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For the ** \ , 

Love 01 Lieatilnig 


Report of the Royal Commission on Learning 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools 




■' Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 
The Law Foundation of Ontario & the Ontario Council of University Libraries 

For the 

Love of Learning 

Report of the Royal Commission on Learning 

Volume II 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools 

© Queen's Printer for Ontario, 1994 

Ce document est aussi disponible en frangais 

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data 

Ontario. Royal Commission on Learning. 
For the love of learning 

Co-chair: Monique Begin, Gerald L. Caplan. 

Accompanied by a publication subtitled A short version and a CD-ROM. 

Issued also in French under title: Pour I'amour d'apprendre. 

Includes bibliographical references. 

Contents: v. I. Mandate, context, issues - v.ll. Learning: our vision for schools - 

V. III. The educators - v. IV. Making it happen. 

ISBN 0-7778-3577-0 

1. Education-Ontario. 2. Education-Aims and objectives. I. Begin, Monique. II. Caplan, Gerald L., 1938- . III. Title. 

LA418.05056 1994 370'.9713 C95-964004-5 

Copies of this report are available for a charge from: 

Publications Ontario 
880 Bay Street 
Toronto, Ontario 

Access Ontario 
Rideau Centre 
50 Rideau Street 
Ottawa, Ontario 

Mail-order customers may contact: 
Publications Ontario 
50 Grosvenor Street 
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1N3 
Telephone (416) 326-5300 
Toll-free in Ontario 1-800-668-9938 
Fax (416) 326-5317 

Anyone wishing to access the submissions and records of the Royal Commission on Learning should contact the Records 
Management Unit or the Freedom of Information and Privacy Office of the Ministry of Education and Training. The records will be 
retained there for three years and then permanently stored at the Archives of Ontario. 

\B Printed on recycled paper 

Royal Commission 

Commission royale sur 
on Learning Teducation 

Co-Chairs / ('oprcsidentH 

Monique Begin - Gerald L. Caplan 

ConunifiBioners / Membres de la commisBion 

Manisha Bharti - Avis E. Glaze - Dennis J. Murphy 


December 1994 

The Honourable Dave Cooke 
Minister of Education and Training 

Dear Mr. Minister: 

It is with a sense of great hope for the future of the young people of Ontario that 
we respectfully submit to you the Final Report of the Royal Commission on 

Very sincerely yours, 


Monique Begin / 

Gerald Caplan 


Manisha BhaitT 


Avis Glaze 



Dennis Murphy 


RaL Di Cecco 
Executive Director 

101 Bloor Street West / 13th Floor / Toronto / Ontario MBS 1P7 

Telephone (416) 325-2707/ Fax (4 16) 325-2956 / TOLL-FREE 1 -800-565 0861 

101, rue Bloor ouest/ 13' itage / Toronto (Ontario) M6S 1P7 

T«l«phone (416) 326-2707 / T^Ucopieur (416) 325-2956/ Sans frais 1-800-666-0861 

Volume I 

Mandate, Context, Issues 

Introduction to the Report 1 

A climate of uncertainty 1 

Some recent liistory of educational 

change and reform 2 
Improving Ontario's schools 3 
News, both good and bad 4 
Our way into the future 5 

Early childhood education 6 

Teacher development 6 

Information technology 6 

Community education 7 
The curriculum 7 
Making change happen 8 

Chapter 1: 

The Royal Commission 
on Learning 10 

Public consultation 11 

Talking to people 1 1 

Media coverage 1 1 

Outreach 1 2 
Experts and research 13 
Commissioners' meetings 13 

Chapter 2: 

Education and Society 14 
Education in Ontario: A brief history 15 

Curriculum and teaching methods 17 
Education rights of the French-language 

minority 17 
Questions of purpose 18 

More recent educational history 18 

Elementary schools 19 
Secondary schools 20 
Declining enrolments 21 
Major legislation in the 1980s 21 
Financing education 23 
Legislative reports 23 
Premier's council 23 

Public funding to private schools 24 

Anti-racism and ethno-cultural 
equity initiatives 24 

The significance of recent policy changes 24 
Reflecting on change 24 
Ontario: Picture of the province 25 
Ontario's changing economy 25 

Unemployment 25 

Poverty 26 

Are education and economic 
prosperity connected? 26 

Demographic factors 27 

The family 27 

Emotional well-being 28 

Fertility rates 28 

Immigration 28 

Native peoples 28 

Visible minorities 28 

Roman Catholic and francophone families 29 

Values and knowledge 29 
Educational statistics for Ontario 30 
Some indicators of how we are doing 32 
Costs of education 34 

