Association for Bright Children Peel Chapter
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This is a by-no-means-complete guide and glossary to "eduspeak", that delightful language that leaves mere parents puzzling "What does that mean?"

This list might be too detailed for some, so it may be used selectively. It was prepared from the resources of the Ministry of Education, universities in Ontario, school boards, parent associations, and others. There are often many differences between versions of definitions for each term. Where variances occur, the choice was made to suit the special education practices in the Region of Peel, Ontario.

Additions, suggested changes and comments should be emailed to our webmaster at

Ability test: an assessment of a student's general intellectual functioning compared to a representative sample of same age/grade children (norm-referenced). The results of the assessment may help in the identification of students with exceptionalities. (e.g., gifted education, learning disabilities, or other exceptionalities).

Accommodation: support and services for students with special needs to help them achieve learning expectations and to demonstrate their competencies in the curriculum. Accommodations change only the way in which the learning takes place; they do not alter the content of the curriculum or affect the validity or reliability of the tests that assess learning. See also Modification.

Achievement test: an assessment of what a student knows in academic areas such as math, reading and spelling, based on the expectations of the curriculum or objectives of a course (criterion-referenced) or as compared to a representative sample of same age/grade children (norm-referenced).

Academic level: a level of difficulty of courses offered in secondary school leading to postsecondary education (i.e. university and community college). See also Applied level.

Advocacy: speaking or acting in support of ideas and/or persons. ABC Peel advocates for bright and gifted students through the Dufferin-Peel and Peel Boards' Special Education Advisory Committees (SEAC) and with parents of bright and gifted children. Individuals advocate for bright and gifted students by joining ABC. As advocates, we strive to work with others on behalf of our children.

Appeal: A parent/guardian has the right to request an appeal, in writing, against the decisions of an IPRC with respect to identification and/or placement of an exceptional student. The appeal procedure is an extension of the guarantee of the involvement and the rights of parents and pupils, as initiated by the IPRC process. The appeal must be made within 30 school days of the IPRC.

Applied level: a level of difficulty of courses offered in secondary school leading to direct entry to employment or postsecondary education (i.e. community college). See also Academic level.

Assessment: collecting information about a student's learning by using a variety of tools, e.g., by using written tests, observation in class, oral presentations, writing and drawing portfolios. The tests and observations may be for academic, performance, psychological, etc. The collection of information may be on-going (formative) in the class and/or at the end of a unit, term, or semester (summative). In special education, the term "assessment" may also include a wider range of tests to understand the degree of abilities or limitations that contribute or affect learning, including assessments for hearing, speech and language, fine and gross movements, mobility, etc.

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Benchmarks: provincial benchmarks are broad standards for the province against which students' learning may be assessed. They set worthwhile goals for all, by describing expected provincial levels of achievement. Their primary focus is to make a clear statement to teachers, parents and students about expected results.

Bill 82: The Education Amendment Act, 1980, that required school boards to provide or purchase from another board special education programs and services for their exceptional students.

Case conference: a meeting to discuss a student's needs. It may include all those involved with the student, such as his/her teacher(s), professional support staff, and school principal. Parents may bring someone with them to advocate and take notes. The purpose may be problem solving or reviewing support service options. It is similar to an In School Review Committee, but will include parental involvement and may include a wider range of professionals.

Challenge: withdrawal program for bright/gifted students in Grades 4 - 8 in Dufferin-Peel Board.

Cognitive: term describing mental processes such as awareness, memory, judgment and reasoning.

Congregated class: a special education class of students with the same exceptionality.

Common curriculum: Grades 1 to 9 have a common curriculum. i.e., one level of challenge or difficulty.

Credit: recognition granted to a student by a principal on the successful completion of a course in a secondary school for which a minimum of 110 hours has been scheduled.

Criterion-referenced test: an assessment that compares each student's performance with an established set of expectations or objectives that are usually curriculum based. (e.g., system-wide exams and EQAO provincial tests of Reading, Writing and Mathematics).

Curriculum: the program that must be followed to educate children at each grade level. The curriculum describes the expectations (skills and knowledge) that students must acquire as well as the achievement level (mark or grade). The curriculum is divided into different subject areas (Language, Mathematics, Social Studies, etc.) for both elementary and secondary school students.

Diploma: secondary school diploma (OSSD) granted by the Minister of Education, on the recommendation of the principal of the school last attended, to a student who has earned a minimum of 30 credits, subject to requirements for compulsory and elective credit courses.

Destreaming: The elimination of different levels of difficulty for courses in secondary schools; now applies to Grade 9 courses. See also academic level and applied level.

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Enhanced: level of course offered in school placements for gifted students by the Peel and the Dufferin-Peel Boards.

Enhanced learning class (ELC): a placement or grouping for students who have been identified as gifted. Can be primary, junior, intermediate or secondary.

