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
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
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.