TORONTO — All aspiring teachers in Ontario will be required to pass a math proficiency test before receiving their licence to teach, the Progressive Conservative government said Thursday as it introduced legislation aimed in part at addressing years of declining student scores in the subject.
The bill — called the Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act — will not subject current teachers to the math test, but will make the quiz mandatory for new educators.
“These changes would help ensure that Ontario students are better prepared for success,” said Education Minister Lisa Thompson. “What we have proposed today provides teachers with the tools they need to do their jobs.”
Thompson had few details about the test itself but said more information would be available as the government holds consultations with those involved with the education sector.
“We’ve just introduced the legislation today,” she said. “We’re going to be working with our stakeholders to make sure we get this right.”
The legislation comes after the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which administers standardized assessments in the province, said this summer that math test scores among public elementary students have been decreasing over the last five years and suggested that efforts by the previous Liberal government to reverse the trend haven’t worked.
The EQAO data released in August showed that 49 per cent of Grade 6 students met the provincial math standard last school year, down from 54 per cent in 2013-2014. Among Grade 3 students, the EQAO said 61 per cent met the provincial standard in 2017-2018, down from 67 per cent in 2013-2014.
Meanwhile, 45 per cent of Grade 9 students enrolled in the applied math course met the standard, while that figure stood at 84 for those in the academic math course. Academic courses focus more on abstract applications of concepts, while applied courses focus on the practical.
At the time, Thompson called the results “unacceptable” and said the Progressive Conservatives, who won a majority in June, had refocused $55 million of current math resources to help with teacher training in the subject.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario criticized the government for introducing its legislation before wrapping ongoing consultations on a range of education topics, including the math curriculum.
“This proposed teacher candidate test will not increase math outcomes,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond. “If improvements are sought as a result of the public consultations, the government needs to look at the math curriculum and the support provided to teachers and teacher candidates.”
NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the government should be bolstering curriculum supports and teacher training instead of imposing a test on teachers.
“I’m concerned that there wasn’t any discussion of additional resources for teachers who are trying to teach math,” she said. “I’m concerned that they’re only talking about new teachers.”
The legislation tabled Thursday would also expand the definition of sexual abuse acts that would result in a teacher’s licence being automatically revoked. The government says that currently, a teacher found guilty of sex-abuse-related offences after a disciplinary hearing with the Ontario College of Teachers may not necessarily lose their licence.
“Today we will put an end to the opportunity to continue teaching despite having committed acts of child sexual abuse against our children,” Thompson said.
The college said it welcomed the government’s proposed legislation.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press