Table of contents > Chapter Four: B.C.’s Education System and Assessments


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In this chapter:  

  1. B.C.’s Education System
    a. Redesigned Curriculum
    b. Indigenous Education
    c. English Language Learning 
  2. Assessing and Identifying Learning Needs (Assessments)
    a. Questions to Ask about Assessments
    b. Types of Assessments
        i. Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA)
        ii. Psychoeducational Assessment
        iii. Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions (CDBC) Assessment
        iv. Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment
        v. Sensory Processing Disorder Assessment
        vi. Other Tests and Assessments
    c. Positive Behavioural Interventions and Support 


1. B.C.’s Education System 

The purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable learners to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy society and a prosperous and sustainable economy” (Statement of Education Policy Order, BC Ministry of Education). 

a. Redesigned Curriculum 

British Columbia’s K-12 curriculum went through a thorough review and was redesigned in the 2010s. The redesigned curriculum includes three key features that contribute to students’ learning, the Core Competencies, essential learning, and literacy and numeracy foundation. Getting familiar with the structure and content of reference to external resource iconB.C.’s Course Curriculum is helpful as you support your child through their educational journey.  

The reference to external resource iconCore Competencies of the redesigned curriculum include thinking, communication, and personal and social competencies. These competencies are directly related to educating citizens and preparing them for lifelong learning.  

The curriculum follows the Know-Do-Understand model of learning that includes three elements:  

  1. Content: what students are expected to know. 
  2. Curricular Competencies: what students are expected to do. 
  3. Big Ideas: what students are expected to understand 

The Big Ideas make it possible for students with disabilities and additional support needs to start from the same point as their peers. The Curricular Competencies are subject-specific and are connected to the Core Competencies. All these elements will be relevant for your child’s Individualized Education Plan reference to other chapter icon. 

reference to external resource iconResources – Redesigned Curriculum :  


b. Indigenous Education 

“Indigenous Education seeks to improve success and supports for Indigenous students, and increase the presence of Indigenous culture, languages and history for all students. It also aims to help teachers bring Indigenous knowledge into their teaching practice” (BC Ministry of Education) 

*The name of programs and positions differ among school districts. Some districts use “Aboriginal Support Worker” while others may use “Indigenous Support Worker.” For the purposes of this document, we will use “Indigenous,” unless referring to the name of a specific program. 

Most school districts in B.C. have Indigenous programs and/or services to support the success of Indigenous students. Positions within these programs could include a liaison staff position, a support teacher, a Resident Elder, or an education consultant.  

Most districts have enhanced agreements that reflect consultation with the local nation(s) to determine what is needed to help Indigenous learners succeed. This will vary among different schools, reflecting the unique needs of students.  

To find out what supports are available in your district through this program, reach out to your reference to external resource iconDistrict Indigenous Education Contact. 


reference to external resource iconResources: Indigenous Education


Indigenous Liaison Worker

The Indigenous Liaison Worker provides assistance and support to Indigenous students. In many cases, this person works under the direction of the District Principal of Indigenous Education. The Indigenous Liaison Worker will provide a liaison between the home and school for Indigenous students. They may also provide academic assistance and tutoring from a culturally-based perspective.  

Indigenous Support Worker

Indigenous support workers provide culturally appropriate support to Indigenous families and children in B.C. Many school districts have an Indigenous support worker on staff. Often this person works with students and teachers to support the success of Indigenous students as well as supporting the school to provide First Nations studies for all students. 


c. English Language Learning (ELL) 

 The purpose of ELL services is to facilitate student success and inclusion in school and society.” (English Language Learning Policy Guidelines, 2018) 

All English Language Learners (ELL) have an Annual Instructional Plan (AIP). This is an educational plan that sets out language and literacy goals and identifies strategies to meet these goals. reference to external resource iconRead more about the AIP here. 

