all.
We plan to make public the results of the survey. We ask the Ministry of Education itself send this survey to each school board, and to furnish our roundtable and other interested parties with the aggregated results. The Ministry is in a far better position to get answers from school boards than is OPVIC. In a good number of other areas, the Ministry requires school boards to provide detailed information to it in order to provide proper oversight to the publicly-funded school system. Students with vision loss deserve nothing less.
We alerted the Ministry of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers many times over the past three and a half years that there is a growing shortage of TVIs in Ontario. This reflects the experience of our members, and the feedback we hear from TVIs and those who manage them. CNIB echoed this concern at this Roundtable, as did the Centre Jules-Léger: from the perspective of TVIs to serve French-speaking students with vision loss. We have also heard that school boards can find it difficult to recruit TVIs in Ontario.
The only statement we have heard to the contrary was at this roundtable meeting. It came from a Ministry of Education employee. No one else at the meeting spoke to support it.
Specifically, Dan Maggiacomo said that from contacts he has in the US, the ratio of TVIs to students with vision loss in Ontario is at least comparable to some large US jurisdictions. He said that based on contacts with schools for the blind internationally, Ontario “compares very favourably” in terms of the number of TVIs per student. He said that Ontario is very similar to big jurisdictions like Texas and California, and that Ontario is doing right in terms of TVI supply.
I responded at this roundtable that we strongly disagreed. Mr. Maggiacomo erroneously compared apples and oranges. He was, for example, comparing TVIs in California (who require a Masters) to the supply of TVIs in Ontario (who do not require a Masters). His satisfaction with the status quo disregards the major failings in Ontario TVI training that led to the Ministry convening this roundtable. His erroneous conclusion seems also to be based on the number of students with vision loss in Ontario, which, was only an estimate.
Mr. Maggiacomo also drew support for his view that we have a sufficient supply of TVIs from the number of people enrolling to take the English language TVI AQ courses. However, that too does not justify any satisfaction. It reflects the number of new candidates who will receive utterly inadequate TVI training. Moreover, the Jules Leger School expressed the concern that there has been no similar course offered in French since 2017.
We explained at this roundtable that the troubling situation with the supply of TVIs working in Ontario is made even worse given the plight of those TVIs who, to their credit and at their own expense, undertake a Masters program in the TVI field at Mount St. Vincent or UBC. OPVIC board member Shelley Marks is herself a TVI working in Ontario, having completed the Ontario TVI AQ requirements and the far superior Masters program at Mount St. Vincent. She only has temporary employment, and is finding it very hard to find a permanent job in Ontario. She explained that she is considering leaving Ontario to find work in another province. Given the plight facing students with vision loss, it would be inexcusable for a qualified experienced TVI with a Masters to feel it necessary to leave Ontario to find work as a TVI.
Making this situation even worse, we explained that the Ontario College of Teachers does not recognize the superior TVI Masters from UBC or Mount St. Vincent as even qualifying a teacher to work in Ontario as a TVI. Those who complete that degree must then waste their time and money taking the inferior Ontario TVI AQ program. Alternatively, they must go through a bureaucratic process to seek an exemption from the Ontario College of Teachers. From what we have heard, that exemption process can subject a TVI to unfair delays, burdens and bureaucracy. Students with vision loss are the losers in this situation.
5. It is Wrong that Students with Vision Loss Receive Wildly Varying Levels of TVI Service Across Ontario
CNIB and OPVIC explained that students with vision loss receive wildly varying levels of TVI service. It varies from school board to school board. There should instead be a provincially-assured baseline guaranteed to them that is needs-based. It is wrong that the Ministry of Education does not require each school board to adhere to the National Standard for the Education of Students with Sight Loss. Moreover, school boards do not consistently use a single reliable tool for assessing how much TVI service each student with vision loss needs.
6. A Comprehensive Reform Strategy Must Include Multiple Components
There was common ground at this roundtable that it is not good enough for a reform strategy to simply increase the requirements to train to qualify as a TVI. Ontario needs a strategy to ensure that a proper TVI training program exists in Ontario. The plan also requires a comprehensive strategy that will get teachers to partake in this training.
It was pointed out by more than one person at this roundtable that it is easier to get teachers to take a post-graduate program at the start of their career after completing their basic teaching degree. To get teachers to go back to school to take this training mid-career is not impossible (AS OPVIC board member Shelley Marks exemplifies). However, it can be more challenging.
