Monday, March 25, 2019

2019: New Beginnings in Education in Ontario?

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LILLEY: Schools to emphasize skilled trades

Published: July 16, 2019

Updated: July 16, 2019 8:55 PM EDT

Stephen Lecce wants kids across Ontario’s school system to know that the skilled trades are a viable career path and not just something you can “fall back on.”
The newly-minted education minister was at Toronto’s Humber College this week speaking with students in grades 7, 8 & 9 who are taking part in Skills Ontario Summer Camp, a program to give kids a taste of hands on learning.
“I want to work in the early years to encourage young people to consider these jobs,” Lecce said.
The minister says with events like the summer camp, held at locations across Ontario, and by working with teachers, guidance counsellors and the private sector, he wants to make sure skilled trades are considered a first option.
When I was in school I tell the minister, teachers portrayed the skilled trades as something you did if you couldn’t cut it in university.
“That stereotype needs to end right now,” Lecce said.
It’s part of a new emphasis on skilled trades that the Ford government has been pushing since being elected, and was started under previous minister Lisa Thompson.
Now Minister Lecce, who went to university and worked in politics his whole adult life, says we need to focus on this part of the economy in ways previous governments haven’t.
He describes not only job shortages, but opportunities for exciting and rewarding careers.
“I wanted to go there because I think it is important for politicians to champion the skilled trades because they are good paying jobs,” Lecce said of his time with students at the skills camp.
Ontario is facing a labour shortage, Premier Doug Ford told reporters at the recent premiers’ meeting.
“Need a job? Come to Ontario,” Ford said last Thursday in Saskatoon.
“We need 250,000 people to fill the jobs that are there. We have a labour shortage in Ontario.”
Many of these are in the skilled trades, jobs that can’t be filled without importing workers because there are not enough people looking into fields ranging from tech to construction.
“By 2021, we are seeing that 1 in 5 jobs will be in the skilled trades,” Lecce said.
“I want to see the next generation be able to aspire to reach that potential, to have decent incomes, to be able to own a home, to help their children to retire with dignity,” said the minister.
It is a new approach for Ontario’s schools.
I can tell you that when I was in school, this was not a career path that was explained to me.
With four kids, three still in high school, this is not something that is fully or properly explained to students now.
There is a value in going to university and getting a degree, but there’s also value in going into the trades and getting a ticket to a rewarding career that for too long our schools have downplayed.
Minister Lecce may not have that experience himself, but like me says that he has plenty of family members in the trades and sees the benefits.
Let’s hope the next generation sees the benefits as well.

Caretaking cuts mean some TDSB classrooms will be shut, with some educators having to teach ‘à la cart’

By Isabel Teotonio Education Reporter

Mon., July 15, 2019 timer 5 min. read

Deep cuts to Toronto’s school board budget because of funding changes by the Ford government will result in some classrooms being shuttered, leaving some educators worried they’ll have to teach “à la cart” — wheeling their teaching supplies from class to class by trolley.
Students returning to class in the fall will find some classrooms locked because of budget cuts made in mid-June by the Toronto District School Board, which include slashing 52 caretakers. Because there will be fewer staff, classrooms that aren’t used for core programming are facing closure.
During the last week of school, the TDSB sent notices to its schools with a suggested number of classrooms to close, based on enrolment and student need. That prompted some principals to ask teachers to clear out materials from their classrooms.
“Parents are irate and teachers are irate,” said Joy Lachica, president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, the local of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. Lachica said she’s heard from members that classrooms dedicated to French, visual arts, drama, music and social sciences were being affected.
“This is a very unexpected message to parents about what the layout of learning in classrooms is going to be,” Lachica told the Star.
One middle school French teacher, who was initially impacted — but has since been spared — spoke with the Star on condition of anonymity because she feared repercussions.
“It was horrendous,” she said, adding she was told to “decamp” her classroom and move her resources — books, posters, laptops, dictionaries — into “an office that’s the size of a bathroom.” Her materials are now sitting on carts. She was told that in September she would no longer have a dedicated classroom that students attend for French lessons; instead, she would have to wheel around her materials from class to class.
“We call it ‘à la cart,’” she said, playing off the French term à la carte. She said such a change will ultimately hurt students.
While the teacher had been told to pack up her possessions in late June, she got word Monday morning that her classroom will remain open. But she worries about the impact classroom closures will have on other kids, saying lessons will be “watered down” and “time will be lost.”
“And, you lose the comfort of being in (a dedicated classroom) and being able to have the walls, which have visuals and lessons on them, as your second teacher.”
At her school, three classrooms had been slated for closure, she said, adding, “There has never been a case where if a class was available we couldn’t use it.”
Board spokesperson Ryan Bird said the TDSB suggested a number of classrooms to close, but is open to feedback from principals. He also said specific subjects are not being targeted. Rather, classroom closures would be based on a school’s population and needs.
An appeal process over the summer gives principals an opportunity to make their case as to why classrooms should remain open. Bird said the board is committed to working with schools to determine exactly how many classrooms will be shut and at which locations. He said impacted classrooms will have lighting reduced and temperatures lowered to save energy, adding no new locks will be put on doors.
Bird was unable to give a ballpark figure for the number of classrooms facing closure, but both elementary and secondary schools will be affected. A final list should be available by late August or early September.
Despite the closures, he noted, “Every teacher will have a classroom space available to them and their students.”
“I don’t think the students will notice that much of a difference,” he said, adding the board is working to ensure the impact is minimal.
Have your say
What do you think of provincial education cuts in Ontario?
I am for it. I think we need to make as many cuts as we can to balance the budget.
I'm against it. You can't get blood from a stone.
I'm not sure. I believe in fiscal conservatism, but I also think education is suffering in Ontario.

But what that looks like is still unclear. The closures at some schools may require teachers — for instance, a French teacher — to wheel around their materials on a cart. But, he added that’s already the case in some schools.
“Each school is going to be different, depending on enrolment and courses offered,” he said. “There are a number of different factors that will weigh into what it will look like. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, given the unique needs of each school and its students.”
The TDSB, the country’s largest school board, with 582 schools that serves 246,000 students, has an annual operating budget of about $3.4 billion. For the 2019-20 school year, it faced a budget shortfall of $67.8 million — in part because the province cut $42.1 million in funding.
By law, the board must pass a balanced budget; otherwise it risks having the province step in. On June 19, trustees approved a budget requiring $67.8 million in reductions to program delivery and staffing levels. Among the jobs slashed are senior staff at central administration, student support services and facilities staff, including caretakers.
After notices went out to schools, teachers expressed outrage on social media, saying classroom closures at their schools ranged anywhere between three and nine rooms. One likened having to cart around supplies from room to room to having a program on wheels.
“It’s put everyone in a very difficult position,” Lachica told the Star. “The scourge of the education cuts has occurred in a way that’s hurtful to parents, and it’s a challenge for principals and kids.”
The middle school teacher who spoke with the Star said she hopes innovative solutions are found. One idea she’s heard is cleaning classrooms every second day, so that none need to be shut down due to the loss of caretaking staff. She’s always been willing to do her part in keeping her class clean, she says.
“I’m always sweeping my classroom, because there’s 180 kids who come in and out of my classroom (in a day). It’s a mini Grand Central Station.”
Ultimately, she said, keeping classrooms open benefits students.
“I don’t think parents know the cuts that are coming and how that will reduce the quality of education.”
Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

AGAR: Time to fire teachers who play hooky?

Jerry Agar

Published: July 15, 2019

Updated: July 15, 2019 4:38 PM EDT

Toronto Sun files

Why are we not firing teachers in Ontario?
Last week, we learned 150 health care workers were fired for ripping off the benefits program at Baycrest Health Sciences.
Labour Lawyer Sunira Chaudhri, of Levitt, LLP, said on my radio show that the union cannot and likely won’t try to protect those workers. They should be fired for cause.
In 2017, Sun Life “delisted” 1,500 providers across Canada after proving they had been involved in false claims.
In 2018, the TTC fired 250 employees who were all involved in a scam related to orthotics. The service provider — who facilitated the scam — went to jail.
Does anyone feel sorry for those people who lost their jobs, lost their access to benefits or went to jail?
I doubt it.
But that brings me to the latest set of statistics involving workers ripping off the taxpayers.
This time it is teachers and education workers, taking Fridays and Mondays off and saying they are sick.
Some of them likely are sick, but Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy reported that, “in June, as many as 21% of teachers were off sick on a Friday or a Monday.
“Attendance figures from the Catholic Board show that school secretaries also fell ill on several Fridays — some 24% of them absent June 21, 23% on sick leave May 31 and 21% absent June 7.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a normal absentee rate in business in general is 2.8%.
Educators defend their high rate by saying they have to work with kids, who get sick and pass it along to the teachers and other workers.
OK, let’s be generous and more than double the average rate to 6% for educators.
How does that explain 24% missing, and how is it they are sick specifically on Fridays and Mondays?
There is no explanation for the 24% absent other than theft of taxpayers’ money. If we believe that 6% really are sick, that leaves us with perhaps 18% ripping us off.
That is almost one in five; amazing in its blatant disregard for decency — and even for appearances.
It would appear they just don’t care because they believe they can get away with it. And they may be right, but that doesn’t make them good people.
If you are paid to come to work, and you are not actually sick, taking the day off is theft. It is that simple.
The principal probably knows who is shirking. Why doesn’t the school board take the names of the likely worst offenders and have them followed by private detectives, just to see if they are partying at the lake?
Former police officer Mark Mendelson, of Mark Mendelson Consulting Corp., says that would cost upwards of $1,000 a day per person investigated, but CityNews reported that in 2017, “the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) spent $96.5 million replacing absent teachers due to illness, religious or personal reasons.”
Levy wrote in her report: “The TDSB absentee rates refer only to those using a sick day and not stress leave.”
If we are content to fire or jail people who rip off benefits at hospitals, the TTC and any other public entity, why should we stand for this from educators?
It is past time for the province to do something about this outrage.

Ontario French school boards face potential constitutional challenge over admitting too many English students

Caroline Alphonso Education Reporter

Published July 14, 2019 Updated 1 hour ago

Karine Barrass, right, checks out the newly arranged classrooms with her children Noah, left, 13, and Chloe, 10, at Ecole Elementaire La Mosaique in Toronto on Friday, September 4, 2015.
Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail
Franco-Ontarian parents have long complained that the province’s French-language schools admit too many pupils who aren’t French speakers, putting in jeopardy their children’s linguistic development.
Now, Ontario’s French school boards are facing the prospect of a constitutional challenge over the effect of admissions practices that have resulted in nearly half of their students being non-francophone.
A former school trustee, Basile Dorion, has secured funding to prepare a court case, arguing that franco-Ontarians are being deprived of their constitutional right to an education in their mother tongue.
Mr. Dorion said the high number of anglophone students has effectively turned French schools into French-immersion programs. “They go there to learn French, not to learn in French,” he said in an interview.
When Josée Guindon started working as a substitute teacher at a French Catholic board in the Windsor area four years ago, she saw that students played in English at recess, their spoken French was riddled with anglicisms and some even needed Google Translate to complete their school work.
Another parent, Geneviève Aubin, enrolled her children in a French Catholic school after moving to London, Ont. Within months, she said, their French syntax and spelling suffered. “The kids are all talking to each other in English. I heard zero French.”
French school boards in Ontario are guaranteed by Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which grants anglophone and francophone minority communities access to public education, where numbers warrant.
That right is limited to Canadians whose mother tongue is of their province’s linguistic minority, or who received their elementary schooling in that language. However, Ontario allows non-rights holders to register in French schools if they are approved by an admission committee.
According to Education Ministry data, 45.3 per cent of students enrolled at schools in Ontario’s French boards in 2017-18 didn’t have French as their first language.
It was 34.8 per cent in 2010-2011 and has inched up every year.
The ministry’s figures are similar to metrics from a Crown agency, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), which said that 44 per cent of Ontario French-board students in 2014-15 didn’t have French as their first language at home.
The EQAO disclosed its figures to Radio-Canada three years ago. The agency declined to provide updated data to The Globe and Mail this month.
It is an issue that is particularly stark since Ontario has four separate publicly funded systems – French public, French Catholic, English Catholic and English public – vying for government funding.
Mr. Dorion said he tried without success to get three of the French boards in the province to explain their policies. Two of those boards, MonAvenir and Viamonde, declined to comment when contacted by The Globe and Mail. The third, Providence, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Alexandra Adamo, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce, said in a statement that French boards have the authority to decide which students are admitted.
“All students enrolled in French-language schools are admitted either because they have at least one parent who holds rights in French, or because they have demonstrated through an admissions committee that their French is at a level that allows them to succeed in a French-language school,” she said.
Ms. Guindon, who is now a Western University master’s student researching French boards, said in an interview that the problem is in part owing to the Charter requirement that minority-language instruction be only provided when numbers warrant.
Initially, admission was open beyond rights holders out of fear that French schools wouldn’t have the numbers to justify their existence.
But she and others fear franco-Ontarians will become a minority in their own schools. Ms. Aubin recalled that her youngest daughter was shy and didn’t speak up in kindergarten so the staff addressed her in English, assuming that she was an anglophone.
Anglophone parents are increasingly interested in having their children learn French because it gives them a competitive edge. According to a study released this year by the Official Languages Commissioner, 80 per cent of Ontarians believe more needs to be done so young people can become bilingual. But while French immersion is an option in the English system, parents see limitations as schools struggle with finding qualified French teachers; some of these parents then look at schools within the French boards.
One complication in the debate about who should be admitted to French schools is that being francophone and having the right to French education are not synonymous.
Ontario schools can admit non-rights holders who are fluent in French. But conversely, there are also students who have the constitutional right to education in French even if their grasp of the language is shaky.
In some cases, the parents are a mixed-language couple. It only takes one francophone parent to make a child a rights holder, even if the family doesn’t speak French at home.
In other cases, it is a franco-Ontarian family that prefers using English. Ms. Guindon recalled a children’s party where she heard a mother, a rights holder, tell her child, “You don’t have to speak French, love, we’re not in school.”
Earlier this spring, Mr. Dorion obtained a $15,000 grant from the Court Challenges Program, which helps people initiate judicial cases dealing with constitutional and human rights. The federal government finances the program, but an independent panel chooses the recipients.
The grant is for the development of a case that tests the validity of the current admission system. Mr. Dorion has retained the Caza Saikaley law firm to prepare the groundwork.
Follow Tu Thanh Ha and Caroline Alphonso on Twitter @TuThanhHa @calphonso