Enrichment: activities that expand or extend a topic or subject and are of benefit to all students. Enrichment activities are not an appropriate substitute for a special education program for students who are gifted.

Education Act: the provincial law that governs education in Ontario. All school boards must operate according to this law. The Act includes:

Educational assistant (EA): staff hired by school boards to work with students under the supervision of the classroom teacher. Each board determines the education and training requirements for EAs that they hire; many have college or university training or other specialised training. EAs may work with an individual or groups of students for part or all of the school day.

Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO): an arms-length agency of the Ministry of Education established to develop and coordinate performance assessments in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics for all students in grades 3, 6, 9 and 10 in Ontario.

Evaluation: the process of judging the information that has been obtained from one or more assessments about student learning; may include assigning an indicator of the level of achievement (1-4), a letter grade (A, B, C) or percentage (76%), or a descriptor (Excellent, Good, Fair). (Note: not to be confused with "assessment," see also assessment.)

Exceptional: A legal designation given to a student by an Identification, Placement and Review Committee. "Pupils who are exceptional are entitled to special education programs and services suited to those needs" (Special Education Information Handbook 1984, Ministry of Education, p.1). The only way to remove the exceptional designation is by an IPRC.
ABC strongly recommends that the designation be maintained for gifted students throughout their school years, i.e., under no circumstances should the student be demitted from the gifted designation; however, the agreed placement might not be as a gifted student.

Exceptional pupil: a pupil whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he is considered to need placement in a special education program.

Exceptionality groupings:

  1. Behaviour - emotional disturbance and/or social maladjustment.
  2. Communication - autism, language, speech, learning disability.
  3. Intellectual - developmental and intellectual delays, giftedness.
  4. Physical - orthopaedic and/or physical, hearing, vision, head injury, and significant medical conditions.
  5. Multiple - multi exceptionality.

Gifted: "An unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated." (Ministry of Education of Ontario definition).

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Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC): A school board committee called to determine whether or not a student is exceptional, to place an exceptional student in a special education program, and to make an annual review of the placement. Parents should be involved in the IPRC process and should be invited to the IPRC meetings. Parents may agree or disagree, in writing, with the decisions of an IPRC. ABC Peel strongly recommends that parents attend their child's all IPRC meetings. Parents should request and receive, in advance, copies of all materials to be presented at the IPRC.

Individual Education Plan (IEP): the plan that states the assistance to be provided to a student with special needs. It is developed by the classroom teachers, with the school team, in consultation with the parents. It must include specific educational expectations based on the curriculum, an outline of the special education program and services that will be received, and a statement about the methods by which the student's progress is reviewed. The IEP must be completed within 30 school days after a student has been placed in a special education program. Parents should sign the IEP and must receive a copy. For the Ministry requirements for IEPs, see

Integration: the provision of instruction for an exceptional pupil in a regular classroom.

Intermediate division: Grades 7 - 8.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ): A measurement of thinking (cognitive) ability for comparison of an individual with others in his/her age group.

Indirect services: where special support services are provided to the classroom teacher, who in turn provides support to the special needs students in that classroom.

Junior division: Grades 4 - 6.

Intermediate division: usually Grades 7 - 8, sometimes Grades 6 to 8.

Learning disability: a disorder that affects how a person takes in, stores, or uses information; the processes involve understanding or using language, spoken or written, resulting in difficulty with listening, thinking, speaking, writing, spelling, or doing mathematical calculations. Term does not include children with learning problems related to disabilities, such as developmental delays.

Mainstreaming: a principle that all students should be educated together to the maximum extent possible, irrespective of abilities and disabilities.

Ministry of Education: administers the system of publicly funded elementary and secondary school education in Ontario, in accordance with the directions set by the provincial government.
For more information for parents, see
For an outline of special education regulations and practices is at

Mode 2: withdrawal program for gifted students in Peel Board (now called in school enhance learning program - ISELP).

Mode 3: self-contained program for gifted students in Peel Board (now called enhanced learning class - ELC).

Modification: changes to content and performance criteria of age-appropriate grade level expectations for curriculum. These changes may involve expectations that reflect knowledge and skills required in the curriculum for a different grade level and/or increasing or decreasing the number and/or complexity of the regular grade level curriculum expectations. For some students, a modification may result in reduced expectations so that they will not qualify for a credit for the course. For others, such as those in gifted or enhanced education, a modification may go beyond the curriculum scope and still permits a credit to be earned. See also Accommodation.

Norm-referenced test: an assessment that sorts or ranks students by comparing each student's performance to other same age/grade children (from a norm group that is typical of the wider population) who took the same test under similar conditions. (e.g., Canadian Achievement Test - CAT, Canadian Cognitive Abilities Tests - CCAT).

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OSIS (Ontario Schools, Intermediate and Senior Divisions): the Ministry of Education document that established the three levels of difficulty of courses (basic, general, advanced) offered in secondary schools in Ontario. (No longer applies.)