Education expenditures 35 
Cost comparisons 35 
Salaries 36 

Pupil-educator ratio 36 
Language programs 36 
A national and international context 
for educational reform 36 

Chapter 3: 

People's Voices 


The purposes of education and 

curriculum issues 45 
Teaching and teacher education 47 
Assessment and accountability 47 
Organization of education 

(governance) 49 
Public concerns and the 

Commission's mandate 49 

For the Love of I^arnirig 

Report of the Royal Commission on Learning 

Chapter 4: 

Purposes of Education 52 

The issues 53 
Sharpening the focus: 

A set of purposes 54 
Schools in the broader community: 

A framework 55 
Primary and shared responsibilities 56 
Linking purposes with responsibilities 57 
The hidden curriculum 58 
Values 60 
Conclusion 62 

Chapter 5: 

What Is Learning? 64 

What do we know about how 
learning happens? 65 

Learning occurs from cradle to grave 65 
Learning occurs with and without 

direct instruction 66 
Learning depends on practice 66 
Learning is a social process 67 
Learning occurs most readily when 

learners want to learn 67 
Learners have to know how to go 

on learning 68 
Learning is different for different learners 68 
There are barriers to learning 69 

Learning for life: The importance 

of early learning 70 
Informal to formal learning: The 

transition from home to school 71 

Active teaching and learning 11 
Exploiting the diversity of the group 72 
Extending the boundaries of the 

learning environment 72 
Creating a learning community that works 73 

Chapter 6: 

What Is Teaching? 76 

Characteristics of good teaching 77 

Teachers care about and are committed 
to students and their learning 78 

Teachers know the subjects they teach 

and how to teach the material to students: 
In other words, they know how to make 
knowledge accessible to students 79 

Guided by clear goals, teachers organize 
and monitor student learning 80 

Teachers do not always work in isolation; they 
learn from and collaborate with others, 
including students, colleagues, parents, 
and the community 81 

Teachers critically examine their own practice, 
and continue to learn throughout their 
careers 81 
Good teachers in their schools 82 
Conclusion 82 

Volume II 

Learning: Our Vision 
for Schools 

Introduction to Volume II 1 

Key issues 2 

Curriculum quality 3 
Curriculum focus 3 
Fairness and openness 4 
Efficiency 5 
Strategies for improvement: A learning 
system that focuses on the learner 
and on literacies 7 
The system 7 
The learner 8 

A curriculum for literacies 8 
The literacies across the curriculum 10 

Chapter 7: 

The Learner from Birth to Age 6: 
The Transition from Home 
to School 12 

The learner from birth to age 3: 
The literacies curriculum of home 
and care 13 

The learner from age 3 to 6: The literacy 
curriculum in a school setting 15 

Chapter 8: 

The Learner from Age 6 to 15: 
Our Common Curriculum 24 

The transition to compulsory 

schooling 25 
The foundation: The essential elements 

of the elementary curriculum 26 

Literacy/communications skills 27 
Numeracy/problem-solving 3 1 
Group learning and interpersonal skills 

and values 32 
Scientific literacy 36 
Computer literacy 37 

Core subjects 39 

The arts: Dance, drama, music, visual arts 40 

Career education 41 

History 43 

Official languages and international 
languages 43 

Physical and health education 46 

Technology (broad-based) 47 
Continuity in curriculum and learning, 

Grades 1-6 48 
The transition to adolescence: Special 

consideration of the needs of learners 

from age 12 to 15 49 

Relational needs 49 

Planning needs 51 

The need for choice, decision-making, 
and control 52 

The curriculum as the basis of a 

learning system through Grade 9 54 

The inclusion of Grade 9 55 

The focus on learner outcomes 55 

Curriculum integration 60 

Inclusiveness of The Common Curriculum 61 

Chapter 9: 

The Learner from Age 15 to 18: 
Further Education and 
Specialization Years 66 

The current context of secondary 
education in Ontario 68 

Suggestions for reorganizing the 
secondary school 74 

The duration 74 

Curriculum organization 76 

Flexibility 85 

Curriculum content 87 

The transition to work from school 

(and back again) 93 
Summary 94 
Adult education 96 

For the Love of Learning 

Report of the Royal Commission on Learning 

Volume III 

The Educators 

Chapter 10: 

Supports for Learning: 
Special Needs and Special 
Opportunities 100 

Supports for some students 101 

Support for students with different 
language backgrounds and different 
learning needs based on language 10 1 

