Wednesday 19 January 1994

Annual report, Provincial Auditor, 1993: Ministry of Education and Training


*Chair / Président: Cordiano, Joseph (Lawrence L)

*Acting Chairs / Président suppléants:

Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South/-Sud L)

Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Présidente: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South/-Sud ND)

*Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

*Murphy, Tim (St George-St David L)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Perruzza, Anthony (Downsview ND)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present/ Membres remplaçants présents:

Akande, Zanana L. (St Andrew-St Patrick ND) for Mr O'Connor

Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND) for Mr Owens

Jordan, Leo (Lanark-Renfrew PC) for Mrs Marland

Malkowski, Gary (York East/-Est ND) for Mr Bisson

Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood ND) for Mr O'Connor

Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville/S-D-G & Grenville-Est PC) for Mr Tilson

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Ministry of Education and Training:

Berryman, Jack, education officer, legislation branch

Carr, Graham, education officer, curriculum policy

Gauthier, Richard, leader, French-language education and programs

Hibbitt, Sharon, manager, registrar services section

Lamontagne, Maurice, education officer, program policy support team, special education policy unit

Lanthier, Jim, education officer, provincial reviews

Pascal, Dr Charles, deputy minister

Poirier, Maurice, leader, curriculum and assessment team

Wideman, Dr Ron, education officer, lifelong learning unit

Peall, Gary, director, ministry and agency audit branches, Office of the Provincial Auditor

Peters, Erik, Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffier: Decker, Todd

Staff / Personnel: Anderson, Anne, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1006 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Joseph Cordiano): Members of the standing committee on public accounts, by previous agreement, we're going to deal with matters pertaining to curriculum this morning and curriculum will be the focus. I believe the deputy has an opening statement around that. No? We're just going to lead into questions.

Dr Charles Pascal: I will save you from any more opening statements.

The Chair: Okay. Do you want to perhaps turn to the briefing around curriculum just to bring members up to speed with where we are with that? I thought there were government members here but I guess there aren't, so we'll just wait for a moment. I know we've gone over this. Perhaps I could turn to Mr Jordan. Do you have any questions around this?

Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): No, I don't, Mr Chair. I'm filling in this morning for Margaret Marland. Perhaps my colleague Noble has a question.

Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): There is no opening statement?

The Chair: No, there isn't. The auditor?

Mr Erik Peters: No.

The Chair: No one's going to rescue us.

Dr Pascal: I could make an opening statement if you want, Mr Chair.

The Chair: No, that's fine.

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): Mr Chair, I have to apologize on behalf of the committee. I think our brains are still thawing from the cold and I think we're also still geared to special education, so we're frantically looking over our notes and changing gears.

The Chair: I think it might be helpful to have Anne quickly summarize where we were on this section and just point out some of the directions in a five-minute or 10-minute synopsis for the benefit of those members who were not here for her briefing.

Ms Anne Anderson: Perhaps the best thing for me to do then is to go over the first couple of pages of the briefing that I gave the members on Monday. It takes into it some of the background behind the Provincial Auditor's report and just sort of highlights the key recommendations that the auditor had.

One of the main points, I think, to make is that since the audit was initiated, the province established the Royal Commission on Learning, whose mandate is to address many of the issues that the Provincial Auditor brought up, including issues that are in the areas of accountability, governance, program purpose and direction.

Another major initiative of the government's since the audit has been the common curriculum. As had been mentioned before, some of the key features of that curriculum were that it focuses on results and identifies learning outcomes, it's designed for all students and it's based on an integrated approach to learning where subject material is incorporated into broad areas of study. This emphasizes sort of relationships between those areas.

The four areas that have been designated are language; mathematics, science and technology; self and society; and arts. It requires school boards, school staff, students and the community to work together to meet local needs and provides a basis for evaluating student programs and program effectiveness. This would include some of the province-wide testing, grades 3, 6 and 9.

The main objectives of the audit were to assess whether the curriculum development process was cost-effective, whether there were satisfactory procedures to measure and report the effectiveness of education programs and services, and what arrangements were in place to ensure that a curriculum of consistent quality for both official languages is taught and learned in the province.

The overall observation of the Provincial Auditor from this audit was that, and I quote:

"The present arrangements for the development and delivery of curriculum could be more cost-effective and are not adequate to determine that a curriculum of consistent quality in both official languages is taught and learned across the province."

However, he did recognize that many of those issues that he brings up will also be addressed by the Royal Commission on Learning.

The main thrust of some of the recommendations that came out from there had to do with the development and implementation of curriculum, accountability measures and teacher training. Under development and implementation of curriculum, the audit recommended that the ministry should coordinate the boards' development of curriculum and other resource documents, involve key stakeholders, clarify the objectives of the broad-based technology program, coordinate the delivery of French-language curriculum and periodically perform a more thorough evaluation of the needs for French-language materials.

There are also key recommendations concerning accountability, recommending that the entire accountability structure should be studied in conjunction with the royal commission.

"The ministry should collect information about various student and teacher assessment and reporting methods...and establish best practices" and "devise appropriate province-wide assessment tools for all core curriculum areas."

Finally, under teacher training, the recommendations were to review the criteria for teacher certification, review additional qualifications needed to help with the implementation of the common curriculum, consider reserving a portion of each board's PA days to introduce new initiatives, include the training of technology teachers in the teacher training program, and develop a strategy to ensure that all French-language schools and teachers have equitable access to services.

That's really a sort of brief summary, I think, of the recommendations that the auditor had. The rest of the package goes into more detail. Would you want me to continue with that, Mr Chairman?

The Chair: No, that's fine. That should provide sufficient food for thought. Ms Poole has a question.

Ms Poole: Thank you, Mr Chair. I apologize for not being ready to start this morning, but we've now got the appropriate places marked in our auditor's report to start.

I'd like to talk about accountability, because that's one of the prime responsibilities of this committee, to ensure that ministries and government agencies are accountable to the public and to the taxpayers.

On page 74 of the auditor's report, under "Accountability Measures," the auditor refers to the fact that the Education Act allows a permissive framework where the minister may actually delegate certain authority to the school boards. He makes the statement:

"Within this permissive framework, ministry policy has favoured increased delegation of authority to boards to promote local autonomy and responsibility, but has demanded very little reporting about how well boards are achieving system objectives."

When we held our hearings in the select committee on education, one of the constant criticisms was that the ministry did not require adequate reporting from the boards and in fact was very poor at data collection. Dr Pascal, since you were involved in many of those hearings at the time, from a different perspective, you will recall that much of the evidence that we had to use on the select committee had to come from different jurisdictions because Ontario didn't have the database.

I would just like you to outline for us what steps have been taken over the last few years to try to improve the reporting requirements from the local school boards back to the ministry so in fact we know that the taxpayers are getting value for the dollar.

Dr Pascal: I very much recall some of the discussions that took place during the select committee and the important discussions around accountability. Indeed, as the Provincial Auditor has noted, the act, that is, the formal requirements, is indeed permissive with respect to what the minister can do or can decide not to do with respect to being clear about curriculum. Indeed, the issue is one of traditional greyness. That has been, I think, generally true up until recent times.

I think in the same context that the Provincial Auditor noted the traditional lack of a clear, outcomes-oriented accountability framework, the presence of a common curriculum, which has been under development for a number of years with lots of stakeholder involvement, was a welcome addition to the scene.

As we look at accountability in the area of curriculum, the cornerstone for any accountability framework has to be clearly set learning outcomes. In the first and final analysis, whether a system works or not, whether any intervention provides value added or not, will rest on whether students are learning what they're supposed to learn and whether the system is transparent to everyone in the system: students, parents, trustees, educators and government, those elected to the provincial Legislature.

The last couple of years have seen things like the common curriculum standards that have been established for grades 3, 6 and 9; the provision of information about how our students are doing in terms of reading and writing, including the provincial review findings that were tabled in December; the student achievement indicators' project, a pan-Canadian project which, under Ontario's leadership this past year, has expanded.

The heart of any accountability framework for curriculum, which is why it was very helpful for the Provincial Auditor to go into a territory which was probably rather interesting and foreign because of the nature of the issues, has been very helpful in reinforcing that some of what we've begun to do in the last number of years is exactly appropriate for being clear about learning outcomes and providing information to all about how we're doing in achieving those outcomes.

We can explore over the course of today many specific examples of how we are setting learning outcomes, testing for their achievement and then providing information back to all the appropriate individuals who can make a difference with respect to the results, how we're doing in achieving those learning outcomes.

As part of our discussions, I'm sure we will want to have discussions about testing and the relationship between setting standards that relate to whether someone can or can't display their learning in an area and the difference between some of our approaches of today compared to standardized tests of yesterday. I won't go into that in any detail, unless members wish to, but there's a big difference between testing for standards and standardized testing, which has a lot of issues that members may wish to explore.

That's just a preliminary response. Let me take this moment, Mr Chair, to introduce a few of my colleagues who are up here at this point with me: Ron Wideman, Maurice Poirier, and Richard Gauthier from the ministry. I think we'll pause there and wait for a supplementary.


Ms Poole: I for one was very supportive when the government reversed its position on testing for standards. I agree with you about the difference between that and standardized testing. I think it's extremely important that we measure outcomes. Otherwise we have no way of measuring how effective the programs are and what specific needs our children have.

I'm wondering, further to that, what specific measures the ministry has undertaken to ensure reporting back from the local school boards on the success of the curriculum, for instance, what endeavours you've taken in that regard. The reason I ask that question is that I know a few years ago there was great angst in the educational community because they had a new curriculum being delivered but they didn't have the guidelines, they didn't have the appropriate resource material, and there seemed to be a real lack of communication between the ministry and the teaching profession as to how this was going to be delivered. I wonder how much of that has been rectified, and has that problem been overcome?

Dr Pascal: I'll ask Mr Poirier to answer the part of the question that deals with what kind of ongoing feedback mechanisms there are. But with respect to the issues of communications and involvement, using the common curriculum as an example because the Provincial Auditor uses it as an exemplar and we've had feedback from other jurisdictions that they're proceeding on the same kind of results-oriented, learning-outcome approach, the involvement of classroom teachers and those who lead classroom teachers in the development of the first draft has been quite extensive. The revision of the document, using the common curriculum as an important example, that is taking place right now has a very large stakeholder's group, which includes teachers and significant others.

In addition, we have developed, under Mr Cooke's leadership, a newsletter called In Common/En commun for all classroom teachers to understand the nature of how the common curriculum is going. It's meant to be a two-way communication vehicle so that their expertise as they apply the common curriculum, as they make the revisions necessary to achieve the outcomes, is fed back to us. We've also just launched a teachers' newsletter for all issues that relate to ministry priorities, again meant to stimulate two-way dialogue.

Those are a few of the things we're trying to do for the front-line teacher, that front-line professional, because of what policies come out of Queen's Park, if that individual isn't providing a real, tangible reality to the curriculum documents and the guidelines, the relationship between what happens at the centre, with involvement from people around the province, and what happens in classrooms is in jeopardy. But Mr Poirier perhaps wants to add with respect to the board-information feedback loop in terms of progress.

Mr Maurice Poirier: Thank you, Dr Pascal. The question on reporting is a key one in any discussion on accountability, because performing assessments or testing without having that feedback loop essentially invalidates the testing exercise. So perhaps reporting is an area, as Dr Pascal pointed out, that we need to focus on more and more. Reporting is an ongoing activity, and it occurs in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels. Of course, teachers report back to students at the classroom level, and they are expected to report back to the parents as to how well their students are progressing relative to the program that has been established by the province.

At the school and school board level, many school boards in Ontario conduct their own assessment programs and tests, if you like. They quite often make these results known at the school board level.

From a provincial perspective, we undertake a number of fairly large-scale assessment programs. Just to give you a vertical cross-section of that, we participate in international assessment programs. Yesterday, or this morning, I made mention of our participation in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, which will take place in 1995, and that study involves a public reporting exercise, in fact on a global scale, when the assessment is complete.

At the national level, as you might be aware, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, is in the process of conducting its second large-scale assessment. Last year we had the national test in mathematics, which was reported on this December, and the report involved a national report in addition to provincial reports, which of course we make available to the education system in this province. This spring we will see the administration of the language test, the national language tests, and the same reporting format will be adopted for that exercise.

At the provincial level, we conduct a number of assessment activities. Provincial reviews are ones that are probably the best known in Ontario, and these are essentially large-scale sampling of student achievement in the province to give us a picture of how well students are doing in a particular area at a grade level. Here again, we engage in a very public kind of reporting process. In this instance, however, individual results are not communicated, simply because this is a random sample. So the purpose of that test is not to provide individual feedback.

Ms Poole: Would it provide it by school, for instance, so you could tell that a particular school had a certain rating, though, or is it quite random?

Mr Richard Gauthier: As part of an answer to your question, the ministry has moved from a model of provincial reviews that Maurice was describing to provincial testing. The deputy mentioned that earlier also.

In this particular instance, this year we've concentrated on grade 9 testing, en français and in English, and we will be reporting back. Contrary to provincial reviews, which were a sample, in this particular instance, all students in grade 9 are being tested. The reporting back will be done as a school board report, but we're also reporting back per individual students.

There are two things that are happening: One is that the teacher marks and goes through the answers of the students. All this is being sent then to a central location. Then there is province-wide, coordinated by the ministry, marking done of the students' writings. We'll be able to give feedback to the teacher and to the student as to this provincial marking so that the teacher will get a chance to see how his marking fits into what the provincial marking has done, and the student gets a response back as to how he fits in and how he or she has done with it.

So as part of your answer, we've gone from a provincial review model to a provincial testing model which has a much stronger reporting back.


Ms Poole: I'm going to ask a really controversial question. In the event, once these test results are tabulated, you notice very strong trends, for instance, in a certain school, that every class that has a certain teacher has extremely low marks across the board -- the school board, I assume, would be aware of the test results; the school itself would be -- are you going to mandate any sort of teacher training, upgrading, improvement system for where it seems very clear that there is a problem with the teaching method?

Dr Pascal: That's a very good question. It strikes at the heart of the roles and responsibilities that should be part of an accountability framework and what happens when the information that's provided through this kind of testing pinpoints something that creates a fairly specific question mark in a particular board, in a particular school, in a particular set of classrooms.

At this point in time, without the benefit of the Royal Commission on Learning, we are doing the following, and we have to await the Royal Commission on Learning and what advice it has for the government and the minister about the various roles that people should play in a new accountability framework and with new attributions and responsibilities and roles in whatever governance recommendations they make.

They have to decide who should set standards. My guess is they might agree that what's happening right now in most jurisdictions is that the state should set standards. They shouldn't do it in a belligerent way, but they should do it in relation to the front-line educators and experts in various fields and then who's responsible for providing information, who's responsible for acting on the information when it's provided. In the current environment we have school boards. We have 172 school boards which, in an aggressive testing environment with clear learning outcomes, are given, as a group of trustees, information that raises your question.

We would make the assumption that the employer, which in this case is the board, with good information about the question mark you have posed, should deal with that information in a fair and equitable fashion in terms of professional development and all the kinds of common areas of support, feedback, coaching, progressive discipline, whatever arises from that.

You've posed a very specific and somewhat possible and controversial question about how this would all work. But under the existing framework and set of responsibilities, we think that providing good, clear information to trustees and to their directors and superintendents and principals should be enough guide about what to do.

As a result, for example, of the recent tabling of the results on the provincial review on writing, which was tabled in December, there are a few significant school boards that responded rather quickly with respect to what they're going to do; that is, there was a certain kind of public pressure because there's transparency.

The parents and the students and the trustees all see that this is how the performance looks, here's how we're doing or here's how we're not doing, and it forces a certain kind of responsibility on the part of those. I can't imagine a trustee with really difficult results compared to others just saying, "Oh, it must be a statistical aberration." They would want to investigate more thoroughly.

Jim might want to add to that.

Mr Jim Lanthier: Our experience with provincial reviews has been that boards respond quite aggressively to the results and take the individual board reports very, very seriously. They have followed up quite directly with reviews of program, with examination of teaching methodology and approaches, and have done some quite interesting and useful things in terms of amending their programs in response to information we've given them.

The Acting Chair (Mr Noel Duignan): That's the official opposition's time for this portion.

Ms Poole: You put a government member in the chair and they cut me off.

The Acting Chair: It is the turn of the third party.

Mr Villeneuve: The common curriculum, I understand, was implemented last September, first year. Right?

Mr Maurice Poirier: The Common Curriculum document was released last February and the planned phase-in for the implementation was September 1993 for the next three school years. We expect that we would be in the schools, in full implementation, in 1996.

Mr Villeneuve: Is this based on precedent elsewhere? I realize that it's a changing world and what have you. What are the main reasons for bringing in the common curriculum and the testing? I understand that many teachers are still resisting to some degree. Maybe just a little bit of general information on what was the main aim and whose brainchild is it.

Mr Maurice Poirier: I'll answer that and I'll ask Dr Wideman to provide further information afterwards.

There are two main reasons why we introduced this document, the first one being quite simply one of accountability. As Charles mentioned a while ago, this document is formulated in terms of outcomes, that is, what we expect students to achieve and to be able to demonstrate clearly, so that there would be a basis for reporting back to teachers, the students themselves and their parents and school administrators.

The second reason was that the elementary school program, at least up until the end of grade 6, had not changed in this province since 1975, and that is almost 20 years ago now. I think it's fair to say that the world has changed quite a bit since that time. We've seen the introduction of new technologies. We've seen the world economies change. We've also seen progress in the research that shows how children learn. Therefore, it was time to revise the school program.

We organized the common curriculum by three-year intervals to make it match with the divisions that are established for the school system and also to make it coincide with grade 9, since we were also at that time introducing the program in grade 9 with no levels of difficulty.

