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Critics pan mandatory math tests for new teachers

A University of Toronto education researcher Mary Reid this week is reported to have raised concerns about requiring new teachers to pass a math test, saying they could dissuade some racially diverse people from even entering education and also worsen the current shortage of French teachers.

The required testing is set to begin for incoming teachers who apply to the Ontario College of Teachers on or after March 31, 2020. The Ontario government is pitching it as part of the solution to improve low student math results.

“We cannot accept for two consecutive years, Grade 6 students failing the provincial average,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said to reporters, citing recent standardized Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) scores. The same office will develop the standardized test for teachers.

Lecce said he doesn’t fault teachers, instead slamming the previous Liberal government and its switch to a discovery math curriculum.

Meanwhile the teachers’ union isn’t thrilled with this new policy either and they are also questioning this policy which forces incoming Ontario teachers to score 70% on math test
He said teachers will also receive more professional development to improve their math teaching skills, something Reid said is important.

But based on research Reid has seen out of the United States, she’s not convinced teacher math tests will solve the lower student test scores, saying there doesn’t seem to be a connection between teachers passing this type of test and student achievement.

There is also concern that the tests will put black and Latino teacher candidates at a distinct disadvantage as has been the case in the US.

She also worries what this could do to the numbers of French teachers, an area where there’s already a shortage.

But one local parents group dedicated to improving results for marginalized students says that given math test scores, something needs to change.

She’s not convinced by the reasoning from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which warned the testing will mean kindergarten teachers will have to understand calculus.
She said perhaps there should be two separate tests: one for secondary school teachers and one for elementary.

The Ontario NDP attacked the new testing measure, criticizing a government that has plans to cut 3,475 teaching positions over its four year mandate, according to a memo by the Ministry of Education. A provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years.

“If we want to improve math success for our students, don’t take away their teachers,” said NDP education critic Marit Stiles in a news release.

Given the current economy and the need for students to develop good math skills in order to land great jobs, it is only natural that teachers imparting education are in a position to help and guide students, especially those struggling with math. If teachers themselves are not comfortable with math, how can they be expected to prepare kids and give them a well-rounded education. The tendency for teachers with strong arts background is to focus more on art-related subjects.

On the other hand, a mandatory math test may be appealing to aspiring South Asian and Chinese teachers who would welcome them. -CINEWS

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