School boards embrace standards of practice

Teachers who want to make the grade and land a job are starting to get familiar with the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession.

by Helen Dolik

One of the largest school boards in Ontario is using the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession as a framework for its interview questions for hiring teachers.

It's just one example of the growing system-wide use of the standards in school boards and classrooms across the province as the Ontario College of Teachers revs up awareness.

"It gave us a generic target of the skills and attitudes that the Ontario College of Teachers was saying teachers in Ontario should have," says John Kostoff, Superintendent of Human Resources for Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. "When we looked at new hires, we realized those skills and attitudes were what we wanted.

"People were saying the questions were very good. They gave us a very specific idea of what we were looking for."

Good Results

The interview questions are based on the standards of practice, which describe what it means to be a teacher. The standards encompass five key components: commitment to students and student learning, professional knowledge, teaching practice, leadership and community, and ongoing professional learning.

Using the standards as a guide for questions in the interview process has been very successful and the board is very pleased with the quality of teachers hired, he adds. The board began using the newly designed questions about a year ago.

The College has launched a series of standards' awareness workshops, seminars and case institutes for administrators, school board representatives and instructional leaders to bring the standards to life. The events were held at the College in October and November of 2002 and January of 2003. The sessions demonstrate the College's commitment to increasing awareness of the standards of practice and the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession.

Karl Dean, an elected College Council member who sits on the Standards of Practice and Education Committee, attended two days of a standards' awareness session for board representatives and principals' groups at the College during October.

Change Direction

"If you want to change the direction of education and influence the newer group of teachers and the more seasoned veteran, if you want to expose them to the standards of practice and make it become an integral part of what they do and who they are, then the people you have to get to in order to effect that kind of positive change are the administrators," Dean says.

"They are the people who can bring these standards to life in everyday classrooms across the province. They can do that through professional development opportunities. They can do that in their day-to-day dialogue with people in their school. They are key in making a positive change."

Carmela Ciocio, vice-principal at John English Junior Middle School in Toronto, was one of the educational leaders who attended the October session. "Teachers should be proud of the standards," she says. "There should be a sense of ownership of the standards and a sense of pride in the profession."

Mike Courchesne, an elementary principal at St. Gregory School in the Nippising-Parry Sound CatholicDistrict School Board, says his school used the standards for its school improvement plan.

"This year's school improvement plan was really couched in the standards," says Courchesne. "We used the language. The actual implementation of the plan hasn't changed. But the framework and the language of it have.

"The teachers feel very much validated... it's been a great experience."

Nancy Allaire, principal at Our Lady of Sorrows Separate School in the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic Board, also used it for her school improvement plan, which included improving EQAO results in Grades 3 and 6.

Guiding Principles

"They were the guiding principles of our goals," Allaire says. "We had a goal. We had a focus. We had a priority. But all that fell under the umbrella of the standards of practice."

"A lot of teachers feel this is a document they need to learn and to implement when they don't even realize they implement these standards of practice on a daily basis. The importance for me was to not only create an awareness for the staff but also to celebrate the standards they were achieving within the school. It wasn't used for an evaluation purpose, it was used to identify and to celebrate those standards that werein existence."

In January, the College hosted sessions about facilitating case discussions to further integrate the standards. This provided an opportunity for educational leaders to look at another approach for boards to use the standards.

"I learned what the College is doing to make the standards come alive," says Debra Mitchell, Superintendent of Human Resources for Peel District School Board. "It's one thing to look at them in print in a document but when you link them to a case and an actual school environment, you see the application and how the standards link to the actual practice ofthe teacher."

Cecile Somme, Director of Education of the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, says she plans to replicate the College sessionon facilitating cases with principalcandidates.

"I learned to link the case studies to the standards, which I think is very valuable," Somme says. "It can help resolve a lot of issues, too."

The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession and the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession are available at

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