The trend towards outcomes-based education is a fairly general one, and in fact, if I may quote from a document that we've recently received from British Columbia, where that particular province like Ontario is moving to an outcomes-based approach -- I'll table this document with the clerk afterwards, if I may quote from it.

The Acting Chair: Do you have additional copies available for the members of the committee?

Mr Maurice Poirier: I can have additional copies this afternoon. I have them in my office.

This is a document from the province of British Columbia entitled The Intermediate Program Policy, Grades 4 to 10. It was issued last month. Under the section called "Evaluation and Reporting," the document says the following:

"The provincial curriculum identifies what students are expected to learn in terms of learning outcomes. These provide the criteria to evaluate and report on student performance. Reporting is ongoing and is carried out in a variety of ways. It helps students and parents understand what students are doing well, what difficulties they are experiencing and why, and what might be done to improve their learning."

I quoted that simply to illustrate that certainly we're not the only jurisdiction that has moved to an outcomes-based approach, because it's an approach that really is fundamental to any accountability we would want to have in a system, because without what you expect, you cannot measure it.

I'll ask Dr Wideman now to provide some additional background information as to where the research came from and what consultation was carried out prior to the document.

Dr Ron Wideman: The movement towards outcomes-based approaches is fairly widespread in the developed world at this point, in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, parts of the United States and Canada. It's designed to increase accountability, as Maurice said.

There was a great deal of consultation that was conducted in the early 1990s right across the province, with input from educators, from the public, from industry and from labour, which indicated a widespread wish for stronger standards for a common set of outcomes to be established for all students, to increase the level of education for all students, and the common curriculum came out of some of the basic messages that came from that consultation.


Dr Pascal: On the comment that some teachers are concerned by whatever, my experience, which is not extensive in terms of travelling around the province in the last 10 months since I assumed this portfolio, is that there's lots of support for the notion of common curriculum, there's lots of support for clarity and there's lots of help offered about making the document clearer, which is why the minister launched it as a work in progress.

But teachers approximate the normal population at large and change is difficult for a portion of any population. Doing things differently as a result of the common curriculum, which it will necessitate, is disquieting and uncomfortable for some. But with respect to the common curriculum, their involvement before and their involvement during its development and the revisions that are currently being made, I think, mitigate against any major concerns that I've heard. There is a little bit of concern, but I think it's quite limited.

Mr Villeneuve: Okay. The auditor did have a look at this curriculum and the recommendations were not direct. There were some responses and some reflection, but it was somewhat vague. Maybe the auditor could -- at least my assumption was that in your report on the common curriculum, you had no yardstick to go against or whatever. Could you just further explain your thoughts on what you've seen in your assessment of the curriculum?

Mr Peters: I'll make some opening comments and then turn it over to Gary and his staff, who were working on this more directly. The basic comment, the thrust of our observations really is along the lines that the common curriculum was a ministry initiative.

With the multiplicity of players, particularly the school boards which have other elected officials in the picture, it is a fairly difficult matter to implement right down to the grass roots in the present way our educational system in the province is organized. It's really quite a concern. The concern of accountability that Dr Pascal has brought up several times is right there.

I think we have heard yesterday, and many times, the response that all that is left that the ministry can do, very often, is persuasion. Yet under the act, the ministry has the responsibility to ensure quality education for all the students in the system. The basic question on the common curriculum is, can it be achieved effectively in the way we are currently organized to deliver education to students? That is the overall thrust of our concern. If there are some more details, Gary, go on.

Mr Gary Peall: To characterize all our recommendations as vague is probably correct in the sense that we don't want to handcuff the ministry into specific courses of action which require a fair bit of expertise on our part to try and dictate. We don't have that expertise or the time available in an audit or study of this nature to be that specific.

That's really why there is that vagueness there. We aren't in the business of trying to say what should be taught or how it should be taught, only that once you decide what should be taught, how does that get implemented.

Mr Villeneuve: I was concerned and I'm not sure how accurate it was, but it appeared that students coming out of the province of Quebec were more knowledgeable. I don't know what is the right verbiage to use here, but there were some yardsticks and some measurements taken, Ontario and Quebec students, and apparently Quebec students had a broader knowledge. Could you comment on that? Is this partly why the common curriculum came in? There's got to be a reason.

Dr Pascal: If I can just start off, first of all, the common curriculum is a three-year implementation process. I have every expectation that the manner in which we are involving the system in the process to revise the document, and the manner in which our regional offices work with the school boards, that moral suasion -- and again being transparent about standards and the results of testing against those standards providing trustees -- is going to go a long way to satisfy the issues of accountability, recognizing that we're still not there. We still don't have the kind of tight accountability framework that we hope to have as a result of some discussions with the learning commission and the Provincial Auditor through his activity on legislative frameworks.

In the issue that you're raising about Quebec students, you're probably referring to results that came out I believe in mid-December from the mathematics results from the school achievement indicators project, which is a pan-Canadian activity to again set and measure standards and then provide information back.

There were results. Comparing the results in terms of one province to another is tricky business, but those who look at the data will draw certain conclusions. The conclusion you drew is a legitimate conclusion to draw. I'd perhaps like Maurice to explain in more detail what those results mean.

Mr Maurice Poirier: Mr Villeneuve's question is relating the common curriculum with the results of that national math test, if I understand it correctly. When the test was administered, this curriculum was not in place, so in fact that's a good reason for introducing changes to the curriculum.

I think what we got in December was a validation that something was wrong, that we had to do something. We have every expectation that the common curriculum's outcomes in the area of mathematics in particular will be implemented. Given the results of this national test, we're well aware that school boards are taking the results very seriously and they are indeed focusing on mathematics.

At the release of the national results, Mr Cooke announced that he would be convening a symposium of sorts some time early this year to focus on mathematics achievement because that is of grave concern to everyone involved in education, I would say, publicly. Therefore, elements of the common curriculum will be examined to see how they could be used to improve our own performance in such tests in the future.

Dr Pascal: If I may, and if you've had enough of an answer I'll cease and desist, but I just wanted to add something about the utility of that kind of pan-Canadian testing or within-Ontario testing. As we receive the information from the national testing program it gives us, as a ministry, pause to evaluate what some of the differences might be. What are the differences in terms of teacher certification, in terms of who's in the classroom and what qualifications they have? The Provincial Auditor called attention to that as part of the teacher education issues.

What are the per-pupil expenditure differences? Well, between the provinces we're talking about right now, my guess is Ontario's per-pupil expenditure is a lot higher than Quebec's. That's an interesting issue to explore in terms of whether it's money or whether there are other variables at play. It gives everybody information about what to do to look further.

We're going to get a very detailed technical report from this first school achievement indicators program testing in math in a couple of months and it will give us a lot of very specific information about what the results mean.

In addition, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, has also launched a curriculum comparability examination. We're going to be looking at the curricular differences across the country against those standards so that we'll be able to get information about who's doing things differently so that we can take the best practices and bring them into Ontario or sell our best practices to other provinces. "Sell" -- that has a nice ring to do it.

In addition, the minister, as a result of the SAIP results in December, is going to have a mathematics symposium in the spring to bring all the stakeholders in Ontario to begin unpacking some of the issues that I've just mentioned to see what's at play and what changes need to be made.

Mr Villeneuve: I don't know if it's negative or not but a teacher I know suggested that within the common curriculum students basically go after, say, the multiplication tables in grade 6 as opposed to previously it was done sooner. Is that right?

Dr Wideman: There are references to the multiplication tables in both the outcomes for grade 3 and for grade 6. It's indicated that by the end of grade 3 students will make simple calculations in their heads and know basic facts by memory, such as the multiplication tables to six times six, and by grade 6 to have moved to 12 times 12. So it's throughout the early grades.


Mr Villeneuve: Okay. It was difficult for me to understand. This person said that grade 4 students would be exposed to the multiplication tables and be expected to know them completely, whereas now it looks like maybe grade 6. So it's an ongoing --

Dr Wideman: Yes, it's an ongoing process.

Mr Villeneuve: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Ms Dianne Poole): Thank you, Mr Villeneuve. We'll now go to the government side. First we have Ms Haeck, and then Mr Malkowski.

Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): One of the comments, Dr Pascal, that you made in your presentation was on page 7 around accountability. It's obviously what we've all been talking about. But you're talking about setting standards now for the next few years, and I think there are probably a few parents right now who are wondering what's going to happen to their child in the interim.

I'd call myself someone who is a graduate of the Robarts plan, and I can say with all honesty I wrote the first and last new math departmental in the province of Ontario. I was bell-curved, like I think mostly everybody else was. There are a few people nodding, saying like they went through that wonderful experience themselves.

But I think there are a lot of parents -- I don't happen to be one; I don't have children, but I look at my niece and nephew, and my sister and her husband are really concerned about, let's say, the experimentation. People sort of see that, well, we went through this plan and now we're going through another plan. So what happens to those people who are not part of the plan, who are not going to be part of that standardization, who are not part of the current common curriculum you're talking about, as it's coming in? They're not part necessarily of these testing modes; or maybe I'm misconstruing what you're putting forward.

It also leads me to the question which a number of my friends who teach at colleges and universities have a concern about: the graduates out of the system. When you see what they're writing particularly, or the lack of numeracy skills, it is somewhat frightening. So what kinds of opportunities are there for remediation, if that is flagged, as the student is going through high school, and then what happens when they get to the post-secondary stream?

Dr Pascal: First of all, I've not heard the word "bell- curve" used as a verb before, but I think it's quite useful. Some of my best friends have been bell-curved.

Ms Zanana L. Akande (St Andrew-St Patrick): The language evolves.

Dr Pascal: Language evolves indeed.

First of all, with respect to the implementation --

Ms Poole: Some of us felt we had it done to us too.

Dr Pascal: Yes, that's right, and to me as well.

With respect to the common curriculum, again a very effective and aggressive implementation plan should deal in some way with the parents who still have kids in the system. Let's also understand that the system it's replacing is not all bad. I visited a school last week where the principal showed me the common curriculum in one column and what he has been doing and adjustments he's about to make, and the transition at that particular school is going to be rather quick.

I saw a third-grader who was not only doing multiplication -- more than six times six, which is what the standard will say -- but was doing a robotics project using a computer as part of the simulated process for actually developing a robot, which she'll conclude by the time she's in grade 5 or 6.

The changes will vary from school to school in terms of what had already been in place. The fact that there is such variety is a reason why consistency around outcomes in the common curriculum is appropriate.

But you've raised a larger question of lifelong learning. That is, for the students who are on their way out of the schools, what happens to them, for those who didn't have clear standards? The fact that there haven't been clear enough standards in some areas doesn't mean they couldn't have reached those, but you're talking about for those who may not have benefited from a tough-minded devotion to reaching those standards.

By having one ministry where three former ministries have been developed, we now have a policy and program opportunity to look at where the cracks might be. We can look at the relationship between the exit standards of a high school student, the prerequisite opportunities and needs for a college student and see what problems arise from a gap in terms of what someone leaves one institution with and arrives ready to go or not ready to go at another kind of institution.

We've got projects related to prior learning assessment, to give people credit for what they already know rather than having them take courses all over again, which is costly for the taxpayer as well as costly for the emotional reserves and the financial reserves of the lifelong learner.

We have a school-college project which is designed to take the articulation agreements that exist between high schools and colleges around the province and do a systematic study to see where the gaps are.

We also have post-secondary institutions such as colleges and universities around the province -- not all of them do this -- where there's diagnostic entry-level literacy testing. Most of it's voluntary. It allows some self-evaluation and institutional support for students who are deficient.

We have a system right now -- as a matter of fact, we don't have an educational system, we have systems of education. What we have now is a readiness on the part of the stakeholders in our systems of education to work together in ways they have never worked before. The results of this kind of cooperation in the last four or five years have been extraordinary.

It's far from perfect. We don't have an educational system yet in terms of how all the parts interrelate in a dynamic way for the sake of the lifelong learner. There are still many obstacles in the way, which you've implied through your questions, but the potential for continued movement to solve these problems is far greater with a ministry of lifelong learning than it was when we had three separate ministries.

Ms Haeck: You are offering the parents of high school students out there some hope I think, because very clearly there is some concern about what is happening. Obviously, you've heard and I've heard what is happening, and people are responding well to the fact that there will be some standards.

If you're suggesting that the schools are responding by adjusting some of this to the current students, I think that is highly appropriate and will definitely make sure that parents feel some sense of comfort that their child will not somehow fall into this abyss.

I would like to turn to page 9 of your presentation where you talk about technology, education and equipment renewal. I will indicate to all here that I did sit on a college board. I sat on the Niagara College board for three years, and discussions around technology definitely were a big issue in light of the fact that registration had fallen off during those mid-1980 years.

It also raises the point of how the different ministries work together even at the high school level, in particular around technology and the requirements around apprenticeships. Children still don't tend to be encouraged to get involved in apprenticeships at an earlier level.

I have a German background. Both my parents have apprenticeship certificates. So I have a personal interest. I just don't see the kids necessarily being channelled into some of those technical areas where they could do very well in life. How are the different aspects of your ministries working together to make sure that this program reflects the needs out there?

Dr Pascal: Let me start and then I'll ask Graham Carr to my right to fill in.

You're quite right. There has been lots of worry about the post-secondary choices in our country and the need for a major reinforcement of economic renewal objectives, a demand that we have a better mix of technical people. We have a supply-side problem with engineers. A productive society is going to require the right number of engineers, the right number of technologists, the right number of technicians. It can't be top-heavy with too many engineers. For every engineer, we should have probably about seven or eight technologists and 15 or 20 technicians. The educational system has to provide that and the supply side has to respond.


What's happened in the school system around technology, as you know from the auditor's report, is the presence of several vehicles to reinforce some innovation and experimentation, along with the Common Curriculum, with a view towards having technology integrated right across the curriculum in a very imaginative, project-oriented, problem-solving way.

The student in the third grade of elementary school to whom I referred earlier was in fact a product of the innovation that's begun in the system as a result of some of our projects. That's all building up in an inductive way, by example, towards giving us an opportunity to put back into the system, not in as timely a way as the Provincial Auditor would have liked, but our perspective is a little bit different in terms of feeding the system so that there could be some innovation in this area. But in very short order we will have some very good guideline materials in this area. But perhaps, Graham, you want to --

Ms Haeck: Whoever you're directing the question to, could they also deal with the question of women entering the non-traditional trades. You mentioned the third-grader as being a female, which I take great heart in, but realistically it is still one of the major challenges. You see in Europe, in particular, that women have definitely had access to a range of specialities, be they draftpersons or what have you. That has not happened on this side of the water and I have no good explanation for it. I hope that will be addressed.

Mr Graham Carr: Essentially in the technological education program there are two main areas, one of them to address short-term issues and one of them to address the more long-range issues which you have mentioned. The program in The Common Curriculum is to ensure that all students leaving school have a technological background and have a technological competence by the time they leave secondary school. That is obviously long-range because it starts with children who are already in the system at the early grades and will be accumulative as those children come through.

The more short-range was to address the very immediate issue of how we provide the workforce -- and when I refer to the workforce I am referring not just to apprenticeship programs, but to anyone going out into the workforce, whether it's post-secondary or post-university type of work -- how we address ensuring that people going into the workforce do have the necessary technological skills that are required nowadays. We don't know what those jobs are going to be. They're changing on a continual basis, and the old programs were in the secondary schools for the very specific skilled trades. They were designed primarily for males, because they were the people who were going into the skilled trades in the 1960s and 1970s when these programs were developed.

The broad-based technology programs which we're now incorporating and which are being funded through the technological education program and equipment renewal fund are for every single student in the school, regardless of post-secondary endeavours. We are therefore looking at skills, rather than being very trade-specific, as transferable skills that students can use regardless of the eventual jobs they go into.

We're trying to change the image of technology with these programs, by getting away from, if you like, the machine shop type or grease monkey type automotive program. Many of these programs that you will see have more of a lab approach than they do a shop approach. By that very nature, they are attracting students who would not normally have gone into the programs in the past.

When we look at the enrolments of these new programs, we're seeing, in some cases, 35%, 40% female enrolments in the programs. We're seeing enrolment increases overall in the neighbourhood of 200% to 300% over the old programs, so we have been very encouraged by what has happened and we are developing the curriculum now for these programs, based on the successes that we have had over the last three years in their implementation.

Ms Haeck: That sounds very encouraging.

The Vice-Chair: I apologize for interrupting. There is about five minutes left and you have three colleagues on the list. You are free to use the balance of time, if you choose.

Ms Haeck: No, I understand everyone's got questions, so I will yield my time to them, but we can probably have a conversation in the hall about some of these points.

Mr Gary Malkowski (York East): I'll be brief. We know that technology is changing very rapidly in the world, so it's very difficult, I would imagine then, for a curriculum to reflect the changes in technology, because they're happening so quickly and I know it's tough to keep up. We understand that. I'm surprised. Some of the colleges that have talked to me about technological changes on average are saying that every three or four years they're looking at upgrading their equipment because of the changes that are happening so quickly, so we're seeing that at the post-secondary level.

With that as a background I want to ask, teachers in a broad-based technology have these materials available for them, and resources that are coming from private industry. What kinds of options do teachers have to include some of that in a curriculum so that younger people then can be more adaptable to some of the changes that are happening in technology and sort of conflict resolution and how to use some of the technology that's going to be used in their life in their future occupations? What kinds of things are you doing to include that in the common curriculum? Textbooks and other kinds of equipment and those kinds of things, what kinds of changes are you seeing in that? Because I know again there are many changes and you`re going to have to upgrade and there are costs involved in that. I'm wondering if you can give me a sense of some of that.

Dr Pascal: Let me start, and again I'll draw on my limited but interesting and, quite frankly, exciting experience in the last 10 months. I visited probably about 40 or 50 schools in the last 10 months. The most recent one was a visit to an elementary school. I am quite amazed and quite pleased with the number of computers and the amount of computer literacy at all levels of the system that is out there.