Shortage prompts school boards to hire teachers who can speak French only slightly better than students, report says

Caroline Alphonso Education Reporter

Published February 13, 2019 Updated February 14, 2019

Growing demand from parents for French immersion has created a shortage of teachers in many parts of the country, with some school boards settling for educators who can speak French only slightly better than their students, according to a new report.
The study released Wednesday by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, which reports to Parliament and whose mandate is to promote bilingualism, found in its survey of school districts that several boards kept language requirements low for fear of not filling teaching positions. One district reported that the linguistic skills teachers demonstrate when interviewing for a position were not always adequate for teaching conversational French and that because of a lack of qualified teaching candidates, some boards felt they had to “settle” for teachers with a slightly better grasp of the language than their students.
The report also found provincial ministries of education expressed concern about a French-language teacher shortage, and suggested positions are being filled, but sometimes with candidates who do not have adequate language or cultural competencies.
French immersion is popular with many parents who want their children to learn a second language or to give them a competitive edge. Enrolment in the program climbed about 20 per cent between 2011-12 and 2015-16, according to Statistics Canada, at a time when the total student body remained the same. Meanwhile, school boards said they have struggled with reconfiguring classrooms and finding qualified teachers.
In its report, the commissioner called on the federal government to work with provinces and territories to encourage greater standardization of teachers’ required French-as-a-second language qualifications, and to implement measures that will support and improve their language proficiency and their linguistic and cultural confidence.
Raymond Théberge, the Commissioner of Official Languages, said in a release that Ottawa should look at establishing a national strategy to address the shortage of French-as-a-second-language teachers.
“More than ever, Canadians want their children to have access to the advantages that come with being bilingual, yet at the same time, there is a chronic and critical shortage of FSL teachers,” he said, adding students should not be denied an opportunity to become bilingual.
French is taught in a variety of ways in school, including French immersion and core French, in which students learn the language as a subject.
Jeremy Ghio, a spokesman for Mélanie Joly, Minister of Official Languages, said the issue of a French-language teacher shortage has been raised with federal officials during consultations. The government, in its action plan to strengthen minority communities and promote bilingualism, has secured $62-million to help provinces, territories and organizations address this issue, Mr. Ghio said in an e-mail statement.
The Commissioner of Official Languages report included a literature review, telephone interviews with provincial and territorial ministries of education and school boards across the country. It also involved interviews with French-as-a-second language teacher candidates and an online survey of teacher candidates.
Glyn Lewis, executive director for the Canadian Parents for French for B.C. & Yukon, said the report adds more evidence to what has become a critical issue.
In some B.C. school districts, parents have lined up outside school doors to ensure their children could get a spot in the French immersion program.
And in Ontario, where demand is high, school boards have reported difficulty in addressing demand because of teacher-shortage issues. Some boards have put a lottery system in place to contain the exploding growth.
Mr. Lewis said the report’s call for a standardization of French-as-a-second-language teacher qualifications would be unlikely across the country because education is a provincial issue. But perhaps provincial governments would consider this, he said. Some school boards, meanwhile, have recently started implementing a standard minimum requirement, while others use in-house proficiency tests when hiring new teachers.
“There’s an interesting conversation to have on how we create a benchmark for those standards,” Mr. Lewis said. But he said a teacher shortage changes the dynamics. “When push comes to shove, they [school districts] sometimes need to bend on those standards.”
Follow Caroline Alphonso on Twitter @calphonso

LEVY: Toronto teachers suffer from June Flu epidemic

Published: July 13, 2019

Updated: July 13, 2019 10:12 PM EDT
(Getty Images)

Up to 21% of Toronto’s Catholic and 15% of public elementary teachers were “off sick” the last few Fridays before school ended last month, absenteeism figures obtained by the Toronto Sun show.
The June Flu epidemic — which appeared to strike hardest Fridays and Mondays — hit 20% of Toronto Catholic district school board teachers on June 14 and felled another 21% of teachers June 21 (both Fridays).
Some 16% of elementary teachers appeared to have trouble shaking the flu on June 10 and another 18% on June 17 (both Mondays).
The same epidemic spread with a particular virulence among Toronto district school board elementary teachers on May 31 (15% were absent that Friday) and on June 14 and 17 (when 14% of teachers were off “sick” both Friday and Monday).
Absenteeism figures for high school teachers in both boards were only slightly lower on Fridays in early June — with 19% of TCDSB teachers calling in sick on Friday, May 31, and 17% on Friday, June 7.
That dwindled to 4% on Friday, June 21 — likely because exams commenced June 12.
At the TDSB, some 12% of high school teachers called in sick on May 31 — that number declining to 6% by June 21.
The June Flu was not isolated to teachers, however.
Attendance figures from the TCDSB show that school secretaries also fell ill on several Fridays — some 24% of them absent June 21, 23% on sick leave May 31 and 21% absent June 7.
At the TDSB, secretary absentee rates hovered consistently around 10%-12% throughout the last five Fridays of the school year.
The TDSB absentee rates refer only to those using a sick day and not stress leave, the latter being a story for another day.
In 2012 under the McGuinty government, sick leave was cut from 20 days a year — and an end put to an entitlement that days not taken qualified for a huge payout upon retirement.
TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said all Ontario teachers get 11 sick days per year at 100% pay, plus five miscellaneous days (to observe holy days, care for immediate family members or to move).
Let’s not forget either that they get the entire summer off, plus a week at March break and two weeks at Christmas (in total at least 12 weeks).
In her annual report at the end of December 2017, the province’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, pointed out after studying 50 school boards that sick days jumped by 30% in the five years after the sick leave payout ended.
At the time, Lysyk suggested that school boards put in place better sick leave policies, including better absence reporting, tracking and data analysis.
Still, from reports, the June Flu has been a perennial problem from the early 2000s, and not just at the Toronto school boards.
“It’s deja vu,” education consultant Doretta Wilson said Friday.
“One wonders how much of this is still happening because of the refusal of trustees to actually manage and govern.”
Wilson speculates that absenteeism is more common in June because teachers are just plain pooped or have sick days to use up.
“School boards need to dig for the real reasons,” she said.
Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association president Liz Stuart said the well-being of teachers is greatly impacted by the lack of services and supports for students, along with the increasing frequency of violent incidents in schools.
“The problems will only get worse as a result of the Ford government’s cuts to education,” Stuart added.
TCDSB spokesman Shazia Viahos said the board is working with its “labour partners” to address and reduce absenteeism rates.
“There could be a number of reasons why teachers are away from the classroom, including personal or family illness, bereavement, urgent personal business or PA days, to name a few,” Viahos said.
Representatives of the public teachers unions chose not to respond to requests for comment.
But Bird of the TDSB said the school boards, like most in Ontario, have seen an increase in teacher absences over recent years.
“If it is discovered that staff have misused these days, disciplinary action is taken,” he said, adding that in the next round of collective agreements they hope school boards will look to improve the process around sick days being used properly.

Randall Denley: Assertions by Ontario teachers' union don’t stand up to scrutiny

Ontario’s hefty deficit is the big piece of context that both the conference board and the union ignore. The provincial government doesn’t have that luxury

Sacred Heart High School students marched to Walkerton District Community School in Walkerton to join forces to protest Premier Doug Ford's education cuts. Derek Lester/Postmedai News

July 11, 2019
1:17 PM EDT

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has found an entirely new argument in its campaign against larger classes and fewer teachers. The issue is about more than just students and teachers, the union says. It’s about the economy. If Ontario cuts education, “everyone will pay more,” the union claims in a tagline for its new ad campaign.
One TV ad shows a nice old lady with a walker and poor folks who appear to be at a soup kitchen. They will be the ones who will suffer if there are fewer teachers, the union contends. The visuals are more compelling than images of angry protesters, but one would immediately wonder how spending less on education would mean having to pay more for health care and social services.
The Conference Board of Canada attempts to answer that in a report commissioned by the teaching union. It is an uphill struggle. The short version of it is that people who graduate from high school cost society less in social service, health care and justice system costs than those who fail to graduate. If education spending were cut, and if graduation rates fell, then there would be a $16.4 million annual increase in health and social services spending, leaving a bit less for the lady with the walker and the folks at the soup kitchen.
In addition, the board calculates that every additional dollar spent on education generates $1.30 in economic benefits as that dollar is spent by education employees and employees of businesses that supply the school system. Conversely, taking a dollar out of education has the opposite effect, reducing the province’s economic growth. So, more education spending is good, less education spending is bad.
The conference board certainly gives its union client full value in the report, but there are a few holes in its argument.
The first is that spending more money on education offers a unique economic boost. Spending additional dollars on health care or social services would have a similar economic impact. More important, government’s job is to provide necessary services in a cost-effective way, not to spend money for the sake of boosting the economy.
Much of the education report addresses the hypothetical issue of increasing graduation rates, which is not the matter in dispute between the province and the secondary-school teachers. However, if there were a parallel universe in which some government were striving to raise the graduation rate from a healthy 86.3 per cent to a nation-leading 90 per cent, there would be big benefits, the economists calculate.
They assert that over a 20-year period, the additional healthy, employable, less-frequently-incarcerated high school graduates would save the province an impressive $3.5 billion. Even more over a full century, one presumes. Conversely, reducing the secondary school graduation rate by 3.7 percentage points would cost the system $3.8 billion in extra program spending, again over 20 years.
Curiously for economists, the conference board folks cite the benefits of increasing the graduation rate without addressing the costs. Too complex to assess, they say.
While higher education spending might well have broader economic effects, the direct return to the provincial government is meagre. Increasing education spending by one per cent would cost $300 million. According to the board’s calculations, that would net the province $36.2 million in extra revenue.
Led by grade 12 student Ahmad Hasin (right), about 75 students at Hillcrest High School walked out, chanting anti-Ford slogans. Julie Oliver/Postmedia
While the conference board economists address what might happen if the provincial government were to spend quite a bit more or quite a bit less on education, that’s not what’s happening. Provincial education spending is going up an average of 1.2 per cent a year between 2018-19 and 2021-22. With inflation, that’s static at best in real dollar terms, but it’s not a reduction in total spending.
The notion that the more government spends on some things, the less it will have to spend overall is certainly an attractive one and it drew former premier Dalton McGuinty like a fly to economic theory. If only government could save enough by spending more, the budget would balance itself. We all know how that turned out.
Ontario’s hefty deficit is the big piece of context that both the conference board and the union ignore. The provincial government doesn’t have that luxury. It wants larger high school classes as part of its attempt to balance the budget over five years. Naturally, the union will oppose anything that reduces its membership. The fight will start when school resumes this fall and it promises to be ugly and emotional.
Given that, perhaps the teachers, union deserves some credit for putting forward an argument with a veneer of rationality. Too bad it doesn’t hold up.
Randall Denley is an Ottawa political commentator and former Ontario PC candidate. Learn about his new book Spiked at Contact him at

Opinion: Math instruction gets failing grade under new B.C. school curriculum

Math has always been difficult, but it’s even harder today due to the convoluted ways it’s being taught in B.C.