An reference to external resource iconELL specialist works with the classroom teacher and the student on the AIP goals and strategies. Depending on the needs of the student, the ELL specialist will work with other professionals: 

“Where necessary and appropriate and in consultation with the ELL specialist, service delivery may also be enhanced with the provision of support from other specialists (e.g. counsellor, psychologist, speech and language pathologist, integration support teacher, qualified interpreter), and classroom or teaching assistant(s). Overall, meeting the broad needs of the student is a shared responsibility of classroom teachers, the school community, school districts, and families (reference to external resource iconread more). 


reference to external resource iconResources: English Language Learning (ELL)


2. Assessing and Identifying Learning Needs 

It’s important to identify a student’s learning needs early to ensure the right strategies and supports are put in place. Many students will have their needs identified before they enter school. In these cases, it’s helpful for parents/caregivers to share any information they have with the school when they register their child or during the transition meeting. In other cases, a student’s needs will be identified only after the student’s difficulties become apparent in school. In this circumstance, the teacher should consult with the parents/caregivers and refer the student to the reference to other chapter iconschool-based team to begin an assessment and identification process.  

Information gathered through assessments helps people to understand a student’s learning profile, functional profile, and identifies areas of need. This information is the foundation for planning. 

Assessments may be performed by school district professionals, including psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, or other specialists.   

Some assessments provide a diagnosis that will allow the school district to access supplementary funding under special education from the Ministry of Education using categories called designations (see resources below). Assessment and identification should lead to better learning opportunities for your child. However, having a diagnosis is not a prerequisite to receiving support.   

Assessments may need to be updated at various times throughout the student’s K-12 education, most notably as they plan for the reference to other chapter icontransition out of high school  

School personnel should always consult and inform parents/caregivers/caregivers about assessments that they feel are needed for their child. Some informal assessments do not require parent/caregiver permission but you can ask in the beginning to be notified of all assessments. Some assessments will need written consent from parents/caregivers/caregivers. 

Sometimes only you will know that your son or daughter has had a bad night or a medication change that may impact assessment results. It is in your child’s best interests that you are informed of any assessments to be performed. 


reference to external resource iconResources: Assessing and Identifying Learning Needs


a. Questions to ask about assessments  
  • What do you hope to find out from this assessment?  
  • Why is this assessment being done? Is it for funding/placement/designation?  
  • Is previous information about my child’s learning style/needs available?  
  • How is the assessment done? This will help you to inform your child and help them understand what this is about. 
  • How long will it take to receive the results? 
  • Will I get a copy of the assessment? Will I be asked to give approval for its distribution? The answer to each of these should be yes.  
  • Can I speak to the assessor so that I can understand the results? 


As a parent, you may have concerns about how well your child knows the person who will be doing the assessment. Unfamiliar situations and people can be overwhelming. You may wonder how well your child will do if the assessor is a stranger.  

You may also have concerns about when and where an assessment will take place. These factors may influence the results. Some parents/caregivers don’t want their children assessed under less-than-ideal circumstances. Some parents/caregivers choose to have assessments done privately so that they can share results as they see fit.  

After an assessment, you should get a summarized report of the results. This report will be shared with others, including the school-based team and, as appropriate, the student. According to the School Act, parents/caregivers must be informed as to how the report will be made accessible to others working with the student. Ask to speak with the assessor if you need further information or help to interpret the results. 


b. Types of Assessments 

Both informal and formal assessments are important in identifying needs and planning an educational program. Assessments help you and the school-based team understand your child’s needs and identify the supports needed to reference to other chapter iconmake a plan .  

  • Informal assessments include observations, file reviews, and interviews. 
  • Formal assessments include achievement measures, adaptive functioning, and other standardized assessments, like psychoeducational assessments. 

Each school district offers different assessments at different stages. It’s important to learn what assessments are done in your school district and when.  

If you think your child needs any of the following assessments, you can meet with your child’s teacher, school counselor or principal to see what options are available.

i. Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA)

The assessment looks at the student’s behaviour within the context of their classroom or school to identify triggers and environmental contributors. The results of this assessment inform the development of a reference to other chapter iconPositive Behaviour Support Plan. 