I made reference to a third-grader. It'll be the last time I use her as an example, but she was displaying, in my way of thinking, the kind of generic skill orientation that has to be part of dealing with the technologies. She wasn't using a classroom robot; she was using a computer to simulate the development of a robot. I think there's lots of experimentation that's taking place.

At the heart of it is the computer and there are lots of exciting relationships being established with other types of institutions; elementary and secondary schools, with the colleges, in terms of shared resources. We're no longer in the era of rugged individualism where an institution can go it alone. New partnerships have been forged where you have college teachers in leading-edge technology programs providing professional development for teachers in high schools and the elementary schools, shared equipment, and some of those partnerships have shared equipment opportunities with the private sector.

That's kind of a preliminary response based on what I've seen just in the last few months, and perhaps Graham can add to it.

Mr Graham Carr: Certainly. The criteria for the technological education renewal fund is that the equipment must be long-lasting. In other words, what we're trying to do is change from the type of equipment that used to be in the schools, which was essentially production equipment on which students were trained, into equipment which simulates what happens outside. Where students do want to go into a particular field to learn career skills, they do that onsite, on the job, through cooperative education programs, school-workplace apprenticeship programs, so that the students are learning on updated equipment in the field, or in a community college, rather than in the school, so that we're not spending large amounts of money in the school system on production-type equipment. In fact, if an application came in for that type of equipment, it would be rejected.


The Vice-Chair: The government time is up and we'll go to the Liberal caucus. Mr Callahan.

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): Partially, the reason I got into provincial politics and ran in 1977 and 1981 against one of my illustrious neighbours, who was then the Minister of Education in Brampton, was because of the Hall-Dennis report, over which I've had great arguments with people who are teachers. I'm a lawyer by profession, but some teachers say Hall-Dennis was good and others agree with me that it was a disaster. We ruined one entire generation of kids with that process in that we went from an absolutely superb educational system -- and I have to tell you how I come by this.

I came here from the United States in 1954 to go to university. They were at the stage of Blackboard Jungle with knives to teachers' throats and so on in 1950. In Ontario, every one of the schools in this province was like something right out of a scene from -- I'm trying to think of the lady -- in any event, they were par excellence. They were much like private schools in the United States.

Suddenly, the Hall-Dennis report came on the scene and it was kind of Dr Spock saying, "Do your own thing." You had people running all over the classroom. You couldn't flunk a kid. That was an absolute no-no; you might throw their nose out of joint. The net result was that kids kept getting moved from one grade up to the next one and they hadn't even learned what they had to learn in the grade below. We wondered why these kids were dropping out or why we found an inability to spell, to write.

I feel good about going back to basics. When I talk about this, people often say: "Why are you a Liberal? You should be a Conservative." But I have very strong feelings about basics.

I can remember my wife and I confronting a teacher with the question of why my son had to figure out the times tables as opposed to memorizing them. I always thought what was good enough for me when I learned them was you learn the times tables; you learn the basic building blocks to be able to compete in the world.

I really found it a staggering time. Thank God I didn't have to go through that system. Maybe that's part of the reason why we've identified so many kids who are having difficulty in learning.

Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): It's the return of the inchworm.

Mr Callahan: In my class you had the bright to the not-so-bright but you didn't have these kids totally without the ability to achieve. A lot of that has to do with our changing world but I'm pleased to see that there are changes taking place. I think part of the problem is that we are now trying to accomplish the reverse of what happened in 1981. If I'm correct, that was around the time of the Hall-Dennis report. Was it 1977?

Interjection: It was 1967.

Mr Callahan: It goes even beyond that? All right. I remember the reason I ran was because the gentleman I was running against was the Minister of Education and I figured I had something to say and wanted to say it.

Mr Murphy: You're off by a decade.

Mr Callahan: Before I ask my question I should go back to the thing of community colleges too. Community colleges were an excellent innovation at the time but I think part of what they did was -- and I'm going to alienate a lot of employers by saying this -- they gave them the opportunity to say: "We won't train employees any more. You train them, government. You train them through the community colleges."

I remember that the first job I had, I guess prior to my profession, was that I was trained on a computer by an airline. In those days employers trained their employees and suddenly, with community colleges -- that's the only way I can perceive it -- they decided, "We don't have to train them," or the government said, "We'll train them for you." Of course, the problem is that you're training them with tax dollars. You haven't possibly got the ability of keeping up with the massive and swift advances of technology. The net result is that they're training on machines or technological products that are fast outdated.

I'm a great believer in co-op education. I think it should be expanded right through the entire spectrum: university, community college and all the rest of it. I think we have to do more and I'm hopeful that the royal commission on education will get an earful and will take steps far beyond where we were back in 1977 or 1981. I don't want to just go back to that, because time has passed us by. Those things are not going to meet the needs of the kids of this province, I don't think.

I guess what I'd like to know is -- and the auditor addresses it in his report -- how much observation is done, not just within Canada but outside Canada, in terms of determining what teaching methods and what teaching approaches other jurisdictions are taking to educate children. The reason I say that is I think one of the failings of government of whatever political stripe is the fact that they have all sorts of ministers for everything under the sun. They should have one minister whose responsibility would be to travel the world and seek out better ways of doing things; to bring them back to Ontario and Canada.

Mr Murphy: I know what cabinet post he wants.

Mr Callahan: No, I really believe that, because I think what happens is, jurisdictions tend to try to reinvent the wheel on their own, at taxpayers' expense, and don't necessarily come up with the best alternatives. I really think that would be a full-time position, a very challenging one, for whoever that minister was. Perhaps we would get the best ways of doing things rather than simply looking south of the border and anticipating the problems they get themselves into and trying to avoid them, we adopt them maybe even after they've collapsed in the United States. We seem to have this southern mentality that anything that goes on in the United States we adopt. I'm just asking, what are we doing now or what are we going to be doing in the future in terms of looking outside our own backyard?

Dr Pascal: Would you also like me to comment a little bit on Hall-Dennis?

Mr Callahan: Oh, yes.

Dr Pascal: First of all, your last question about a ministerial post to travel the world, pinpointing innovations and bringing them back -- until a few seconds ago, I had never thought of running for public office. I had never thought I had the courage or the incentive. I think you've given us all pause to think about that.

If I can begin with Hall-Dennis, I obviously don't feel comfortable defending a former Minister of Education who may have been the MPP from Brampton, but I would like to defend a little bit Hall-Dennis and maybe even Dr Spock, because what has been said about their work is unfair. Take Dr Spock for an example. Any reading of Dr Spock in terms of the issues of control and providing controls and structure for children would suggest he should not be maligned the way he was with respect to the me-first generation and do-your-own-thing.

Hall-Dennis -- being more serious, though I am serious about Dr Spock as well -- has been portrayed as absolutely the opposite of back to basics. Hall-Dennis did talk a lot about learning to learn, teaching independent learning skills, teaching a lot of things that I think the learning commission probably heard in spades in terms of lifelong learners needing certain generic skills.

Implementation of Hall-Dennis I think is an issue. Probably, if we talked about Hall-Dennis as an innovation and we talked about implementation, we would be back to the issue of accountability and who is doing what to whom in terms of the consequences in terms of things like the perception that we've really gone away from the basics. That certainly is a widely held perception. We have some testing data to indicate that there are, as you've indicated, some problems.

Things haven't been that bad since that innovation was implemented, perhaps not as effectively as the authors would have liked. Attrition in the schools is much less than it used to be before Hall-Dennis, but it brings us up to today. It's important to know that some of what Hall-Dennis wanted in terms of lifelong learning and independent learning skills is not mutually exclusive of a back-to-basics curriculum, of the kind of strong, clear, high and relevant outcomes and a curriculum that is designed to achieve those outcomes in a testing program that's also designed to let us know whether it's working.


You can use as many teachers and many classrooms in Ontario or you can use independent learning, project-oriented activities to teach students not only how to get to those standards, being tough on the basics, but also to develop those other skills that Hall-Dennis wanted to see. They're not mutually exclusive. The way it's been implemented and the way it's been perceived to have been implemented suggests that it's kind of an either/or.

With respect to what we do in terms of best practices around the world, we are trying in every aspect of what we do to have a more global opportunity to use information that's gathered elsewhere. We have not been traditionally very good at it in some of our areas. In the area of teacher training methods, which was the specific focus of your question, I'd have to ask Maurice Lamontagne to tell us whether in fact we've done anything global in terms of getting best practices.

The learning commission certainly in all of its areas is trying to basically test the best the world has to offer but it's important to note that the new technologies, where there's a ministry with an interest in acting on what you've said, now don't give us any excuses around travel costs. Through Internet and through the kind of technological access, we can create a community of scholars, we can connect doers who think and thinkers who do and bring to bear the best the world has to offer in all of our policy issues.

Generally speaking, I don't think we do well enough in our policy development right across governments, not just this government, but in general in terms of the policy-making process in tapping best practice wherever it might be. I don't think we're as good as we need to be and obviously that's a sweeping statement and there are probably lots of countervailing examples.

Mr Callahan: I'm going to run out of time, so what I'd like to say is just one of the examples of looking outside of our own jurisdiction. The auditor raises the question of, number one, teachers practise teaching, I guess you'd call it, the period of time.

In Chicago -- and I can speak from Chicago because I have a son at Loyola University who is taking his teaching certification because he couldn't get in here; there weren't any spaces.

Mr Maurice Lamontagne: It's a good school.

Mr Callahan: They're good but he's their first Canadian and they're not quite sure how the whole thing works. We're still trying to iron that one out as to whether he gets to practise-teach in Ontario. We've put them in touch with -- as you know, Canisius College does, it probably has 300 Canadians in there. But in any event, in Chicago they tried to tell my son that he had to have an undergraduate course of, listen to this, public speaking and biology. I'm not quite sure why the biology, but the public speaking I think is a very positive statement.

I've said this many times, I think, in other committees that you've been at, Doctor, that it should be a non-credit, mandatory course for every kid in Ontario, or Canada for that matter. If you can't speak and you can't express yourself, forget it; you're a write-off in probably any type of success in this world. It's interesting that they use public speaking as being one of the undergraduate courses because a teacher, in order to communicate, it doesn't matter how bright they are or how intellectually motivated they are; if they can't express themselves, they're useless.

There's an example that struck me, maybe because it reinforces a long-standing belief of mine, as I've expressed that it should be a non-credit, mandatory course, so you can't have some kid saying you're a wimp for getting into debating or public speaking.

There's a good example of it, and I think there are lots like it that we could adopt and reflect in our criteria for teachers. Dr Pascal said we have an awful lot of good teachers in this province but I think, if we're honest, we also have a goodly number of them who shouldn't have had their contracts renewed and who are as difficult to get rid of, as I understand it, as it is to get a judge off the bench. That's another problem that I see. We're talking about different tribunals to deal with judges when they perhaps screw up. Maybe we should be looking at different tribunals to deal with teachers who can't meet the test and are simply there because you can't get rid of them. Maybe you'd like to speak to that; maybe you wouldn't. Maybe you'd like to avoid it like the plague. But I think it's important, and I think any Ontarian who's had children go through the system has seen great teachers, has seen mediocre teachers and has seen ones who shouldn't even be in the classroom but are.

I think that's as much of a danger to young people as a curriculum that is perhaps not what it should be or the accreditation of teachers is not what it should be, allowing people to remain in the teaching profession when they can't cut the mustard. I'm going to get a lot of cards and letters, I know it, particularly from my teaching friends, but I think it has to be said.

Dr Pascal: Again, in the area of tapping best practices, including the fine city of Chicago, obviously we need to ensure, as we think about our challenges, whether it's certification or pre-service or induction or in-service training of teachers, that we tap the best there is. I don't think we do well enough at that.

The Royal Commission on Learning I know has sought the expertise of those who do travel the globe in this particular area. One of our deans of our faculties of education is a world-renowned expert in a few areas that allow him to travel quite a bit, and we tap his expertise as a colleague broker to that information.

The kind of pre-service curriculum and the comments you made about public speaking are something I certainly can understand and appreciate, and again I think the royal commission is going to give us some hopefully bold leadership in this area. If it isn't bold leadership, the minister will have to make a judgement about what's necessary.

As I said yesterday, I believe that in order for us to move on any reform, whether it's the common curriculum or the technology across the curriculum or destreaming or any initiative, the teacher who's already with us has to be given the kind of support that they need and that they deserve.

I agree with you that we have to be more effective in terms of determining what's necessary and providing what's necessary in a very consistent way. As I said yesterday, we have 10 universities offering 11 programs with all sorts of differentiation, as the Provincial Auditor noted, in terms of the amount of practical work they get before they become teachers and variations in terms of what's done in terms of induction; that is, the first year or so of a teacher's life in the board.

With respect to what happens when a teacher or anyone in any profession doesn't do what they need to do, there are mechanisms in place that deal with issues of progress, effectiveness, discipline, progressive discipline, sanction, appeals. I don't have enough direct experience to know whether it works as well as it should work. I know in many areas where I have more direct experience the apparatus is in place but in fact the inertia in terms of making some difficult decisions sometimes is very much an impediment.

I haven't met individuals who I'm prepared to say should be part of a process of termination in the elementary school system, but I know there is an apparatus in place that should deal with it. Whether it's working or not, I can't say.

Mr Callahan: Under the common curriculum and under this change, and as near as you can perceive, will you be able to hold your kid back -- you couldn't in the past -- without being told you can't hold him back, so that you make sure they know, they've learned, what's needed in grade 6 before they go to grade 7?


Mr Maurice Poirier: Decisions regarding the promotion of children from grade to grade are very important decisions. It's always made, especially in the case where there's a possibility that a child has not progressed sufficiently to move on, in collaboration with and in consultation with the school principal and the parents of the student concerned so that the decision is made in the best interests of the child. That notion of having a child repeat an entire school year is not a decision that's taken very lightly.

Mr Callahan: I'm not sure that answered my question. Is this different now than it was in the past?

The Vice-Chair: Mr Callahan, perhaps you can pursue that a bit later because Mr Villeneuve's been called away. I propose that the government and Liberal caucus share the next --

Mr Callahan: I'll be happy to move my chair over there and continue on since I've been expressing some Conservative views anyway.

The Vice-Chair: Actually, Mr Callahan, you will get to use part of his time since I'm proposing the next half-hour be split evenly between the government and the Liberal caucus. We'll move to the government side and we have Ms Akande, Mr Duignan and Mr Perruzza, if he returns.

Ms Akande: I'm glad to have this opportunity because I won't be able to be here this afternoon and there are some questions that I have to ask.

It's interesting when Mr Callahan, who's just left, mentions the Hall-Dennis report and Ms Haeck mentions being bell curved. I was involved in bell curving so I guess I'm a good deal older than many of you and I recognize the concern around this.

But the concern is interesting because one of the things that constantly calms me and makes me reassured is the fact that I know the good sense of many teachers prevails in spite of what we do at the ministry and that most children learn in spite of us rather than because of us. Those two things keep me calm, but what is constant around is that the questions that are put, the parents who call Mr Callahan and the rest of us, the people who express concern over yet another change or the previous Hall-Dennis report are people who not understand what is happening, which should signify, for us at the school and for you at the ministry -- I'm for ever at the school, it doesn't matter where I'm am, my head is at the school -- there is a lot to be done in terms of actually reporting to parents and that maybe, although it is a school and board responsibility, there needs to be something said at the ministry level that makes that clear.

I know that we do report to parents and that schools must report to parents and they always have, but what has been reported or at least the way it has been reported has not been understood. When we talked about employment equity -- can I use that as an analogy without beginning a war? -- we talked about numerical goals that everyone aimed for 100 even though many of them didn't get it.

I'm not saying we go back to the numerical goal, but parents understood clearly when the child came home and said, "I got 27," and the parent said immediately, "What is it out of?" and he said, "100." If he lived, parents understood that it wasn't good enough. Parents understood A, B, C, D. They understood that. Parents understand language that says, "Not up to grade level." They understand "Above grade level." They understand "Average performance." They understand "Adequate performance."

But I've come, just this morning, from viewing a board that is involved in developing an exercise that goes along with The Common Curriculum and is looking at outcomes of learning -- not a new term, by the way. We used to have management by objectives, same difference -- and still is talking in what I would consider, from a parent's point of view, vague terminology about how that will be reported to parents. What I am suggesting to you is that perhaps ministries should be involved in making clear statements about how that reporting is done and, second of all, that if in fact we don't do that and boards develop their own general terms, euphemisms which prevent parents from saying, "Aha, he's in grade 5, he's reading at grade 2; my God, we've got something to worry about, or maybe we don't, but let's know about it," it does not matter what we do, because they will once again ask those questions, if not next year, the year after and the year after, and criticize the system, whether it be Hall-Dennis or this, because it has not done what they perceive it to be doing.

Dr Pascal: If I can just begin and then Maurice will take over on another part of the answer.

First of all, I join Mrs Akande in understanding and appreciating, but perhaps not to her level of understanding because of her experience in the system.

I think there is a real problem out there and the unobtrusive indicators that there's a problem are to be found in the number of people who applied for the Ontario Parent Council that Mr Cooke set up; the number of people in my life who know what I do for my day job and my night job and my weekend job who've asked me, "Is there any way I could get on that council?" Usually at the heart of their interest are issues about demystifying the system. The word "empowerment" has different meanings to us around the table, but it's useful here to really make the system parent-friendly.

Some of the initiatives we've launched in the last year in this regard to make it intellectually accessible to a wide variety of Ontarians who happen to be parents are as follows:

The Common Curriculum has along with it a newsletter, not only for teachers but there was an initial newsletter that was sent to parents right around the province. In addition, because many onlookers, as part of the cabinet committee process, including some cabinet ministers who continue to tell me not to speak in edubabble -- and I'll bring some buttons for members of the committee so that when you wear them I'll be reminded that we need to simplify our language. We developed, in response to complaints, the kinds of complaints Mrs Akande has referred to, a plain-language version of the draft Common Curriculum.

