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chair.jpg (11036 bytes) College Looked Far and Wide for Teacher Testing Research

The College learned a lot over the past year from looking at what other provinces and countries are doing around maintaining high-quality teaching. And now we've passed it on to the Minister of Education.

By Donna Marie-Kennedy

The College has delivered on its promise to provide to Minister of Education Janet Ecker, by the week of April 10, advice on implementing a teacher testing program in Ontario. Our advice was summed up in 15 recommendations and accompanied by a 135-page document that encompassed our research and an account of the consultation we held with education stakeholders, College members and the people of Ontario.

The College's research looked at best practices in other regulated professions in Canada and in education jurisdictions in every part of the world.

Australia is leading the research and practice on what has become known as the standards-based approach where high expectations are set and practitioners are monitored to ensure that these standards are met. New Zealand is a valuable resource for its work in establishing induction and mentoring programs for new teachers.

England, Wales and Scotland also focus on measures that support career-long learning. Scotland combines that approach with an induction program that assesses teachers at the end of their probation period, prior to their full registration.


The United States has the longest history of trying to make teacher testing work as a means of ensuring teacher competence. But the Americans haven't been able to develop a written test that accurately and comprehensively measures the professional knowledge and skills of experienced teachers.

Now many states are moving away from testing to a system of establishing high standards and monitoring how well teachers meet those expectations.

The College's advice to the Minister drew on the most up-to-date resources available, including information from the United States' National Research Council (NRC), the prestigious body that conducts research and advises the federal government.

In March 2000, the NRC issued an interim report on teacher testing that concluded, among other things, that "Teachers must be knowledgeable and know how to teach, but good teachers can explain ideas so that different students understand them; they are also compassionate, resourceful, committed, honest and persistent in their efforts to help children learn. All of these things are important to teaching but difficult to measure."

The College also looked at Canadian experience with teacher testing, but found there is relatively little Canadian research on this issue. Provinces whose experiences we did draw on - Alberta and Quebec – show clearly that where Canadian jurisdictions have studied the issue of teacher competency, they have decided that high-quality teacher education followed by ongoing professional growth is the most effective way to ensure competence.


What surfaced clearly from all this research is that there is no one simple means of measuring and ensuring teacher competency. Rather, many jurisdictions are coming to the conclusion that the most effective approach is one that is based on a consistent set of principles, purposes and standards.

That is what the College has recommended - a comprehensive 15-point program that covers teacher candidates from their entry to faculties of education, through licensing, beginning teaching and on through their careers. This comprehensive approach recognizes the responsibilities and roles of all the partners in Ontario's education system, including the education ministry, boards, principals and, most importantly, individual teachers themselves.

We're proud of the work we've done in preparing our advice to the Minister, but we view it as just the beginning. We hope that it can be used as a basis for meaningful discussion and further study that will help us to come to a common agreement on the most effective way to maintain, ensure and demonstrate competency in the teaching profession.