OHRC Update on the Right to Read Inquiry May 5th, 2021

IDA Ontario would like to thank the Ontario Human Rights Commission's (OHRC) lead lawyers on the Right to Read Inquiry, Reema Khawja and Nika Farahani, for attending our Parent Conference and providing a comprehensive update on the Inquiry. We received a lot of appreciative feedback!

The recording of their update is now available on our YouTube channel.  We have also created a summary of the topics discussed in the video along with timestamps for your convenience.

Equity and Intersectional Issues (8:07-13:31)

The report is expected to address systemic and intersectional issues for many struggling students, including students with learning disabilities other than dyslexia, First Nations, Metis, Inuit, racialized students, newcomers to Canada, English language learners, lower-income families, and students living in rural or remote areas. The OHRC anticipates that the benefits of this report will extend to students with intellectual, developmental, vision, and/or hearing disabilities, and also those with autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The report is expected to address the inequities created by the failure to effectively teach foundational reading skills, and how this failure impacts these students.

The Current Ontario Kindergarten Program, Language Curriculum, Reading Instruction, and Teacher Training (14:05-20:20)

The Inquiry is expected to make specific recommendations for the kindergarten program and Ontario's language curriculum. The current curriculum maintains the Whole Language philosophy, however, the OHRC is aware that Structured Literacy is effective for all students—not just those with dyslexia. Reema Khawja states "..the real issue is that we have a curriculum and instructional approaches that are not consistent with what science shows works” (16:24-16:36). The Inquiry is expected to include recommendations for Ontario instructional guides, how teachers should be trained, and what resources should and should not be used.

School Boards on Early Identification For Readers At Risk of Dyslexia (20:52 -23:54)

The report expects the Inquiry's findings will confirm that the current screening system in Ontario is not evidence-based. Accordingly, potential recommendations will encourage data-informed action and address the significant issues stemming from PPM155.  The report is expected to recommend that the Ministry and Boards mandate and standardize the use of universal evidence-based screening instruments with appropriate timing and access.

Accommodation Concerns (24:30-28:05)

The report is expected to emphasize that while accommodation is necessary, it is not a replacement for high-quality science-based instruction, early screening, or evidence-based intervention. Since accommodation is inconsistently provided, it forces many parents and students to advocate for themselves. The report is expected to make important recommendations about the use of educational modifications for students with dyslexia and discourage inappropriate use.

Inquiry on Interventions (28:35-31:40)

To progress, there must be improved availability of evidence-based interventions, stronger tracking evidence, and an end to required psycho-education assessments to access intervention. Anticipated recommendations include that all school boards be required to provide standardized evidence-based interventions for all students who require additional instruction to learn to read and that the use of non-evidence-based interventions is discontinued.

Professional Assessments & Access to Interventions and Accommodations  (32:10-36:20)

The Inquiry aims for the early identification of learning difficulties and is aware of the current wait times, inconsistency, and problematic criteria for obtaining a board assessment. The report is anticipated to emphasize science-based instructions, proper early screening, and evidence-based interventions, all of which can result in fewer students in need of referrals for assessment, and will provide supporting resources when wait-listed.

The Inquiry is released—then what? (36:55-39:20)

The OHRC has engaged with key stakeholders and will continue to do so before releasing the report. The Chief Commissioner has met with the Minister of Education to discuss these issues and potential recommendations. The OHRC plans to continue sharing research and effectively address concerns and believes we can make change.

 Actions to Consider If You Feel Your Child’s Needs/Rights Are Not Being Met (39:33-46:50)

After the report is released, a toolkit will be developed to specify how you can further advocate for your child’s rights.

Here are three legal clinics you can contact:

1. Arch Disability Law Center: ARCH Disability Law Centre | Home

2. Justice for Children and Youth: Justice for Children and Youth |  JFCY – protecting the legal rights and dignity of children and youth.

3. Human Rights Legal Support Center: Human Rights Legal Support Centre | Human Rights Legal Support Centre (hrlsc.on.ca)

Additional Topics from Participants' Questions: (46:50-53:17)

  • Will there be real change?
  • Will there be general accountability for students?
  • Stakeholder data
  • Will there be accountability for the Faculties of Education?