What we saw happening was that not only were over 100,000 parents interested in getting that plain language version in their hands but a lot of classroom teachers as well. That was really important feedback to the ministry. It was critical feedback; again, unobtrusive feedback. Classroom teachers were saying that the professional version, the technical version, was not as clear, by definition, as the plain language version. I think there is a problem. I think the kind of concern, sometimes passive-aggressive, but a little bit of concern on the part of some people around the province with respect to the Ontario Parent Council, on the part of maybe a few trustees that, "Why would the minister want to have direct access to a group of 18 parents on a regular basis?" is because of the kinds of issues that Mrs Akande has mentioned.

With respect to some of the details in terms of the reporting, there are some school boards around this province -- and I won't name a couple of them because I don't want to embarrass others by not mentioning -- which I think are doing a superb job providing clear and relevant information to parents about what's happening with their kids. But, Maurice, if you could --

Mr Maurice Poirier: Thank you, Charles. I'd like to pick up on one item you've just mentioned in response to Mrs Akande's question and that has to do with the way in which educators report back to parents on how well their child or children are achieving.

As Charles indicated, we don't always speak as plainly as we should when talking with parents. In response to that, we are compiling best practices in student assessment and reporting and we are preparing to have that out to the system by the end of this calendar year. This is in direct response to that request.

Secondly, we have taken it upon ourselves to prepare a statement on ministry assessment policy for release to school boards within a few months, and here again the intention is to make it clearer, not only for the educational community but for the community at large, what our position is on assessment and reporting back to parents.


One particular project that was announced last year by Mr Cooke involved the development of what we're calling a comprehensive achievement portfolio. This is meant to supplement the reporting that already takes place. Mrs Akande mentioned a while ago just a letter grade -- what does 27 mean? That's a very good question. As a parent, I know that a raw mark doesn't mean a whole lot and the computer-generated responses don't mean a lot sometimes, too; they're rather vague.

To supplement that information back to the parents, we will want schools and teachers to have portfolios of what children can actually do -- what they are proud of, what they are doing -- as a means of communicating to the parents the kind of work that the child is doing. Again, the ties into a better working relationship between the school system and the parents. It's based on clear communication.

Ms Akande: If I could pursue just one in the same area, in the area of reporting to parents, because it's extremely important, it doesn't matter what we do; if they don't know what we're doing, it's criticized. You have referred to lifelong learning in terms of how people are expected to continue to keep updated. Might I suggest to you, without any criticism at all, that using that as a consolation for parents may in fact sometimes seem more like a sentence for their children than an encouragement towards an attitude.

For example, if a parent is concerned about his or her child's ability to achieve at a certain level in grade 8 in preparation for grade 9, lifelong learning, if the child is 16 and still not able to achieve that level, is not encouraging, nor is the fact that we continue to use as examples the exceptional programs that occur, for the most part, in large centres.

You talked about the tremendous programs in technology, and certainly it's our intention that they should occur throughout the province, but I've had the opportunity to travel about the province doing workshops and various things before I came to this place. I know wonderful things may be occurring, but they are less likely to occur in some of the smaller centres. There isn't that same focus on it.

At the Ministry of Education I know that you know we have a responsibility for educating all children, and the more vague the reporting, the more exceptional the program, the more easily the poor and the culturally different get lost between the cracks.

Dr Pascal: That is probably the most compelling reasons for having a results-based curriculum where the standards and the learning objectives are made very clear and very transparent to all parents, not just those with certain educational backgrounds and certain vocabularies, to make it quite accessible. That is really the challenge.

Parenthetically, in answering Ms Haeck's earlier question, to which I gave an answer including lifelong learning, the question that Ms Haeck proposed was one that dealt with parents who have children who are out of the system and who can't benefit from the kind of clarity that you and I and others around the table would like to see, the kind of transparency. What happens to them? I would never use, "Don't worry about it. If you don't get it now, you can get it later, because we're developing this more cohesive" -- point taken, but I certainly didn't mean to imply that would be something we would use as kind of an excuse to not tighten up what's happening with kids and students who are in the program right now.

Mr Callahan: I want to get back my answer as to whether or not -- and I look at it from this standpoint: A lot of young people are able to get into the schools. Maybe they're born in December. They're what I call an early entry. They're not mature enough necessarily, either peer-group-wise or whatever, to progress.

My experience and my wife's experience -- we have four boys and it has been a horror story in terms of trying to talk to teachers, if we felt they weren't ready to go on to the next grade, about leaving them back. Fortunately, of my four boys, for three of them that was not a problem but for my youngest son it was. I thought it was going to take an act of Congress or I guess an order in council to try to get my son, who was in fact born in December, to stay back a year.

I find that's incredible. You may talk about lifelong learning but if you're not ready to go on to the next level either from an academic standpoint or from a maturity standpoint you should be able to repeat. That's what they did when I was around. Mind you, that was back in the Middle Ages.

The second thing I want to ask you -- because I'm going to run out of time and I know the Chair, in her fair way, doesn't call upon you when you answer, so I can get my question out now: Whatever happened to the tests that were done in my day -- and that's a long time ago -- to determine what aptitudes young persons have, what abilities they have in terms of reading and writing and so on? These were standardized tests. We still do them, maybe not so much in Canada, but in the United States you've got GMATs, you've got LSATs, you've got all sorts of things to determine whether or not you'll make it in a particular profession.

Why do we wait till then? Why don't we give these kids an early opportunity to understand where they're going and what their particular bent is? I know you might say that there are people in the schools who are supposed to talk to them and determine where they're going, and perhaps through the co-op program they'll determine where they're going. But why did we ever get rid of those tests? Was that part of the "freedom from any predetermination" of what was going on? I'd like to know whether or not they still use them in other jurisdictions and how effective they are. Those are my questions.

Dr Pascal: Let me begin with the issue of standardized tests. You've raised a lot of questions but let me begin on the standardized test question. When we made the distinction earlier this morning between standards which provide real clarity about somebody's ability to perform a task or display some knowledge, what we're doing right now with the Ontario testing program is to develop measures of whether a student can or can't do it. In the final analysis, what's important is comparing a student to the learning objective, not to other students. I'll explain what some of the baggage is with respect to standardized tests.

So, for example, the grade 9 reading and writing testing that is in the process of taking place this year and will be repeated next year, the testing for those skills -- the very specific ability to do this, this and this -- the measures are actually samples of writing. The best way to test whether somebody can write is to have somebody write and develop some very creative ways of developing what we call criterion reference to testing; that is, measures of -- if you want to give a medical student a grade on whether they can do or not do appendectomies, do you want to give them a multiple-choice exam or do you want to give them some kind of structured opportunity to take out an appendix with a little bit of structure and some controls and then remove those structures and controls and see if they can actually do it, or would you be pleased in getting somebody looking over your abdomen with a scalpel with a 78 percentile score on a standardized test?

The development of standardized tests is based on taking large samples of people and finding paper-and-pencil items that don't really coincide directly with what we're trying to learn. It's an inferential, kind of an indirect way. It's inexpensive, it's cheap and dirty. You can post them on the wall to see if you've got to go back and do everything all over again, as we did in the old days in Ontario. But they're based on developing large sample sizes and based on the bell curve we've been talking about where students are compared to other students. The items they put in the bank that can be used to test only remain there if they discriminate: spread students across this bell curve. Items that tend to discriminate, discriminate in a whole bunch of ways, including cultural discrimination. The baggage associated with standardized testing is enormous in terms of whether or not it really achieves the kind of outcome orientation that we've been talking about.


So that's primarily the reason there is nervousness about it and why the kind of testing program that Ontario has been developing and the kind of pan-Canadian activity through the CMEC, the council of ministers, is so important. It's more cumbersome, it's more difficult, it requires an enormous amount of innovation, it requires a lot of money, but the consequences of not making this advancement are enormous in terms of the kinds of concerns you have about whether people can or can't perform on the basics.

Mr Maurice Poirier: If I may add to that reply, because Mr Callahan had raised a few questions in his question, on the concept of province-wide examinations, many people refer to, and in fact during the course of this discussion have referred to, what we call the old departmentals. I think it's very important for us to know that those examinations had a different purpose in mind. They were administered at the end of a student's secondary education and they were designed for a very specific purpose. Frankly, it was very late in the process to discover that something was wrong.

So if we're looking at our current assessment program, we are introducing assessments at an earlier age. A perfect example of that is the grade 9 test of reading and writing. We feel that it's important to intervene at a key point in a student's education to see if there are problems. That is not to say there is not testing that goes on prior to grade 9. What I'm saying is that assessments are carried out by teachers in the normal course of their duties and they have to continually monitor students' progress and report back to parents on how well students are doing. But it's very important that we differentiate between what are called standard tests and province-wide tests as they used to be administered.

On the question of grade promotion, the law is permissive in that regard; that is, that the decision is a local one. We do not have a provincial edict that says, "You shall not fail children," nor do we have an edict that says, "You shall promote." There is no such thing. As I said a while ago, this decision is made at the school level in consultation with the parents. Parents always have recourse when they are not satisfied with decisions that are made at the school level. Parents can talk to school superintendents within the school board and continue the discussion with the local authorities to understand the reasons why the decisions were made and sometimes reverse the decisions.

Mr Murphy: I want to follow up on the last point. You're going to have, obviously, the debate between the principal and the parent. I guess what you're telling me is that at the first level, the principal wins. Am I right in that? The parent has an opportunity to discuss and debate, but at the end of the day the principal wins.

Mr Maurice Poirier: Not necessarily. If the parents don't agree, they should keep discussing. We can't predict what the decision will be. Hopefully, there's a consensus among --

Mr Murphy: Someone makes the decision, at least an interim decision. You can appeal that decision, but I assume that it's the principal who decides. Is there an obligation to talk to the parent in the act?

Mr Maurice Poirier: If you're going to be asking a student to repeat.

Dr Pascal: Without wanting to disagree, and I won't be disagreeing with my colleagues, the intent of Mr Callahan's question and Mr Murphy's supplementary is, how easy is it for the parents' instinct and knowledge of their own child to be brought to bear in terms of issues of social achievement and maturity? I must say from my own personal experience with a son by the name of Jesse, who has a father who I don't think anyone would deem as a wallflower, but in my own judgement someone who entered the system early because of his December birthday, was doing well academically, but there still was a social achievement issue around maturity. We did have the discussion, but still, even for me, I didn't find it terribly empowering. In fact, this sustained itself throughout high school, and then when it was time for this very young 17-year-old to go to college, he was the one who self-assessed two months into college and made a decision that, "I'm really not ready. I'm going to do some more high school courses and do some work and then re-enter college," which he's done quite successfully. So my own experience is that there probably are wide variations around the system.

The new common curriculum has some areas where strictly traditionally non-academic activities will make it easier, I think, in terms of my recall of certain parts of the curriculum, for some of the social achievement outcomes to create a better playing field for the discussion to take place, if I'm not mistaken. But I had a similar experience.

Mr Murphy: I'm probably running out of time and I'd like to follow up on this this afternoon. I represent a riding that has incredible variety. It has Rosedale and Regent Park in it, and in those communities there are parents with a wide variety of interest and ability to influence and access what happens to their children. I'm not worried about your child in the system because I'm sure that you are in there. If the deputy minister comes knocking at the principal's door, I'm sure someone sits up and takes notice.

Dr Pascal: A guaranteed failure for my kid.


Mr Murphy: Exactly, which may or may not be good for your child. Exactly.

Dr Pascal: No, I wouldn't do that one.

Mr Murphy: But on the flip side, there are lots of people who don't have the power, don't have the ability, who have not the skills, the knowledge. As Ms Akande was referring to, the language of the system can just push them away. That's what I'm concerned about in that principal-versus-parent fight. It may be that the parent doesn't even show up, and it's not because they're not interested. It's because they just don't feel any power in terms of the system. That's what I want to focus on.

Dr Pascal: Madam Chair, through you to Mr Murphy, would it be okay if I asked Jack Berryman, who can answer the question about what kind of legislative authority exists to deal with this question?

The Vice-Chair: Certainly.

Mr Jack Berryman: The Education Act gives to principals the authority to promote pupils subject to the final decision of the supervisory officer. In answer to your question, in the final analysis, it's the educator who makes the decision under the Education Act. Normally it's the principal. If the parent disagrees and wishes to appeal it, it would be to the supervisory officer, but ultimately it would be the educator who makes that final decision, as currently set up under the Education Act.

Mr Murphy: To what degree? I assume then boards can establish policies that principals are to abide by or follow, or guidelines.

Mr Berryman: Yes.

Mr Murphy: Do we know if most boards have those kinds of policies relating to promotion, guidelines for principals?

Mr Berryman: I don't know for sure, but I would suggest that they probably do.

Mr Murphy: Does the ministry know, as a corporate entity?

Dr Pascal: I don't know. I will get an answer to that question.

The Vice-Chair: Perhaps that's something we can pursue this afternoon, then. I would like to thank the ministry staff for attending this morning. We'll adjourn till 2 o'clock and start again.

The committee recessed from 1159 to 1412.

The Vice-Chair: Good afternoon. I'd like to open this session of the public accounts committee. First, before we begin our questioning on curriculum and related matters this afternoon, Dr Pascal would like to make an opening statement.

Dr Pascal: Just very quickly, we were asked about local school board policies around promotion and I said I would find out. The question was, do we know what's extant within the system? I said I didn't know. We have done a survey recently. It's just going to take us a little time to put that in summary form. We'd be pleased some time soon to give that to the clerk or to Mr Callahan directly, whatever is appropriate in terms of the protocol of the committee. I'll leave that in your hands. We would be very pleased to provide a note, hopefully by tomorrow, but if not, shortly thereafter.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you. I appreciate that. We'll start with 20-minute rounds of questions and with the government. We have Mr Duignan and Mr Perruzza on the list.

Mr Callahan: I wonder if Dr Pascal was looking for direction. I would say it would go to the clerk of the committee and he would distribute it among all of us.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for that suggestion, Mr Callahan. We would ask the clerk if he would distribute that.

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): I want to pick up on a couple of points. Earlier, I think Mr Callahan touched on the whole question of teacher training and the number of hours that student teachers spend in the classroom before their degrees are granted. In Ontario, for example, it's about 200 hours or eight weeks. In fact, it's one of the lowest in Canada. I think Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have about the same amount of time: 200 hours.

I noticed that, beginning with the 1994-95 secondary school year and the 1995-96 primary school year in Quebec, they have a new policy which has recently received approval, that there's going to be a minimum required of 700 hours, which would make it student teachers spending something like 28 weeks in the classroom. I was wondering how that is going to impact on our particular teachers. Will it put our teachers we've trained here in Ontario at a disadvantage? Given that the student teachers are going to spend 28 weeks in the classroom in Quebec, will they actually have a little more experience than the teachers here in Ontario?

I was wondering, is there going to be a policy change or is there going to be some way of addressing that? It's a difference of 500 hours now between Ontario and Quebec.

Dr Pascal: It is a very important point that you've raised and that the Provincial Auditor has raised. As you've suggested, there are significant differences. The short answer is that the ministry and the minister will want to await the advice of the learning commission because of the importance of teacher education to the mandate of the commission. It's also important to know that, as we talk about the issue of practice teaching, the ministry over the years has encouraged as much practice teaching as possible; again, I use the word "encouraged." I talked earlier about the need for there to be more consistency and perhaps controls in terms of the nature of teacher education and what happens in our 10 faculties of education and 11 programs.

The minister and the ministry will await the advice of the learning commission, but there are an awful lot of suggestions that more practice teaching is important. It's also important for us, when we talk about practice teaching, that we also look at not only pre-service but the period of introduction to actual teaching at a school board that's called induction. The induction process: There are also lots of possibilities in terms of what a new teacher should do while she or he is in that first year or two of teaching. What should their load be? Should it be a full load? What should they be doing in terms of professional development and more practice as part of that initial period of orientation? Those are some of the policy issues.

In terms of your question about whether it makes a difference in terms of student outcomes, it's a complicated question. The answer would have to include not only the amount of practice teaching, but certification in various subjects vis-à-vis the standards and the outcomes in the curriculum. Those are a few comments. Maurice Lamontagne may want to add a few comments.

Mr Lamontagne: I'd just like to touch on those two important points that you've raised. On the issue of practice teaching during the pre-service year, which is the year leading to the basic teaching certificate, there has been a fair amount of discussion around what is the optimal length of practice teaching.

When this ministry established the regulation in 1978, it was fairly common at that time that a minimum of eight weeks seemed to be a fairly standard approach to practice teaching. There's no scientific evidence that shows what is the optimum amount of practice teaching. What you have to take into account is that the total program in Ontario is about 32 weeks. If you spend eight of those weeks in a practice teaching mode, you have basically about 24 weeks left to spend looking at the various other aspects.

The other issue was the amount of support that teachers need once they have completed their pre-service program, which is what the deputy was alluding to in terms of the induction period. That seems to be the direction this province would prefer to go in terms of giving support to teachers once they have entered the classroom on a permanent basis.

Mr Duignan: Do you have any idea why, for example, Quebec would have gone from about 450 hours to 700 hours? Have they some research to indicate in fact that this is beneficial to both the teacher and to the classroom situation, having more hours in the classroom? I just wondered why it went from 450 to 700. Do you know?

Dr Pascal: I think the research evidence, as Maurice has suggested, is equivocal. There are a lot of very intelligent policymakers and educators who believe, as intuition would suggest, that practice makes perfect, and given the importance of the teacher in the classroom with children against any curriculum guidelines, you want to make sure that all that's necessary is brought to bear in terms of making sure that teacher is ready.