It was a positive step that a representative from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities helpfully committed at this roundtable that her Ministry works very closely with their post-secondary educational institutions and expect those institutions to be meeting the needs of people in their communities. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities is prepared to work with their post-secondary institutions on the ideas brought forward at this roundtable. That Ministry confirmed that it is 100% supportive of next steps on this issue, and of helping to land a solution that gives these teaching students the training they need.
7. Next Steps
We are encouraged that this roundtable corroborated the message that we have been bringing to the Ministry of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers for over three years. We ask that the next steps include the following:
- The Ministry of Education should swiftly release an action plan indicating how it will respond to this issue, including anticipated timelines.
- A follow-up roundtable should be convened promptly to prevent this issue from again slipping below the radar. In addition to those invited to this first roundtable, we ask that it also include UBC’s Dr. Cay Holbrook and Mount St. Vincent’s Dr. Kevin Stewart. It should include the Ministry of Education’s Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for equity issues. It should also include a TVI with a Master’s degree representing AER. Finally, could you invite representatives of Ontario faculties of education, such as York University, so that they could discuss their needs if they were to host a TVI Masters program.
We look forward to working with everyone on this, and ask the Government to promptly respond with next steps.
Ministry of Education
The hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education Stephen.lecce@Ontario.ca
Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education email@example.com
Claudine Munroe Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (acting), Student Support and Field Services Division Claudine.Munroe@ontario.ca
Rachel Ryerson, Ministry of Education, Director, Professionalism Teaching Policy and Standards Branch Rachel.Ryerson@ontario.ca
Karyn Bruneel, Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools Branch Karyn.Bruneel@ontario.ca
Roxanne Hotte Director, French-Language Teaching and Learning Branch Roxanne.Hotte@ontario.ca
Luc Davet Director, French-Language Education Policies and Programs Branch Luc.Davet@ontario.ca
Dan Maggiacomo Principal, Provincial and Demonstration Schools Branch Dan.Maggiacomo@ontario.ca
Anita Bennett Manager, Special Education / Success for All Branch Anita.M.Bennett@ontario.ca
Julie Boudreault Manager, French-Language Education Policies and Programs Unit Julie.Boudreault@ontario.ca
Christopher Cox Policy and Program Advisor, Professionalism Teaching Policy and Programs Branch Christopher.Cox@ontario.ca
Vivian Wei Policy Analyst, Professionalism Teaching Policy and Programs Branch Vivian.Wei@ontario.ca
Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU)
The hon. Jill Dunlap Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill.firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelley Tap Deputy Minister of Colleges and Universities, email@example.com
Ivonne Mellozzi Director, Postsecondary Accountability Branch Ivonne.Mellozzi@ontario.ca
Seetha Kumaresh Manager, Postsecondary Accountability Branch Seetha.Kumaresh@ontario.ca
Consortium Centre Jules-Léger
Jean-François Boulanger Director, FL Provincial Schools firstname.lastname@example.org
Annie Duchesneau Blind and Low Vision Team – Advisory Services email@example.com
Mélanie Boulerice TVI Teacher firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario College of Teachers (OCT)
Demetra Saldaris Director of Standards of Practice and Accreditation email@example.com
Stefanie Muhling Manager of Standards of Practice and Accreditation SMuhling@oct.ca
University of Western Ontario
Barbara Thomas Manager of Advanced Studies in Professional Education firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Zuber Manager Teacher Education email@example.com
Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children
Shelley Marks, Board member, OPVIC, Itinerant Teacher with Peel DSB
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
Suzanne Decary-van den Broek Executive Director, CNIB Suzanne.Decary@cnib.ca
Vision Loss Rehabilitation Ontario
Lisa Tyrell Provincial Director – Health Care Operations Lisa.Tyrrell@vlrehab.ca
University of Ottawa (French Program)
Tracy Crowe Assistant Director of Teacher Education Tracy.Crowe@uottawa.ca
David Trumpower Director of Teacher Education David.firstname.lastname@example.org
Connie Mayer Professor and Academic Coordinator of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program email@example.com
Pamela Millet Associate Professor, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Education Slide Deck
Title Page: Ministry of Education Meeting to Discuss Training Teachers of the Visually Impaired
- July 15, 2021
- Confidential – For Discussion Purposes
- 9:30: Welcome
- 9:35: Opening Remarks and Round-Table Introductions
- 9:45: Overview of Current TVI Training
- 10:00: Discussion: Considerations for TVI Training
- 10:45: Consolidation: Next Steps and Closing Remarks
- To discuss strengths and challenges pertaining to the current training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI).
