Premier promises capped class sizes

Premier Dalton McGuinty last week gave a preview of some of the changes that will be made in public education when the provincial budget is tabled May 18, including reducing the cap on class size from 24 students to 20 in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3.
“We are committed to a cap on class size of 20 students by the end of our mandate,” the premier said in a speech. “We will begin that work in the fall.”
The impact these changes will have on local school boards is difficult to estimate at this time.
“I don’t think there’s enough information out right now to boards to deal with that announcement,” said Al Cesiunas, superintendent of education for the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
“Everybody’s waiting for the budget announcements on the 18th, and we’ll find out more information then.”
Premier McGuinty’s pledge did not specify whether the proposed cap would be “hard” or “soft.”
Classes from JK to Grade 3 in Ontario currently are under a “soft cap” of 24, meaning the average class size is 24 students.
A “hard” cap of 20 would mean no classroom could have more than that number of students.
Cesiunas presented a report back in February regarding the impact a “hard” cap of 20 students per class would have on the local Catholic board.
Among the “immediate future impacts” he identified were the need to hire 10.5 teachers across the board and open 10.5 more classrooms.
In his report, Cesiunas also noted class size reduction (referred to as CSR) does not necessarily have a significant impact on student learning.
“The idea that smaller class sizes improve student learning has an intuitive feel, but the research is not conclusive,” he wrote.
“While many students show small achievement gains when class sizes are reduced by a few students, significant gains appear to only occur when class size is reduced dramatically,” Cesiunas said.
Premier McGuinty said the government will “start by targeting schools that are struggling with enormous class sizes. Later, we will bring class sizes down throughout the system during our first term.”
The premier also said he plans to place lead teachers specially-trained in literacy and numeracy in every elementary school by the fall, and will dedicate a “literacy hour and math time each day to provide the necessary learning intensity.”
Lastly, Premier McGuinty said he would establish a Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to support and co-ordinate efforts.
Next month’s provincial budget will outline details as to how these changes will occur.
“There will be increased funding [for public education] in our first budget, and the budgets that follow, because this is a top priority for our government, for our economy, and for our society,” the premier noted.
“I am going to put money into education at the expense of other programs,” he vowed.