Public Pressure by College, Deans and Student Teachers Convinces Government
Students at Ontario faculties of education and more than 500 College members are breathing easier thanks to effective lobbying on the Ontario Teacher Qualifying Test.
By Larry M. Capstick
In my column in the last issue of Professionally Speaking, I wrote about the College’s concerns about the implementation of the Ontario Teacher Qualifying Test — the entry to the profession test that the College had recommended.
At the time, the government was determined to count the results of the test this year, despite the strongest possible advice from the College, the deans of our faculties of education and the test developers themselves.
Then on March 15 the Ontario government proclaimed sections of the Quality in the Classroom Act dealing with the qualifying test. To our surprise, the Ministry of Education said that more than 8,000 College members who held Interim Certificates of Qualification would be required to pass the test before they could convert to a permanent teaching licence. This caught the College and other stakeholders, including these teachers, completely off guard.
But more importantly, this provision affected 522 teachers with interim certificates expiring in 2002. They had to write the test in April to avoid having their registration cancelled during this year, and the March 22 deadline was fast approaching to submit their applications to take part in the test. They had less than a week to deal with this new requirement and send their registration to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in New Jersey.
The Ontario Association of Deans of Education and student teachers shared our concerns about the rushed implementation of this test and joined the College in a news conference on March 19th.
The College’s mandate is to regulate the teaching profession in the public interest. Decertifying 500 teachers for failing to pass a test they had no opportunity to write could hardly be judged to be in the public interest. We did feel it was our duty, and only fair to our members, to advise them through the media so at least some of them might have the opportunity to register and save their licences. After all, their licences are their livelihoods.
Tense days followed the news conference with affected members phoning the College in a panic and wondering what they should do. School boards also started scrambling to try to give some of the teachers they employ with interim licences a chance to at least write the qualifying test.
Fortunately, a few days after the College and the deans spoke out, the Ministry of Education made two concessions. In a significant breakthrough, the ministry decided that College members who were granted interim teaching certificates on or before March 15 didn’t have to write the test, and it extended the deadline for registration of new graduates from March 22 to March 27.
FAIR AND RELEVANT
That solved one problem. But the overwhelming inequity of counting the test as a requirement for certification before it was fully validated remained. I wrote to the incoming Premier and new Minister of Education on behalf of the College to urge them once again to reconsider.
Four days before the students that we hope to welcome into the profession this year were to write the test, new Education Minister Elizabeth Witmer told the media that — following the advice of the College — she had decided to administer the test in 2002 as a field test. I congratulate the Minister for her action.
Teacher candidates at our Ontario faculties are required to write the entry to the profession test, but everyone who writes it this year will be considered for certification purposes to have passed it. The experience from this year’s test will be reviewed to ensure that the test is fair and relevant for use as a prerequisite for teacher certification in Ontario.
This is certainly in the public interest, and in the best interest of our
current and future members.
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