March 1998

Letters to the Editor

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Professionally Speaking welcomes letters and articles on topics of interest to teachers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length. To be considered for publication, all letters must be signed and provide the writer’s daytime phone number. Letters should be addressed to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking, 121 Bloor Street East, 6th Floor, Toronto ON M4W 3M5; e-mail:


I would like to comment on the article "Take Another Look at Our Students’ Science Ranking" published in the December ’97 issue of Professionally Speaking.

I agree that one must examine the context before interpreting test results; however, the article included some rather sweeping generalities and inaccuracies in the context of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, 1995).

The main premise of the article was that countries (for example, Bulgaria, Korea, Singapore) that scored higher than Canada/Ontario in TIMSS, tested "only a selected population" because "the practice of streaming and excluding individuals happens in some countries…," and that Ontario students’ performance would have been much stronger "if we removed the poorest and weakest from our education system." Enrolment statistics for all students in the age 6–23 range were used as evidence of streaming, as well as to indicate that these countries "educate far fewer students than we do."

The problem with the argument is that while the statistics do show a decline in some countries’ enrolment in upper secondary and tertiary programs, there are no statistics provided in the article for lower secondary and elementary school enrolments where the percentage of students enrolled is high for all countries.

The first three releases of data from TIMSS, during 1996 and 1997, involved the achievement results of 9- and 13-year-old students (Populations 1 and 2, respectively). It is my opinion that these achievement results are comparable since virtually all students in the participating countries were enrolled. For instance, in Bulgaria and Korea, education is compulsory to age 14 and 15, respectively, and although there is no compulsory period of education in Singapore, every child receives at least 10 years of general education including six years of primary and four years of secondary education.

Admittedly, comparisons of student achievement for TIMSS Population 3 (students in their final year of secondary) are more challenging because of the streaming/tracking practices of some countries, particularly in upper secondary school. One of the stated purposes of TIMSS is to provide information about the extent to which education systems have been effective in educating their whole population, not just elite groups of students. To address this issue in Population 3, the TIMSS project will report separately on the mathematics and science literacy of generalist students, as well as students with special preparation in advanced mathematics and physics. The release of the TIMSS Population 3 achievement results is scheduled for February 1998.

I trust these remarks will be useful to educators as they consider the results of international assessments such as TIMSS.

Richard Jones
Richard Jones is the project leader for national, international & education indicators at the Education Quality and Accountability Office.

I just finished reading with great interest the December ’97 issue of Professionally Speaking in which your College describes the events that occurred before the withdrawal by the government of some clauses from Bill 160 regarding the use of non-certified instructors in schools. The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) applauds this victory and congratulates the College for its dynamic intervention in this important matter.

The ATIO fully agrees with the points raised by your organization to the Harris government during the debate surrounding Bill 160. Indeed, it is important for our respective professions to establish a clear distinction between someone who possesses a certain level of competence and an individual who is trained with that purpose in mind, who is certified by his or her professional college and who must adhere to standards of practice and a code of ethics.

Pascal Sabourin
Dr. Pascal Sabourin is the chair of the ATIO and a certified translator.

The article "College Resolution on Bill 160" in the December ’97 issue of Professionally Speaking raises some concerns. According to this article, seven members of the College’s Council voted against a motion that asked for the withdrawal of sections of Bill 160 that allowed unqualified teachers.

I feel that it is important to know who voted for and against this motion.

I cannot understand how anyone who is truly interested in education could, in effect, vote for the use of unqualified teachers in Ontario.

Joe Simpson
Joe Simpson teaches history and geography at the Listowel District Secondary School.

I read with great interest "Accounting for Yourself – The Challenge of Voluntary Accreditation" in the December issue of Professionally Speaking.

I had never heard of accreditation for a school until I moved to Kenya in 1974 to teach at Rift Valley Academy, a U.S. accredited school. Having been used to a system here in Ontario, I at first was very hesitant about the whole issue of accreditation until I began to realize that somewhere along the line there has to be some accountability for a private school. Now, I wholeheartedly concur with the accreditation process, even though it can be a very stressful exercise for the teachers of a private school.

David C. Penney
David C. Penney is a Grade 4 teacher at the Calvary Christian School in Woodbridge.

Thank you for releasing the Professionally Speaking magazine free of charge to the College paid members. I have read the last two editions from cover to cover. I still think it is a great thing that has happened to Ontario teachers in terms of getting connected.

I am a supply teacher of many years and my joy will be made complete if the College will start publishing job positions for those of us who have to cough out $90 per annum.

I know many colleges do this for their members in order to facilitate job search.

Esther Garber
Esther Garber is an occasional teacher with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

This is a time of public sensitivity to the provincial government’s reluctant and piecemeal disclosure of the intent of its educational "reforms."

I suggest that provision for open public debate involving all components of society proceed now.

Charter schools may well contribute to a revolution, but not one that I would want to see. Debate on this issue will reveal the interdependence of all components of our society and the harm done to them by establishing charter schools.

Charter schools will influence society to drift toward and accommodate, exclusively, particular classes and self interest. Already their clarion call is for efficiency in our students – efficiency for what!? The exclusivity of the charter school concept rings too much of the neo-conservative thinking that one component of society and its predominant ethos – achieving market share – will pull society’s other components along and ever upwards. But where is "along" and what is "upwards?" Let the students learn in a broader context than this while they still can.

I have no problem with legislating restitution to the caring community all society wants to see built. Your "reforms" to education both under way and pending – the latter being charter schools – neither in content nor method of implementing are in the tradition of building democracy.

Tell us your whole agenda – particularly the rationale.

Ron Hall
Ron Hall is a retired history teacher in Toronto.

Congratulations to you and your staff and the contributors on an attractive, informative and useful magazine! I have read both issues cover-to-cover, a compliment in itself! The tone seems very professional, yet not heavy. It seems like the College has many projects on the go. I hope to see reports of results within the year.

Katrina Hall
Katrina Hall teaches Senior Kindergarten French immersion at Humbercrest Public School in Toronto.