If you think your child would benefit from an FBA, you can contact your District Inclusive Education lead. Some districts have behavioural specialists on staff or they may know of someone to bring in, like reaching out to the reference to external resource iconprovincial outreach programs. 

ii. Psychoeducational Assessment

“A psychological-educational assessment (often called “psych-ed”) is a formal assessment designed to identify a student’s learning strengths and needs. It then provides recommendations for planning supports and accommodations that will help the student to do their best.” Burnaby School Psychologists, What is a “Psych-Ed” Assessment? 

Children can be tested from as young as four years old. Different school districts test at different ages, though you can have a private assessment done at any time. Private assessments are not free, and costs can range from $2,400 to $3,500. Some insurance plans can cover some of the costs under psychology services. 

A signed consent form is required from parents/caregivers to agree to this assessment and that its results be shared with relevant school personnel.  

The BC Association of School Psychologists conveys specific components that must be included in the Psychoeducational Assessment report.  


reference to external resource iconResources: The Psychoeducational Assessment 
  • Best Practice Guidelines for the Assessment, Diagnosis and Identification of Students With Learning Disabilities (BCASP, 2007) 


iii. Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions (CDBC) Assessment

This assessment is meant to identify Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions (CDBC). When children or youth have significant difficulties in multiple areas, this assessment can provide insight that other assessments may not have addressed. This assessment can be completed at Sunny Hill Health Centre at BC Children’s Hospital and requires a referral from your doctor. 

iv. Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment 

This assessment is completed by a paediatrician, psychiatrist, or registered psychologist. The B.C. Government Autism Spectrum Disorder website includes information about how to prepare for the assessment and what to expect during the assessment. It also includes information about how to access funding and how to build a support team.  

“During the assessment, the specialist will interact with your child and observe how they complete a structured play-based assessment and cognitive, or thinking skill tests. The specialist will also ask you questions about your child’s behaviour and development.” Get a Diagnostic Assessment, Government of B.C. (CYSN) 

The BC Autism Assessment Network provides free assessments for children up to age 19. Wait times vary across the province but as of 2021, the average wait time is up to 20 months. Assessments can be done privately by a qualified professional but cost a fee. 

reference to external resource iconResources: Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment


v. Sensory Processing Disorder Assessment

This type of assessment helps to understand how a child’s behaviour is affected by their ability to process the environment around them. By understanding triggers, school staff can make adaptations in the school environment to minimize those triggers. These adaptations support your child’s learning.  

Speak to your doctor or contact an occupational therapist about completing this assessment. You can also ask your school district if they have an occupational therapist on staff who can complete the assessment.  

See reference to external resource iconSensory Processing Disorder on the B.C. Healthlink website for more information.   

vi. Other Tests and Assessments

Sometimes a teacher may refer a student to the school nurse for vision or hearing screening. The teacher might also discuss with parents/caregivers the possibility of referring a student to a physician for a medical examination.  

c. Positive Behavioural Interventions and Support 

Assessments help develop Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) plans. With this approach, the school looks at behaviour as a form of communication and recognizes that students can only meet behavioural expectations if they know what the expectations are. It is based on the belief that “kids do well if they can,” coined by Dr. Ross Green. 

A Positive Behaviour Support Plan looks at the context in which the behaviour occurs, addressing the root causes of challenging behaviour. This plan should be based on evidence gathered from the Functional Behavioural Analysis (FBA). 

In 2015, the B.C. Ministry of Education issued reference to external resource iconProvincial Guidelines on Physical Restraint and Seclusion in School Settings. These guidelines were meant to help school districts develop mandatory policies to prevent the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.  

The guidelines conveyed Ministry support for the following principles addressing behaviour intervention:  

  • Behaviour interventions for students must promote the rights of all students to be treated with dignity.  
  • Behaviour interventions for all students emphasize prevention and positive behaviour supports, and every effort is made to employ preventative actions that preclude the need for the use of physical restraint or seclusion.  
  • Positive educational/behaviour interventions and mental health supports are provided routinely for all students who need them, and they are provided in a safe and least restrictive environment.  
  • Behaviour interventions address the underlying cause of potentially harmful behaviour.   

reference to external resource iconRead all the principles of the Provincial Guidelines here. 


reference to external resource iconResources: Positive Behaviour Interventions and Support



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