Maurice has indicated that if you take the total period, pre-service and induction, and look at what we might be able to do, it's important to compare what total amount of practice and orientation might be available, combining those periods, compared to another province. Even in our own backyard in Ontario, there are two faculties of education that are in the process of developing a two-year, post-bachelor, teacher education program. So there are some significant leaders in Ontario who believe, as does Quebec, that there should be more practice teaching before a teacher is ready.

Those are the possibilities. That's what's happening right now. Again, we're waiting for the commission to give us its best advice.


Mr Duignan: I was just wondering, in Quebec, do they have a mixture like you're talking about as well or is it just a straight 700 hours?

Dr Pascal: In terms of pre and induction?

Mr Duignan: Yes.

Dr Pascal: I don't know much about the Quebec induction practice.

Mr Lamontagne: The last report that was drawn together on this indicated that most of the practice teaching in Quebec was 12 weeks. I haven't heard of any program where they're increasing that. We have a table that shows the various amounts of practice time across the country. There are two other provinces that basically have the same minimum we have. Some are experimenting with longer periods, as we are. Some universities have gone to a school-based program where a lot of the teacher education program is in the school community. Others are experimenting with extended practicums, such as the University of Ottawa, which has a program of 120 weeks for a certain number of its candidates in the program. It's not across the system yet. A fair amount of piloting or experimentation is being done with extended practicums in all our faculties.

Mr Duignan: Given the problems that have been indicated by the auditor in relation to this area and some of the horror stories we've heard over the years, what would you like to see happen? Would you like to see that 200 hours go to 700 or more or somewhere in between?

Mr Lamontagne: As a former teacher, I would be pleased if there was a year of induction, where the support is, where you have mentoring, where you have coaching, where you have assistance from experienced teachers. Spending practice time in schools when you're in a learning situation is not always the reality.

I come from an era, and I think Maurice probably can relate to this as well, when some of us did summer school to get into teaching. We learned how to teach by doing. I don't know if that made us better teachers or worse teachers. This is why there's no evidence to show that more practice time when you're in your pre-service program is necessarily what's going to lead you to become a better teacher. It's how you adjust once you get into the school situation, in a real situation with your own students. That's when you need the support. If I had my preference in a perfect world, I'd like to have someone helping me when I begin my first year of teaching.

Mr Duignan: For example, would that one year of induction be part of the degree program or would that be after the teacher qualified?

Mr Lamontagne: After the initial qualification program; that would be part and parcel of the program that would be a requirement. This is part of the continuum. Once a teacher has completed the pre-service requirements, which is in the university setting at the faculty of education, when that teacher begins to teach, there is a programmed set of activities that involve the staff, the faculty as well, where there's continuous work being done with the faculties and the teacher in the classroom setting.

Mr Duignan: As you indicated, this problem has been looked at, it's been addressed and we are waiting for some results back from the commission.

Mr Lamontagne: This is one of the recommendations that have been in place before the commission.

Dr Pascal: I think what's critical is that while we can all give various options and advice about solutions, it's really important for us to continue to focus on what the outcomes are. A first-class teacher education and training program is one where new teachers feel a high level of self-confidence and readiness to pursue the curriculum at hand, a curriculum which is based on clear, high and relevant standards, and where they behave as and are rewarded for being lifelong learners throughout their careers so that they're always prepared to contribute. I think there are multiple ways you can get there; I just think the jury is out with respect to the right approach, if in fact there is only one right approach. We're all looking forward to what the learning commission has to say about it.

Mr Duignan: Also, finally -- I want to give my colleague a chance -- Newfoundland is the only province which requires primary and junior division teachers to have a previous university course in mathematics, for example. I understand these requirements also include one course in science and two in English. Is that something you would like to see happen here too?

Dr Pascal: As I said earlier, you're quite right that the issue of effectiveness, that is, outcomes on students, is a function not only of how much time you spend practising but preparedness to deal with the curriculum. I don't want to express an opinion right now about certification, because that will be at the heart of the royal commission's recommendations on teacher education, but I must say that I am uncomfortable, as is the Provincial Auditor, that at the senior level we have individuals who are teaching courses that would be described as the "basics" who are not as well-grounded as I personally would like to see them, and quite frankly, as I've talked to teachers who are placed in the situation, as perhaps they would like to see themselves.

So there are some issues with respect to some subjects that are taught in secondary school and the fact that there are teachers who do I think a superb job, but with challenges because, in some cases, of a lack of grounding in the subject matter. The Provincial Auditor has noted that, as have leaders in teachers' federations, obviously dealing with the same issue.

Mr Duignan: That issue will continue to be addressed by the commission --

Dr Pascal: Very much so.

Mr Duignan: -- and hopefully have something done about it, because it's all very well and fine to say the teacher may not have grounding; let's get the teacher some grounding in mathematics or science or English. It's our kids who suffer if they don't have the proper grounding in those subjects.

Dr Pascal: Issues, philosophical differences, will probably remain as part of the debate in terms of elementary versus secondary. In elementary schools, teachers are teaching children. They're teaching across the curriculum, and they have to be prepared to teach across an integrated curriculum. As you move towards what are currently called the "specialization years," the specialty requirements and the match between what a teacher has in their own background and the curriculum have to be tighter under any system.

In the elementary panel, where things like math and science and technology are important, whether or not we move towards something similar to what Newfoundland and other jurisdictions have is a matter of waiting for the learning commission and probably a matter of debate too in terms of the tradeoffs in the early years.

Mr Duignan: I'll yield the floor to my colleague.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you, Mr Duignan. There is just slightly less than five minutes left, Mr Perruzza.

Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): I hope you put me back on the list in the next rotation. I'd like to request that before I speak, to get back on the list in the rotation.

The Vice-Chair: You're back on the list.


Mr Perruzza: I've essentially sat here listening to this, and it's wonderful. It seems to me that we're sort of engaged in a feel good exercise. We have a lot of very interesting questions and we're all relating our own educational experiences and looking at our educational system from a very sort of subjective point of view, and you, on the other hand, are sitting there providing us with a lot of very good answers with respect to the entire range of education.

But the reality out there is something that's quite different. We have a system that has an unbelievable dropout rate, a system that faces inequities in funding right across the system. From the shoreline at the lake all the way to the furthest town that I've ever been to, and that's quite some way north of Thunder Bay, there are expectations that are being set for a whole lot of people in the system, and in our generalization, especially when we look at critiquing the system, sometimes we omit to say that there are a lot of great successes in the system -- and that goes without saying; there are -- but there are also a tremendous amount of failures.

Yesterday, I sat listening to many of the questions that related to special education and the SEACs, the special education advisory committees, that are part of every board and the kind of work they do. I can tell you from my own personal experience with the SEAC committee -- I know there are a lot of very good people working in the system and working around those kinds of committees who contribute significantly -- that I think that what they were set up to do and what they are actually doing is quite different. We can sit here and talk about it all day. The reality is that they don't deal with special education needs in a very effective and successful way, and we can get into some of the specifics on that a little later.

There's very little link between our educational system and real job potential. I don't feel there is enough being done in a significant way to look at that and to have a system that is continually evolving and monitoring and moving and producing the kinds of people, graduating the kinds of individuals with the kinds of skills and so on so that they can insert themselves into a job market and be successful contributors to our society. With a lot of the people who end up going through the system and doing well, there are unrealistic expectations placed on them in their ability to enter the job market and in being successful contributors to our society as well.

As I sit here and listen to many of your explanations, it seems to me that the minor massages we give to the system here and there, quite frankly, aren't good enough. I think what we have to look at, instead of doing skin grafts, is to reach inside and perform wholesale operations because a lot of the failures in the system outstrip the successes; there's no question.

The Acting Chair (Mr Robert V. Callahan): With that, you're time is up.

Mr Perruzza: But I'd like to get back on the list.

The Acting Chair: You can arm-wrestle with your colleagues. I'm sure you will be able to get on. We'll now move to 20-minute rotations, starting with the official opposition.

Ms Poole: I'd like you to put on your whimsy hat for a moment, Dr Pascal, which I think you were wont to do when we were on the select committee on education, and maybe put a little bit of a tease out there. I will preface this by saying that I understand and recognize there's a commission on learning that won't be reporting for another year and that as far as the ministry going ahead in a proactive way with new programs is concerned, you would obviously like to have the benefit of the results of that commission before you do so.

I'm going to put on my other hat, the hat of a parent, and talk about some of the concerns that parents are expressing about the educational system today. Then I'd like you to tell me, at the end of the concerns I've expressed, if you had to write a throne speech which would give comfort and security to these parents that what they perceive to be wrong with the educational system will be improved and rectified, what you would do?

I'll just very briefly itemize four of the main concerns I've heard most often in my capacity as an MPP and also as a parent: first, that the educational system is top-heavy with administrators and consultants; secondly, that our young people are graduating without the necessary literacy and numeracy skills; thirdly, that there is no meaningful evaluation process to ensure that the teachers who are in our classrooms have the skills, abilities and work ethics to be effective teachers; fourthly, that money is poured into our education system, and at $14 billion a considerable amount into our educational system, and with our teachers being among the highest-paid in North America, yet our young people do not appear to be able to favourably compete with other jurisdictions on completing their education.

Those are the four things I've most often heard. If you were given that wonderful mandate of writing the throne speech, what would be in it?

Dr Pascal: I happen to have a copy. I will be very pleased to give a preliminary response.

The first thing that I would do is I would table in the preamble -- I hope you don't mind if I sketch out the throne speech as opposed to writing it as we speak. The section that dealt with economic renewal and social justice would begin with education as an enabler of both of those larger kinds of metagoals.

I would point out that in the context of having a future which is more just, more equitable, safer, healthier and comfortable for all Ontarians, we need an educational system that is founded on very strong twin pillars of accountability and equity.

I would then move, in the next section, to a portrayal of some of the issues that are extant within the system and I would quote almost verbatim some of the issues that you tabled.

Where the money is being spent: I would talk a little about the $14-billion expenditure and what we've already begun doing to try to determine what's happening with those dollars in terms of real, clear, measurable outcomes. It depends on the timing of this throne speech; I don't want to ask for any clarifications.

Ms Poole: We're thinking about a year and a half from now.

Dr Pascal: Then I have to cease and desist. If it were a year and a half from now, the government of the day would be able to talk about major progress in the area of setting high, clear and relevant standards and that everything we do in terms of the expenditure of the $14 billion should flow from the relationship between teachers and students in terms of realizing those.

Anything that doesn't add value to that relationship against those standards has to undergo a rigorous scrutiny in terms of getting dollars away from parts of the bureaucracy, including, I might say, the Ministry of Education and Training, although the throne speech would probably convey by then all that we've done between now and then in the area of special education, as a result of our discussion yesterday.

I would take each of your points and talk about what has been done because I think quite frankly the throne speeches of the future that will appeal to the public at large will be those that have dreams grounded in the reality of what already has been done: if it's a government that has been there for a while, that it be committed to truth in packaging about what in fact has been done; if it's a government of another political stripe, that it catch the previous government doing things right rather than playing the partisan games that are part of the process as we sometimes see it.

I would really talk about what needs to be done against what already has been done in a very honest and straightforward fashion.

The issue of literacy skills: I would talk about the issue of standards and about testing and the issue of evaluation and accountability of all those who work in the system, in terms of providing value added, including deputy ministers as well as teachers. That has to be part of a stronger system of accountability.

I would wonder aloud, maybe by then, about what students should do in terms of evaluating teachers not only in post-secondary institutions but maybe even in elementary and secondary institutions and obviously reinforce what progress has been made about parent involvement in the education of their children.

Those are some of the things I might put in a throne speech and hope that all the recording systems that produce Hansard have gone under for the last five minutes.


Ms Poole: I certainly think that direction would reassure a lot of parents. Unlike most of the public out there and a significant proportion of the media, people in this room understand that a throne speech is general in direction and does not give specifics but is meant to reassure that positive action is occurring and will occur.

Because the throne speech you just delivered was generic in nature, one of the things you didn't get into was the evaluation process for teachers. You touched upon it in that you said it might be an innovative thing to look at some student participation in the evaluation, which I think would be a very healthy thing, but beyond that --

Dr Pascal: I've never taught a class. I've not taught in any permanent way. I did some supply teaching when I was a child-student years ago, but I've never taught a course at the post-secondary level which has not been fully evaluated by my students in a way that was safe for them. The purpose of this is professional development and not punition, but development and growth and lifelong learning for the sake of the teacher, whether she's an elementary teacher or a professor.

Ms Poole: Hopefully, the goal would always be self-improvement, that the teacher could learn. Sometimes the perception is very important, so if a teacher learns that the young people do not feel they are communicating adequately or that they move too quickly or that they don't listen sufficiently, I would think all these things would assist the teacher in improving his or her skills.

I guess what I'm concerned about is that in Ontario today we have many excellent teachers, and Mr Callahan touched on this point earlier. I have two young people in the education system and they're now in secondary school, so they've been in the public education system for some time, and I have great admiration for many of their teachers; I've just found them superb. By the same token, some of the teachers have been quite distressing.

As a parent who, like yourself, can be vocal on occasion to protect the interests of your child, I'm not so concerned about what happens to my children in the system, but for those parents and those students who aren't always able to advocate for themselves, if they have a series of teachers who are not as skilled in communicating as they could be or who do not have the knowledge base in that particular subject that they should, it could be fairly damaging to the progress of that child. Do you ever foresee a day in Ontario where we will have a system of teacher evaluation?

Dr Pascal: First of all, I have to admit that my direct knowledge of exactly how we do it right now is limited, and I'll ask one of my colleagues to describe the way it works right now. The answer is yes, but if we don't have one that's perfect right now, it has to be constructed in a way which is safe for teachers, which is not something that can lend itself to punition for reasons that have nothing to do with what takes place in the classroom.

I must confess to you that my own experience, limited as it is, in the last 10 months in visiting probably about 200 or 300 classrooms in 40 or 50 schools is a quite hopeful experience in terms of what I see teachers doing. I have seen literally hundreds of teachers bring classrooms alive. I recognize that my visit to a classroom, as in the case of the principal standing at the back of a classroom, changes the environment slightly and in some cases perhaps in major ways. With one exception, I've only seen one classroom that seemed dead.

I realize there may be a selection bias in terms of where I'm allowed to go and what classrooms are shown to me and what schools I'm asked to visit when I ask to visit a school board, but I am not pessimistic about teachers and commitment. There are, as in every profession, individuals who would rather be doing something else and we'd probably rather have them do something else, but there are a lot of teachers who I think are placed in difficult situations in terms of policy and programs, sometimes developed by us, where school boards may disagree or not agree, and implementation is hampered by teachers not getting enough lead time and feeling that their backs are up against the wall.

There are a lot of complicated issues around what may be at play in terms of a teacher not performing as well or with as high a morale as we'd like to see, but based on my direct limited experience, I see a lot of committed teachers who are bringing classrooms alive.

I must say that I do get confused when you hear issues about public confidence being raised about the system. So something's at play. I'm not sure what it is. This is why Mr Cooke wants the royal commission.

In answer to Mr Perruzza's comments earlier, everything is not perfect. If everything was perfect, we wouldn't have a Royal Commission on Learning. If everything was perfect, we wouldn't need anti-racism and equity policies being brought into the schools. If everything was perfect, we wouldn't need violence prevention programs. It's a complicated environment with complicated problems.

Teachers do need evaluation, and they need evaluation that has tough, loving care at the heart of it where they're given good feedback and good mentoring and, most importantly, where there's a gap in skill or knowledge, we all provide support to reduce that gap in a way which is not punitive but growth-oriented. It's a very difficult area, and again I join you in wanting to see some kind of process which is indeed constructive. Sorry for the long answer, but I think the importance of your question demanded it.

Maybe a quick reply on what happens in the system right now would be useful, if that's acceptable.

Ms Poole: Yes.

Mr Lamontagne: Very briefly, to pick up on what Charles was saying, at the school level the supervision of instruction in schools is conducted at the local level by the supervisory officers who are certified by the ministry to supervise staff and supervise programs.

What I would like to emphasize is that the principals' courses that we offer, or that we are involved in at least developing a framework for, and we monitor the delivery of these courses, as well as the courses that are offered to the supervisory personnel, the supervisory officers of the system, stress the importance of staff development and their staff performance appraisals and so on. We have seen a lot of models brought to these courses and discussed among these people who are then out in the system. There's a fair amount of work. Given all the expectations we place on teachers, I think you're quite right in saying that when we look at the majority, we should be quite proud of what they are able to do, given the context within which they work.

Performance appraisals: You can't say that we have been totally out of it. We have not been directly involved in evaluating teachers since the days of the inspectors, when ministry people went out and inspected teachers. We're now attempting to have more self-appraisals done at the local level by the teachers themselves through peer coaching and through mentoring programs, as well as the routine supervision that is conducted at the school level by the principals and by the supervisory officers.


Ms Poole: Thank you. In response to Dr Pascal's earlier comments -- I do appreciate the length of them because it is a very complicated and involved area and it's not easy to answer simplistically -- first of all, when you mention that you've been in hundreds of classrooms and that you really haven't had a lot of experience of dead time, I would just submit to you that if I were having the deputy minister into my school, I certainly wouldn't put you in with my worst teachers. Maybe that's a very selfish way to look at it but, having said that, I still think the majority of teachers are extremely good.

When you referred to the negative comments of people, allowing for a certain amount of confusion as to why there is such a high degree of pessimism among parents, I think it's got to do with the fact that if you have six teachers and five of them range from excellent to quite good, and you have one rotten teacher, the one the parent talks about is the rotten teacher.

Let's face facts: We do not have a mechanism to get rid of rotten teachers. It may technically, high in the sky, exist, but it is never utilized. In fact, if you're a rotten teacher, you've got a really good chance of being promoted somewhere because that's how a school gets you out of the system. My kids had one teacher who had been in 17 schools in 15 years and I knew why by the end of that year. The entire class failed science. They couldn't figure out what happened at Northern because they had 25 students from Hodgson who had no concept of what had been taught in grade 8 science. We knew at Hodgson and we had a special meeting of the science teachers with the Hodgson parents and explained, and then they were very supportive in giving help.

