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
didnt want to see in Bill 160, I saw a
newspaper ad sponsored by a Conservative MPP.
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.
information appeared in a handout distributed by
staff of another government MPP at a public forum
on Bill 160, and weve heard of other
instances of this misinformation.
As I said
in my letter to the MPP about the newspaper ad, I
dont know whether he misunderstood or
misrepresented the facts.
the College recommended to the government that it
remove the clauses allowing non-certified
instructors in the classroom. Thats what we
told the government in its public legislative
hearings. Thats what we told the Minister
of Education and Training and ministry officials
when we met with them, well before the ads and
thats 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
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
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
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.
Theyve been doing it less only because of
cuts in funding.
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.
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
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.
research on effective teaching indicates clearly
that this assumption is wrong.
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.
is an independent, self-regulatory body, just
like any other professions governing body.
Its 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.
asked the government to remove those parts of the
new bill, and thats what the government
quo remains as far as who can teach in
publicly-funded Ontario schools.
thats best for the quality of education in
John Cruickshank is
Vice-Chair of the Council of the Ontario College
of Teachers and principal of Marvin Heights
Public School in Mississauga.