Ontario School Record (OSR): the student file that contains documents of each student, such as report cards, assessment reports, and key items of correspondence between the parents and school staff. The contents of the OSR and access to the information are authorized by the Education Act: classroom teacher(s), the principal, and a limited number of others working with the student have access to the OSR. Parents can review the contents of the OSR by contacting the Principal; parents can request the removal of records or items that are no longer relevant to the learning of the student.

Parent guide: A parent guide is issued by the school board (and is available through every school) for the use and information of parents regarding the board's procedures for the referral, identification, placement, and review of exceptional pupils, the right of appeal, and access to the Special Education Tribunal.

Partially integrated: a student is in a regular class for at least one class, but not more that 50% of the day. The remainder of the student's time is in a self-contained class.

Performance assessment: an assessment of student learning that goes beyond written tests and requires students to show how they use and apply their knowledge and skills to solve real world problems and tasks. They measure each student's learning against expectations defined in the curriculum. (e.g., the EQAO tests).

Placement: allocation of the student to the regular classroom, part-time withdrawal, or a self-contained class. (Note: ABC strongly supports a range of placement options and choices for all exceptional students, including integration in the regular classroom, supports in the regular classroom, withdrawal, and congregated, self-contained class. See the separate definitions and entries for each of these terms.)

Primary division: Grades 1 - 3.

Provincial demonstration schools: special schools operated by the Ministry of Education throughout Ontario for children who are Deaf, deafened, blind, deaf-blind, and severely learning disabled, as well as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Most of these programs are weekly or longer term residential.

Psychological services: are the professionals (psychologist and psychometrist/ psychological associate) who work with students and administer psychological and educational tests, evaluate and interpret results, propose services, provide counselling, and consult with school staff.

Psychological evaluation: the portion of a child's overall evaluation/assessment that tests general intelligence, eye-hand coordination, social skills, emotional development and thinking skills.

Regional centre: a school that offers a particular program for a defined geographical area, e.g., schools offering self-contained enhanced learning classes for gifted students).

Resource assistance: direct specialized instruction, individually or in small groups, in the regular classroom.

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School team: is composed of teachers and support staff for the school. They assess student needs and plan services for students within each school. These teams have various terms in different boards, such as Program Development Team, In-School Team, and School Based Support Team).

Self-contained placement: a placement of the student for more than 50% of the day in a class with others of the same exceptionality and needs, taught by a teacher with special education qualifications.

Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC): SEAC is a statutory committee for all school boards. Its role is to make recommendations to the board in respect of any matter affecting the establishment and development of special education programs and services in respect of exceptional pupils of the board. Members are appointed by the school board. Membership includes three trustees, representatives of up to 12 local parent associations, and others. (A 'local association of parents' operates in the area served by a school board and is affiliated with a provincial parent association that is incorporated and operates throughout Ontario to further the interests and well-being of one or more groups of exceptional children or adults).

Special education consultant: a teacher who has education and qualifications in special education programs and services, who plans and provides specialized supports for regional and school-based programs for one or more program (e.g., learning disabilities, physical disabilities).

Special education handbook: "Special Education: A Guide for Educators" is a guide that provides comprehensive information about legislation, regulations, policies, program planning, and resources related to the education of Ontario students with special needs. Intended primarily for the use of administrators, special education professionals, teachers, and special education advisory committees (SEACs). Parents of special needs students may also find it useful. Available at

Special education resource teacher (SERT): a teacher who has education and qualifications in special education programs and services, based in a school or a field office, providing supports for regional and school-based programs for one or more program (e.g., learning disabilities, physical disabilities). SERTs also look after IPRC preparation; arrange in-school review committees (ISRC) and case conferences; assist in ongoing assessment, evaluation and reporting; facilitate placements; and liaise with external service agencies.

Special education teacher: a teacher who has education and qualifications that are recognised by the Ontario College of Teachers in the provision of special education programs and services. Usually assigned to classes or groups of students with specific needs for the majority of the school day (e.g., learning disabled, language impaired, multiple handicapped, or gifted).

Special education program: support programs for students with special needs. Will include a range of placements, such as regular classroom settings, withdrawal, and self contained classes. Students in a special education program must have an individual education plan (IEP).

Special education tribunal: provides a final avenue of appeal in disagreements between a parent and school board following the decision of an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC).

Transition plan: the planned change for a student between school divisions, between entry to and leaving schooling, or from a special education placement to the regular classroom. Includes: preschool to elementary, elementary to secondary, secondary to the workplace or to post secondary education. Every Ontario student at age 14 must have a transition plan outlining the resources that will assist the student in preparing for post secondary work, further study, or life in the community. See also "Transition Planning: A Resource Guide, 2002" at transition.html

Withdrawal assistance: specialized instruction provided by a special education teacher outside the regular classroom, for less than 50% of the day.

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