By Lois Browne
One year after a high-profile education task force recommended 36 strategies for
tackling a growing shortage of teachers, the lack of co-ordinated action has task force
members and other education stakeholders worried that time may be running out to deal with
the problem effectively.
The provincial government, which set up the task force after the College expressed
concerns about the aging of the teacher population, has not moved on most strategies
unanimously agreed on by all those who participated. The next crunch in teacher supply is
expected when the window closes in 2002 for 85-factor retirement.
The Ontario College of Teachers had reported in 1998 (Professionally Speaking,
December 1998) that, based on an examination of the age distribution of teachers licensed
to teach in Ontario, more than 78,000 teachers would retire by 2008.
The College report, which supported warnings being made by many education
administrators, put the issue of teacher supply in the public eye. The government
responded by creating the Ministers Task Force on Teacher Recruitment and Renewal to
"ensure that there is a qualified teacher in every classroom in Ontario."
The task force brought together virtually every sector in education represented
by organizations such as the College of Teachers, the Ontario Teachers Federation
(OTF), the Council of Directors of Education, the deans of the faculties of education and
principals representatives to develop strategies to address teacher
The ministry was also represented on the task force by a deputy minister, three
assistant deputy ministers and a consultant, which reinforced beliefs that the government
was serious about developing effective strategies that would mitigate the worsening
problem of teacher shortages.
Working groups were set up to examine the problem from different perspectives
information and data management, communications and outreach, teacher education, and
incentives and flexible work arrangements for teachers.
In January 1999, the task force submitted its report to then-Minister of Education Dave
Johnson. The report recommended strategies ranging from concrete actions that would help
recruit more people to teaching and keep them in the profession, to others that would
encourage greater co-operation among the various stakeholders to plan the development and
management of the teaching workforce.
"I was very pleased with what the task force was able to accomplish and I was also
pleased that all the significant educational stakeholders were sitting around the table
and participating. There was good solid input from those who had the most knowledge of the
issue," says Susan Langley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Teachers
Federation and a task force member.
|Ontario faculties of education accepted an
additional 1,056 candidates in 1999-2000, more than twice the number supported by the
Ministry of Educations additional financing.
LACK OF ACTION WORRIES TASK FORCE MEMBERS
Among the many strategies suggested to the Minister, one of the few that has
been followed up is the recommendation to increase spaces in the faculties of education
teacher training programs. The government agreed to finance 500 more spaces for 1999-2000
and to fund these extra spaces for four years.
"It was our expectation that when the government agreed to increase spaces at the
faculties of education, that was merely step one, and that the other recommendations would
roll out," says Langley.
"There was a degree of urgency on that one. A decision had to be made very early
in the year for the faculties to do their planning for the fall term. We all understood
that, and we agreed that it should go ahead. All of us, I think, have been absolutely
shocked at the lack of action on any other initiative that was part of the plan."
The OTF has raised the issue since with the Ministry of Education on more than one
occasion, but the response has not been encouraging, says Langley. Other members of the
task force have also asked senior members of the education ministry about
governments plans for the recommended strategies.
"The only thing I can think is that the government may feel that because the
number of applications to faculties of education increased dramatically last year, there
is no longer a problem. I just dont think that any others on the task force feel the
However, neither Dave Johnson nor his successor Janet Ecker have ever formally
responded to the task force report or publicly released its recommendations. A ministry
spokesperson said recently that officials have not yet had an opportunity to fully brief
the new minister on the task forces work.
As Frank McIntyre notes in his article on page 22, the faculties of education managed
to accept an additional 1,056 candidates in 1999-2000, more than twice what the ministry
supported with additional financing.
The increase in applications and enrolments underscores the need to follow up on the
other strategies, says Allen Pearson, Dean of the Faculty of Education of the University
of Western Ontario. He represented Ontario faculties of education on the task force.
"The new spaces will help in a major way to address the supply of teachers. But
work on data collection has not gone forward, which means were operating blind in
filling those spaces. We dont know where the emphasis should be in preparing people
to teach specific subjects," says Pearson.
|Information and Data Management Working
- Create and implement a collection process from school boards for information on current
- Collect college applicant profiles for September 1999 intake.
- Draw up current retirement eligibility profile from Ontario Pension Plan and Ontario
College of Teachers sources.
- Collect baseline information on extracts from ministry September reports.
- Collect job location decisions by faculty grads.
- Collect faculty profiles of the students in concurrent programs by division and
- Develop integrated data base from existing data.
- Develop demographic projections.
- Implement additional information elements to support enhanced planning and forecasting.
