Qualifying Test a Complex Undertaking
The College foresees difficulties for everyone involved if the provincial government goes ahead with plans to fully implement the qualifying test for the profession this year.
By Larry M. Capstick
The College has been raising concerns with the provincial government about the qualifying test outlined in the Quality in the Classroom Act — also known as Bill 110. Currently, because the law hasn’t been fully proclaimed, it is unclear if all applicants to the College will be required to take the test in 2002, or only Ontario faculty of education graduates.
This is just one of a number of problems with the way the test is being implemented. The additional uncertainty and delays being created for new teachers may dampen some of their enthusiasm for teaching at a time when the College and others are working to encourage teachers to enter and stay in the profession.
ADVICE TO THE MINISTER
In 2000, the College responded to a request from Minister of Education Janet Ecker for advice on the government’s teacher testing agenda. One of the College’s 15 recommendations was to require applicants to the College to complete successfully a written assessment of knowledge appropriate for beginning teachers entering the profession in Ontario. Although the Ontario College of Teachers Act gives the College responsibility for determining certification requirements, the College was not asked to approve the test.
The College believes that trying to fully implement the qualifying test this year will create tremendous problems for everyone involved. That view is shared by the Ontario Association of Deans of Education and other education stakeholders, including those who developed the test.
ISSUES OF EQUITY
Last year, the College received approximately 10,000 applications for certification. About 6,800 of those applicants came from graduates of Ontario’s faculties of education; the rest were from other provinces, the U.S. or overseas.
Teachers gain advantages as soon as they join the College. Graduates of Ontario’s faculties of education are the first to be offered jobs because employers know they will be issued a certificate. Many graduates rely on receiving a certificate as early as possible so they can teach summer school. New graduates are usually anxious to begin professional development activities to improve their teaching, job prospects and salaries. But only College members are eligible to take Additional Qualification courses, and any professional development graduates take does not earn them Professional Learning Program credits unless they become members.
If the test counts only for Ontario graduates, it raises issues of equity. If out-of-province applicants also have to take the test, there are questions as to when they will have to take it, whether they will have time to prepare for it, how many opportunities they will have to pass it, and what certificate they will be granted while they gain experience in Ontario classrooms.
NOT ENOUGH DATA
We also have no idea how applicants will do on the test. ETS, the company that designed the first test in partnership with the Ontario Principals’ Council, has done some field testing. But until the test is administered, there will not be enough data on whether the test can accurately measure what a new teacher in Ontario should know in order to be certified.
When the legislation is proclaimed, and if successful completion of the test is a requirement for certification, Ontario graduates who fail will need an opportunity to take it at a later date. But until they pass the test, they cannot join the College.
The best way to avoid these problems is to make 2002 a transition year in which the test is given to Ontario graduates but not required for certification. The knowledge and experience gained in 2002 can be used to properly implement the test in full for all applicants in 2003.
This is the advice that has been provided to the Minister by the College and other education partners. Prospective new members of the College, school boards and the teaching profession in general will benefit greatly if the government heeds the advice it has been given.
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