Yesterday Education Minister Stephen Lecce provided a carrot for Ontario school boards with a $180-million reading and math strategy that will involve the creation of 1,000 additional teacher positions. Today, it was the delivery of a stick as the minister announced tougher standards for Boards of education to improve student achievement. Lecce announced a bill– The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, which would, “ensure the province’s public education system focuses on what matters most: important life-long skills, like reading, writing and math. The act would also ensure accountability and transparency for parents and families.” The act appears to be an attempt to reverse the perception among education critics and many teachers that “everybody passes.”
At a news conference Lecce described the bill as a “back to basics” approach. He was asked what will be different from present practice.
The plan will compel boards to publicly post a multi-year Board Improvement Plan that reflects the minister’s priorities for student achievement, this would include the ability to send in personnel to school boards who are not compliant. The Minister said he will work to force greater cooperation between public and Catholic school boards when it comes to utilizing surplus schools.
School boards will be directed to increase engagement and reporting to parents on student achievement and ensuring parents have easy access to the information they need to meaningfully engage with their children’s education and success.
Building schools faster and implementing measures to utilize current school spaces, ensuring Ontario is getting more classrooms into communities who need them
Improving processes at the Ontario College of Teachers and College of Early Childhood Educators to enable them to operate more efficiently, including more consistent disciplinary processes.
Currently, school boards set their own education priorities, resulting in differences across the education system. For example, there are some schools consistently underperforming in EQAO data, including declining reading, writing and math scores. Moreover, it takes on average five to 10 years to build a standard school in Ontario and it can take more than 100 days to certify internationally educated teachers.
The tone of the Lecce announcement mirrored the announcements last year that took away significant local planning power from municipal governments with measures like the Building More Homes Faster Act. That bill took the premise that local NIMBYism and unnecessary red tape were making it hard to achieve the provinces housing targets. The education bill appears to see Boards of Education as underperforming and not focused on basic learning tools.
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