We didn't talk about all the good teachers; we talked about the one flake who was existing on his own planet and I think could have done irreparable harm to some of the kids if it was a crucial year for them or if they were already having difficulty in the subject.

I guess my question to you is, will we reach the stage where there is a mechanism which encourages the many good teachers we have and makes them feel that their efforts, their contributions and their abilities are recognized, but where despite the encouragement and the training and the evaluation programs which show you that improvement is needed, if a teacher still cannot teach, is there going to be a mechanism to remove him or her from the classroom?

Dr Pascal: I think there is no doubt that we have in society at large, and the schools work within that broader context, a systemic problem in terms of performance appraisals and giving people really clear feedback about what is going well and what is not going well. This is a very difficult thing. Maybe one of the reasons for even imagining the notion of teaching people how to give and receive feedback to whomever, including perhaps even teachers in elementary school -- building those skills so that when we grow up as adults we'll be able, on the job, to give people timely feedback which is growth-oriented, rather than working in organizations where things build up over a large number of years, where everybody else in the organization is waiting for the leader to say, "What are you going to do about old so-and-so?" when that individual could have been well-advantaged by some tough, professional, ongoing feedback about how they are doing and what to do about changing certain behaviours.

Those types of performance systems should exist everywhere so that the number of times one has to say, "Sorry, you're out of here," are very small in number because we've done all the proper kind of developmental work and it doesn't get to the point where we have to worry about getting rid of people in a punitive way.

The short answer is that there's too much at stake for us not to pursue the consequences of your question, which is to make sure students have before them well-trained, highly motivated teachers. To have other than that is unacceptable. What is in place right now may not be enough and if that is the case, then we will have to have a stronger and more constructive system. Thank you for the cue.

Ms Poole: Actually, I'm cut off.

The Acting Chair: I'm sorry. That wasn't for you, doctor; that was for my colleague.

Dr Pascal: Mr Chair, I don't know if I'm allowed to say "point of order"; I'm probably not.

The Acting Chair: Sure. Try me.

Mr Pascal: No, I don't want to.

There is a process of decertification and somewhere along the line of the next day or so, if you wish, Jack Berryman, who is the provincial expert on this process, could describe what is done. I see a very large number, more than I would ever have dreamed of, of files coming to my desk for passing on to the minister to set in motion a process for evaluation. It involves, obviously, the Ontario Teachers' Federation, as it should, and appropriate teachers' federations, but there is a process. If a question arises along these lines, Jack could explain how the process works and he could talk to you about the numbers and what happens at the other end. But just on the point of order, there is a process and we can explain it to you.

The Acting Chair: I want you to know that in the nine years I've been in this place, of the points of order that have been raised, I think I've only heard only one legitimate point of order.

Ms Poole: And it wasn't yours.

Dr Pascal: And it wasn't mine.

The Acting Chair: The second thing I would say is that it was always my understanding that the executioner was called Mr X and his name was never revealed. We may call on him. We may want to speak to him.

Dr Pascal: He does not hold the hatchet; he just runs the process.

Mr Jordan: My question is to the deputy minister and in the area of discipline. I personally come from a family of educators and what they're telling me on almost a daily basis, not only my own group but my riding, is that we must return some discipline authority, some power of discipline, to the teaching profession. I would like to hear your comments on that as it is now being adhered to in the school system.

Dr Pascal: Let me start very briefly by talking about the violence prevention initiative that was recently announced, and then there may be a colleague, either on the panel or behind me, who wants to add to issues of discipline in classrooms.

The minister recently announced, as a result of increasing evidence about violence in the schools, a process for ensuring that all school boards -- many of them have policies in place and practices and some of them don't -- and all schools, for the safety of everybody, including teachers, have violence prevention policies and strategies in place.

He has also set in motion a summit for the first week of March to bring together all the stakeholders, including teachers and students and parents, to look at best practice in terms of ensuring that schools are safe and that there is clarity with respect to behaviour and consequential activity that takes place with respect to behaviour which is unacceptable. This is to ensure a learning environment which is safe and healthy so that the real purpose of schools can fulfil itself, which is learning. There's a lot of attention being paid in the media and elsewhere to issues arising in various schools where violence and behaviour which is unacceptable is at the centre of this debate, and a lot of activity. I don't know if that helps to answer.

Mr Jordan: Really, Dr Pascal, that is how we're dealing with it now that it's reached this stage. We're having to bring the law in. We're having to do many different things in order to try to control the classroom. What I'm speaking of is the discipline powers that the teacher used to have that have been taken away, which start at a much lower grade, and the respect that the teacher was given so that when we bring the students through the different phases of education, they have learned discipline and learned to respect the profession and the teacher and realize they are there for the purpose of learning.

Dr Pascal: Let me ask, since part of your question relates to power, and power relates to regulation and legislation, if I could ask Jack Berryman to fill in a bit.


Mr Berryman: The Education Act gives to the principal the authority over discipline in the schools. He or she is in charge of discipline in the schools, and the teachers and principal have a duty of care to provide an environment that is safe for the children. That is a legal requirement.

Mr Murphy: A statutory duty of care?

Mr Berryman: Yes, a statutory duty of care; that's right. I'm not sure what you are referring to in terms of the discipline that was administered, say, several years ago versus the discipline that is administered today, but clearly in days gone by it was still the legal duty of care and there continues to be that legal duty of care.

Mr Jordan: I think in all fairness we have to admit that that explanation is not getting to the root of the problem in the classroom. I'm sure you, as well as myself and other parents and people generally, continually hear the teacher saying: "But I mustn't touch the student, I mustn't do this and I mustn't do that." So the student isn't very long realizing, "I have the power here."

Dr Pascal: As Jack has queried, what authority is different now in terms of today versus a couple of years ago? If you're treading into the area of issues that have to do with potential fear of abuse allegations and things like that, then maybe we need to discuss that. It's very difficult, very sensitive, but I'm trying to tease out where the classroom teacher feels more vulnerable, other than the fact that there are incidents of violence that we read about that must present very difficult circumstances for the average classroom teacher. That's why I talked earlier about the violence prevention initiatives which I think will help everyone in the schools, including the teachers. But I'm still having difficulty understanding what authority they don't have now that they had a couple of years ago.

Mr Jordan: It's more than a couple of years. It is, I'd say, in the last probably 10 or 15 years that it has gradually been taken away.

Dr Pascal: Are you referring to the use of the strap? I'm really just trying to understand the nature --

Mr Jordan: That was one of the methods of imposing some law and order in the school. That's going back a number of years, of course. But even if the teacher says to the student, "Leave the room," or, "Go to the principal's office," and that student refuses to go and the teacher goes down and takes him or her by the arm and assists him to the door, that's not allowed.

Dr Pascal: I don't know whether that's allowed or not. The issue of the strap we'll set aside, as a popular opinion is that responding to violence or acting out with some kind of --

The Acting Chair: Is that Dr Spock?

Dr Pascal: Dr Spock does recommend, on page 135, an occasional spanking, yes.

Mr Maurice Poirier: If I may add to the response, Mr Jordan's question relates to two issues around behaviour. One is reacting to inappropriate behaviour. We see that there is an increasing incidence of inappropriate behaviour in schools -- your observation is quite accurate -- over the last 10 years.

The other aspect is that of prevention, and that's where the ministry has wanted to focus its attention in recent years. One of the ways in which we've done that is by issuing a document called Discipline for Schools, which provides a number of suggestions for teachers in dealing with such problems, and another document called Behaviour, recognizing the need to address this issue not only in a remedial or punitive manner but also in a preventive manner.

I'd also like to point out that our official policy document for grades 7 to 12, OSIS, which was initially issued in the mid-1980s, requires school boards to develop codes of behaviour for their secondary schools. These codes have to be developed in collaboration with the school community, so of course it involves the students, the parents and so on. There again we have a preventive model that would go some distance to prevent this kind of behaviour, but also lay out very clearly what the sanctions will be if students choose to flout the rules.

Dr Pascal: Because this is a terribly important area, it could also be something that maybe the Ontario Parent Council ought to discuss as well. One of the most challenging policy areas involving learning and participation in the activities of a school, from a child's or student's point of view, is what's the obligation of the parent?

We've been talking in the last couple of days about the obligation of the system towards parents and students and all the things that we need to do more effectively in that regard, but what should the responsibility of the parent or guardian be in terms of the education of her or his child, what participation in the academic side as well as the social achievement side is there? It's very tricky. What would be the sanctions, the consequences in terms of non-participation? What are the positive consequences for encouraging parent involvement?

Obviously, schools need to be very welcoming institutions in terms of allowing that to happen, but in the area of mutual responsibility, what do we deserve, as a society, to expect from parents and guardians about what they do in terms of involvement in their child's education. It's a very tricky policy area, but the fact is we have an Ontario Parent Council for the first time that perhaps could get engaged in this kind of discussion.

Mr Jordan: Just to change to the qualifications for the teaching profession, if a teacher has his or her university degree plus a bachelor of education in ESL, why is it he or she is not allowed to have an Ontario certificate to teach the regular courses?

Mr Lamontagne: I'm sorry. I think I missed part of that question. If they have ESL?

Mr Jordan: They have the university degree, plus they have the bachelor of education for ESL, but they're not accepted. Is that because of the federation or is it a policy of your ministry?

Mr Lamontagne: Policy requires that they have a minimum of a degree but also their full year of teacher training which occurs in the faculty of education.

Mr Jordan: They have that when they're getting their ESL.

Mr Lamontagne: I'm not sure. I think maybe Sharon could explain that.

Mr Jordan: They go out to practise teaching and so on.

Mr Lamontagne: I'd like to ask one of my colleagues if she has some information. Sharon Hibbitt will respond.

Ms Sharon Hibbitt: Are you referring to bachelors or programs in education which are offered at universities other than faculties of education; for instance, Carleton?

Mr Jordan: I'm referring specifically to a bachelor of arts degree in science from the University of Western Ontario, plus a bachelor of ed from Brock University.

The Acting Chair: It's the first bachelor that caused the problems.

Mr Jordan: No, sorry. I've got two kids who went there and they'd kill me.


Mr Jordan: A bachelor of ed in ESL. Is it the federation or is it your ministry?

Ms Hibbitt: I don't think there should be a problem. If a bachelor of education degree is awarded by Brock and it has recommended to the ministry that the person receive an OTC, then he or she should be teaching or should have qualification.

Dr Pascal: The fact that they've done something extra in ESL shouldn't negate anything they have in the BEd. If they've satisfied all those requirements, they should be eligible for recommendation for OTC, the Ontario teachers' certificate. If there's a specific case, we'd be very pleased to receive information about it to give you a more fulsome answer, but based on what you've asked, there shouldn't be a problem.


Mr Villeneuve: I have a few questions. If we talk about exceptional children, would you prefer to wait till tomorrow?

Ms Poole: We were going to deal with that.

Mr Villeneuve: Okay, we'll deal with curriculum. I got a fax from one of my constituents who was very interested in what's going on at this hearing and had some questions on exceptional children.

In the development of the curriculum that you've set into play this fall, how many teachers have you seconded out of the classroom to develop this curriculum? With the 170 or so school boards, how did this come about? Could you give us a little bit of background and what's still going on? I gather it's still ongoing.

Dr Pascal: Yes, I'll ask Maurice to describe the process for revision, how the revision team is constructed and the relationship between that team and teachers at large.

Mr Maurice Poirier: It's important to realize, first of all, that when the document was first developed it did involve quite a large number of practising teachers. Once the document was released, then we put a review and revision process in place that also involved another large number of teachers, in fact the entire community, including business, labour and parents. I'll ask Ron Wideman, who is the person in charge of this review-revision process, to describe the steps we've taken.

Dr Ron Wideman: In the development of the document in the summer of 1992, some 60 practising teachers from around the province came together here in Toronto for a full month in July to develop the first draft of the outcomes under the four core program areas. Later that fall -- I think it was early December -- the draft of The Common Curriculum was reviewed by about 20 organizations and groups related to the education field before the document was released in February.

The review process that's going on now involves inviting educators and the public to respond to The Common Curriculum, to the current document, based on school use, based on their experience with it and to submit those comments in writing to the ministry.

We've set up a review committee that consists of seven practising educators named by the Ontario Teachers' Federation and its affiliates and supervisory officers in the province and ministry personnel, led by Dr Lorna Earl, who's a research specialist with the Scarborough Board of Education. That review committee is doing a full-scale qualitative analysis of the responses we're receiving. We've requested responses through the In Common newsletter and through a number of other vehicles. That newsletter goes to some 300 organizations beyond the school system, and the invitation has been repeated in a number of different ways and will be again.

That review committee will be looking at all the responses we receive and by June of this year we'll put forward recommendations for how the document should be revised for the next version that would come out in December 1994.

Dr Pascal: If I might add just very briefly -- and in addition to that, it might be useful for all members to have a sample of that newsletter because I think it would bring alive the kind of solicitation of input we're providing, so we'll bring copies tomorrow -- there are the Ontario Teachers' Federation experiments in information technology that we have funded which are designed to get teachers talking to teachers about issues such as the changes in curriculum, best practice, "How are you approaching this?" It has been an enormous success. As I mentioned yesterday, to date there are about 4,000 teachers now talking to each other in subgroups and trying to get as much grass-roots input and expertise.

If a classroom teacher says to us in a highly reliable way, "We can't understand these particular learning outcomes," and there are some that really require rewriting because they're not clear, we listen. The fact that we have lots of teachers talking with each other across the province in this kind of area is extremely helpful to the process.

Mr Villeneuve: So there is pretty well unlimited communication, and as far as you're concerned, we're not duplicating efforts here by boards and then by ministry staff and by other people.

Dr Pascal: I don't wish to in any way overplay what we're doing. We're doing what we said we were doing. I wouldn't say it's unlimited and I would say it's far from perfect. There probably still are classroom teachers out there who don't feel connected and don't feel they have a franchise. The population at large and school boards vary in terms of communications and what gets through, but we are making sure that we do everything we can to provide an opportunity for people to give us feedback, but it's not perfect.

Mr Villeneuve: We live in a very imperfect world.

You would have a group of staff from the ministry on this particular curriculum development. Could you give us an idea of approximately how many people you have working on that?

Dr Pascal: Sure, we'd be delighted.

Mr Maurice Poirier: Within my team, which is the curriculum and assessment team, we have a small group that is headed up by Ron which is looking at that. Of course, they are project managers. It essentially involves five people. It's a big task for five people but essentially their responsibility is to coordinate the responses and ensure that the recommendations that are brought forward are indeed reflective of what we've heard back from the community to make sure the changes we bring about are the correct ones.

Mr Villeneuve: Would you have consultants here as well or is it simply staff and possibly people from within the teaching profession in some of the different boards?

Dr Pascal: In addition to the team that Maurice has described, Richard would also have a complement in the French-language area.

Mr Gauthier: Staff at the central office is fairly limited. What I would like to add is that the ministry, because resources are limited for French-language schools, runs what we call a French-language consultative program. The ministry seconds practising teachers from boards, from schools, to go and work with other teachers in schools and boards across the province. This year we have approximately 40 French-language teachers who have been seconded to work with other teachers.

At the beginning of their secondment, these people have had in-service training around the common curriculum and now, in turn, are working directly with teachers in the classroom to help them in the implementation of the common curriculum.

Dr Pascal: I also wish to add two final points. I don't want to add a point that, through you to the Treasurer, would be seen like the deputy minister lobbying for more researchers, because I'm not. The early retirement plan the government has implemented has taken a little bit of a toll right across the ministry, including in some of these areas we're discussing.

The good news is that we're also right now in the process of seconding a good number of individuals to the regional offices who'll be part of our curriculum team as they relate to school boards decentrally.

Finally, it's important to note that, as Maurice has suggested, the role of the ministry staff, which is relatively lean given the importance of this initiative, is there to coordinate, lead, consolidate.

The fact that it's lean has some very positive features; that is, we can't do it alone. Even if we didn't want to be strong partners involving the teachers we described earlier, we would be forced to do so. It's a win-win. If you look at the number of people involved in the task, it goes far beyond the staff complement of the ministry.

The Acting Chair: We will now move on to the government. Ms Haeck.

Ms Haeck: I thought Mr Perruzza was on first.

The Acting Chair: He asked for that and then I didn't put him down. That's fine.

Ms Poole: Just on a clarification, I had actually jotted his name down before I left but I forgot to tell you. I apologize for that.

The Acting Chair: You jotted his name down but he was speaking at that time.

Ms Poole: No, if you look at my funny list, he was back down.

The Acting Chair: Everybody has advocated to hear from you, so you're up.


Mr Perruzza: Thank you very much, and I'd like to thank all of my colleagues for allowing me this opportunity. I've been quite anxious for it for some time.

To go back to the point I tried to make earlier about some of the problems in our educational system and what the realities are for a lot of people who have kids in the system, people who are going through it or who have been through the educational system recently, there are a lot of great failures, and we all have a good sense of what they are. To use an Italian saying, dal dire al fare, c'e une mare. Translated: From what we say to what we do, there's a very large ocean in between.

I'd like your reaction to some of the comments I made earlier and then I have two specific questions, one picking up on Mr Jordan's issue of discipline and SEACs, and the other more generally on funding of the system.

Dr Pascal: Mille grazie. I'm not going to say that tutto il mundo e pazzo. Indeed, not everyone is crazy when it comes to pointing out that there are some significant problems. I'm glad I have a brief opportunity to respond to your earlier comments.