Updated: September 8, 2016

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada restored rules on class size, class composition and specialist teachers that were stripped from teachers' contracts in 2002. PNG FILES

As our kids return to school, there are a couple things that every parent should know.
First, kids usually require outside support/tutoring for basic arithmetic by the age of 10, so start saving now.
Second, with the new K-9 curriculum (rolling out this fall), the need for outside tutoring will be even greater — it’s that bad. It’s ironic that this innovative plan claims it will prepare our kids for a bright future, yet it does so without implementing, or acknowledging, the successful methods that actually make learning possible.
Math has always been difficult, but it’s even harder today due to the convoluted ways it’s being taught. Even though it took thousands of years to develop successful, universal methods to teach arithmetic, the foundations of teaching this particular subject have now been relegated to the dustbin.
The longstanding use of the four standard algorithms to master the basic principles of arithmetic are gone. Memorizing times tables, using long division and making time for daily practice in the classroom, is virtually non-existent. Instead, kids are encouraged to explain and develop multiple ways to find the answer, confusing and frustrating them along the way. Fractional arithmetic is paramount to future success in mathematics, yet it’s not mandatory until Grade 8 in the new curriculum. This is creating massive panic for kids who are then being exposed to algebra in high school without fully mastering the fundamentals. And without a strong grasp of algebra, kids are denied the understanding of higher-order mathematics such as trigonometry and calculus.
Even more frustrating is the blatant disregard of thousands of teacher and parent concerns that our education partners in this province have demonstrated. Multiple requests to discuss the implications of years of poor math instruction in this province have been ignored by both the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Teachers Federation. When pressed to provide examples of encouraging our frontline teachers to utilize proven, conventional methods in the classroom, none have been given. In fact, the only teaching methods endorsed in the flurry of multiple teacher workshops, conferences and parent information sessions, are the new inquiry/discovery/21st-century methods. If you want your child to have a strong foundation of mathematics, you’ll have to pay for it at a tutoring centre. Two-tier public education in British Columbia is here, courtesy of your provincial government.
Another significant point about this new curriculum is that it’s not new or revolutionary; it’s just copying more failed educational fads. In every single country where this child-centred/inquiry/open-ended constructivist curricula has been tested, it’s failed. Every single time. The United Kingdom found out almost a decade ago that “learning styles” and “personalized learning” — two phrases that feature prominently throughout B.C.’s Education Plan — are nothing more than failed myths. After producing students with abysmal reading, writing and arithmetic results, the U.K. ditched its failed, 21st-century curricula implemented in 2007 and returned to a more knowledge- and fact-based curricula two years ago. Ditto for Australia.
In Sweden, a haven for utopian living and happy children, it turns out its child-centred, holistic approach to education (which is strikingly similar to your new B.C. Education Plan) was a terrible mistake. It had devastating consequences on an entire generation. No other country in the PISA study experienced a steeper decline in student performance than Sweden (B.C.’s performance also had a significant decline during this same time frame, producing its worst ever math result in 2012). Recently, Jonas Linderorth, one of Sweden’s pedagogy professors responsible for this fiasco, issued a heartfelt apology in a newspaper article: “Recent research has suggested that the ideas greeted with such enthusiasm back then stand in almost direct contradiction to what constitutes successful teaching methods.”
Linderorth now believes that the innovators from the 1990s who ushered in such sweeping changes — including himself — should publicly apologize for the damage they have done.
It turns out that guidance, strong curriculum guidelines and knowledgeable teachers are imperative for student success.
Being left with nothing more than this new, open-ended curriculum, I would encourage all parents to have a discussion with your child’s teacher, principal and local MLA. Ensure successful math instruction is used in the classroom, and support teachers to use successful, straightforward methods to ensure our kids obtain a strong foundation in math. We owe our kids that much.
Tara Houle is a parent advocate and publisher of a provincial mathematics petition.

What can be learned from Quebec’s math prowess?

Socio-historical and cultural factors help to explain why Quebec continues to set the pace across the country in mathematics achievement.

October 23, 2018 

Ontario’s recently elected Progressive Conservative government has vowed to abandon what is termed “discovery math” and to get “back to basics.” That populist election cry resonated with Ontarians because Ontario students continue to lag in mathematics and were the only ones in the country to show no significant improvement on national tests from 2010 to 2016. Like other provinces, Ontario only has to look to Quebec for a few of the elusive answers to the seemingly perpetual “math crisis” in its schools.
Quebec students have just demonstrated their math prowess once again. On the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) tests of grade 8 students, written in June 2016 with results released in May 2018, students from Quebec finished first in mathematics (541), 40 points above the Canadian mean score of 511 and a gain of 26 points over the past six years (table 1).
The latest national results solidify Quebec’s position as our national leader in mathematics achievement on every comparative test over the past 30 years. How and why Quebec students continue to dominate and, in effect, pull up Canada’s international math rankings deserves far more public discussion. Every time math results are announced, it generates a flurry of interest, but Quebec’s high standing does not appear to have encouraged other provinces to try to emulate its success.
Since the first International Assessment of Educational Progress assessment back in 1988, and in the next four national and international mathematics tests up to 2000, Quebec’s students generally outperformed students from other Canadian provinces at grades 4, 8 and 11. That pattern has continued right up to the present and was demonstrated impressively on the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment test in 2015, where Quebec 15-year-olds scored 544, ranking among the world’s top jurisdictions in education.
One enterprising venture, launched in 2000 by the BC Ministry of Education under Deputy Minister Charles Ungerleider, did tackle the question by comparing British Columbia’s and Quebec’s mathematics curricula. That comparative research projectidentified significant curricular differences between the two provinces, but the resulting BC reform initiative ran aground on what University of Victoria researchers Helen Raptis and Laurie Baxter aptly described as the “jagged shores of top-down educational reform.”
The reasons for Quebec dominance in K-12 mathematics performance over the past 30 years are coming into sharper relief. The BC Ministry of Education research project exposed and explained the curricular and pedagogical factors, and subject specialists, including university mathematics specialists and mathematics education professors, have gradually filled in the missing pieces. Mathematics education faculty members with experience in Quebec and elsewhere help to complete the picture.
Five major factors have been identified by leading researchers to explain why Quebec students continue to lead the pack in pan-Canadian mathematics achievement.
Clearer curriculum philosophy and sequence
The scope and sequence of Quebec’s math curriculum is clearer, demonstrating an acceptance of the need for clarity in setting out a progression of content and skills focused on achieving higher levels of achievement. The 1980 Quebec Ministry of Education curriculum set the pattern. Much more emphasis in teacher education and in the classroom was placed upon building sound foundations before progressing to problem solving. Curriculum guidelines were much more explicit about making connections with previously learned material.
Quebec’s grade 4 curriculum made explicit reference to the ability to develop speed and accuracy in mental and written calculation and to multiply larger numbers as well as to perform reverse operations. By grade 11, students were required to summon “all their knowledge (algebra, geometry, statistics and the sciences) and all the means at their disposal…to solve problems.” “The way math is presented makes the difference,” says Genevieve Boulet, a professor of mathematics education at Mount St. Vincent University with prior experience preparing mathematics teachers at the Université de Sherbrooke.
Superior math curriculum
Fewer topics tend to be covered at each grade level in Quebec, but they are covered in more depth than in BC and other Canadian provinces. In grade 4, students are generally introduced right away to multiplication, division and standard alogrithms, and the curriculum unit on measurement focuses on mastering three topics — length, area and volume — instead of six or seven. Concrete manipulations are more widely used to facilitate comprehension of more abstract math concepts. Much heavier emphasis is placed on numbers and operations as grade 4 students are expected to perform addition, subtraction and multiplication using fractions.
Secondary school in Quebec begins in grade 7 (secondaire I) and ends in grade 11 (secondaire V), and students are more likely to be taught by mathematics subject specialists. Quebec’s long-established grade 11 graduation courses, Mathematics 536 (Advanced), Mathematics 526 (Transitional) and Mathematics 514 (Basic), were tailored to different levels of ability from 1997 to 2017 and focused on “the students’ cognitive growth and the development of basic skills” as a gateway to higher-level problem solving, according to a ministry curriculum document. Under the revamped 2017 Mathematics Program of Study, mathematics was integrated into a “Diversified Basic Education” model giving higher priority to “broad areas of learning” and student engagement. While the philosophy was more holistic, the renamed courses still emphasized subject-specific content, and the final assessments remained essentially unchanged.
More extensive teacher training
Teacher preparation programs in Quebec universities are four years long, providing students with double the amount of time to master mathematics as part of their teaching repertoire, a particular advantage for elementary teachers. In Quebec faculties of education, elementary school math teachers must take as many as 225 hours of university courses in math education; in some provinces, the instructional time can be as little as 39 hours.
Teacher-guided or didactic instruction has been one of the Quebec teaching program’s strengths. Annie Savard, a McGill University education professor, points out that Quebec teachers are taught to differentiate between teaching and learning. “Knowing the content of the course isn’t enough,” Savard says. “You need what we call didactic [teaching]. You need to unpack the content to make it accessible to students.”
Teacher pedagogy in mathematics makes a difference. Outside of Quebec, the dominant pedagogy is child-centred and heavily influenced by the famous Swiss child development psychologist Jean Piaget and behaviourist theories of learning. Prospective teachers are encouraged to use “discovery learning” and to respond to stimuli by applying the appropriate operations. In Quebec, problem solving is integrated throughout the curriculum rather than treated as a separate topic. Four-year programs afford education professors more time to expose teacher candidates to the latest research on cognitive psychology, which challenges the efficacy of child-centred approaches to the subject.
Secondary school examinations
Students in Quebec still write provincial examinations, and achieving a pass in mathematics is a requirement to secure a graduation (secondaire V) diploma. Back in 1992, Quebec mathematics examinations were a core component of a very extensive set of ministry examinations, numbering two dozen and administered in grades 9 (secondaire III), 10 (secondaire IV) and 11 (secondaire V). Since 2011-12, most Canadian provinces, except Quebec, have moved to either eliminate grade 12 graduation examinations, reduce their weighting or make them optional. In the case of BC, the grade 12 provincial was cancelled in 2012-13, and in Alberta the equivalent examination now carries a much reduced weighting in final grades. As of June 2018, Quebec continued to have final provincial exams, albeit fewer and more limited to mathematics and the two languages. Retaining exams has a way of keeping students focused to the end of the year; removing them has been linked to both grade inflation and the lowering of standards.
Preparedness philosophy and graduation rates
Academic achievement in mathematics has remained a system-wide priority, and there is much less emphasis in Quebec on pushing every student through to high school graduation. From 1980 to the early 2000s, the Quebec mathematics curriculum was explicitly designed to prepare students for mastery of the subject, either to prepare for further study or to instill a mathematical way of thinking. The comparable BC curriculum for 1987, for example, stated that mathematics was aimed at enabling students to function in the workplace. Already by the 1980s, the teaching of BC mathematics was seen to encompass sound reasoning, problem-solving ability, communications skills and the use of technology. Curriculum fragmentation, driven by educators’ desires to meet individual student needs, never really came to dominate the Quebec secondary mathematics program.
Quebec’s education system remains that of a province unlike the others. While the province sets the pace in mathematics achievement, a February 2018 report demonstrated that it lags significantly behind the others in graduation rates. Comparing Quebec’s education system with that of Ontario, Education Minister Sebastien Proulx points out, is like comparing apples with oranges. The passing grade in Quebec courses is 60 percent compared with 50 percent in Ontario, and the requirements for a graduation diploma are more demanding because of the final examinations. When the passing grade was raised in 1986-87, ministry official Robert Maheu noted, the decision was made to firm up school standards. Student achievement indicators, particularly in mathematics, drove education policy; and until recently, in contrast to other provinces, student preparedness remained a higher priority than raising graduation rates.
School systems are, after all, not always interchangeable, and context is critical in assessing student outcomes. As David F. Robitaille and Robert A. Garden’s 1989 International Education Asoociation Study reminded us, education systems are “in part a product of the histories, national psyches, and societal aspirations” of the societies in which they develop and reside. Ontario, British Columbia and the other English-speaking provinces have all been greatly influenced by American educational theorists, most notably John Dewey and the progressives.
Quebec is markedly different when it comes to mathematics. Immersed in a French educational milieu, the Quebec mathematics curriculum has been, and continues to be, more driven by mastery of subject knowledge, didactic pedagogy and a more focused, less fragmented approach to student intellectual development. Socio-historical and cultural factors weigh heavily in explaining why Quebec continues to set the pace in mathematics achievement. A challenging curriculum produces higher math scores, but it also means living with lower graduation rates.
Photo: Shutterstock, by Per Bengtsson

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October 23, 2018 

The debate over how to teach math in B.C.

