Ontario to introduce new report cards and re-examine EQAO in 'curriculum refresh'

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister announced a “curriculum refresh” on Wednesday that will try and address low EQAO test scores and help students gain more skills necessary for success in a 21st century economy.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter made the announcement Wednesday

Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke to students at Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute about a planned "curriculum refresh" that will include the introduction of new report cards. (CBC)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced a plan to modernize school curriculum on Wednesday that includes the introduction of new report cards and a focus on "transferable life skills" that will help students succeed in a 21st century economy. 

"We're going to do a curriculum refresh," said Wynne, who said that the changes will come through wide-ranging public consultations.

The goal, she said, is to better equip students with skills like problem-solving, communication and critical thinking, with new report cards to be introduced in the 2018-2019 academic year to better track those skills. 

In a draft provided to show new evaluation criteria, "learning skills and work habits" like organization are replaced with six new "transferable skills."

The province offered this sneak peek of the skills that will evaluated on the new report card, set to be introduced in the 2018-2019 school year. (Ontario)

Ontario not 'switching gears' on math

As part of the modernization plan, Hunter and Wynne also pledged to update provincial assessment tools, including EQAO testing.

This past year, only half of Grade 6 students who took the EQAO test met provincial standards in math. 

"There are a couple of areas that need to be tackled," said Wynne on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday. "One of them are math scores — what is going on? That we're doing a lot of teacher training, there's a lot of support, but still, we're not seeing the improvement in achievement in math that we'd like to see."

During the news conference, Wynne was asked if looking at the math program meant the province was "switching gears" on a $60 million strategy put in place last year to improve mathematics, Wynne said it didn't. 

"We made changes just last year, they haven't had a long time to set. But we do need to look at whether we're doing everything that we can to make sure kids are getting those math skills," she said. 

Focus on well-being 

Another aspect of the refresh is a $49-million investment over three years into a student well-being program.

Hunter said that the funding will go towards focusing on the "whole student," including cognitive, social, emotional, and physical well-being. 

"We're going to be focusing on things like active transportation... mental health... and looking at flexible funding for local school boards so that they can look at local priorities," said Hunter.

That way, she said, schools can decide what would boost their students' well-being the most, be it a mindfulness program or a nutrition program. 

Wynne defends spending

The Fraser Institute, a conservative Vancouver-based think-tank, released a report on public school funding simultaneously with Wynne's announcement. 

They say that in Ontario, public school spending has increased by $7 billion in a decade, with eight out of 10 of those dollars spent on teacher and staff salaries and pensions, while enrolment has decreased by 5.4 per cent in that same period. 

Wynne defended Liberal spending on education on Wednesday, arguing that the school system was "decimated" when Liberals came into power in 2003, requiring a re-building of the "toxic" relationship between teachers and the government. 

"The money that we spend on staff, to hire more staff, is all about them, its all about the students," she said, pointing to full-day kindergarten as an example of necessary spending on staff salaries.