March 1998


Setting the Record Straight - Again
Council Members

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By John Cruickshank

Last November, almost a month to the day after I appeared in front of a legislative committee with Donna Marie Kennedy and Margaret Wilson to present a brief from the Ontario College of Teachers outlining what we didn’t want to see in Bill 160, I saw a newspaper ad sponsored by a Conservative MPP.

It was called "Reality vs. Myth on Education Reform." One section claimed the College supported the initiative in Bill 160 that would allow non-certified teachers to deliver education programs to elementary and secondary students.

The same information appeared in a handout distributed by staff of another government MPP at a public forum on Bill 160, and we’ve heard of other instances of this misinformation.

As I said in my letter to the MPP about the newspaper ad, I don’t know whether he misunderstood or misrepresented the facts.

In fact, the College recommended to the government that it remove the clauses allowing non-certified instructors in the classroom. That’s what we told the government in its public legislative hearings. That’s what we told the Minister of Education and Training and ministry officials when we met with them, well before the ads and handouts appeared.

In fact, that’s what happened. The government removed the clauses that we asked them to – the ones that would have allowed people not certified to be teachers to be responsible for delivering education programs.

The suggested provisions would have undermined the public interest. The public wants to be sure that teachers are knowledgeable, competent and qualified. The public wants to be sure the children are not in the care of incompetent or unqualified instructors.

Currently, teachers do work with members of other regulated professions in the schools – social workers, speech and language pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists. These professionals make independent decisions about students and may advise teachers on how to adapt a program for a particular student.

Teachers also work with people in the classroom – teachers’ assistants, library technicians, youth workers, native counsellors, artists, musicians, interpreters, intervenors. And as Donna Marie Kennedy told the legislative committee, teachers are happy to do it. They’ve been doing it less only because of cuts in funding.

The teachers supervise the person helping in the classroom, and the teachers are always responsible for program planning, student assessment and liaison with parents.

It is the teachers who are accountable.

The minister has always had, and continues to have, the power to set guidelines about who can help in the classroom, what their qualifications need to be and what they can do. But no one except a qualified teacher is responsible for the classroom.

The idea of using non-certified individuals in the classroom probably stems from the too-common assumption that possession of knowledge and skill gives someone the capacity to impart that knowledge and skill to elementary and secondary students.

The research on effective teaching indicates clearly that this assumption is wrong.

Teachers are specially trained to teach children and adolescents. Musicians, computer technicians and athletes, unless they have also graduated from a pre-service teacher education program, are not.

It is and will remain the mandate of the College to regulate the profession of teaching. Skilled teachers, who adhere to clearly expressed standards of excellence in their practice are the heart of quality education.

The College is an independent, self-regulatory body, just like any other profession’s governing body. It’s not our job to "support" government legislation, nor should it be.

So, if you hear people say "but I saw it in writing. The College supported having non-certified teachers in the classroom," you can tell them the facts.

The College asked the government to remove those parts of the new bill, and that’s what the government did.

The status quo remains as far as who can teach in publicly-funded Ontario schools.

And that’s best for the quality of education in this province.

John Cruickshank is Vice-Chair of the Council of the Ontario College of Teachers and principal of Marvin Heights Public School in Mississauga.