Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario

Goal: Achieving Excellence

We must give our learners the tools they need to reach their full potential, regardless of their individual circumstances. By raising expectations, the transformation in Ontario education will ensure that students achieve at high levels, acquire valuable skills and become engaged members of their communities.

Students will be fully engaged in their learning, building the skills and developing the attributes they will need to compete for and create the jobs of tomorrow. They will benefit from a wide array of opportunities both inside and outside of school that are compelling and contribute to their success, including the opportunity to benefit from the effective and appropriate use of technology in the classroom. In a world that is constantly changing, Ontario students will be better prepared to adapt, achieve and excel, regardless of the challenges they face.

The quality of student learning is closely related to the quality of the teaching force and its leaders. All high-performing education systems in the world, like Ontario's, have vibrant, engaged educators, support staff and administrative and other professionals who are committed to continuous learning. Educators are creating more relevant, applied and innovative learning experiences that spark learners' curiosity and inspire them to follow their passions. They are laying the foundation for children and students to gain the experiences, skills and knowledge needed for success, now and in the future.

Raising the bar for our teaching force, support staff and education leaders will increase student engagement – and student engagement is crucial. By being more engaged, our young people can be more successful in literacy, mathematics, science and the arts. They can gain important higher-order skills – like critical thinking, communication, collaboration and entrepreneurship. All of this will help them graduate from high school and advance to postsecondary careers, education and/or training.

Why are we doing this?

Foundational skills for academic achievement include reading, writing and mathematics. In order for students to achieve excellence in an area like mathematics, there must be a balance between understanding basic math concepts, practising skills like multiplication tables, and developing the thinking skills needed for advanced problem solving. These foundational skills remain a focus – and combined with creativity and critical thinking, innovative problem solving, effective communication and collaboration, they lead to excellence.

Our children, youth and adult learners will need this balance of skills to meet the opportunities and demands of tomorrow. To help promote this balance, schools must take advantage of the technologies that are connecting us to information and people around the world and around the corner. Our task is to modernize classrooms and support educators' efforts to bring innovation to learning.

Beyond reading, writing and mathematics, we know that to achieve excellence in the future, our learners will also need to develop characteristics such as perseverance, resilience and imaginative thinking to overcome challenges. Combined with a deep sense of compassion and empathy for others, our learners will develop the skills and knowledge they need to become actively engaged citizens.

The current challenge facing educators is that they are competing on a daily basis for the attention and interest of their students, which can be easily drawn outside the classroom. As the world continues to change and technology becomes more prevalent, that challenge will only increase. That is why it is so important to ensure that school is a compelling, innovative and engaging place to learn for all students.

The roots of achieving this goal are already in the ground. There are promising examples of what the future holds throughout Ontario's education system today.

The full-day kindergarten program reflects the connection of research, international best practice and policy to meet the combined needs of families, children, schools and our communities. Thousands of educators and students are participating in innovative projects that are making an impact on student engagement, learning and achievement. The inclusion of financial literacy across the curriculum provides the kind of practical learning that students will need in life. Programs such as dual high school and college credits and the Specialist High Skills Majors program have helped increase the graduation rate and raise expectations for excellence. And while all secondary school graduates complete their 40 hours of community involvement, thousands of students invest many more on their own.

While we take the next steps to achieve excellence in our education system, we are emboldened by the fact that Ontario has a great foundation for future success.

Plan of Action

To achieve success, Ontario will:

  • Invest in the technology, design and infrastructure required for the classrooms of the future to serve the needs of all communities.
  • Invest in innovative teaching practices and instructional methods enabled by technology to more precisely engage and address the learning needs of all students.
  • Work with partners including TVO and TFO to build on existing online resources for students, educators and parents.
  • Extend the principles of play-based learning established in full-day kindergarten and child care.
  • Give students more flexibility and ownership in their learning, allowing them, for example, to determine whether they want to spend more time on e-learning or on learning outside of the classroom.
  • Integrate family support programs such as Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and
  • Family Literacy Centres, Child Care/Family Resource Centres, and Better Beginnings, Better
  • Futures, and create a common look and feel.
  • Expand relevant new learning opportunities, including the Specialist High Skills Major program and the Dual Credit program.
  • Foster more young entrepreneurs in Ontario schools by increasing training in innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for Specialist High Skills Majors students.
  • Increase student engagement in mathematics, science and technology by expanding opportunities for students K-12 to explore the relevance of these areas to their future pathways.
  • Promote the value of the arts, including the visual and performing arts, in developing critical and creative thinking skills that support success in school and in life
  • Provide greater support to ensure parents and guardians are welcomed, respected and valued by the school community as partners in their children's education.
  • Expand learning opportunities outside school to include community-based, civic, humanitarian, scientific and artistic activities, as well as cross-cultural and international experiences.
  • Explore different models of learning, such as project-based learning or learning across multiple subject areas.
  • Document, develop and implement innovative leadership practices and resulting clear improvements in student learning.

To assess progress towards this goal, Ontario will:

  • Continue measuring progress towards an 85 per cent five-year high school graduation rate and a 75 per cent success rate on elementary EQAO assessments, with a particular focus on mathematics.
  • Continue the trend of increasing the four-year graduation rate, which has increased by 19 percentage points since 2003-04 and now stands at 75 per cent.
  • Define and develop measures for higher-order skills, such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and entrepreneurship.
  • Work with teachers, principals, and supervisory officials and their professional associations to identify and share effective and innovative teaching practices that include the use of technology.
  • Increase participation in programs like Specialist High Skills Majors and Dual Credits, increase training in innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, and ensure that programming meets student demand.

Promising Practices for the Future

Conseil scolaire catholique Providence has developed a series of innovative cross-curricular projects that integrate the use of communication technology to facilitate interaction with francophone artists and business leaders across the province and Canada. For instance, as part of a Grade 5 project, a network of schools developed a learning community with a focus on Franco-Ontarian musical influences. Students were able to use Skype to communicate with various musicians in order to work on a collaborative board-wide project. Such projects support the innovation and entrepreneurial skills valued by 21st century teaching and learning.

What we Heard

Student engagement and curiosity could be addressed through stronger development of 21st century learning skills and well-being. We could call this the 'new entrepreneurial spirit' – a spirit characterized by innovation, risk-taking, commitment, and skilled problem solving in the service of a better future.
   – Council of Ontario Directors of Education

Every student should have the opportunity to excel and gain experience for a career field they are interested in…entrepreneurship and innovation training really helps students learn to be creative and to see how being creative can help you be successful.
   – Secondary school student

Making real world connections is essential…[we need to] observe what students are interested in and use this to foster creativity.
   – An educator and consultation participant

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