Tutoring businesses growing with concerns

Kohila Sivas started tutoring friends and family in math 17 years ago and now has her own businesses doing so, bridging a gap that concerns many in Canada.
Sivas has her own math tutoring business in Maple Ridge, and helps students across the country. Her business is one of many popping up across the city, including Sylvan Learning, Mathnasium of Maple Ridge, Math4me and Kumon Math and Reading Centre.
She started her business seven years ago with 30 clients. Now she tutors online as many as 65 students across the country. She even has clients in England and is currently in the process of hiring and training new math coaches to work with her.
Sivas attributes the growth of her business, MathCodes, to students having no clear picture as to why they are learning the math that is given to them in school.
“They just do it as a requirement. They’re just doing it, there’s no motivation for learning it,” she said.
A major problem, Sivas adds, is that there is a lack of understanding in the earlier grades that becomes compounded as students progress. She doesn’t fault the teachers because they have to deliver the curriculum for the grade they are teaching.
“Every grade they teach is some new thing and that gets applied in the next grade,” explained Sivas, giving an example of factoring.
“Factoring needs to be mastered as if you were adding one plus one. But a lot of kids come to Grade 12 without even knowing how to factor or what is factoring,” she said.
The new math curriculum in B.C. means that the traditional algorithmic approach to the subject, where children memorized rigid formulas and times tables, have been pushed aside for an inquiry or constructivist approach.
The Foundation Skills Assessment is an annual province-wide assessment of all B.C. students’ academic skills in Grades 4 and 7.
The Fraser Institute, a Canadian public policy think tank and registered charity, published a report card on elementary schools in B.C. based on FSA scores between the years 2013 and 2017.
In general, the report shows that numeracy scores during this time frame have been slowly slipping, including those in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
The average Grade 4 numeracy score in all schools across B.C. was 490 in 2013 compared to 486 in 2017, and in Grade 7 the average score went from 481 in 2013 to 476 in 2017, according to The Fraser Institute report.
The Fraser Institute also looked at the average scores on the Foundation Skill Assessment tests during the 2011/12 and 2015/16 school years and found the average numeracy score for Grade 4 students in the public school system was 484, compared to those in non-elite independent schools that averaged 554 the average score of 611 in elite independent schools.
In Grade 7, the average scores went from 471 in the public schools, to 538 in the non-elite independent schools and 595 in the elite independent schools.
Average marks on the Provincial Required Exams for foundations of math and pre-calculus 10 during the same school years demonstrated the same gap in performance.
Students in public schools averaged 69.1 per cent, non-elite independent school averaged 72.3 per cent and students in elite independent schools averaged 81.3 per cent.
In Alberta, the provincial government decided that, after years of declining math scores and growing frustration with a math curriculum that parents said was too focused on discovery, analysis and group work, to return to focus more on basic math skills – memorizing number facts and learning keyboarding skills early as part of the updated K-4 curriculum, released by the provincial government in October.
In September, the Ontario provincial government released a new guide for teachers and parents to help students in Grades 1-8 learn traditional formulas and memorization techniques in mathematics.
Sivas got into the tutoring business because she once struggled with math.
“I was looking at other people and thought, ‘Why are they all getting it, why am I not getting it?’”
She credits one really good teacher who took the time with her to explain what she was doing.
“It just made sense. And I started looking at it as if I were just solving a puzzle, right? Math became a puzzle and I looked inside of it and there was a lot of patterns and puzzles. And one method that you would use on one question could be translated into another,” said Sivas.
Retired Whonnock elementary teacher Zdena Novy also sees trouble with the new curriculum in B.C.
She said students must understand the basics of math before moving on, and that is accomplished by repetition.
“If you don’t get the basics, how can you build on something you don’t understand,” Novy asked.
“It is not done on the computer or calculator because your brain doesn’t work. You have to make [your brain] think.”
She went from failing math to excelling in the subject by the time she entered Grade 12. She attributes her success to her Grade 10 math teacher at Daniel McIntyre high school when she lived in Winnipeg.
“He taught math completely different,” explained Novy.
“He never got excited. When he taught us, he was very calm, very quiet and very persistent,” she said, adding that there was tons of homework, but he always gave students time to do it.
Novy said her teacher also made his students show all of their work and taught them how to correct the answers themselves.
She excelled in mathematics and took calculus at the university level.
Novy received a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia and a Masters of Education in 2009 at Simon Fraser University and taught at Whonnock elementary until she retired in 2015.
When Novy was teaching, she used a math program called Journeys, where lessons were on the left side of each page of the textbook and the right side was practice. It was consistent, grade by grade.
“It was directed, it had specific instructions,” she said.
But, she added, students must have homework in math in order to understand.
“A calculator is awesome if you want to check your answer. But if you don’t understand … how are you going to check it?”
She taught the skills to check work without a calculator.
“Because you should know it.”
Novy added, if you have a group of Grade 7s entering Grade 8 who have been introduced to all new concepts, but they don’t have the basics, what are you going to do?
“You’re going to have to go back and you’re going to have to start from scratch,” said Novy.
Hugh Burke, headmaster at Meadowridge School, a private, International Baccalaureate school from Kindergarten to diploma, has been teaching the inquiry-based model at the school for the past 15 years.
He believes there is a gap in understanding in what the schools are trying to accomplish in math.
“Are we trying to get kids who can get the right answer to a well-defined problem that we give in the form of a test or are we getting kids who can apply mathematical thinking to a variety of real life and scientific problems and use mathematical understanding to help solve them,” he asked.
Burke said the inquiry or constructivist approach means that children are taught how to approach ill-defined questions with mathematical thinking. Both approaches, he adds, require the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide and to understand what signs mean and the order in which they should go.
However, he said, when you get into the real world, mathematics is messy and requires mathematical thinking.
“Algorithmic teaching depends on memory and application. The discovery method depends upon inquiry, resolving the question and after providing multiple and potential answers,” said Burke.
Burke said that the easiest approach to math in the classroom is algorithm because it is definable and easy to teach and score. And parents understand it because it is the way they were taught.
But, he said, the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics determined years ago that teaching that approach is why we had very few mathematicians in Canada.
“Because once you get into real math, simple algorithm does not work.”
Burke noted that participation goes down in math in Grades 11 and 12 because they get frustrated and give up.
“If we teach children mathematical understanding, they tend to do much better as they get older and as they go to university and further,” he said.
“The problem is that it is more difficult, it takes more time and feels more complicated,” he said of the inquiry-based approach.
Burke gave an example of a problem given to students regarding the division of a property. At first, they were given a simple outline of the property and told to divide it in two.
“They had to find a parallelogram and the formula for dividing it. That was algorithm,” he explained.
But he said when the students visited the property, mathematically the division became much more problematic because there was a tree-house in the middle that they wanted to save and a slope that caused drainage issues.
“We had, I think, 20 kids in our classroom. They came up with 11 different solutions, all of them correct,” he said.
“And, all of them taking into account a much more complicated life situation.”
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows union head Suzanne Hall, who was a math specialist at the elementary school level, is excited about how the teaching of the subject has changed over the past decade.
“To be good in math when I was little was to be fast at doing computation. To be good at math now is to understand and be able to apply patterns,” explained Hall.
“One of the things we do a lot of with kids in primary are using Base Ten Blocks.
When they add and subtract, they can see what carrying and borrowing mean.
Concrete representation of math processes is a powerful way for children to understand those steps that they learn to do actually represent something, she said.
“And they can apply it a lot better.”
She agrees that there is some truth to what Sivas is saying about some students advancing without mastering their previous year’s studies.
Hall said teachers have stopped failing children out of courses because it doesn’t make them more successful. Instead, a school is more likely to put a student in summer school to boost up their understanding or put them in the next grade with a support teacher that they have access to once a day to help them pick up any areas that they are weak in.
She added more math tutoring business are opening up in town partly due to the shift of the school curriculum over to a conceptually based, deeper understanding of math, that is an uncomfortable concept for a lot of adults who still have that view that math is being able to do computation quickly.
“There is actually nothing wrong with having a good fast recall of your facts and being able to automatically go through processes. Unless the kids don’t understand how that links to anything real,” said Hall.
“So we have moved away from defining success for good understanding as quick computation to deeper understanding,” she added.
Ultimately, Hall said, there are lots of parents who are not comfortable with the new curriculum and think their children are not good at math because they, “can’t show them 18 flash cards and they have them answered in 20 seconds.”
“But, really, we now have spell check, we now have grammar check, we have word processing so we can go back and edit really easily and we have calculators, that are completely useless if you don’t actually understand what the math means.
But they take care of a lot of that computational drudgery,” she said.
“Because life does not say to you, ‘Here is a math problem you need to multiply.’ Math says you’ve got 23 people in your family and the cruise costs $1,364, what’s the total cost going to be,” Hall said.
“You need to understand that’s a multiplication situation. A calculator does nothing for you if you don’t actually understand that.”

Child-protection agency's board resigns en masse to protest Doug Ford funding cuts

Updated: July 11, 2019

Andy Koster BR

BRANTFORD – An emotional board of directors of Brant Family and Children’s Services has voted in an unprecedented step to resign together after failing to get provincial officials to address a deficit they say was created by the government.
“Kids could die,” said Andy Koster, executive director of the Brantford agency.
The board sent the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services a message in June, warning that if it didn’t get “sufficient and meaningful assurance by July 5 that the ministry would address its funding problems, it would resign.”
With no support in sight from the government, board members unanimously voted to tender their resignations on Friday, saying they could no longer meet their mandate.
“We can’t go on in a deficit,” Koster said. “And we can’t do any more layoffs.”
The board says there was no choice since board members individually would eventually become responsible for the agency’s deficit, which is more than a half-million dollars for this year alone.
The agency also has an accumulated debt of $3 million.
Koster says he expects the move will also mean the end of his 47-year career as a child care worker, with the last two decades as the executive director of children’s aid in Brantford.
Without a board, the government will be forced to step in, as it did in the case of the Brantford General Hospital, where the board and top executives were dismissed.
“But I fully support the board in this decision. They are doing this in the best interests of the kids of Brantford and New Credit.”
The ministry disagrees, saying in a statement that the local opioid crisis hasn’t had a financial impact on the agency and, with the board resigning, it plans to appoint a supervisor to “operate and manage the affairs of (the agency) so that services are transitioned seamlessly.”
The statement also said the agency was funding services “outside its mandate” and delivering service in an “inefficient manner and in ways inconsistent with best practices of other similar-sized children’s aid societies.”
But board chair Paul Whittam said the deficit hanging over the board’s heads was caused by the province and that Queen’s Park refuses to take ownership of it. Whittam made his comments in a letter that went to the government, local mayors and band chiefs last month.
“Our concern is that our financial problem was created by the ministry, not by our actions,” wrote Whittam, “and that the ongoing arbitrary actions of the ministry will exacerbate our financial issues.
“(It) will inevitably, in our view, put child protection services in our community at risk.”
The deficit the board is struggling with is new. Until 2017, the agency had a fairly balanced budget and was considered well governed and careful with funding.
But in 2017, the ministry removed $780,000 from its budget to turn over to the new Six Nations child protection service, Ogwadeni:deo.
The new Six Nations service has received millions of dollars in start-up funding, said Koster.
While the Brantford agency is fully supportive of Ogwadeni:deo, Koster says the process, which hasn’t gone as quickly as expected, means that only 12 children have actually been moved into the care of the new agency in a year and a half.
“We support the Six Nations agency but the government has to fund us properly, too.”
More worrisome, as Brantford is in the midst of a worsening opioid crisis, the Brantford agency is taking in more children as their parents battle addictions.
“This crisis is terrible,” Koster said. “On one team, we have workers dealing with over a dozen expectant addicted moms who will give birth in the next month.”
In April, Koster reluctantly cut 26 employees – 14 per cent of the agency workforce – moving their work to those left, who were already being over-burdened by new cases.
According to the ministry, there’s no evidence the Brant opioid crisis, which has been described as one of the worst in the country, second only to Kelowna, B.C., is causing any of the financial issues at the agency.
“Our top priority is continuing to provide service to the children, youth and families who rely on Brant FACS,” a government spokesperson wrote in an email.
“Our ministry has been taking the necessary steps to ensure that the board’s decision has no impact on the safety of children in care.”
Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma, who was approached several times by Koster and the board, seemed puzzled by the resignation announcement.
“I have no idea why they’re doing this,” Bouma said Wednesday.
“I find it unfortunate the board no longer wants to work with the ministry on this file. I’ve seen the numbers and their budget is bigger this year than last year.”
Monique Taylor, NDP critic for children and youth services, responded to Wednesday’s news by saying Koster wasn’t exaggerating when he said children could die due to a lack of funding.
“Instead of addressing the dangerous underfunding caused by the Liberals, Doug Ford is taking things from bad to worse,” said Taylor.
Unless the provincial government steps in, the board’s resignations will take effect Friday.

Foreign students cite friendliness among Canada's top draws, conference hears

Updated: July 11, 2019

School counsellor Zephyr McIntyre of Qatar Academy secondary school was one of about 1,500 people from around the world attending the International Association of College Admission Counselling conference being held this week at Western University.

