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Ontario considering mandatory math testing for all teachers

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson introduced a bill that will protect students from sexual predators and also require new teachers to pass a math exam.

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

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

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

READ MORE: Ontario-wide student walkout planned for Thursday

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

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

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

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

READ MORE: Boards tell Ontario education minister larger class sizes could mean cuts to arts, trades classes

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

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

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

LISTEN: Global News Radio’s Bill Kelly talks to Harvey Bischof, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, about mandatory math testing for all teachers and high school walk out. 

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

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

The EQAO data showed 49 per cent of Grade 6 students met the provincial math standard last school year, down from 54 per cent in 2013-2014. Among Grade 3 students, the EQAO says 61 per cent met the provincial standard in 2017-2018, down from 67 per cent in 2013-2014.

READ MORE: Memo from Ontario’s education ministry recommends school boards freeze hiring

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

At the time, Education Minister Lisa Thompson called the results “unacceptable.”

Government sources said the EQAO scores, combined with feedback from parents who are concerned about the issue, are prompting consideration of the new annual test for all teachers.

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

VIDEO: Ontario government announces changes to education system, including math, sex-ed curriculums

Ontario government announces changes to education system, including math, sex-ed curriculums
Ontario government announces changes to education system, including math, sex-ed curriculums
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