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BCTF Research Project

Special Education, Learning Assistance, and ESL research project in two school districts, 2002–03

Introduction and background

Significant changes have occurred in the B.C. education system which affect educational programs offered to students with special needs, and for ESL students. These changes included increased class size and no limits on class composition, removal of high-incidence targeted funding, and removal of ratios, resulting in fewer specialist support/resource teachers. We believe that the changes have impacted many students’ learning and all teachers’ work.

The BCTF collected data in two school districts—Nanaimo and Coquitlam—

  • to monitor the effects of change in special education and ESL; and
  • to examine the role of the specialist support teacher (special education, learning assistance, ESL).

The information has been used to advocate for services that meet students’ needs and that make teachers’ work manageable.

Key findings

A wide range of data has been collected in the project. Here are the key findings.

History and context


Case studies

Teachers participating in this research project undertook case studies to describe provision of Special Education and ESL services in their schools and districts. Their reports follow.

A review of 1701 data: Special Ed, ESL, and Gifted enrolments in school districts # 43, Coquitlam, and # 68, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, September 2002

Enrolments and staffing


Focus groups

Focus groups were held early and late in the school year with classroom teachers, specialist teachers, and parents of students with special needs, in both Coquitlam and Nanaimo. The notes from these sessions follow.



Teaching in 2003: Survey report – How teachers in Coquitlam and Nanaimo view Special Education and ESL services
Survey instrument PDF format; Acrobat Reader required.

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