Support for students with disabilities, 
and for slow and fast learners 108 
Supports for learning for all 

students 119 

Career education 120 

Social and personal guidance teaching 
and counselling 123 

Chapter 1 1 : 

Evaluating Achievement 130 

Student assessment: What people 

told us 132 
The recent history of student assessment 

in Ontario 133 
Assessing individual students 136 
Assessing for individual improvement: 

The most important reason 137 
Accounting for student assessment: 

Reporting what is learned 140 
The uses of information technology in 

improving student assessment 143 
Avoiding bias in assessment: Respecting 

differences, recognizing diversity 145 
Large-scale assessment of student 
achievement and the effectiveness 
of school programs 148 
Large-scale assessment of student 

achievement 148 
The effectiveness of school programs: 

Program and examination review 151 
Reporting the results of large-scale 

assessments 154 
Conclusion 156 

Conclusion: What We Have Said about 

the Learning System 16 

Volume II Recommendations 168 

(",haptcr 12: 

The Educators 1 

Section A: Professional issues 1 

A statistical snapshot 1 
Why they become, and stay, teachers 2 
The culture of teaching 2 
The teacher and time 4 
Reaching into the community 5 
School-based professional development 6 
Concerns of teacher federations 7 
Supportive technology 7 
Teaching: The vision and the reality 7 
Teacher organizations and professionalism 7 
Collective bargaining rights 8 
A college of teachers 9 
Section B: Teacher education 11 
What did we hear? 12 
Historical context 12 
Current context for reforming 

teacher education 13 
Pre-service teacher preparation in 

Ontario today 14 
Teacher education for the future 17 
Professional development and 

lifelong learning 29 
Teacher education: Summary 36 
Section C: Evaluating performance 36 
What are the issues? 36 
Purposes of performance appraisal 38 
Section D: Leadership 40 

Principals 40 
Department heads 46 
Supervisory officers (SOs) 47 
Conclusion 53 

Volume III: Recommendations 60 

Volume IV 

Making it Happen 

Introduction to Volume IV 1 

Chapter 13: 

Learning, Teaching, and 
Information Technology 4 

A new environment 6 
Possibilities and concerns 10 
Information technology's 

contribution to learning 12 
Making it happen 15 

Teacher education 15 

Hardware 17 

On-line: Learning it on the grapevine 20 
Other instructional technologies 21 
Realizing the potential 23 

TVOntario/La Chaine 27 
Conclusion 27 

Chapter 14: 

Community Education: 
AUiances for Learning 33 

The problem: Expansion of the role 

of schools 33 
Our response: Creating communities 

of concern 35 
A local focus for community 

education 37 
Supporting and sustaining a diversity 

of models 37 
Barriers to community education: 

Recognizing them and removing 

them 39 
Community education: 

Making it happen 42 

... in schools 42 

... with families 43 

... and the new school-community councils 44 

... with school boards 45 

... with the provincial government: 

Adopting an agenda for redesigning 
systems to support community 
education 47 
Setting a timeline for action 48 
Conclusion 49 

Chapter 15: 

Constitutional Issues 52 

The Roman Catholic education 
system 53 

A brief history of Roman Catholic schools 54 
Issues and recommendations 56 

Learning in French: Rights, needs, 
and barriers 60 

A glimpse of history 61 

Who are the Franco-Ontarians? 62 

Their constitutional rights 65 

The recognition of constitutional rights 66 

The future of a community 70 

Aboriginal peoples 73 

Who are the aboriginal peoples 

of Ontario? 73 
History of Native education 73 
What we heard 76 
Issues and recommendations 78 
Conclusion 83 

Chapter 16: 

Equity Considerations 86 

Religious minorities 88 
Language, ethno-cultural, and 

racial minorities 90 
Conclusion 96 

Chapter 17: 

Organizing Education: Power and 
Decision-Making 100 

Stakeholders and power 101 
The players 101 
Allocating and exercising 

decision-making powers 102 

Schools 103 

School boards 109 

The Ministry of Education and Training 117 

The provincial government 122 

Conclusion 123 

For the Love of Learning 

Report off the Royal Commission on Learning 

Chapter 18: 

Funding 126 

Historical context 127 
Education funding in Ontario 128 
Current concerns 128 

Equity 128 
Adequacy 132 
Conclusion 133 

Chapter 19: 

The Accountability of 
the System 136 

Accountability in education: 

What does it involve? 137 
Who is accountable? 138 
Indicators of quality 139 
Assessment agency 140 
Accountability and consistency 141 
Reporting 142 
Conclusion 144 

Chapter 20: 

