Ontario raises educational standards

If you have a child in grades one to eight, they’ll now need a B-minus to pass this year.
It’s part of Ontario’s new curriculum, which demands higher standards from its students for them to graduate.
Guidelines for Math and Language were released in June. Curriculum outlines for Science and Technology and Second Language will be out this November while the Arts and Social Science curriculums are expected to be out around next May.
Along with the new curriculum comes a standardized provincial report card, which will be used in all area elementary schools.
Tom Fry, curriculum advisor for the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education, explained the new curriculum to trustees during their regular meeting last night.
“You have to be a B-minus for a grade level,” he stressed. “That’s going to require a major shift in thinking for both the students and the teachers.
“No one wants a pilot who gets 50 percent,” Fry added.
Unlike the current “Common Curriculum,” learning outcomes in the new curriculum is grade specific as opposed to outcomes for each division, (for instance, instead of learning how to count to one million between grades one and three, you learn how to count to one million in grade two).
Consequently, many of the expectations set for students have been raised in each grade. In many cases, a child in grade six would learn what a child in grade eight is learning now.
“This curriculum was built with the new secondary curriculum in mind,” Fry said, noting the province plans to initiate a four-year high school program in 1999 instead of the present five-year system.
“That’s why it’s so rigorous,” he added.
For the most part, Fry said teachers can use present educational resources to meet much of the new curriculum’s learning outcomes though they may have to borrow from different grades to do so.
Trustee Dennis Brunn raised the concern for students presently in grade eight who have passed with a 70 percent, or C-average, throughout their career.
Fry said the student would be put in the environment which best suited him or her, meaning a failing student could advance to the next grade with an individual education plan (IEP)–hopefully for just a short term.
“There’s going to have to be some catching up done,” Fry said, who added the biggest concern he had was changing the mind set of the parents, the students and teachers.
From now on, a passing grade is more than average.
“How do you change that whole way of thinking? I don’t know. It’s a major shift in expectation,” Fry said. “Teachers won’t be able to lower standards. Students have to pass the tests.”