- Collect salary grid information.
- Give school boards access to teacher retirement eligibility data.
FORECASTING DATA ESSENTIAL
There have long been chronic teacher shortages in mathematics, science,
technology and French as a Second Language. Being able to accurately estimate how many new
teachers will be needed in these and other areas would enable the education system to
develop the right mix of teachers. Consequently, one of the task force working groups was
given the mandate to develop strategies for data collection and management.
The group recommended a number of ways in which the data collected by a variety of
education organizations, such as the Ontario College of Teachers, the Ontario
Teachers Pension Plan, the Ontario Universities Application Centre and the Ministry
of Education, could be used for better forecasting and planning. But the strategy involves
a number of issues regarding exchange of information and respect for individual privacy
that require co-ordination by a central body. "Somebody needs to take leadership on
the issue," says Anne Clement, who represented principals organizations on the
task force. Clement, who is Executive Director of the Catholic Principals Council of
Ontario, says, "I think for individual school boards or universities it is going to
be difficult. It seems that a central agency should be leading the initiative, whether
its the ministry or the College of Teachers, and then consulting with the various
groups about how it can be done."
Technology studies is repeatedly raised as one sector where there is an ongoing
shortage of teachers because education is competing with other sectors, such as business,
for trained people. "We tried to point out that young people with science and maths
degrees are not going into teaching to start at $30,000, when they can go into other areas
and start at $60,000," says Langley. "Theyre not prepared to be that
Among the recommendations that have not been acted on are suggestions to encourage
teachers to train in the area of technological studies by providing bursaries or other
special funding and making arrangements for experienced people to start higher up on the
"When you look at the high need in these areas and the small numbers of students
who are choosing to teach these subjects, there is a wild discrepancy. Its a real
problem," says Pearson.
|Communications and Outreach
- Establish a collaborative work group to develop a provincial web site to post all
teaching positions and mandate its use by regulation working group recommended
- Develop targeted communications materials for senior, elementary, high school students
and university students promoting teaching as a career choice College of Teachers
produced Thinking About Becoming a Teacher.
- Implement a high profile consultation among teachers on a significant policy initiative,
embedding the communications activities with messages that support the value of teacher
- Provide outreach/orientation programs for new immigrants through community
- Encourage businesses or other organizations (for example, libraries) to offer
discounts/memberships to teachers.
- Participate in existing employment fairs to promote the teaching profession
College of Teachers now participates in about a dozen job fairs annually.
- Develop a short-term and long-term communications plan that would communicate positive
messages about teaching, provide some insight into what attracts people to teaching.
- Encourage awareness that it takes instructional time to supervise a teacher
candidates practicum and to be trained to deliver a new curriculum.
SHORTAGES ARE AFFECTING SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION
The shortage of teachers is already beginning to aggravate an even greater
shortage of school administrators. Teachers with principals qualifications are
retiring at an even greater rate than classroom teachers. In 1998, it was forecast that 64
per cent of those with principals qualifications were likely to retire within a
It was an issue that Clement repeatedly raised with the task force. The group decided
that the issue of shortage of principals would not be separated out from the general issue
of a shortage of trained teachers. "But by the time the task force adjourned, there
was a fairly clear understanding of issues around recruitment of principals and that it
would be taken up this year by the Ministry of Education," says Clement. She says
that although there have been conversations with ministry staff about her concerns since
then, there has been little action.
Now, as the need for administrators intensifies, pressure is beginning to build for
classroom teachers to fill the void, putting further strain on teacher supply.
Grant Yeo represented directors of education on the task force. He is director of
education of one of the fastest-growing school boards in Ontario, the Durham District
School Board, and he confirms that opportunities for teachers to move into administration
are already growing faster than in the past. That means teachers have fewer years of
experience before they apply to become a principal and school boards have had to find
their own solutions.
"We have conducted surveys and meetings with teachers to see what we can do in
terms of getting their credentials, for example. If we can help the faculties run courses,
we do that, but we also have internal training programs for teachers interested in getting
principals qualifications," says Yeo.
Another of the task forces working groups was charged with developing
communications and outreach strategies that would promote teaching as a career choice,
increase enrolment in Ontario faculties of education and establish a centrally managed
Internet site for posting all teaching positions in Ontario.
Regulations determine how school boards must advertise teaching positions but a
regulatory change would enable them to use the Internet for advertising a less
expensive and more timely tool. The task force recommended that such a change be made.
"My understanding was that a web site had all been agreed to by the directors of
education and by the ministry, and follow up wasnt going to cost anything. But I
dont think anything has happened about it," says Langley.