Implementing the Reforms 146 

Previous reports 148 

The change process: How educational 

change happens 148 
What about the Commission? What do 

we hope our work will achieve? 149 
Engines or levers for change 150 

Early childhood education 151 

Community-education alliances 151 

Teacher development and 
professionalization 152 

Information technology 152 

What actions are needed? 153 
An implementation commission 154 
Other support for implementation 154 
Provincial actions 155 
Suggested short-term actions for 

the provincial government and 

for the Ministry: 1995-96 156 

The framework for reform 156 

Curriculum 156 

Assessment and accountability 1 56 
Power, influence, and equity 156 
Early childhood education 157 
Teacher professionalization and 

development 157 
Information technology 157 
Community-education alliances 157 

Actions by other stakeholders 157 

Cost issues 158 

A call to action 159 

Inertia 159 

Power issues 159 

Collective bargaining issues 160 

Overload 160 

Lack of resources 160 
Implementation responsibilities 161 
Appendix 1: Action Plan for 

Government 163 
Appendix 2: Action Plan for 

Education Stakeholders 164 

For the Love of Learning 

Recommendations 166 

Appendices 182 

A: Submitters 184 

B: Youth Outreach 217 

C: Consultation with Groups and 

Individuals 220 
D: Public Hearings - 

Dates and Sites 222 
E: Schools Visited 224 
F: Background Papers - 

Author and Title 225 
G: Commissioners' Biographies 226 

Monique Begin 

Gerald Caplan 

Manisha Bharti 

Avis E. Glaze 

Dennis J. Murphy 


Introduction to 
Volume II 

Volume II describes our priorities for learning, from 
early childhood through secondary school. The 
chapters include discussions of curriculum content 
and organization, supports for learning, and 
learning assessment. 

In this volume, we describe a "curriculum for 
literacies," based on the idea and the ideal that 
schools can effectively lead most children and 
youth to a high level of skill, and a deep level of 
comprehension, across a variety of subject areas. A 
key recommendation occurs in Chapter 7: full-time 
education should be universally available for 
three- to five-year-olds. We see this as one of the 
four engines that can transform an adequate 
educational system to a superior one. 

We define the curriculum, broadly, as an educa- 
tional program beginning as an option at age 3, 
and compulsory at age 6. It is a program whose 
goals and content must be clear to teachers and parents, 
whose mutually reinforcing efforts on behalf of young learn- 
ers are the absolutely essential underpinnings of this long- 
term learning plan. That is why, throughout the chapters on 
the education of pre-schoolers, children, and adolescents, we 
emphasize that clearly stated, written descriptions of what 
students are expected to learn must be available to parents as 
well as to teachers. We believe that the curriculum - what 
children should be learning, and at what level of mastery - 
must be clear to parents, so they can help at home, in appro- 
priate ways, and so that their dialogue with teachers on the 
subject of their child's progress is that of well-informed, 
well-respected, and equally powerful partners. While we 
believe there is no substitute for direct parent-teacher 
communication in respect of students, we also think it is 
important - and have built relevant suggestions on the 
subject into our discussion - that student achievement be 
monitored regularly and publicly, so that the community as 
a whole can be informed about the achievements of its 
young, and the effectiveness of its schools. 

If it is to help almost all students reach an acceptable 
level of understanding and performance, a curriculum must 
have considerable flexibility to accommodate individual 
differences in the rate at which skills, knowledge, and under- 
standing are acquired. Educators are familiar with the argu- 
ment that we should make knowledge and achievement the 
constant, and time the variable, instead of the reverse; that 
is, we should have similarly high goals for students, and let 

them achieve them at their own pace, instead of insisting 
that everyone learn whatever they can in a set period of 

Despite the familiarity of the argument, very few schools 
really allow flexibility in learning time. Every student is 
expected to learn enough between September and June - not 
too little and not too much - to be in the same "starting" 
position the following September. While it is understandable 
that neither parents nor bureaucrats are happy with 
extremely wide and non-standard fluctuations in learning 
time, we propose that much more thought be given to ways 
of helping students move faster, to avoid boredom, and to 
intensify targeted help for students having difficulties so 
they do not fall far behind. Such help, especially when it 
comes early in the child's career as a student, has the poten- 
tial of reducing later failures, which are extremely costly to 
the individual and to society, in the short and the long term. 
We are aware that this kind of intense, targeted, "just-in- 
time" help is difficult to provide: it is labour intensive, hence 
expensive; but it is important to remember that the help that 
is given later, through special education and remediation 
programs, is also costly and and less likely to be effective. 