- To discuss a TVI post-graduate diploma program.
Title: Overview of Current Training for TVIs
- Teachers are required to hold Part 1of the Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Additional Qualification to be assigned to teach blind or low vision students in school boards.
- Teachers are required to hold the Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Part 1, 2 and SpecialistAdditional Qualification (or be in the process of obtaining the specialist qualification) to teach blind or low vision students in a provincial school.
Title: Ontario Teacher Statistics
- Within responding school boards, there are 146 active School and Resource TVI’s in Ontario, in addition to the W. Ross Macdonald School staff.
- Of these teachers working in school boards:
- 4 have a Masters degree
- 82 have Part 3, Specialist
- 34 have Part 2
- 22 have Part 1
- 4 have no TVI qualifications (3 are working on the braille component)
- Data is based on survey sent to school boards by W. Ross Macdonald School
Title: Ontario Student Statistics
- Within responding school boards*:
- 1570 Students with Low-Vision (would include milder vision loss and students with more severe forms of low-vision),
- 166 Students who use Braille,
- 241 Students with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)
- Ross Macdonald School Students:
- 80+ Students who use Braille,
- 80+ Students at or near Legal Blindness (greater vision loss than Low-Vision threshold),
- 5 Students with CVI
- All statistics include students who may be Deafblind
*Note: Boards responding represent 1,687,478 students – approximately 84% of Ontario’s student population.
Title: Discussion Questions
- What are the current strengths and challenges of the current TVI training?
- What are your thoughts about the essential components of a TVI post-graduate diploma program?
- Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share that are not reflected in our conversations today?
Title: Next Steps and Closing Remarks
- There is no content on this slide.
Title: Appendix A: Current Pathway to Become a TVI in Ontario
- Initial Teacher Education:
- The four-semester Initial Teacher Education program contains mandatory core content in the area of teaching students with special education needs.
- Additional Qualifications:
- The Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Additional Qualification courses (Part 1, 2 and Specialist) are offered by the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario.
- The requirements to obtain Part 1, Part 2 or the Specialist Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Additional Qualification are set out in O. Regulation 176/10 under the Ontario College of Teachers’ Act.
- Part 1:
- Teachers are required to hold Part 1 of the Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Additional Qualification to be assigned to teach blind or low vision students in school boards.
- The assignment of teachers to teaching positions in school boards is governed by O. Regulation 298 under the Education Act.
- Part 2 and Specialist:
- Teachers are required to hold the Teaching Students Who Are Blind/Low Vision Part 1, 2 and Specialist Additional Qualification (or be in the process of obtaining the specialist qualification) to teach blind or low vision students in a provincial school.
- Regulation 296 under the Education Act sets out the qualification requirements for teachers employed in a provincial school.
Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children Survey of All Ontario School boards
Sent to Every Ontario School Board’s Director of Education on May 1, 2021
Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (OPVIC)
Also known as Views for The Visually Impaired
April 28, 2021
I am a member of the board of directors of Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (OPVIC). We are Ontario’s officially recognized volunteer non-profit charitable organization of parents of children who are blind, deafblind, or low vision. We advocate for the needs of those children. We are entitled to representation on Special Education Advisory Committees of school boards around Ontario. (Our corporate name remains Views for the Visually Impaired).
We are conducting a survey of all Ontario-funded school boards and welcome your assistance. We would appreciate it if your board could answer the 10 questions set out below. Answers may be emailed to us at “email@example.com”. We would appreciate receiving a response by Friday, June 11th, 2021. If your board will need more time, please let us know. If your board needs any help or clarification regarding our questions, contact us at “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
The purpose of our survey is to document the professional supports available in Ontario-funded schools for students with vision loss. We focus specifically on Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) and Orientation and Mobility Specialists (O&M Specialists).
