///Special Education Programs
Special Education Programs 2017-10-04T10:41:33+00:00

Special Education Programs

In some cases, students entering secondary school require a differentiated program as they work toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, an Ontario Secondary School Certificate or a Certificate of Accomplishment.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board operates three programs in each secondary school that have been designed for students with an IEP who have not met level 1 grade 8 expectations.

  • Essential Program
  • ACTIVE Program
  • Community Living Program.

For some students, achievement of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma, Ontario Secondary School Certificate or Certificate of Accomplishment may take longer than four years.

The Essential Program

This program is designed for students whose Individual Education Plan indicates the student is working on grade 5-7 expectations from the Ontario Curriculum in Mathematics and Science and/or English.

In grades 9 and 10, students in the Essential Program will take special courses for credit in Mathematics and Science and/or English. They will also take a special education learning strategies course for credit that will assist the students to be successful in their grade 9 and 10 program. Upon successful completion of the grade 9 and 10 Essential Program, students will be prepared to study workplace preparation courses in grades 11 and 12. Students in the Essential Program will work to successfully complete the required 30 credits to earn their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

Students who experience difficulty in meeting the requirements of this program may choose to focus on meeting the requirements for the Ontario Secondary Certificate with the understanding that they may continue to work towards a diploma at a later date.

The Essential Mathematics, Science and English courses are locally developed courses approved by the Ministry of Education. “Locally developed course are courses that meet the educational needs not met by provincial curriculum policy documents.” (OSS, p. 43).

The ACTIVE Program

Achievement or Accomplishment, Certificate or Community Training In View of Employment (ACTIVE)

View the ACTIVE Program Brochure PDF

The Community Living Program

View the Community Living Program Brochure PDF

Identification Process

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board uses a cognitive screening tool (Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test – CCAT) and an educational assessment to determine giftedness in students. Students scoring at or above the 98th percentile in two batteries of the CCAT are identified as “gifted”. The educational assessment analyses and summarizes the achievement levels, learning style, characteristics of giftedness, and strengths and needs of the student. Together, these assessments form the basis of a recommendation for development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the student. The WCDSB identification process involves a mass screening of students in grade 4 and/or individual screening.

Grade 4 Mass Screening

As a group test, the CCAT is administered to all grade 4 students by the Special Education Teacher at each school. Students scoring at or above the 98th percentile in two or more batteries of the CCAT will be recommended for further assessment to determine the need for development of an Individual Education Plan.

Individual Screening

Parents and teachers may collaborate to recommend a student to be considered for assessment. After extensions have been provided and noted by the classroom teacher, the student will be discussed at an In-School Team meeting and further enrichment opportunities may be provided. Parents will be consulted and informed. A decision at this level may or may not include recommendation for a CCAT screen and parents will be informed. If a CCAT screen is recommended, the Special Education Teacher will administer the test and provide feedback to parents and staff regarding the results.

Classroom Programs

Enrichment Opportunities Beyond the Classroom

The foundation of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board is built on the principles of inclusive education. Therefore, all students in the WCDSB whose learning needs are identified as gifted receive modifications and/or alternative expectations to the curriculum in their regular class. Strategies to meet the modified expectations of learners identified as gifted may include curriculum compacting, guided independent study with a curriculum unit, learning contracts, flexible grouping, varied product choices, tiered activities, and complex questions. Alternative expectations may include guided independent study outside of the Ontario curriculum.


The Waterloo Catholic District School Board has an acceleration policy (APC 006) to assist in the formalized process of accelerating identified students working on an IEP whose needs would best be served through one of the following options:

  • Full grade acceleration
  • Subject acceleration

Acceleration is a joint decision involving parents, students, the Principal, Classroom teacher and Special Education Teacher.

School-Based Opportunities

Enrichment opportunities may be facilitated at the school level by mentorship, competitions, supervised special projects, clubs, and invitational opportunities specific to each elementary and secondary school community.

Board-Based Elementary Gifted Education Programs

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board provides opportunities for identified students working on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to congregate together and offers Gifted Education Programs The programs are offered to students in the junior (grades 4-6) and intermediate (grades 7-8) divisions, and are the responsibility of the Itinerant Teacher of the Gifted.

The goals of the programs are to provide depth, challenge, stimulation and inspiration in activities that span a variety of disciplines and offer a variety of themes, venues and guest instructors. Cooperation, interaction and friendships are facilitated and encouraged during these one day events to make them a positive experience for all student participants.

The one day programs are offered once a month (October – May) throughout the school year and invitations and permission forms are delivered to students and families from the Special Education Teacher at the student’s home school.

University Co-operative Education Program (UCEP)

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board offers the University Cooperative Education Program (UCEP) in partnership with St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University for identified gifted and academically talented students.

This program provides students who have achieved high academic success to experience university life before leaving secondary school. In this program, students can earn a university credit, one or two Grade 12 secondary school credits (taught by secondary school teachers at the university), and two Co-op credits. Visit the co-operative education link at:


Secondary Field Trips

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board provides opportunities for identified gifted and academically talented students who need opportunities to explore future educational paths by visiting university campuses or other idea-centered venues in southern Ontario. Two or three field trips are coordinated with the assistance of each secondary school enrichment contact teacher per school year.