High educational standards, excellent value and good, old-fashioned friendliness are some of the reasons Canada is one of the best places for foreign students to attend post-secondary school, say several international school counsellors attending a conference in London this week.
“Canada has a reputation as being friendly to international students,” said Zephyr McIntyre of Qatar Academy Sidra secondary school, home to students from 37 countries.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of international students enrolled in post-secondary institutions in Canada has been on the rise for the past two decades.
McIntyre helps send several students a year to Canada “because educational standards are high.”
He was one of about 1,500 guidance counsellors and university admission officers who will spend the week at the International Association of College Admission Counselling conference at Western University.
“The reputation of the schools and programs are high,” he said. “The programs are recognized around the world, due to accreditation.”
Several of his Sudanese students, who have had difficulty getting into U.S. schools, he said, have been welcomed in Canada.
“They felt safe in Canada,” he said. “The diversity of Canada was also a positive.”
But the price of tuition is a major factor when it comes to scholars choosing to study here.
With U.S. tuition in the US$60,000 to $80,000 range, a Canadian price tag of about $25,000 is a bargain by comparison.
“The cost is significant cheaper than a U.S. college,” said Josh Hudley, the co-director of college counselling at Awty International School in Houston, Texas.
For Abdul Oladipo, of Beijing World Youth Academy, a Canadian education offers more “stability and safety compared to the U.S.” as well as a “great quality of education.”
“(Also) your money works better for you than in the U.S.,” he said.
  • 245,895:  Number of international students in Canada in 2016-17
  • 150,000:  Number of international students in Ontario in 2016-17
  • 4,000:  Number of of international students at Western in 2017-2018
  • 5,300: Number of international students at Fanshawe College in 2018-19

Young students having fun with math lessons

Published on: July 11, 2019 | Last Updated: July 11, 2019 12:15 PM EDT

A group of students work on the smart board at St. Gregory Catholic School in Picton on Thursday. The students are working on improving math skills during the three week program, BRUCE BELL jpeg, BI

Judging by the laughs and giggles coming from Ms. Levesque’s classroom at St. Gregory Catholic School, summer classes are no burden for a group of eager, young learners.
Once again, the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board is holding summer classes for younger learners and this year the focus has shifted to math for children in grades one and two.
The board is holding daily classes at 10 sites in the Picton, Kingston, Belleville, Bancroft and Trenton regions.
Dan Finn and Kevin Douglas are once again serving as co-principals for the summer programing and point to the Ministry of Education’s mandate to elevate math scores for the move away from literacy skills to mathematics this summer.
“We’re capped at 16 children at each of our sites, that’s what we’ve determined to be the optimal number for this program,” said Finn. “We’ve moved the programming to math this year and it’s designed for students working at a Level 1 or Level 2 and hopefully over the course of three weeks we will be successful in moving the students up a level.”
In addition to a teacher in each classroom, the board also utilizes the Focus on Youth program, allowing students in Grade 11 to earn extra credit by assisting the young students in their math studies. Finn said it provides an excellent opportunity for the high school students to catch up if falling behind in thei credits needed for graduation.
Douglas said the program is designed for younger students in an effort to keep them at an appropriate level.
“We’re trying to target them at the right age, Grades 1 and 2 when they’re developing number sense, how to manipulate numbers, a lot of estimation,” he said. “We’re trying to get the kids to make that link between estimation and numbers. A lot of the teachers are taking the approach of learning centres, but with games and incorporating that counting into the games.”
And it’s certainly not all work and no play during the school day.
“I think with these grades, with the balance of math in the morning and recreation in the afternoon it helps keep them going,” Douglas explained. “They’ve been to the splash pad, the fire department and that’s the carrot that seems to keep them focussed in the morning session.”
Finn said it is important not to let the children fall behind in match at a young age.
“Certainly the push is for early intervention for students to move those math levels and keep them up to speed,” Finn explained. “The teachers do a great job of keeping everything interesting and when the kids are enjoying the classroom it makes it much easier to learn.”
Students who could benefit from the extra math lessons are identified by teachers before the end of the school year and Finn said arrangements are then finalized to enrol them for the program, which runs at no cost to the students’ families.
The students are all enrolled in ALCDSB schools during the regular school year but are able to attend different schools for the summer program.

Smith takes new cabinet portfolio

Published on: June 20, 2019 | Last Updated: June 20, 2019 6:59 PM EDT

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith. Postmedia Network Jack Boland / Jack Boland/Toronto Sun

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith has a new job after a major cabinet shuffle at Queen’s Park was announced on Thursday.
Smith was named the new Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, leaving his former positions as both the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and House Leader, He replaces Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod who was moved to Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Part of Smith’s new portfolio is the province’s autism program that came under fire when major changes were announced earlier this year.
“It’s the third largest ministry in government, so it’s a big, big responsibility,” said Smith. “I’m happy and honoured the premier has chosen me to take on this really important file.”
The Ministry administers social assistance programs like Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, developmental services and autism programming, the Family Responsibility Office and a wide range of community supports including those for women and children fleeing domestic violence and Ontario’s Indigenous communities.
Smith said he’s eager to start working on his new responsibilities.
“It’s an exciting file that’s important in the Quinte region and in communities right across the province. I’m ready to jump in head first to meet with stakeholders and families that are affected to better understand the challenges they’re facing,” said Smith. “I’m looking forward to working with all my teammates around the cabinet table and my new associate minister for children and women’s issues, Jill Dunlop, to ensure our government continues to provide for these families and ensure they have the services they need and the Province is providing those in a sustainable way.”
The local MPP said he is proud of the work the government accomplished while he held his previous cabinet positions
“What a great role that was.  As government House Leader I helped shepherd 20 different pieces of legislation to pass – which is a record. We wanted to have somebody experienced in that role in the first year as we were moving legislation through the House as quickly as we could. I was pleased to serve,” he said.
Smith is pleased to see six new faces join cabinet and looking forward to continuing to deliver on the government’s promises as it enters its second year.
“The shakeup that happened today is ensuring we have the right people in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Our premier always refers to our caucus as an all-star caucus and we have some very, very bright new additions added to the good team already at the cabinet table. It’s a positive all around.”

RDSB approves $203M budget

Published on: July 5, 2019 | Last Updated: July 5, 2019 11:20 PM EDT

Charlotte Bertrand, 11, left, and Brynn Boulrice, 11, of R.H. Murray Public School, display their project on the Bell mansion at the annual Sudbury Regional Heritage Fair at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. on May 9, 2019. The fair, which features 40 projects from students from the Rainbow District School Board, continues Friday with workshops and live performances by local musician Andrew Lowe. Two projects from the fair will be selected to be showcased at the Provincial Heritage Fair at York University on June 8 and 9. John Lappa/Sudbury Star

Rainbow District School Board approved a balanced budget of $203.1 million for the 2019-20 school year at its regular meeting on July 2, the board announced in a release this week.
“This budget ensures the continuity of programs and services within the funding provided by the Province of Ontario,” said RDSB chair Doreen Dewar said in a statement. “With final ministry of education approval of our school consolidation plans in the New Sudbury and Valley North planning areas, Rainbow District School Board will be well positioned to align expenditures with revenues going forward.”
RDSB is projecting an enrolment of 12,900 students this fall. Enrolment projections consider historic retention rates, the board said, the flow through of each grade and information on population growth or decline.
A total of 75 per cent of the budget, or $152 million, has been allocated to salaries and benefits in keeping with negotiated agreements, according to the Rainbow board.
The board said it has successfully balanced the need for innovative programs within the allotted revenue while focusing on all aspects of student success.
Rainbow District School Board operates 32 elementary school buildings and nine secondary school buildings in Sudbury, Espanola, and Manitoulin Island.
The Board also offers other programs: Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program, Cecil Facer School, N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre, Children’s Treatment Centre, O’Connor Park, Applied Behaviour Analysis program, Restart, Simulated Healthy Dependent Living Opportunities (SHILO) program, Attendance Centre, Mishko-Ode-Wendam, Northern Support Initiative, Frank Flowers School and Barrydowne College operating at Cambrian College.

(Does anyone have the stats on how many people are attending teacher's college in Ontario this year and in which teacher's college? That information used to be available and I copied and pasted it here but it doesn't seem to be available now. Hmmmm.....)
(The topic of people secretly recording conversations and the possible legal consequences came up for a teacher recently, so...)

March 30, 2019 4:22 pm

Updated: March 31, 2019 1:02 pm

Is it legal to secretly record phone calls like Jody Wilson-Raybould did? What you need to know

By Rahul Kalvapalle         National Online Journalist  Global News

Video will begin after these messages...x
WATCH: Secret recording of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s phone call with Michael Wernick on SNC-Lavalin released
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould ignited a firestorm in the already-heated SNC-Lavalin scandal on Friday by revealing that she secretly recorded a phone call with Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.
The 17-minute recording backs up Wilson-Raybould’s Feb. 26 testimony to the House of Commons Justice Committee in which she alleged that Wernick hinted that her job as justice minister would be in jeopardy if she didn’t intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
READ MORE: ‘All of this screams’ of political interference — Wilson-Raybould to Wernick in SNC-Lavalin tape
Wernick’s lawyer deemed Wilson-Raybould’s recording of the call as “inappropriate.” Indeed, Wilson-Raybould herself acknowledged that recording the call was an “extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step.”
Law societies like the Law Society of Ontario, of which Wilson-Raybould is an honourary member, prohibit lawyers from recording calls with clients without clients’ express permission.
The Canadian Bar Association code of conduct also prohibits lawyers from recording anyone without permission.
WATCH: Justice committee releases private phone call between Wilson-Raybould and Wernick on SNC case
In her position as attorney general and justice minister, Wilson-Raybould was effectively the top lawyer for the Canadian government, prompting questions about whether her recording of a conversation with Wernick — the government’s top civil servant — constituted a breach of professional regulations on client-attorney conversations.
However, the controversy surrounding Wilson-Raybould’s decision to record the call has to do with the fact that she did so in her capacity as a lawyer and cabinet minister.
Laws governing the rights of individual Canadians and businesses are laid out in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Criminal Code and provincial regulations.
WATCH: Will the Liberals kick Jody Wilson-Raybould out of caucus over recording?
Here’s a broad overview of what Canadians and businesses operating in Canada can and cannot do with regards to recording phone calls:
Private calls
Section 184 of the Criminal Code states that recording private conversations is legal as long as one of the parties involved in the call consents to the recording.
It’s called the “one party consent” exception.
That means the second person involved in the call does not have to be informed that the call is being recorded. If several people are involved in a phone call, it’s still legal for one of them to record it without informing the others.
Recordings made with the consent of one party may be used as evidence in lawsuits.
However, you can’t intercept and record the private phone conversations of others. Doing so can land you in prison for up to five years.
WATCH: Facebook committing to new privacy measures for messenger
Laws governing the recording of phone calls by businesses are set by PIPEDA, although exceptions apply in some provinces.
Under PIPEDA, businesses may record calls for purposes that are reasonable and appropriate, with the text of the law offering guidance on the interpretation of what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Businesses must also secure customers’ consent and state the purpose of the recording. This can be done passively — for example, if you call your bank or cell phone provider and get an automated message saying “This call may be recorded for quality control purposes” and you proceed with the call, your consent is implied.
However, businesses recording conversations for a stated purpose of quality control are prohibited from using the recording for other purposes such as marketing or customer profiling.
READ MORE: Air Canada app records your personal information — and you may have no clue
PIPEDA also gives Canadians the right to request access to call recordings, although the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada notes that Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec have their own private-sector privacy laws that may apply over PIPEDA.
There are a few circumstances in which businesses can record customer phone calls without customer consent. These include debt-collection calls, calls made to investigate potential fraud and calls where it’s deemed that informing the customer that the call is being recorded could hurt the organization’s ability to obtain accurate information.
Canadians who have questions about the legality of phone call recordings and other privacy matters can contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
— With files from the Canadian Press

The Ford government’s education cuts are setting kids up to fail

Tues., July 9, 2019timer3 min. read

The Ford government has gone to the trouble of revamping the Grade 10 careers program to teach students all about the exciting opportunities in the fields of science and technology at the same time that it has cut funding for the high school classes they need to pursue those jobs.
That doesn’t make any sense.
But rather than deal with this obvious problem, the newly minted Education Minister Stephen Lecce seems to be working on his head-in-the-sand ostrich pose.
New data from two of Ontario’s largest school boards show students will have fewer class options, including in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, when they return to high school in September. And yet Lecce maintains those class cancellations have nothing to do with him.
Those are board decisions not ministry ones, he says.
The Toronto public school board and the York Region board, which covers Lecce’s own riding, did not just wake up one day and randomly decide to cancel hundred of classes.
The class cancellations and reductions, which are happening in school boards across the province, have everything to do with the Ford government’s decision to fix a provincial budget problem of its own making on the backs of students.
It has substantially increased high school class sizes — from 22 to 28 students on average — and will fund thousands of fewer teacher positions.
This is just year one of the Ford government’s four-year plan and already school boards are scrambling to maintain the basic courses students need to graduate. The provincial funding constraints have essentially stripped them of their ability to offer smaller classes, which often include STEM subjects in the senior years as well as the trades-related classes because, really, how many teenagers does anyone want working with machinery in shop class at one time?
So the very things the government claims it’s focusing on “to ensure our young people can develop the skills they need in a modern economy,” are at the greatest risk because of its education cuts.
But, so far, the new education minister has somehow avoided seeing that connection.
Indeed, on Tuesday, as he announced funding for summer math help for elementary school students, Lecce spoke about empowering educators and modernizing education to ensure students get “the skills they need to get good paying jobs.”
“Student success is my top priority,” he said.
But how can students succeed when the Grade 12 physics class they need for university isn’t offered? Or the student who struggles in math and needs more attention than a teacher facing a much larger class can give? And what about all the students whose passion for learning is sparked by music or some other elective class that’s also disappearing?
The Ford government cuts will hurt struggling students, gifted students and generally make school a lot less interesting for all students come September.
That does not drive student success. Worse still, it puts the gains that have already been made at risk.
High school graduation rates soared to an all-time high of 80 per cent after the former Liberal government began investing heavily in education. We can’t afford to lose those gains.
The Ford government rarely backtracks on its decisions even when they’re shown to be full of destructive unintended consequences, but it has been known to happen.
This should be one of those occasions.
Students deserve an engaging high school experience that sets them up for success and we already know how few second chances there are for those who fall off the career path in high school.
The education minister needs to take his head out of the sand before it’s too late.