In no way today are we trying to suggest with our answers that everything is fine. As a matter of fact, the reason for discussing today The Common Curriculum standards and testing is because of the need for a far greater amount of accountability. If it's taken on a more positive tone than some would like, maybe it's because some of the initiatives are long overdue and are being well received. Not everything is going wrong with the system. If everything were right with the system, on the other hand, the minister would not have launched a Royal Commission on Learning. The minister, as I said while you were out of the room, would not have launched some very significant anti-racism and ethnocultural equity policies on July 15 of last year. If everything were going well with the system, he would not have seen need for the violence prevention initiatives. There are significant problems out there.

In the context of significant problems, there are lots of good things directed at trying to solve those problems. You talked quite lucidly and importantly about the need for us to connect our future, in terms of economic renewal and jobs, to a well-functioning educational system. Setting high and clear standards, being tough-minded about testing for those results and using those results to improve the system are all designed to ensure that the kind of economic renewal objectives you alluded to are met in the future. Right now there's concern and confusion about whether that's happening.

There are also other projects designed to connect jobs and the transition from school to work. We have a schools-to-work project that we can describe in some detail if you wish, which I think is really important in terms of that transition. There are business, education and learning partnerships cropping up all over Ontario right now. There are three that I know directly, one in Ottawa, one in London and the recent one launched in Toronto, where business people, labour people and educators are getting together to talk about issues of those transitions. We talked earlier about the school-workplace apprenticeship program in terms of providing apprenticeship as early as high school and the need, as others have suggested, for more co-op and experiential activity in the schools.

Not all is well, but not all is broken either. We think the reliability around what the problems are will be strengthened by the Royal Commission on Learning. We think that has been a very positive process, painful in terms of the messages, confusing because some of the messages are not in harmony with all other messages, but it's raised the level of literacy around the province with respect to what the fundamental issues are and we have high hopes that the learning commission will help us address some of the problems.

Mr Perruzza: As you do, I look to the Royal Commission on Learning for some answers. It's my hope that we don't get the same kind of answers and the same kind of activity from whatever they produce as we've got from many of the other reports commissioned over the years: 1985, 1990 -- I forget the names of those particular reports.

Expanding on that, I'm hopeful, and I think our educational system needs to relate that message to people in this province and in this country. If we're going to be a hopeful people once again, the leadership has to come from our educational system. I don't think it can come from anything else, and you need to lead the charge in that regard. You have a big job ahead of you, and I hope you can do it.

With respect to discipline in SEACs, one of the problem areas for me is our whole disciplinary system. There's a knee-jerk reaction when a kid is a problem kid. It's really easy to expel someone or to prevent them from coming to school for three days, five days, and I believe the maximum is 10 days. I sat in on countless board meetings when I was at the board and this was a problem area of mine, that we reviewed lists and lists and lists of students who were being expelled for five and 10 days. That was common practice. The biggest gift you can give a problem kid is a holiday away from school for five or 10 days to hang around the local mall or at the corner with their friends who have decided they aren't going to go to school. To me, that's just unacceptable, and we need to find a better way to deal with problem kids.

Dr Pascal: I couldn't agree more. As Ms Poole knows, I sometimes like the use of writing letters as a way of reflecting on policy. I wrote a letter many years ago to my own grade 7 teacher. But for the grace of Miss Pond, I might have been incarcerated in places other than universities and colleges during my life.

The intervention of a system and a set of strategies to deal with presenting problems that create some problems for other students or teachers, on the one hand, and how to balance that in terms of what's the best investment for the individual, the child or student displaying disruptive behaviour, is very tricky. That's why, when Mr Cooke tabled his plans for violence prevention and the summit, he was quite careful to also talk about violence prevention in the context of anti-racism, to make sure it's understood that there area lot of things at play in schools that aren't as simple as, "This child's done something and we'll see you later." Where does that student go, what kind of supports are there and how are we trying to harmonize what we do in the educational sector with what we're trying to do in the justice system with regard to trying to have a more preventive kind of investment in terms of what happens when a child is disruptive or, in the case of violence prevention, commits violent acts?

It's a very, very challenging, complicated and sensitive policy field, and that's why we have some high hopes for not just the occasion of a summit on March 5 to deal with violence prevention, but all the activities, the real action agenda that hopefully will flow from that summit. It's easy to set up a summit, but we want to make sure that the best and brightest individuals in the province and school boards who are way out in front in terms of trying to solve these things in a balanced fashion are given an opportunity to teach the rest of us about how we should move in this very difficult area.

Mr Perruzza: I'm going to move on from that one. The special education advisory committee --

The Acting Chair: Mr Perruzza, I don't want to interrupt you, but we have about eight minutes left for two of your colleagues, Ms Haeck and Mr Duignan.

Mr Murphy: Mr Perruzza is a very outspoken individual, but not by anybody I know.


Mr Perruzza: Thank you, Mr Chairman. With some sensitivity to my colleagues, I'm going to move on to my last question, which relates to funding and accountability. We just had this report dropped on our desks, and to quote from the auditor's report, page 65, paragraph 4, "On a per capita basis, this makes Ontario's system one of the highest-funded [systems] in the world." I guess that has to do with whether we are getting value for our money. I'm one of those who believes we're not. An awful lot of money is going into administration rather than classrooms, and I believe that's growing daily. There are some real inequities in our system, and to me that's not a system that is truly accountable. The way our educational system is, I think government renders it unaccountable from region to region, city to city, right across the entire system. I don't believe for one minute that trustees are accountable. If they were, we wouldn't have the diversities and discrepancies in funding across the board. I would hope that at some point we move to make it far more accountable than it is today.

I just did a quick calculation of separate board and public board funding. I believe the Catholic board in Metro is educating 100,000 students in the system now. If you take the equivalent number in the public system, the public system spends roughly $200 million more per year. That's a staggering sum just within the boundaries of Metro. That's something we just can't have. Parents aren't going to accept it and aren't accepting it, teachers aren't accepting it and I find it very difficult to accept, so I hope that's something we can move on.

The Acting Chair: I know you'd like to respond.

Dr Pascal: Only if the Chair and Mr Perruzza would like me to respond.

Mr Perruzza: I'd love to have you respond.

Dr Pascal: I will simply say that at the heart of the education finance reform process are the issues of equity and accountability. On the issue of equity, as you and as the Provincial Auditor noted, there's a fairly large amount of money spent compared to other jurisdictions and, within the envelope, a disparity between, on the one hand, a $4,000-per-pupil expenditure in some parts of the province, all the way to the other end of $8,000 in a place not too far from here. The issue of equity is very real and is at the heart of the options the government is considering around education finance reform.

The other part of it, of course, is accountability; that is, we right now have two jurisdictions sharing expenditures and generating revenue for the $14-billion expenditure. It's critical, as part of education finance reform, that the dollars in the system are made more transparent; that is, what is considered for core funding for purposes of an equitable distribution of resources, and who's responsible for paying what?

Those dimensions of accountability and equity are at the heart of education finance reform, which has had the advice of a ministerial advisory committee. When and how government deals with the options it's considering I can't predict, but it's under active discussion at this point.

Ms Haeck: I want to follow up on something Ms Poole started earlier that related to dealing with a teacher who, in the minds of not only the students but also the parents, isn't really following through.

What I have been able to see, at least within my own family, is a situation where someone has degrees, all the appropriate qualifications, but bombs in the classroom, bombs abysmally, and we're talking in a math sector. It's got to the point within that particular school that the parents don't even bother complaining any more. There isn't anything to say.

That gives me personally some concern. I remember some of my worst teachers more than I remember the good ones. I have a memory of my grade 5 teacher, who probably has gone to the great beyond in the meantime. I hope nobody has that experience, yet I know my niece and nephew have gone through that. There just doesn't seem to be a mechanism whereby a comfort zone is provided, no level of comfort for the parents that this person will find a niche somewhere away from their children.

That's even exacerbated when you deal with the situation of the immigrant parent, who may not feel particularly comfortable in dealing with the language and the culture and has a range of expectations that are very different. Through Citizenship there is funding for something called cultural interpreters in our own area. To what degree are you involved in those kinds of programs? I realize that around the violence issue and the parent council you're trying to deal with some of these questions. In a place like Metro Toronto you must definitely have a lot more of these types of complaints coming to you. How are you addressing them?

Dr Pascal: I'll ask M. Poirier to begin.

Mr Maurice Poirier: In the instance you describe, it's critical that due process is followed if there are complaints brought forward. The act and the regulations do set forth some requirements that need to be met. Of course, we always want common sense to prevail, but because we are dealing with people's employment and dealing with children, we want to ensure that both sides of the story are always kept in mind. I'll ask Maurice Lamontagne to explain what the rules and regulations say around such an incident.

Mr Lamontagne: In situations where the safety and welfare of the children are not threatened --

Ms Haeck: Yes, they're not threatened in that sense. Their educational career might be.

Mr Lamontagne: As we mentioned a while ago, the supervision of instruction at the school level is conducted by the principal and/or the supervisory officer when it's required. In a situation where the problem is pinpointed to a teacher, what normally happens is that the teacher and the principal will meet and discuss the actual problem. If in the mind of the principal this teacher is not really fulfilling the requirements of the duties, there is a due process, as Maurice mentioned, of documenting the teacher's work.

This will usually begin with the teacher and the principal agreeing on a given action plan over a period of time, with some very clear objectives of what that teacher should be meeting. If these objectives are met over time, of course the process then has basically been met, but if these objectives are not met after a certain period of time, the process continues for another set period of time. When there is no satisfaction, that teacher is liable for dismissal. There are some processes tied in with the federation that have to be followed as well, but that's generally the process that has occurred. In most cases, as mentioned earlier, some of these problems are taken care of at that point. I'm not sure if that answers your question totally.

Ms Haeck: I'll make sure your remarks get distributed to a few people who may then act upon them within their own schools. They think people should know. Right now what they are facing is that they assume they have a no-win situation, as the parents, to deal with the situation. They just feel they're whistling in the wind. More people should feel there is some means by which they can, at least with some constructive end in sight, work through the system.


Mr Lamontagne: One of the recourses of the parent is to ask to meet with the superintendent or the supervisory officer responsible for the supervision of that school.

Dr Pascal: I was just reflecting to one of my colleagues that this is really a very difficult area. The line of questioning this afternoon around sanctions and discipline and whatever is quite important. I was thinking about the average parent and the difficulties that some have expressed in the last number of months to the learning commission, and if those who talked to the learning commission are expressing difficulties in terms of access, there are probably about 100 who would find it very difficult to deal with the system. I was just reinforcing what had been said earlier, the fact that we have to figure out a way of making that far more accessible. It's not enough to give them the guidelines and say, "Here, use them." It's got to have more advocacy as part of the process in terms of enabling them, and that, I think ,is the point you made.

Mr Callahan: I want to follow up on that last statement. Mr Perruzza said that 10 days is the usual, but I've seen 20, I've seen ever longer than that where young people are suspended, and I can tell you they're doing more than just hanging out in the malls; they're getting into trouble.

Most of the boards have now looked at the question of zero tolerance, that a young person is suspended, definitely or indefinitely, as near as I can figure, for various things. There is a new trend afoot which is called alternative dispute resolution and is being used in many of the boards, where groups of students actually take on the process of being the facilitators of that type of process. I know the boards have autonomy and can deal with the students as they wish and can come in with zero tolerance if they want. But I, for one, with Mr Perruzza, think that although that's a sexy, attractive thing to the public because they want violence out of the schools and so on, it's not an answer. I think the answer probably lies in alternative dispute resolution.

Is there any consideration by the ministry to mandate that or encourage that as an alternative to what I see as an overreactive and perhaps destructive type of activity of zero tolerance?

Dr Pascal: Let me ask my colleagues to respond, but before I do, there is something to be said, in the name of prevention, for not just waiting for a major problem to arise but to have in place some conflict resolution mechanism to deal with it, which I'd like one of my colleagues to deal with. There is something to be said for embedding into the curriculum, as early as elementary school, conflict resolution and mediation skills, and some boards are providing some very effective leadership in that regard, to give young people skills that all of us should have in greater measure as adults, and that is the ability to not walk away from conflict but to deal effectively with conflict. That's something that should be taught at the earliest level of school. But to the issue of alternative dispute mechanisms as a way of dealing with issues in schools, Maurice Poirier will respond.

Mr Maurice Poirier: Charles is bang on when he talks about having this as part of the program. In fact, conflict resolution is one of the areas covered in our Common Curriculum, so we have not only encouraged it but are mandating it through our elementary curriculum so that we start as early as possible to work with children to show them that there are other ways to solve problems besides a violent resolution. As was mentioned a while ago as well, we are having a summit to deal with such issues later on this spring.

It's important that those alternatives are considered when talking about conflict. However, there is always the possibility that when all means are exhausted, we have to have recourse to the law. Therefore I'll ask Jack Berryman to describe what is in the act and regulations when we have to go to sanctions such as suspension and so on.

Mr Berryman: The maximum length of a suspension under the Education Act is 20 days -- it can be less, but it cannot be more -- and you can have repeat suspensions. Where a pupil is suspended more than once, the board is required to provide to the family, the parents and the student, the list of services available within the community to address the problem the student may be experiencing. That is required now under the Education Act.

A principal suspends and a board expels. In both instances, there are appeal mechanisms in place for the parents and pupil to appeal the suspension or expulsion to the board. Suspension and expulsion have always been, as far back as I can recall, the two most severe sanctions that can be administered to a pupil. Children of compulsory school age, that is, up to the age of 16, must be accommodated within the school system.

The change in the length of suspension to 20 days maximum is very recent; that came about a year ago under Bill 4. Prior to that, suspensions were open-ended: The board could set the length of a suspension, so you had some very lengthy suspensions, as you've indicated. But we have tended to tighten that up so that the maximum is 20 days. With more than one suspension, the board is required to provide a list of all the services available in the school community.

Dr Pascal: It's also important, when we talk about discipline, that we distinguish, under the label of zero tolerance, for those boards that have used that banner and have established that policy, that we're talking about a relatively small number of discipline problems. Most discipline problems do not come under that banner. We're talking about major acts of violence and clear examples of racism for which zero tolerance is applied, not other disciplinary problems.

Mr Murphy: I want to follow up on questions we were pursuing before the lunch break. I'd asked you about whether the ministry as a corporate entity knew how many boards had policies relating to promotion. You talked earlier about it being not a system of education but systems of education, and there is that split of responsibility within the system. You said you didn't know how many. Maybe you do now. I'll give you an opportunity to answer and then we'll go from there.

Dr Pascal: It was just before you arrived, Mr Murphy, in fact during lunch: The good news is that we have done a survey. The less-than-perfect news is that we don't have that available right now, but we'll make that available tomorrow or in the next couple of days to the clerk in summary form for all members of the committee.


Mr Murphy: My bias in education reform and the concept of back to basics is really the elementary system. It's like the old line about Jesuits: If you don't capture them by -- well, they said at the age of five, but let's say at an early age. If you don't give them the excitement for learning by then, you've lost them, so my concern is really the focus on those early grades.

As I understand the way it would work, if you have debate between a parent and a principal about passing or holding back, for example, and the parent says, "What the child really needs is a remedial course in reading" -- the problem derives entirely from that, and if we could get the child up to a certain reading level, the rest of it would fall into place. How are we, as the provincial regulators of this, monitoring, or do we leave that up to school boards, how many times that kind of failure, the reading and writing and basic skills failure, is a cause of other failures in learning other tasks? How do we assess how we deal with that? Part of my concern is that we want to balance, as a province, central control with local control. One of the things we're investigating here is how many times that means that some things fall between the chairs. I think a lot of people would like to be able to say, "What's the answer to that?" but we have to leave flexibility for both the local boards and the teacher in the classroom to deal with that. I'm wondering if you could comment on that issue and help me out.

Mr Maurice Poirier: The evidence is overwhelming that the ability to read, that is, linguistic ability, is key to all learning, so you're quite right in focusing on that particular area as a key area for decision-making.

In terms of the way the way schools operate, our expectation is that before schools get to the point where they have to make a hard decision on whether to retain a child or recommend that a child go on to the next grade level, sufficient opportunities were in place so that not only remediation but identification of problems would have taken place.

To put it in very concrete terms, I hope that if the question arises in June, there has been ample discussion with the teacher, the parents, the principal possibly, and the child during the course of the school year and that there be different interventions to help remedy whatever problems there would be. It's the whole notion of early identification. The earlier you act, the better your chances are of setting things on the right course.

What we're doing in terms of the provincial scene is setting standards for language. As Charles mentioned in his opening remarks yesterday, we will be releasing draft language standards next month, and we're looking for comments back from the community on that.

Mr Murphy: Can I stop you there? I'm not up on eduspeak, so I've got to figure out what this means. "Language standards": What does that mean? I am now a parent, so I have a great vested interest in this. If I want to explain this, what am I saying?

Mr Maurice Poirier: Very plainly put, when we talk about outcomes in The Common Curriculum, that says, what do we want the children to do? When we talk about standards, it's meant to answer the question, how well are they doing it?

Dr Pascal: If we were to take a learning objective in the area of language writing and we had a third-grade standard that said hypothetically something like: The child will be able to read a chapter in a certain-level book and be able to write a three-paragraph précis with no syntactical or vocabulary errors and no errors in punctuation. It's a real clarity about what standard is expected.

The importance of the results-based orientation, in terms of your question, is really important to reflect on. I predict, in terms of where it's going to lead, that you're going to have far more individualized education in the overall context of a curriculum similar to the Common Curriculum. A child in grade 3 is going to get very specific feedback about whether she or he can or can't do this particular area and they're not going to be held back because they can't do this particular area; they're going to get a remedial loop just to bring them up to standard with respect to that area.

Over time, we're going to see that the system, the way it works right now, which holds time constant and varies success, is going to flip-flop. We're not going to allow success to vary. We're going to hold success constant and allow progress to the objectives to vary student by student. As they get specific feedback about a particular area they're not up to speed on, they can get some feedback and move up to it. Does that help?

