The Ontario government is leaving it up to school boards to decide if a standardized math assessment for Grade 9 students, scheduled to begin next week, will go ahead in light of ongoing job action by high school teachers.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Wednesday that he recognized that most English public high schools would likely postpone the test to the second semester of the academic year. However, he said all students would need to take the test by June, “as it provides a valuable opportunity for individual feedback for students and families.”
The Grade 9 math assessment, administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), can count for as much as 30 per cent of a student’s final course mark. It is up to schools or school boards to decide whether to include the provincial assessment and how much it determines a student’s final mark.
Ontario’s high school teachers and education workers held another one-day strike Wednesday, targeting select boards such as the Peel District School Board, and part of the job action by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) includes not participating in EQAO preparation or testing.
Following Mr. Lecce’s announcement, the Peel board said it would postpone the Grade 9 math assessment.
Last month, OSSTF’s 60,000 members held a daylong walkout, the first province-wide strike in more than two decades.
“OSSTF said their job action would not impact students, but this is a clear example of union disruption affecting Ontario students,” Mr. Lecce said in a statement.
“It is unfair that union leaders are undermining student success. … The government believes in setting students up for success and providing students, parents and the province with data and insights needed to make critical policy decisions.”
OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said delaying the standardized test would have no impact on students; they would continue to be in class for the most part and receive support from teachers and education workers.
Mr. Bischof said there has been no progress at the bargaining table and that the government has sent “a very clear signal that it’s their ongoing intention to erode the number of education worker and teacher positions in our schools.”
The OSSTF has said it would postpone its ongoing strikes and negotiate if the government agreed not to increase class sizes.
Mr. Lecce recently softened the government's stand on increasing class sizes in high schools to an average of 25 instead of the previous goal of 28 over four years. However, that is still an increase from the original average of 22.
The government is also mandating that high school students take two online courses to graduate instead of the four it initially proposed.
Mr. Lecce has said that wage hikes remained the main stumbling block, with the unions asking for a 2-per-cent increase in the face of the government’s wage-cap legislation meant to limit public-sector pay increases to 1 per cent.
Mr. Bischof has said repeatedly that his members are simply asking for cost-of-living increases in line with inflation.
Meanwhile, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the province’s largest education union, with 83,000 members, escalated its work-to-rule campaign last month, which includes not planning any new field trips or collecting money for school-based activities, except charitable causes. And the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said Wednesday that it will take job action next week that targets administrative tasks if a deal is not reached with the government.
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