York University professor asks Peel school board to reconsider teaching of To Kill a Mockingbird

Caroline Alphonso Education Reporter

Published 12 hours ago

Carl James, who has published several papers about anti-black racism in education, said in an interview that his recommendation does not involve banning books, but rather thinking critically about required-reading texts such as the 1960 novel by Harper Lee.
Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail
A prominent anti-black racism researcher is pushing an Ontario school board to reconsider teaching To Kill a Mockingbird – reigniting a debate about the educational value of literature mainstays and introducing voices that reflect a diverse student population.
Trustees at the Peel District School Board, west of Toronto, received a report last month that made 10 recommendations on how to support black students in school, including a suggestion that they rethink whether texts such as To Kill a Mockingbird “should continue to be taught at all.”
Carl James, a York University professor who has published several papers about anti-black racism in education, said in an interview that his recommendation does not involve banning books, but rather thinking critically about required-reading texts such as the 1960 novel by Harper Lee.
“A text that we might have used many years ago to portray certain kinds of people, today might not be useful. So why couldn’t we raise these questions and give this kind of critical analysis to To Kill a Mockingbird?” Dr. James asked in an interview.
Dr. James said the book’s frequent use of a racial epithet lends legitimacy to the word particularly in the absence of critical analysis in terms of the historical context, who is using the word and its effect on learners. He said there are other books that better engage students in dialogue around racism.
Many school boards across North America have increasingly started examining their English curriculums to develop culturally relevant lessons. But the measures have also given rise to tensions. A story in The Washington Post in 2015 detailed how a teacher in an inner-city school in California no longer wanted to teach Shakespeare because she believed it did not speak to her ethnically diverse class. Another teacher responded that shared skin colour does not equal shared experiences, and that Shakespeare still spoke to the human condition.
The Peel school board sent a memo to English department heads two years ago asking them to explore culturally relevant texts, including A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse and Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, after hearing from its students that their experiences were not being reflected in classroom literature. Then last June, the board went a step further and wrote that To Kill a Mockingbird should not be taught in high schools, “unless instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens.” It included a compendium document as a guide to help students analyze the book from a different point of view.
Students in Ontario are required to take an English course every year of high school.
Dr. James’s report included interviews from focus groups of black students who expressed challenges they encountered, including their frustration with teachers and administrators not doing enough to address issues of anti-black racism. The school board had tasked Dr. James with measuring the progress it had made in addressing anti-black racism and supporting students, particularly black males, since it established an action plan in 2016. While Peel said there is still work to do, it has also moved to train staff and has formed a number of black-student advisory councils in middle and high schools.
Poleen Grewal, the board’s associate director of instruction and equity support services, said having English departments consider whether To Kill a Mockingbird is an appropriate text used by teachers in their classrooms is part of the action the board has taken. The number of teachers who are having the novel studied by their whole class this coming school year has dwindled, to around four to six.
The book uses the racial epithet a number of times that is “hurting and harming black kids," Ms. Grewal said, adding that the black character, Tom Robinson, is one dimensional, unlike, for example, Aminata Diallo in Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes, who is strong and resilient.
To Kill a Mockingbird, at one point, might have been an important text. But part of education and part of living is that we learn and grow, and now that book doesn’t have the same level of credibility and respect that it once did because we know better,” Ms. Grewal said. “And when we know better, we’ve got to do better.”
Nokha Dakroub, a trustee at the board, had put forward a motion in April that the book no longer be required teaching material at high school. The motion was defeated. Some trustees at the meeting said it was not up to them to decide which books are used in the classroom. Others argued that the book taught lessons on not being a bystander.
Ms. Dakroub said she was still debating whether to reintroduce her motion in light of Dr. James’s findings and recommendations.
“This isn’t about book-banning,” Ms. Dakroub said. “We are trying to prepare our students for the future. We’re not trying to prepare them for the 1960s. Some of the work we do around that requires us to look at what we are teaching in classrooms. … If it causes harm to one person or one student, then it’s already a problem.”
Follow Caroline Alphonso on Twitter @calphonso

Trudeau calls Ford government cuts to Ontario's education system 'frightening'

'I'm very, very worried,' Trudeau tells meeting of Canadian Teachers' Federation

John Paul Tasker · CBC News · Posted: Jul 11, 2019 1:19 PM ET | Last Updated: 6 hours ago

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a discussion at the Canadian Teachers Federation annual general meeting in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the provincial Progressive Conservative government's cuts to Ontario's education system are "frightening" — and he worries they could undermine the quality of the education his three kids receive at an Ottawa-area public school.
Speaking at the Canadian Teachers' Federation's annual general meeting in Ottawa, Trudeau took aim at changes made by Premier Doug Ford to trim costs in Ontario's sprawling public education system, which has more than 2 million students enrolled on average each year.
Protests have followed the government's pledge to increase class sizes (average class size for grades four through eight will rise from 23.84 to 24.5, while grades nine through 12 will jump from 22 to 28), introduce mandatory e-learning modules and cut as many as 3,000 full-time teaching positions.
The Ford government says it hopes to eliminate those teaching jobs through retirements and attrition. According to the latest figures, there are roughly 126,000 teachers in Ontario.
"As we look at what the Conservative government in Ontario ... has done in terms of cuts to services, cuts to kids, it's really frightening," Trudeau said during a pre-election "armchair discussion" with the teachers advocacy group.
"As a federal politician, even as prime minister, I'm not supposed to have too much of an opinion on provincial education policy. But I was a teacher and I'm also a parent with kids in the system, and I'm very, very worried about them suddenly showing up in September with a class size of 30 plus, less support for the special needs kids, and an environment that is generally hostile to teachers," he said.
In Canada, education is an area of provincial jurisdiction.
Stephen Lecce, Ontario's education minister, said the prime minister was being unnecessarily divisive by going on the attack against the provincial government.
He said it's clear the prime minister would rather run an election campaign focused on Ford instead of speaking about the Liberal record in Ottawa over the last four years.
"On the eve of an election, it is regrettable that the prime minister is ill-prepared to put the national interest ahead of his own political interest. He's campaigning instead of leading the country," Lecce said in an interview with CBC News.
"What we need now more than ever is a prime minister with the political leadership to help unite the country and collaborate with the provinces to, yes, improve education and give people hope that they can obtain jobs so that they can compete in the global workplace."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford shakes hands with Stephen Lecce after he is sworn into his role as minister of education (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)
The minister said, under Trudeau's leadership, national youth unemployment rates are stubbornly high — consistently above 10 per cent for those aged 15 to 24 — even in an era of record low unemployment rates for other age cohorts. "We need to do better at all levels of government," he said.
Lecce, who assumed the position after Lisa Thompson was shuffled in Ford's June cabinet overhaul, said he is focused on improving Ontario's education system and educational outcomes by bolstering mental health investments and engaging in a major rewrite of an outdated curriculum. He said the government has so far injected some $700 million in new spending into the education system as part of these reforms.
The Ford government has said the current public education system is "broken" and is not producing acceptable test scores in some key subject areas, such as mathematics.
It has defended the cuts as necessary to help get the province's fiscal house in order after years of budget deficits that have left Ontario with the world's largest sub-sovereign debt levels.
Moreover, beyond the cuts, the Ford government has said it is intent on "modernizing" the school experience by focusing on disciplines like science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), new online learning options, financial literacy, and support for students interested in skilled trades.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Don Peterson of B.C. and his daughter Gracyn after participating in a discussion at the Canadian Teachers Federation annual general meeting in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Teacher groups have said the cuts are a devastating blow to an education system that is generally well-regarded internationally. The hike to classroom sizes will be particularly difficult to manage for teachers, the unions have said. Changes to the Local Priorities Funding program will mean a loss of some $235 million for special education programs to support children in need and at-risk students.
Trudeau's criticisms appear to be part of a Liberal federal election campaign strategy of running against the controversial Ford and his unpopular budget cuts — a tactic that was on display Thursday as Trudeau warned that electing federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer would lead to the introduction of Ford-like policies in Ottawa.
Trudeau said Conservatives can't be trusted when it comes to the education system, reminding the largely friendly audience of educators that the Conservative election campaign of 2015 ran attack ads mocking him for being a drama teacher who wasn't "ready" to lead.
"We saw the Conservatives try a number of attack lines on me that I was just a teacher, and how could I become prime minister. I mean the issue, and this is a personal thing, I think being a teacher informs deeply how I am prime minister," he said.
About the Author
Parliamentary Bureau
John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at

We need to improve teachers’ mental health literacy

Faculties of education have a role to play in ensuring that teachers can identify and respond to students’ mental health challenges.


Educators spend a significant amount of time with young people, some of whom may show early signs of a mental illness, particularly during the adolescent years when most mental disorders can be diagnosed. They are often the first to observe student behaviours that may portend mental health problems and be the first to secure support for students in need. And yet we know that, while approximately 20 percent of children and youth in Canada will develop a mental illness in their lifetime, many of those who require care do not obtain rapid access to the help they require.
One of the contributing components to this dilemma is that teachers report that they don’t know how to respond to the student mental health challenges they see in schools. When the Canadian Teachers’ Federation surveyed teachers in 2012, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they had not received professional preparation in mental health education and felt unable to sufficiently understand or appropriately respond to students’ mental health needs. How can faculties of education address this gap in teacher preparation, both at the pre-service and in-service level? (Pre-service refers to a teacher candidate who has not yet finished their education training, while in-service refers to a certified, practising teacher.)
Teachers’ mental health literacy may hold the key to reversing some of the disturbing statistics related to youth mental health and improving health outcomes. Mental health literacy is defined by Stanley Kutcher and Yifeng Wei of Dalhousie University as understanding how to obtain and maintain positive mental health; knowing about mental disorders and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental disorders; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy. This concept underpins the work the University of British Columbia faculty of education has been undertaking, along with faculties in Western University and St. Francis Xavier University, to address this gap in teacher education and better prepare educators for today’s classrooms.
These faculties of education worked with Drs. Kutcher and Wei to co-create a freely available, flexible, online curriculum resource called TeachMentalHealth. It was piloted in a variety of delivery formats: as a mandatory online course, as a face-to-face elective and as a partial component within a required teacher education course. In addition, 27 faculties of education across Canada reviewed and provided feedback during the pilot period, identifying the importance of flexibility, modularity and ease of online use. Given the wide range of contexts in which a curriculum resource might be used, it was important to ensure that the content was based on the best available evidence, and was able to be delivered in a variety of formats depending on time availability, course requirements, and whether it was instructor-led, self-guided or other.
Several research studies have now been conducted at the pilot sites, and each attests to the significant and sustained increases in understanding about mental health and mental illness, reductions in stigma and improvement in help-seeking attitudes. Here are some of the comments from pre-service teachers about some key understandings they developed:
  • “It is important to use mental health words accurately and correctly in daily life and not to exaggerate thoughts/feelings with mental disorders like ‘depression,’ ‘anxiety’…”
  • “Stress is not always ‘bad’ for you; it is an adaptive response. How you view stress is important and can change its impacts on your health.”
  • “Be critical of studies done and jargon used to sway opinion. For example, ‘risk factor’ is often misinterpreted to mean causation.”
The development of mental health literacy as a means of equipping pre-service teachers to enter the teaching profession mirrors ongoing work at the in-service teacher level. Many provinces have undertaken professional development in mental health literacy and noted improved outcomes (increased knowledge about mental health and mental illness, reduced stigma and improved help-seeking) among students and teachers alike. In British Columbia, almost every school district has taken part in a mental health literacy trainer institute (at UBC, led by Dr. Kutcher) as part of a provincial strategy to develop mental health-literate school districts. Summer institutes of an introductory and more advanced nature are also being offered.
This professional development roll-out has been overseen by a provincial steering committee comprised of leaders from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, school superintendents, school counsellors, principals and vice-principals, the ministry of education and ministry of mental health and addictions, BC Children’s Hospital, Foundry BC and the UBC faculty of education. Early implementation efforts in North Vancouver, for example, have shown promising outcomes among the district’s students, staff, teachers and also parents. Coordination with community health services is an essential component to providing in-time care. And, as has been noted in other provinces, such as Alberta where a similar approach has been undertaken, access to critical mental health care improves in places where mental health literacy has been widely taught.
The Association of Canadian Deans of Education takes mental health education very seriously and is dedicating a portion of its upcoming conference at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, being held in Vancouver in June, to learn what various faculties are doing to address mental health education and develop related knowledge and competencies within their teacher education programs. Preparing educators for the challenges of today’s classrooms must include introducing them to evidence-based mental health literacy as a foundation for developing knowledge and competencies that help not only the students in their care but themselves and their loved ones as well.
Mental health education affects every part of the K-12 and postsecondary education systems, and society more broadly. There is much that faculties of education can do.
Wendy Carr is a professor of teaching and senior advisor at the University of British Columbia. Blye Frank is a professor and dean of the faculty of education, also at UBC. The authors wish to acknowledge the work of their colleagues: Susan Rodger at Western University, Chris Gilham at St. Francis Xavier University, as well as Stan Kutcher and Yifeng Wei at Dalhousie University.
 Resources include the TeachMentalHealth online course for pre-service teachers, the Bringing Mental Health to Schools online course for in-service teachers, and two UBC summer institutes, which are being offered July 2-3 and July 4-5 in Vancouver. 