What do we plan to do with the information we obtain? We plan to consolidate it and make it public. We aim to present it to the Ontario Ministry of Education, and to make it available to all school boards. This information will form part of our advocacy efforts to ensure that students with vision loss get the supports they need to succeed in school. The Ontario Ministry of Education does not collect, consolidate and report on the information we are requesting. We hope this will help all involved in Ontario’s education system. We emphasize that we seek no identifying or confidential personal information about anyone, whether students or staff.
Background to This Survey
Vision loss is a “low incidence” disability among school-age children. When students with vision loss reach school, an indispensable school board employee who is vital to their acquiring literacy and other key learning skills is the expert TVI. At school boards, they are itinerant teachers. The TVI goes from school to school, providing the hands-on direct training to individual students with vision loss, one at a time, in specialized areas like braille reading and writing, where needed. They teach blind, low vision and deafblind children how to use rapidly evolving adaptive technology, such as screen-reading and print-enlarging programs. These apps enable them to use a computer, tablet or smart phone, essential to their learning.
The itinerant TVI is also the indispensable expert who educates and supports a student’s classroom teacher, special needs and educational assistant, and other teaching staff on how to effectively teach that student with vision loss. Most of the time that students with vision loss spend in school is with general education or special education teaching staff who have no training in how to teach students with vision loss. Where a TVI is involved, the TVI typically only spends a proportion of the student’s in-school time with a specific student who has vision loss.
In addition to the TVI, the O&M Specialist is an itinerant expert who plays a key role in educating students with vision loss on independence skills. They provide training for persons with vision loss on how to know where they are in space, and how to move through space safely and independently. That can include providing training on the use of a mobility aid such as a white cane, where appropriate. Some professionals train to work both as a TVI and an O&M specialist.
This request for information should not require approval of any Research Committee. We are asking for your Board’s policies, curriculum, practices, staffing levels, and ratios as they specifically relate to students with disabilities.
The Survey Questions:
We request the following information, if possible, for the present school year (2020-21) and the previous school year (2019-20).
(When this survey refers to students with vision loss, we mean any student who is blind, deafblind, or low vision. That includes, for example, students with cortical visual impairment CVI. “Students with vision loss” here includes students who also have another disability.)
- What is the total number of blind, low vision or deafblind students enrolled at your school board, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and up to age 21, inclusive? Of these, how many are:
- totally blind
- low vision
- have vision loss plus at least one other disability, other than deafblindness.
- have cortical vision impairment (CVI)
- are now braille users or are aiming to become braille users and/or tactile users.
(Note: some students may fit within more than one category above, and so, should be included in each category where they fit.)
- What is the total number of full-time or full-time equivalent Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) that work for your school board? Of these how many are:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- on contract, either full-time or part-time.
- Of the teachers of the visually impaired working for your school board, how many have a Masters or higher-level graduate degree specializing in teaching students with vision loss?
- How many full-time or full-time equivalent Orientation and Mobility Specialists work for your school board. Of these, how many are:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- contract workers or providing fee for service, full-time or part time.
- How many full-time or full-time equivalent Braillists work for your school board to do braille transcription and the creation of tactile raised-line materials for your students with vision loss? Of these, how many are:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- contract workers or providing fee for service, full-time or part time.
- What is the average student case load of your school board’s TVI, and of each Orientation and Mobility Specialist? In other words, for each full-time equivalent position, how many students are there per TVI (e.g., 20 students for each TVI full-time equivalent) and for each Orientation and Mobility Specialist (e.g., an average of 20 students for each full-time equivalent Orientation and Mobility Specialist)?
- Who (i.e., what position in your school board, and not the person’s name) decides in your school board how many hours per week a student with vision loss will get of direct TVI services? Or of direct Orientation and Mobility Services?
- What standards or tools are used for deciding how many hours of TVI or O&M direct services a specific student with vision loss will receive per week, and to govern the content of those services?
- For teaching students with vision loss, has your school board approved and required the use of the Expanded Core Curriculum for education of all students with vision loss?
- The Canadian Coalition on Vision Health has established specific standards for teaching students with vision loss. They are called the Canadian National Standards for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including Those with Additional Disabilities, 2017 Updated Edition, https://apsea.ca/assets/files/bvi/canadian-national-standards-doc.pdf.
- Is your school board aware of these standards?
- To what extent has your school board adopted these standards for teaching students with vision loss, and required that they be complied with?