Mr Murphy: I appreciate that. It helps. I want to focus on two things and then let you comment.

You say you're releasing new draft standards shortly. Those are elementary draft standards, I assume.

Mr Maurice Poirier: For grades 3, 6 and 9.

Mr Murphy: I wonder if you could say how they're going to be different from what's there now. Maybe there's nothing there now.

Mr Maurice Poirier: That's the answer. There are no standards now. We have to start with something.

Mr Murphy: That amazes me.

Dr Pascal: What grade is your child in?

Mr Murphy: She's not there yet. She's 11 months old. She's talking all the time but not saying anything; some say a perfect politician's daughter.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Murphy would like to make it perfectly clear that he wants the system fixed by the time Emma goes to school.

Mr Murphy: Before she gets there. Exactly.

Mr Maurice Poirier: If I may say, JK will be in place by that time.

Mr Murphy: I want to go back to an issue we've touched on a couple of times in relation to this, and that's compensatory grants. One issue we haven't talked about much here, though you touched on it, is the parents' role in making the education environment work -- obviously, the more the parent can assist the child, the better the educational performance is going to be, subject to other constraints -- where there are schools and environments that make that more difficult for parents because they both need to work or there's a single-parent environment or any of those other factors. I would tend to think that arises more where you have schools that need compensatory grants. I have a riding that has that area. As I said earlier, it has Regent Park and other areas where compensatory grants are allocated.

That feeds into your standards question, because in order to get that remedial work, I suspect that will happen more where you have less parent involvement and you'll need therefore a lower pupil-teacher ratio, you'll need more people doing that kind of stuff. My assumption is that that's what compensatory grants in the broader sense should go towards in elementary schools: helping those kinds of factors that raise the cost of education for that school. What I then want to get at is, do we make sure that happens?

Mr Maurice Poirier: The purpose behind the compensatory grants is to provide some grant relief to school boards where there are certain factors, either economic or demographic, that would require additional help because of disadvantaged communities or communities that have a high proportion of --

Mr Murphy: I understand the background. I want to focus on whether we spend it in a place that helps the student and make sure that the money we give does that.

Dr Pascal: As I said earlier in terms of education finance reform, there's not enough transparency and, quite frankly, there's not enough outcome data to know whether the expenditure makes the difference when it is spent. Obviously, we assume it is spent where it's supposed to be spent. What's critical is that the interventions have to be individualized; that good teachers, and most of our teachers are good teachers, adapt to individual differences which make a difference in terms of reaching the standards.

The key is to know how they're doing against some provincial standards and to give teachers support and encourage innovation in terms of what you do to get that student up to speed. We shouldn't always imagine that the intervention will be a teacher's aide or something that has a high level of staff associated with it. We should imagine things in addition to those possibilities: peer teaching, computer-based modules and a whole bunch of other things that are already taking place out in the system in schools where the imagination is running wild.


Mr Murphy: I have about a million questions, but I want to talk briefly about things like phonics as a tool. I also want to talk about how you're going to get feedback on the results of the standards you're imposing on grades 3, 6 and 9. You're talking about new standards and at some point you're going to apply them. Are you then going to have tests of some sort to get feedback on the imposition of the standards as early as grade 3? And you're obviously proceeding on these in the absence of hearing yet from the Royal Commission on Learning. Is the intention to proceed on the standards for 3, 6 and 9 prior to the royal commission, or how is that going to dovetail? Those are the three issues.

On the phonics one, and there are different pedagogical views on what works and what doesn't, do we as a province impose a certain pedagogical style or do we leave it to the boards or the teachers?

Dr Pascal: Let me respond to the question that deals with how much we move ahead vis-à-vis the royal commission. The minister made a decision to ensure that there was an appropriate balance between the things that are yet to be decided, for which we needed a major commission to provide value added and leadership, and what things should go ahead in terms of innovation and experimentation.

He made the decision that in the area of setting standards, curriculum based on results around real student learning, clear learning objectives, every jurisdiction in the world that has gone through a major reform has reinforced the notion of what The Common Curriculum and the results-oriented approach are taking. He made the decision that rather than holding everything back, he would move, and he has moved aggressively not only in Ontario but Canada-wide in terms of what he did in his role at CMEC, now currently under the leadership of the minister from Quebec.

In the area of moving on setting standards, that's going to move ahead. In the area of testing and how much testing and how often, apart from the testing that's already scheduled, we're going to await the royal commission's leadership on our approach to that. The royal commission may totally agree with the approach that's been taken. We think they will, simply because of best practices around the world. If they don't --

Mr Murphy: You'll jump off that bridge when you come to it.

Dr Pascal: Yes. On the issue of phonics and methodology, I'll turn to Maurice.

Mr Maurice Poirier: The province does not prescribe any particular methodology for teaching. In fact, we've moved to a results-based system which suggests that we do put faith in the profession, that it is able to use the appropriate teaching style. That doesn't mean to say that one approach is better than another. In fact, not all of us learn the same way. Even in this room there are probably as many learning styles as there are individuals. Teachers, through their training, know that not everybody learns the same way. For some people it's visual, for some it's auditory, and some people will learn by doing.

We expect the profession, that is, teachers, to be able to recognize the differences in learning styles for each individual and use the methodology that is most appropriate. In some cases it is very appropriate to use a phonetic approach. In some other cases that is possibly not the best way to do it; they need a more contextual approach, which is called whole language, which incidentally does include phonics. It's a bit of a false dichotomy that has been set up, this debate around whole language and phonics. In fact, one includes the other.

A good teacher will use a variety of approaches. It happens sometimes that in a given classroom one approach will be more effective than another, but essentially that's why we do not prescribe the methodologies: to allow that flexibility, to allow individualization to take place.

Mr Murphy: Sorry about this, but one follow-up. One of the other issues that parents come to me about is reading and writing skills and marking based on them in other courses: history. There's a fight that parents often have with teachers about whether they can get a teacher to circle spelling errors and take marks off for things like that. I've known parents who have taken the fight right up to the principal and have been rebuffed at every level. A parent sees that and says, "What the hell are we doing in the school if I can't get them to do that?" And we've just agreed across this table that a fundamental learning skill upon which everything else is built is reading and writing, yet they don't mark on that. What are we doing as a province, if anything?

Dr Pascal: That's why in The Common Curriculum the whole approach is language across the curriculum, an integrated approach where it's everybody's responsibility and it's connected to other learning outcomes as well.

Mr Murphy: Does that mean teachers are going to be forced to take marks off for bad spelling in a history essay? I need my answer for my constituent.

Mr Maurice Poirier: I'm not sure about forcing teachers to mark in a certain way. It would be appropriate, though, to have teachers recognize that when they evaluate student work, they do so in a more general way. You quite correctly point out that if you're going to focus simply on the content area, what you will reinforce in students' minds is, "This is history, so therefore language doesn't make any difference," and that's precisely what the public and the parents are saying. It doesn't matter where you are; you should always pay attention to language, whether it is written or spoken. In fact, we do have a document that we distributed in the school system, called Language Across the Curriculum, which does stress that aspect. We would expect teachers to --

Mr Murphy: That's the point. The "expect" word is the one that scares me.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Murphy, we have to talk about members' numerical skills when one question turns into two and then three.

Mr Jordan: Just a quick question on the responsibility of a board to the French-language sector of a basically English-speaking district or board. The parents of the French-speaking students came to the board and made their case, to the point that the board in fact established and opened a French-language school for these families -- less than 100, I believe they are. Now that same group is back wanting a by-election before this fall so it can have three board members on a board that only has -- well, they would overrule most votes. Is the board bound by the act to have a by-election or can it wait until November 1994 and the regular elections?

Mr Gauthier: Are you talking about Leeds, Lanark and Grenville? I know there are questions and debate right now.

Mr Jordan: Yes, they would like me to take them back a --

Mr Gauthier: When a board decides to operate what we call a French-language instructional unit or a French-language school, the board is required to set up a French-language minority section with a minimum representation of three trustees. The question in debate is that normally this would be done at regular election time, and until very recently boards did not have the power to set up such a section between regular elections. This fall, Bill 125 got royal assent, which gives sections the power to do this.

Leeds, Lanark and Grenville is a very interesting case because their resolution to open a French-language school occurred before this bill became law, so in this instance the board has a choice of establishing a section now or waiting until November 1994 to do so. What we are hoping is that discussions between the members of the French-language community and members of the board will bring a successful conclusion to that discussion, because it's only a question of months.


Mr Jordan: Can you give a letter stating that the board has the option?

Mr Gauthier: A letter has been sent already. I could check with people in the legislation branch, but a letter has been sent already.

Mr Jordan: Within the last week?

Mr Gauthier: Fairly recent, probably a week or two.

Mr Jordan: On Sunday, they were in a quandary about whether they had to or whether it was a choice they had. The word "may" was used, not the word "shall": The board may proceed in that manner.

Mr Gauthier: If the decision were made now, the board would be under "shall", but because the decision was made prior to the enacting of the law, the interpretation being given right now is that it may.

Dr Pascal: Madam Chair, if possible, we think we know which particular case you're talking about but we're not sure. Rather than inject in general, since every case has some idiosyncracies, we'd be pleased to talk with the member after the meeting to get a few more details so we can respond tomorrow in some detail.

Mr Villeneuve: I'd like you to comment a bit on the Ontario Parent Council that was announced by the minister in the fall. How structured is that going to be? Who chooses? What are the guidelines? I'm still in the dark on that one.

Dr Pascal: I would be very pleased tomorrow to table a pamphlet which describes its terms of reference and its makeup. The membership is 18 in number. The process for developing nominations was one that was broadly based and included letting people at large know through public communication through our regional offices. A large number of applications were submitted and, using a matrix which looked at geography and equity characteristics, the membership was chosen by the minister.

The council of course reports directly to the minister and has lots of latitude to determine its own agenda in terms of the issues it feels compelled to put at the top of a priority list. On occasion, however, the minister might make a referral to the parent council. For example, I mentioned earlier the very difficult policy area of mutual responsibility and what the obligation of the parent or guardian should be. That's the kind of tricky policy area the minister could refer to the parent council. Last week, Maurice Poirier had a discussion with the parent council about The Common Curriculum and the process for revision. I don't know the results of that conversation; I just know it took place.

I would be very pleased to table with the clerk tomorrow the description that has all the terms of reference, method of choice and the membership that's in place. It's been operating for several months, and having met with them myself as part of an orientation session, I am quite impressed with what I think this concept will actually yield in terms of advice to the minister. However the individuals were chosen, they are individuals of individual and collective passion with some good ideas about what needs to happen to the system, including, I must say, some of the issues that members have raised in the last two days.

Mr Villeneuve: What I see is concerned parents and teachers looking at this back-to-basics concept. The Common Curriculum seems to be wanting to get back to a lot more structure. Maybe you could comment on that: the three Rs and then we got away from it and into all sorts of things that were supposedly quite good, and now we're going back again. The method of teaching mathematics, for example, has changed a lot, and we seem to be back to where we were a number of years ago. It's a very general question, but could you tell us basically what The Common Curriculum looks like, from someone who's been out of school for 50 years or 40 years or whatever, just a bit of general information on that?

Dr Pascal: Are you talking about you or me?

Mr Villeneuve: It may apply to both of us.

Dr Pascal: Let me ask Mr Poirier to answer the question.

Mr Maurice Poirier: Your comment about The Common Curriculum going back to basics is correct to a point. It includes what we used to call the basics, but it also includes what I would call the new basics. For example, this is the first time we have a document in schools that requires children to acquire computer skills in elementary schools. We also talk, for example, about media literacy. I don't think that when Charles was in school they covered media literacy. He may have done so on his own.

Dr Pascal: Egerton Ryerson was my teacher, as a matter of fact.

Mr Maurice Poirier: There are a number of new features in terms of content that were not there before, but I would say the most important characteristic, if you wish to differentiate this one from, say, the curriculum that you and I had when we were younger, is that we are trying to make education more relevant by asking teachers to make connections among the subject areas: so that, while it's important that you do learn how to multiply, you not spend the entire time in mathematics learning how to multiply; you have to know why you're multiplying.

One of the results announced in December around the SAIP, the national math tests, demonstrated clearly that not only in Ontario but across the country students have difficulty in problem-solving. While their numerical skills seem to be up to scratch, they did not seem to be able to apply them in different areas.

What we're asking for in this new curriculum is for teachers, and therefore students, to look at learning in a more integrated way, so that if you're talking about the environment you can do some mathematics to make some calculations about pollution, you can have some discussions about the social consequences of pollution and you can talk about biology in a more general way, trees and animals and so on.

This kind of approach will make learning more relevant for students. It will not preclude teachers from ensuring that the basics, as you've pointed out, are covered as well, but the program is not just the basics.

Dr Pascal: It's also important to note, as we discuss what was -- as we did earlier in terms of Hall-Dennis -- and what is -- the difference between the perceived "Do your own thing" and back to basics and standards -- again we set up false dichotomies. The issue of structure versus freedom is another false dichotomy. If you were to walk into some of the classrooms in the province right now that are already well on their way in terms of clear standards, very clear learning objectives, you would see lots of individualized projects going on, and it looks like a do-your-own-thing classroom. Again, individualizing different ways of getting to the same standards is also part of the flexibility that's needed at the local level and the flexibility that's needed to adapt to the individual differences of each student.

As to the reference to "when Charles Pascal was in school" by my friend to the left, I should note on the record that I'm only nine months older than he is.

Mr Villeneuve: That's pretty important information.

Dr Pascal: Yes, it is to me. I take your point.

Mr Villeneuve: To the auditor, a number of people have suggested that whenever the financing of education is going to go through a fairly major revolution in the not-too-distant future, maybe we should be looking at the voucher system, as apparently is operated in some provinces. Did the auditor look at this at all in the context of efficiency?

Mr Peters: I personally am not familiar with the voucher system, but Gary might be.


Mr Peall: I'm familiar with the voucher system, but as a general response, because the ministry was in the throes of its education finance reform project we decided not to look at the financing of education as part of this audit, so we didn't really look at its pros and cons. The taxation commission was looking at it as well, and whether property taxes were going to be used for education. With all that going on, it was just too much for us to look at.

Mr Villeneuve: Back to teacher training and their education: I find in many instances that a teacher will have graduated with a degree, with a major and a minor, but for some reason they're teaching a subject that has very little relation to what was studied at university. Who decides, and how does this come about?

Mr Lamontagne: If I may answer that, we are talking about the area of general studies, and what falls into general studies are math, science, history, geography, English, languages; the first language, in the case of French-language students, is français. In these areas, it's considered in the regulation that a teacher, once certified, is a teacher for all of these subject areas.

That being said, in the majority of cases at the secondary level -- we're talking about students who are taking subject-specific areas in high school, for example math and science -- the teachers are selected to teach those positions according to their qualifications. In most cases, that's what happens. A teacher has taken two options in their pre-service program according to their majors and minors, as you've pointed out, in their undergraduate program. They require a certain number of courses, for instance, in math or in science or in history or in geography, for those areas. What will happen in most cases is that's how they will be assigned in the schools.

The principal of a school, however, has the discretion to ask a teacher, and this is by mutual agreement, and logic dictates that that teacher would have some level of comfort with teaching a subject for which they do not have a minor or a major. This will happen sometimes to fill out the timetable in a school. In those areas, it is permissible by regulation to ask a teacher to teach subjects for which they do not have that kind of qualification in the general studies.

There are other subjects where they can only be asked to teach two classes; certain subject areas, very limited areas such as business practices and accounting, where they do not have that kind of background, and there are limitations placed on that.

There are other areas where there are no exceptions, where they must have the qualifications, such as special education for self-contained classes, the technological studies areas. They must have the qualifications to be able to teach in those subjects, otherwise they cannot be assigned to teach that.

Mr Gauthier: The challenge there is to make sure the teacher has all the resources necessary to perform their job well. That means the in-service necessary to do it, the learning materials to do it, so the teacher is not left alone in assuming that responsibility. There is a support around him or her to be able to do the task.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Villeneuve, the auditor has a response to your question, some information for you.

Mr Peters: We did a quick little bit of further research. We are quick studies, thanks to my staff here.

We are not aware of any province in Canada currently operating the voucher system. We know of one western province potentially considering it, but they haven't advanced very far. There may be some states that are doing it, but the voucher system is not used in Canada.

Mr Duignan: They actually turned it down in California last November. It was on the ballot.

Mr Villeneuve: It was a question that came to me, and I figured the experts were in the room today and that's why I asked.

I'm jumping around here. I don't think anyone spoke yet about credits obtained by students. In this new common curriculum, are you staying with credits? What are the time requirements? Your comments on credits as earned by the students.

Mr Maurice Poirier: The credit requirements for a student to obtain an Ontario secondary school diploma have not changed; they still number 30. We have not made any changes to the credit system in so far as grades 10 to 12 are concerned. We have taken the results of the consultation we conducted on the specialization years -- that is, grades 10 to 12, including the OACs -- and presented the results of that consultation to the Royal Commission on Learning, and we would expect the commission, in its deliberations, to consider the broader question of credits: how many, which area, which should be compulsory, how they should be packaged and so on. That is really within their mandate, and we expect they would be making recommendations in that regard.

The Vice-Chair: I'd like to give the ministry an indication of our area of focus for tomorrow so you can have appropriate staff. I've canvassed the members and it appears that special education is an area we would like to pursue. I can't tell you right now whether it would be for both morning and afternoon, because we have to break at some stage and go in camera to discuss the report and give direction to staff, but it will definitely be for the morning and potentially the early afternoon. If any outstanding questions on curriculum are asked and you don't have appropriate staff here, we would certainly be happy to have written responses, if that's necessary.

Dr Pascal: Thank you very much.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you. The committee will stand adjourned till tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.

The committee adjourned at 1627.