(A substitute teacher with a denominational board in Toronto was given an unadvertised contract position. It was a very challenging special education class. Three students did not have an official plan or learning plan yet. One student was on Ritalin for a few months but his mother was worried about the long-term side-effects so she took him off of it. The substitute teacher had special education, part 1. To be a fully qualified special education teacher in Ontario you were supposed to have special education, part 2 and 3 but when he told the principal he wasn't a fully qualified special education teacher the principal replied, "You're qualified, you're qualified." The students rarely worked. They often fought. When the teacher tried the classroom management strategies recommended by the regular special education teacher the students just ignored him. He often reported the problems to the principal. The principal visited the class a few times and asked the students to cooperate but it had no effect on them. Eventually the principal gave the teacher an unsatisfactory appraisal. The substitute teacher said it wasn't fair and he wasn't going to sign it. The principal yelled at him that he had to sign it. He knew principals had the power to ruin your career if they wanted to so he signed it and hoped for the best. He got the worst. The board refused to give him another contract position. They said it was because of his unsatisfactory appraisal. He had been telling many people all of the examples of family hiring of new grads from teacher's college while 1300 more experienced substitutes who didn't have family connections kept getting passed over. When he went to the union the vice-president of the local said you signed the appraisal, that means you agree with it. There's nothing we can do. Her superior was sitting beside her and he said no, your signature just means you acknowledge you received the appraisal. The VP just shrugged and she didn't do anything to help. He never got another contract and he went bankrupt a year later because of all of the student loans he had from becoming a teacher. Don't become a teacher in Ontario, Canada.) 

Ontario’s new class size means Toronto, York school boards forced to cut STEM classes

By Kristin Rushowy Queen's Park Bureau

Mon., July 8, 2019timer6 min. read

The Ontario government says it is focusing on science, technology, engineering and math in education — but an analysis of two of the province’s largest boards show those courses are being squeezed out as secondary schools grapple with larger classes and fewer teachers.
Data from the York Region and Toronto public boards shows the number of STEM classes on offer is taking a big hit this fall.
In the York Region District School Board — which covers Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s own riding — of the 120 cancelled classes, 23 are STEM-related, and a further 10 are in business studies. Among the 38 “reduced” class offerings, STEM subjects represent more than half.
In the Toronto District School Board, of 313 cancelled classes, more than 80 are STEM courses, or 26 per cent.
Of 304 classes that will run with more students or combined grades, about 140 are science, tech and math classes, representing 46 per cent overall — almost half.
“These are decisions we are forced into making because of the 28-to-one class size,” said Cathy Abraham, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, referring to the province’s move from the current average of 22 students per class in high schools to an average of 28, leading to the loss of thousands of teaching positions.
“I just know by casually looking at any school board that has put out their lists (of cancelled classes), that seems to be what it is. It does have mostly to do with the fact that those are the classes that not every single student has to have as a graduation requirement.”
Enrolment is typically lower for those STEM classes, especially in the senior years, and schools struggle to run them because every small class means another, bigger class must offset it to maintain the average.
But she said boards are now working to ensure that if students need such courses for post-secondary studies, other options are available.
One Scarborough high school cancelled Grade 12 computer science after only about a dozen students enrolled — a class it would have run in the past — and if a student needs the credit for post-secondary studies, they will be directed online or to night school.
A number of schools have cancelled Grade 12 earth and space science, or Grade 12 physics. A host of tech classes, which are always smaller for safety reasons, have also been impacted.
“Right now, it is very frustrating for all of us,” added Abraham.
As boards are quick to point out, classes are cancelled every year based on student interest. But this year, there are more — creating a huge disconnect between the government’s focus and reality, said Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.
“This is exactly what we warned of when the government announced on March 15 its intention to slash one-quarter of Ontario’s high school positions,” said Bischof. “Their claim of wanting to improve access to STEM classes is completely at odds with the cuts they are imposing. Ontario students will lose out.”
Lecce has said class cancellations are board decisions, not those of his ministry.
His spokesperson, Stephanie Rea, said in a statement to the Star that “our government has been clear about our commitment towards reforming the outdated education system left to us by the previous government. Regardless of the changes we make, our objective and central focus of any reform to the education system remains the same: student success.”
Rea said “our mission is to ensure our young people can develop the skills they need in a modern economy and help them find good jobs in Ontario,” and noted the revamped Grade 10 careers studies program looks at financial literacy as well as employment in the skilled trades and STEM.
“The Ministry of Education does have attrition protection in place to ensure school boards can continue to offer specialized courses that require specialized teachers and/or smaller class sizes,” she said of a $1.6-billion fund that over the next four years will help boards deal with the loss of teaching positions and avoid layoffs — money that could be used to bring in a teacher with specialized training.
“As well, an additional 5 per cent job protection is being provided to further support the staffing complement for the continuity of STEM and specialized programming. This means boards are being provided with 105 per cent job protection funding.”
But NDP education critic Marit Stiles said while Lecce speaks about the importance of modernizing education, “what, in fact, we are seeing is that those classes — those ones that speak to new technology and also the ones that lead to careers in skilled trades — are the ones that are being lost.
“Students are seeing the doors to those opportunities being closed shut … I would hope that the government sees this as a wake-up call,” she said
She’s heard from parents whose teens can’t get the Grade 12 courses they need for post-secondary studies, STEM or not.
With many electives being lost, students are losing “courses that challenge them, that allow them to explore new fields” and figure out what kind of studies they’d like to pursue after graduation.
“The proof is there — the courses don’t exist, and they aren’t coming back. And this is just year one” of a four-year reduction, she noted.
In the York Region District School Board, among the 120 cancelled classes are 15 in arts/music/drama, 16 in social sciences/humanities, 26 in Canadian/world studies, nine phys-ed and eight English classes. Science and math are the top two “reduced” offerings.
Leslie Wolfe, president of the secondary school teachers union local for the Toronto District School Board, said the government is “negatively impacting students’ opportunity in the very area (it) claims is an economic priority,” which in the long term will hurt their employment as well as the economy.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board will offer about 120 fewer classes this fall overall. While it does not have a breakdown by subject, some of the cancelled classes at individual schools include accounting, biology, business leadership, chemistry, computer programming/science, information and communication technology, earth and space science, physics and environmental science.
David Boag, associate director of education at the Halton District School Board, said while it has likely cancelled more classes for this upcoming school year than in the past, it tried to avoid doing so by combining classes with smaller numbers.
Students can also often cross-register at another school nearby if a class such as Grade 12 physics isn’t offered at their home school, he added.
“Tech courses are often vulnerable,” he said. “With science they are not vulnerable if they are core courses” — but they are in the senior years when they no longer mandatory.
“We have larger classes, and I can say that definitively,” Boag said. “We have more split classes going into next year, which is a way of saving those classes” by combining Grade 10 and 11 construction, for example.
“If you’ve got fewer teachers, there are fewer courses you can offer,” he said. “... The optional courses are the vulnerable ones, there’s no question.”
In May, the Peel District School Board said the most affected courses are “at the senior level, and in the arts, technological education, and social sciences and humanities. However, we are also seeing cancelled courses in business, computer studies, mathematics, and science at a higher rate than we would have seen in previous years ... The elimination or reduction of these courses can decrease student engagement, which is directly linked to student achievement, credit acquisition and, ultimately, the ability to graduate.”
​Amal Qayum, president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association — which represents the province’s two million public school students — said courses such as construction or refrigeration “where there’s a huge job market … those courses are very expensive to run … you can’t have 35 kids in an auto class.”
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Playgrounds can alienate children with disabilities. Now, they’re being built with accessibility in mind

Moving beyond wheelchair accessibility, playgrounds are being designed with new materials and thoughtful equipment to remove barriers for those with vision impairments, hearing deficiencies, social anxieties, autism and sensory development delays

Matthew Hague

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published 19 hours ago Updated July 7, 2019

With its vibrant colours and springy rubber surfaces, play areas like this one built by Toronto-based Earthscape provide accessible features for youngsters with mobility issues.
Until Hannah Houghton started Grade 3 in September, 2017, she had never romped on the playground of her school, McGirr Elementary in Nanaimo, B.C. In fact, she had never been on any of the 20-plus jungle gyms and adventure parks in her hometown.
Houghton had friends to pal around with and, similar to most kids her age, enjoyed being outside. What stopped her, however, was that none of the playgrounds in her vicinity were wheelchair accessible. As a baby, she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 2. It left her without the ability to walk across the shifty gravel that separated her from her classmates.
“Starting in kindergarten, I used to see my daughter sitting on top of the hill overlooking the playground at school, with no one around except her adult supervisor,” Hannah’s mom, Mabel Houghton, says. “She would simply be watching her friends play. So I made a promise to her. I said: ‘You are going to get on that playground.’”
There’s no reason Hannah shouldn’t have been with her friends sooner, especially these days. According to Easter Seals, more than 5.3 million Canadians, almost 16 per cent of the population, have some form of disability. Among that number, almost 200,000 are school-aged children such as Hannah. Many more are parents. That’s a large number of people who either can’t take in the simple pleasure of a park, or supervise their own kids at a park, unless the space is properly designed to accommodate them. Which they should be.
These days, novel designs are making it much easier for people of all abilities to enjoy recreational spaces that until recently were restrictive. That often means wheelchair accessibility, but also goes well beyond it. New materials and thoughtful equipment are also removing barriers for those with vision impairments, hearing deficiencies, social anxieties, autism and sensory development delays.
The benefits of such innovations are potentially huge. According to a study by education journal Physical & Health Canada, children with disabilities are almost four times less likely to get exercise outside of school than other children. In addition, more than half of young ones with disabilities have few to no close friends. Both issues are in part owing to difficulties accessing the venues – parks, camps, gyms, schools – where socialization and physical activity often take place. Imagine the isolation that’s inevitable if all a child can do is watch their peers have fun.
Inclusive play spaces are an invitation to belong. Plus, even for the fully able, they add surprising, often beautiful new components to scamper over. Quite literally, everyone has more fun.
One of the biggest challenges for accessible play is the ground surface. Although some wheelchairs can manoeuvre over a bed of wood chips, which are American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, sand, gravel and other uneven, unstable materials tend to be hazardous. For the design of Mississauga’s Jaycee Park, which was named by Today’s Parent magazine as one of Canada’s best accessible playgrounds, Toronto-based Earthscape Playgrounds used a poured-in-place rubber surface. Not only is it more vibrant than little grey stones – at Jaycee, it’s done in a swirling composition of green, blue and orange – it creates surreal, Dr. Seuss-like mounds and has a springy, plush quality that’s a joy to bounce around on.
Toronto-based designer Adam Bienenstock, founder of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, doesn’t specialize in wheelchair accessibility. He often employs large, reclaimed tree stumps – about 400 years old, many that fell over naturally, all still covered in their rough and weathered bark – that are meant to encourage kids to climb all over. “The average child these days spends 48 minutes per day outside versus 7.5 hours on screen,” Bienenstock says. “I’m trying to provide playgrounds that give them experiences they aren’t otherwise getting.”
But subtly layered within most of the structures are elements that broaden inclusiveness. The textures of the designs – the gnarly bark versus smoother wood surfaces – help those with underdeveloped sensory systems better engage their sense of touch, depth perception and hand-eye co-ordination. One park, called Pasquinel’s Landing Park in Denver, offsets a communal play area with a more secluded enclosure for quiet alone time – something that can be necessary for those with autism spectrum disorder.
“These environments not only help kids engage their environments,” Bienenstock says, “they also help some kids relax.”
Which isn’t to suggest that a playground can’t be both wheelchair accessible and sensitive to the many needs kids might have. Currently across Canada, a series of remarkably inclusive playgrounds are being built by Jumpstart, a charity run by Canadian Tire with the mandate to improve recreational opportunities for kids of all backgrounds. Their plan is to spend $50-million and install at least one universally enjoyable playground in every Canadian province and territory by 2022.
One of their most recent structures is in Toronto’s $1.2-million Earl Bales Park. The structure, which opened in spring 2019, overflows with thoughtful details to ensure that no one is left out. Braille signage helps the visually impaired. Tall back rests and chest harnesses on the swings help those who lack upper-body strength feel comfortable. There’s a more secluded area for kids who want alone time (replete with oversized xylophones where they can practice their music skills). And although there are plenty of ramps, the ramps are extra-wide and gently sloped, meaning people in wheelchairs can climb to the top, side-by-side, where platforms with special benches allow them to transfer themselves out of their chairs and onto slides (there are benches at the bottom of the slides as well to transfer safely off).
Even the slides themselves are thoughtful. “They are made of rollers,” says Marco Di Buono, associate vice-president of programs and operations for Jumpstart. “It’s a feature that most people wouldn’t think of. But they are intentionally designed not to create static electricity, which would otherwise interfere with a child’s hearing device.”
According to Kelly Arbour, a kinesiology professor at the University of Toronto who is working with Jumpstart to study the success of the playgrounds so far and make recommendations for future improvements, such thoughtful details can be hugely impactful. “So far in our early findings, we’ve heard from families that say they no longer need to divide and conquer,” she says. “They can finally take all their kids to one place, not separate their kids based on ability.”
“This creates a value opportunity where siblings can have unstructured play together,” adds Ron Buliung, a geography professor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. “We often forget about the siblings who might want to play with their brother or sister on a playground, but can’t.”
Importantly, then, such playgrounds also have to be engaging for able-bodied children as well as a variety of ages. To wit, playground critic Dana Wheatley, along with her three young kids, rates adventure parks for her website, the Calgary Playground Review ( Recently, she took her family to Jumpstart’s new Calgary outpost. “It’s fantastic on every level,” she says. “None of my kids, who range in age from four to 10, wanted to leave.”
Jumpstart is ultimately what helped Hannah Houghton get onto her playground at McGirr Elementary in Nanaimo, B.C. The school was one of the charity’s first test locations; they got involved after Mabel sent an e-mail to Jumpstart vice-president Marco Di Buono, trying to find a way to pay for a more inclusive play structure and fulfill the promise that she made to her daughter.
McGirr now has a fully accessible playground, one with a colourful rubber surface, a quiet corner for kids who want alone time and accessible swings with heavy-duty harnesses. In addition to Hannah, children come from all over Vancouver Island to enjoy the space. It’s also become popular with parents who have accessibility requirements as well, allowing many of them to interact directly with their kids on a playground for the first time.
One of the most popular elements is an accessible merry-go-round, which is wide enough for a wheelchair to roll on. Hannah particularly loves twirling around, and her mom loves watching her have fun. “Seeing Hannah on the merry-go-round, screaming with the other kids – it’s amazing,” Mabel says. “It’s just so great to see her be a part of the group with all the other kids.”

