Boosting Student Performance

Gerard Kennedy, Minister of Education
Statement to the Legislative Assembly

March 2, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to introduce some very important legislation for the direction of education in Ontario.

If passed, this legislation would be a tremendous boost for improved student performance.

Today, the McGuinty government is for the first time, setting provincial outcomes to maximize our education initiatives and remove barriers to greater student achievement.

The previous one-size-fits-all approach in education, adopted by the previous government, has been proven to be ineffective.

This bill is a significant tune-up that will modernize education as a condition for success of students.

The "Student Performance Bill" contains several limited but substantive amendments to the Education Act and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996.

They provide the legal support necessary to enable our three most important objectives in education in this province – improved student performance, partnership in education based on respect, and openness to the public.

To support the government's ability to build confidence in public education, the ministry has identified areas of key provincial interest, such as class size, fiscal responsibility, improvements in literacy and numeracy and safe schools.

The legislation, if passed, would clarify ministry and board responsibility, related to those goals and particularly concerning student performance.

The new authority would enable the ministry to set provincial outcomes and require boards to meet those outcomes.

And because we believe we must work as partners in education, specific outcomes would be set in regulation only after significant consultation between the ministry and school boards.

This legislation would help to clearly define ministry expectations. This would, in turn, give school boards flexibility when implementing provincial initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes in order to improve student performance we must support the very people who deliver education every day – including our teachers.

Support means revoking ineffective pen and paper teacher qualifying tests that did not evaluate actual classroom experience.

Subject to the approval of the legislature, the requirement for teacher candidates to pass the qualifying test as a condition of teacher certification, would be revoked.

In its place, we are introducing a positive "second step" for beginning teachers, giving them valuable in-class support during their challenging first year of practice. It would complement their formal one-year of pre-service university training with another full year of support.

The New Teacher Induction Program would address new teacher retention and development by giving them valuable mentoring by experienced teachers and on-the-job training.

The Teacher Performance Appraisal System for new teachers would also be modified. If passed, successful completion of the New Teacher Induction Program would require two satisfactory performance appraisals.

The result would be better prepared and more confident teachers.

Mr. Speaker, the previous government didn’t support teacher training because it reduced the number of professional activity days from nine to four, even though the average across other provinces is nine.

If we are to support our students, we must provide professional development for our teachers.

We need to provide them with more opportunities for shared problem solving and give them access to new cutting-edge teaching techniques in order to improve student achievement.

Legislation that allows for only up to four professional activity – or PA – days per school year would be repealed.

And we would have the authority to add additional ministry-directed professional activity days to support the government’s education priorities.

Because better trained teachers means better prepared students.

And part of the ability of students to focus on learning is the establishment of an era of peace and stability.

Mr. Speaker, after years of labour strife under the previous government, the McGuinty government is proud to have played a role in a provincial dialogue that helped teacher federations and school boards reach first-ever four-year collective agreements.

If passed, this bill would allow the extension of labour agreements from two-year to four-year terms.

Long term peace and stability is the foundation for progress in education and success for students.

Mr. Speaker, two more initiatives that are key to improved student performance are our primary class size initiative and access to education.

If passed, the bill would repeal sections of the Education Act establishing minimum class sizes and replace them with regulations that support phased implementation of the government’s primary class size initiative.

This legislation, if passed, would also give more students access to the Ontario Education Advantage by enabling school boards to reach more students through new e-learning instructional methods

Mr. Speaker, all of the amendments being proposed hinge on our ability to create and sustain lasting partnerships in education based on respect.

This legislation, if passed would:

  • Respect school board trustees for the important work they do on behalf of students by giving them realistic supports; removing penalties in the Act related to trustee compliance; and strengthening and clarifying their role in stewarding education
  • Respect student trustees by empowering and recognizing student trustees through new scholarships, recorded votes, procedural rights and increased resources
  • Respect teachers through a revitalized Ontario College of Teachers as a true professional body which has the confidence of its members and the public, and is de-politicized by having a majority of classroom teachers on its council to carry out its mandate.

Finally, this legislation, if passed, would open up education to the public.

By giving the ministry the ability to direct school boards to offer school facilities for community use at a nominal fee, this would off-set costs associated with the Community Use of Schools initiative.

And ensuring public reporting of board and provincial initiatives for greater accountability and public transparency.

Because access to education and opening up our schools will only foster better community involvement for the future success of our students.

Mr. Speaker, this government is taking responsibility for education in Ontario and giving our partners in education the respect they deserve.

I hope this bill will find support of the legislature because ultimately it represents what we all desire to accomplish in education – openness, partnership based on respect and improved student performance.

Thank you.