Student Independence – Planning with the End in Mind
By Brendan Byrne Browne, PhD
As educational leaders tasked with preparing our students for their best possible future, we are charged with considering what is possible, challenging the status quo and redefining what student success means. Education is a moral practice because it involves intentionally influencing the lives of people (Starratt, 2004).
As we wrestle with big decisions about student support and doing more with less, it is imperative that we do so from ethically defensible positions, grounded in students’ best interests, focused on fostering the greatest degree of independence possible. Consider our obligations to promote, support and foster human dignity, we are faced with challenging existing norms around student support, success, independence and pathways.
A recent article in the Toronto Star entitled “Ontario Parents Worry About Special Education Support” (Gordon & Rushowdy, 2016) presented as an accepted norm that the academic and social success of students with special needs is directly connected to receiving one-to-one adult support by an educational assistant or paraprofessional. A parent of a 19-year-old student highlighted this by saying, “Is someone going to remind him to eat his lunch?”