Future of fun
To perfect its ultrainclusive playgrounds, Jumpstart worked with Landscape Structures, a Minnesota-based company that specializes in accessible outdoor design. The mandate was to reimagine the playground to allow kids and their parents, to enjoy themselves, regardless of ability. Here are five of their most innovative inventions that update traditional play structures for a broader group of people:
Friendship Swing
As the name suggests, these swings promote social interactions between kids of all abilities. Their high back and deep seat provide upper-body support for those who need it. And they are low enough to the ground with sturdy frames made from stable steel tubes to make it easier for kids to transfer themselves to and from wheelchairs.
We Saw
Like a traditional seesaw, the We Saw allows kids to bounce up and down until their tummies hurt (in a good way). Unlike a traditional seesaw, though, the We Saw remains level at a wheelchair transferable height when not in use, making it easier to get in and out, all the more so because the seats don’t have bars that require anyone to swing a leg over. Another improvement: It has four seats between the two ends with room for two more in the middle, significantly upping the social factor.
Sway Fun Glider
Not all accessible play structures involve moving to and from a mobility device. The Sway Fun Glider, which is the size of a small pontoon boat and simulates the motion of being on the water, is built to be wheeled onto, no transfer required. The centre has a series of grab bars built in such a way that kids of all abilities can latch on and, shifting their weight back and forth, feel the motion of the (imaginary) ocean.
Sensory Play Centre
Little ones with sensory processing issues often have a hard time understanding what they are perceiving. They are either over- or under-sensitive to rough textures, loud noises and too much imagery. Specialized play structures can help such kids develop stronger processing skills, including tactile panels for touch, and built-in musical instruments such as bongo drums and xylophones. To prevent any possible feelings of sensory overload – a common affliction of being at a busy playground – such Sensory Play Centres are often set off to one side and incorporate walls that create a sense of privacy.
Cozy Dome
Kids love playgrounds. Except when they don’t. Some children, for example, find the idea of socializing with their peers daunting. They might be autistic, for example, which makes it harder to have a spontaneous, unstructured play with friends. The Cozy Dome helps mitigate such anxiety. It provides a secluded, quiet corner for when someone wants to be alone. But the mound is also covered in nobs and holes, providing a structured activity – climbing to the top – that a few kids can tackle at a time as a step toward more complicated social interactions.
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(Several years ago a retired teacher was working at substitute teaching in Toronto with a denominational school board. He became friends with a middle-aged man who had entered the teaching profession at 37. He saw him struggling to get contract jobs and full-time. He told him the truth and he knew what it was because he had been with the board for 30 years and he was a union rep for 20 years. He said it is a lie when principals say they hire teachers based on who knows the ministry guides and manuals. He said there is a deal between the union and the board. No grievances when they hire the sons and daughters of people in admin who are right out of teachers college as long as the board also hires sons and daughters of full-time teachers. That's why there is so much family in school boards and in other union shops. Also, principals hire some teachers who don't know the Ministry of Education guides so they can create an opening when they need to fulfill the deal. Then the principal does the teacher's appraisal, shows they're not teaching the info in the guide, the union can't fight for them, they get pushed out, and the family member who just graduated gets the position. This way the board lives up to the deal.)
(Teachers must have their report cards finished and given to the principal at least 7 days before they are sent home to parents so they can read them, make corrections, and sign them. Parents must have at least 7 days to study their child’s report card and to write comments and concerns and to arrange meetings with their child’s teacher and for the meeting to take place. Since school ends very near the last day of June that means that report cards must be to the principal around June 10-14. After that teachers often refer to activities in their classroom and in the school as “babysitting” since it is impossible to place any assessment on the student’s report card after June 10. Grade 6, 7, and 8 students often have this figured out because some teacher let it slip that they have to get some testing done June 1-10 for report cards. This can be a potentially dangerous time in schools as some difficult grade 6, 7, and 8’s get pretty rowdy. Substitute teachers do not like June. It’s “high risk” time for incidences and for substitute teachers to get blamed. Several teachers take sick days leading up to the report card due date to get them done. Most school boards try to have a school year that is 194 days long. When you count the number of days of actual lessons apart from babysitting days, report card days for principals to read them and sign them, twice a school year, and for parents to study them, put replies, arrange meetings and have the meetings, fire drills, snow days, various assemblies, and field trips, the number of school days that involve actual instruction could be as low as 170. Is it any wonder there is a lot of family hiring in teaching, in my opinion?)
(Did you know that if you become a qualified special education teacher in Ontario, (maybe this applies in other jurisdictions, too, I don't know), if the board appoints you to a special education behavioural class with a student or more who have a history of biting and clawing you can't turn it down because teachers are like police officers, firefighters, and soldiers: they are not allowed to turn down dangerous work. Either take the position they appoint you to or resign. My friend's wife told me this.)
(Some teachers who have taught in isolated Aboriginal communities that are very poor report that they have been regularly pressured by the parents of their students and by support staff who are from the community into providing food for their students since they are wealthy and they are earning over $30,000.00 a year. There are no secrets in small, isolated native communities.)

(A substitute teacher was sitting in a workshop in Toronto, Ontario in 2010. He had been with a denominational school board for a few years. He was having a very difficult time getting a contract position or a full-time, permanent teaching position with the board. He had been to several meetings of the local for substitute teachers with the board but the vice-president who always ran the meetings often said, "That's the way it is with this board, there's nothing we can do." He was sitting beside a young woman who looked like a recent graduate. She looked at him and asked him if he was a full-timer or a substitute. He had grey hair. He said he was a substitute. He was having a lot of trouble getting contract positions. He said he heard they don't even advertise them and when they do they've already been filled but they tell teachers yes, we advertised that position. They just don't tell you they advertised it after they filled it. She said, yes, you're right. They don't advertise them. She said after she did her student teaching at an elementary school with the board she was given three consecutive unadvertised contract positions and she just got full-time. He said congratulations. She said thanks. He said it's too bad for the 1,300 substitute teachers who never got a chance at full-time. She said that's true. He said and this is going on in a union shop. So much for unions helping you. She said true. DON'T GO THROUGH TO BE A TEACHER IN ONTARIO. TEACHER HIRING IS FIXED IN ALL THE WRONG WAYS, IN MY OPINION.)
(When the election of Ontario started in September, 2018, the union for public elementary teacher's decided to support the New Democratic Party of Ontario, the most socialist political party in Ontario. They only won an election once in Ontario's history. The Liberals were very generous to teachers 2003 to 2018. How does your decision on which political party to support look now, ETFO?)
(A teacher applied to a denominational school board in Toronto in 2006. He was offered an interview. In the interview the principal asked the usual questions about planning a lesson or a unit, assessment and evaluation, and classroom management strategies. The principal asked him if he had any friends or relatives working with the school board. He couldn't believe they asked that in the interview. He said no, he had no relatives working with the board, but his aunt was retired from the board as a principal. The principal asked what her name was. He told him. He asked the teacher to spell the last name. The teacher spelled it. The principal said they would let him know in about a month after they checked his references. In a month he received a letter offering him a teaching position as a substitute teacher.)
(A former substitute teacher tells me someone who was a substitute teacher with a school board in Toronto got so fed up with going to union meetings and asking for fair opportunity for contract positions and full-time positions only to be stone-walled by members of the executive that they took the local to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. They accused the executive of failure to fulfill duty of fair representation. I was told when they got to the hearing the labour relations officer told them they didn't have enough evidence to get a guilty ruling. They were told that the standard for proving guilt by members of the executive of their local was so high that they would have to find a document written and signed by a member of the executive of their union that said, basically, "Yes, we violated the clause on duty of fair representation..." but even then there was no guarantee that you would win. I'm told they gave up the fight. DON'T GO INTO TEACHING IN ONTARIO IF YOU DON'T HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE BOARD OR WHO ARE FULL-TIME TEACHERS UNLESS YOU WILL BE CONTENT WORKING AS A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER FOR TWENTY YEARS OR TAKING THE WORST CONTRACT JOBS THAT NO ONE WHO HAS FAMILY CONNECTIONS WANTS. MANY PEOPLE GO BANKRUPT AS MEMBERS OF A UNION. BEING A MEMBER OF A UNION IS NO GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL END UP FINANCIALLY SECURE. BEING IN A UNION SHOP IS NO GUARANTEE OF FAIR OPPORTUNITY AT JOBS. AND THEY ARE GETTING AWAY WITH THIS WITH OUR TAX DOLLARS. WORK UNDER-THE-TABLE. BUY WHERE YOU CAN AVOID PAYING TAXES. THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED IN FAVOUR OF THOSE WITH THE RIGHT FAMILY CONNECTIONS. MANY UNIONS HAVE SOLD-OUT COMPARED TO WHY THEY WERE CREATED. OTHER AREAS MAY HAVE THE SAME UNFAIRNESS. I'M NOT GOING TO CALL IT CORRUPTION. I'LL JUST CALL IT UNFAIRNESS, FOR NOW. WARN OTHERS.)
(A former substitute teacher with a denominational school board in Toronto tells me that when he was hired he worked as a substitute teacher for three weeks. Then he got a call from a principal who offered him an interview for a maternity leave contract position teaching grade 7/8. He had two years of experience teaching grade 7/8 in the north. He accepted the interview. He asked her how she got his name and number. She said it was on his profile on the board web site. When he was hired they told the group he was in that some contract positions were advertised on the board web site. He checked that site. The position he was being interviewed for wasn't listed in the ads. In the interview the principal gave him lob-ball questions and then she said that he had the position.)
(In 1993 a former substitute teacher was working as a clerk with the federal government on short-term contracts. The government had a large deficit and debt and they created a surplus in the E.I. fund by making it harder for people to collect E.I. Since the number of claims dropped by thousands the staffing levels had to be reduced. They ran a competition. Those who didn't pass and were going to be laid-off were notified. He was one of them. He went to the president of the local and said he wanted to grieve the competition, the way it was organized was obviously fixed to favour people in one department over the others. She said she'd ask for a grievance. He was laid-off. Three weeks later she called him and told him to come into the office. He went in. She said his request for a grievance was denied. He asked why. She said because there was no clause to use as the basis for the grievance. He asked her why was that. She said it was because for many years unions and workers had been taking weak collective bargaining agreements with many clauses removed to minimize the number of grievances so unions and employers could save a lot of money on legal fees and in exchange workers got jobs for family members. That's why there is so much family hiring in union shops.)
(I am told that members of the parent councils in Ontario organized a test of teachers last year. They divided up who would test the teachers on this guide or that guide. They all scheduled meetings with teachers about the same time so the teachers wouldn't get wise and warn each other and suddenly study and implement the guides. The parents wanted to know if it was true what the government was saying, that teachers only get hired if they know the guides, that way the students get a consistent program across the province so if the family moves the students aren't falling through the cracks. And this way teachers aren't just teaching what they happen to be in the mood to teach and students then end up struggling to pass the challenging secondary math and science programs. The province tells parents the program builds on what was taught to students in the previous grades. What the province didn't do was monitor teachers to see if they were actually teaching the program. I'm told that the parent councils caught the teachers not teaching the provincial program. I was told that about 60% of the teachers in Ontario who the parents tested failed the test on the provincial guides. That's why the province suddenly ordered a lot of professional development for teachers last year but the cat was out of the bag. I'm told that the Liberal government got seriously burned by this embarrassment and that's part of the reason why they fell to only 7 seats in last October's election. Why didn't the media report this? In cahoots with teachers and unions? Didn't want the principals to look like they had lied for several years and hired mostly family in accordance with a deal?)  
(A teacher tells me he had a very strong impression and understanding that manufacturing was not a secure field to work in for his future. He said his grade 10 geography teacher told the class that forecasts that they had at that time indicated that there would be many reductions in jobs in manufacturing in the future in Canada. That was the 1979-1980 school year. So they knew even then what changes would take place in the workplace in the future. Do your homework before you decide what job or profession you or your children choose to pursue. Don't go down a blind alley. You could end up very stuck.)
(Would you prefer tax increases to balance the budget and to pay off the debt to layoffs to reduce expenditures of the province? What would you increase the taxes on? Or just an increase in income taxes? That way we can avoid cuts to services.)
(We need to support the children's aid societies in Canada and in all other nations. Some parents are dealing with serious issues and that impacts their children. Grandparents can't necessarily just step-up and fix everything. Contact your MPP in Ontario and tell them you want any workers who have been laid-off from your CAS office in your area returned to the job. They do crucial work helping children at-risk.)