A web site already exists (www.educationcanada.com)
that could be used more widely by school boards, but until the government proceeds with
the regulatory change, boards must continue to pay for expensive newspaper advertisements.
SCHOOL BOARDS MOVE UP HIRING
Some Ontario school boards have moved their recruiting forward to fill their
requirements for the following September.
Kevin Kobus, director of education for the fast-growing Simcoe Muskoka Catholic
District School Board and a member of a task force working group, says his board has had
to change its hiring practices to adapt.
"We knew there would be a teacher shortage for the 1999 school year, so where we
might normally offer contracts in May or June, we actually offered contracts at our
January 29 job fair," says Kobus. "Thats about three months early. The
sense we had was that if we didnt get to the market early, the best graduates were
going to be snapped up by other boards."
School boards, with the help of the College of Teachers, have also been trying to
attract retired teachers or qualified teachers who had left the profession, back into the
classroom. This strategy has met with some success, but it means that when the time comes
for the next wave of resignations, there will be no surplus teachers left to draw on.
It also means that flexibility in the teacher supply is disappearing. The Durham board
has been able to meet its need to hire about 300 full-time teachers each year through
aggressive recruitment strategies, but now theyre starting to see a real problem
getting occasional teachers, says Grant Yeo.
"With our secondary schools, we need somewhere around 50 occasional teachers each
day. We have a roster of over 250 teachers for this purpose, but there are days when we
cant get what we need mainly because many of them have gone to other
jobs," says Yeo.
UNITED STATES EXPERIENCE
Many Canadian teachers in recent years have found work in the United States,
and that drain on teachers may present even more of a problem in the future. At a recent
conference on teacher supply and demand in the U.S., hosted by National Evaluation
Services Inc., educators from across North America gathered to exchange information that
underscored the geographical scope of the problem.
According to information presented at the conference, many U.S. states are
experiencing serious shortages in subject areas similar to Ontario the sciences,
mathematics, special education and technology with additional shortages in inner
cities and poorer districts. The U.S., which is currently Ontarios largest source of
teachers educated outside Canada, estimates it will need approximately 2.2 million new
teachers over the next 10 years.
Some American employers have begun to collect and share information on the problem,
recruit via the Internet, offer salary bonuses and other financial incentives in
hard-to-fill areas and provide alternative teacher education programs aimed at minority
and inner city paraprofessionals. These are similar to many of the recommendations made by
the working groups, suggesting there is a stronger impetus to address the problem south of
Other jurisdictions are actively recruiting in Ontario and other parts of Canada
often for teachers of subjects where shortages in Ontario are the greatest. School boards
here are also hearing from teachers who want to return home, but without better monitoring
of the trend, there is no way of knowing how much that will affect teacher demand.
"The increased job availability is an opportunity for some who have gone to other
countries to come back, and that is happening, but I have no idea of the balance of those
going and coming," says Yeo.
- Target funding to faculties of education.
- Develop mentoring program for new teachers.
- Provide financial assistance for students in pre-service and in-service programs.
- Re-employ retired teachers.
- Provide incentives to attract and retain teachers in high-need subject areas.
- Provide incentives to attract and retain teachers in high-need geographic areas.
- Provide compensation/job security for positions of added responsibility including
- Expand Catholic school boards hiring practices.
GOVERNMENT ACTION NEEDED
All of the task force members representing education stakeholder organizations express
disappointment or frustration that there has been much less action on their
recommendations than they had hoped.
"I think the recommendations we made were well founded. There was considerable
input into needs from across the province for elementary and secondary and specific
teaching areas. The recommendations should continue to be reviewed and acted on,"
says Grant Yeo.
Allen Pearson says the task force was an opportunity for the important players in
education to work together in a mutually supportive and congenial forum to identify the
problems and find strategies. But the lack of progress worries him.
"It needs leadership. We were left with the understanding that something would
happen and it hasnt. The ministry has a leadership role to play and I would like to
see the task force reconvened."
College Registrar Margaret Wilson, who was also a member of the task force, says the
College is anxious to move forward on developing better statistical sources.
"The College urgently needs to improve its capacity to provide advice to the
faculties on the need for specific teaching skills. At least the data collection and
management working group should be reconvened immediately to examine how all stakeholders
can contribute to better predictions about demand," says Wilson.
"The issues of targeted enrolment and incentives to increase the number of
teachers of specific subjects requires the input of broader sector of stakeholders. I hope
the ministry returns to this task soon," says Wilson.