Toronto

Ontario considers making all teachers take an annual math test

Senior government sources have told The Canadian Press that teachers would be required to pass the test in order to continue teaching.

Mandatory test would apply to teachers at both the primary and secondary levels

Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced significant changes to the province's education system last month. The government is now considering mandatory annual math testing for all teachers in the province. (Chris Young/CBC)

The Ontario government is considering implementing mandatory annual math testing for all teachers in the province.

Teachers would be required to pass the test in order to continue teaching. It would apply to teachers of both primary and secondary school, even if they do not primarily teach mathematics, senior government sources told The Canadian Press.

The Progressive Conservative government has repeatedly promised to take measures to improve student math scores, which have been declining for years across the province.

The consideration of the annual test for all teachers comes after the government passed legislation Wednesday that will require all aspiring teachers in Ontario to pass a math test before receiving their licence to teach.

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that the government was considering expanding that requirement so it applied to all teachers every year.

"I have an idea: Why don't we test all the teachers, rather than just new ones, on learning how to deliver math?" he said during question period.

Premier Doug Ford is calling for mandatory annual math testing for all teachers, including new hires and those currently employed across the province's school boards. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Harvey Bischof, the president of the union representing secondary school teachers in Ontario, called the idea "nonsensical," saying it could put effective teachers out of work.

"High school teachers in Ontario are subject specialists. If you're not qualified to teach math, essentially, you don't. And if you are qualified, you don't need a test," he said in a phone interview.

"Imagine taking an effective art, history or geography teacher, and finding out they can't solve a quadratic equation, and preventing them from teaching the subjects that they're highly qualified to teach."

The government hasn't said yet what the annual test will look like or who will administer it. It has said it would still need to consult with teachers and parents on the matter.

EQAO concerns

Last August, the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which administers standardized assessments in the province, said math test scores among public elementary students in Ontario have been falling over the last five years.

The agency also suggested that efforts by the previous Liberal government to reverse the trend haven't worked.

The EQAO data showed that 49 per cent of Grade 6 students met the provincial math standard last school year, down from 54 per cent in 2013-14. Among Grade 3 students, the EQAO says 61 per cent met the provincial standard in 2017-18, down from 67 per cent in 2013-14.

Meanwhile, 45 per cent of Grade 9 students enrolled in an applied math course met the standard, while that figure stood at 84 per cent for those in the academic math course. Academic courses focus more on abstract applications of concepts, while applied courses focus on the practical.

At the time, Education Minister Lisa Thompson called the results "unacceptable." Sources say the EQAO scores, combined with feedback from parents who are concerned about the matter, are prompting consideration of the new annual test for all teachers.

"How can we expect our students to do the math when our teachers can't?" a government source said.

Opposition critics have said the government should be bolstering curriculum supports and teacher training instead of imposing a test on teachers.

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