As well, the immediate interventions require considerable 
flexibility on the part of the school, the student, and the 
family, all of whom have to manage schedules so that the 
student is not absent from the regular classroom for any 
significant time, and can keep moving ahead with peers even 
while getting help. However, this flexibility is perhaps more a 
matter of attitude than schedule. The reason why such solu- 
tions are not already implemented in most schools is possi- 
bly because they require both more flexible thinking and a 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Introduction 

A student needs a teacher at school who has a continu- 
ing concern for her progress as long as she attends the 

Responsibility for supporting the education of young 
people belongs to us all, whether or not we have chil- 
dren in school. 

different way of distributing scarce resources - from both 
inside and outside the school system. But the difficulty of 
realizing them does not mean that these solutions can be 
ignored. Everyone must make a much greater effort to facili- 
tate them. 

The following chapters also suggest that educators must 
look at their students' progress over time, in the same way 
parents do: not just a year at a time, but continuously. We 
believe that a student needs a teacher at school who has a 
continuing concern for her progress as long as she attends 
the school. We are recommending that a kind of "case 
management" be exercised on behalf of every student - 
moving from a more administrative to a more "hands-on" 
style, as students grow into adolescence and shift into 
"rotary" systems where contact with any one teacher is 
normally quite limited. With the transition to adolescence, 
the role of steward or advisor takes on an educational and 
career-planning emphasis, with student, teacher-advisor, and 
parents regularly reviewing the student's experience, 
progress, and goals. We also suggest that parents and educa- 
tors be encouraged to understand curriculum as a continu- 
um from pre-school to post-secondary education and train- 
ing. In fact, our discussion of curriculum begins, not at 
Grade 1, but at birth. 

Finally, many of our suggestions and recommendations 
for a strong curriculum speak to the interdependence 
between schools and other learning resources. There is no 
question that schools do not have a monopoly on knowl- 
edge, and that teachers cannot be human computers. Nor 
can they be expected to be artists, scientists, business people, 
technicians, physicians, and social workers. But students 

need exposure to others in those roles and more, in order to 
define the goals they want to work toward, and to appreciate 
the link between curriculum and their future. Thus we have 
a great deal to say about community-based career awareness 
and more formal career planning and education. Parents and 
teachers are the most essential "life supports" in the educa- 
tion of the young, but, ultimately, a solid support system 
rests on a strong sense of community responsibility, which 
leads to a real sharing of resources devoted to the education 
of young people. We realize that what we are suggesting - a 
real sharing of the curriculum between educators and others 
- is a giant step beyond the occasional inter-agency collabo- 
ration or co-operative education program, and the like. 
However, we are convinced that it must happen. A solid 
curriculum rests on a belief by the whole of society that 
responsibility for supporting the education of young people 
belongs to us all, whether or not we have children in school. 
If that belief is to be acted on, government must be a facili- 
tator, not a barrier, for concerted, not disparate, efforts. 

We describe a curriculum that is rich, challenging, and 
inclusive, one that offers the possibility of developing all the 
talent we have and need in Ontario. But without dedicated 
and well-educated teachers, dedicated and well-informed 
parents, and a commitment from local communities and 
government to define themselves as resources for the learn- 
ers who are our future, the best curriculum will be worth no 
more than the paper on which it is printed. 

Key issues 

The major issues around which the debate about education 
and educational reform centres were discussed earlier in this 
report. They include quality, focus, fairness, openness, and 
efficiency. All these are closely related to curriculum. 

The central questions are how to ensure comprehensive- 
ness and relevance while avoiding overloading the curricu- 
lum; how to make the curriculum responsive to new social 
concerns, such as the environment, health, etc., without viti- 
ating its long-term purpose in the transmission of culture 
and values; how to provide for a diversity of offerings to 
meet the interests of diverse clienteles while ensuring coher- 
ence and focus.' 

For the Love of Learning 

Curriculum quality 

Quality questions are curriculum questions: Are students 
learning enough, learning the right things, learning them at 
the right time, or learning them well enough? Our consid- 
ered response is that the key quality issue is embodied in the 
last of these, the "well enough" issue. While evidence from 
some of the national and international test comparisons 
suggests that our students could be learning more,^ it 
suggests, across several subject areas, that our students could 
and should be learning better: they should have less superfi- 
cial knowledge and understanding, and be better able to 
synthesize diverse information, infer from and extend infor- 
mation, and generalize and transfer knowledge from one 
context to another. Too many students cannot apply what 
they have "learned," and this shows in their relative weakness 
when dealing with more complex components of measures 
of literacy and numeracy. In other words, it is not as much a 
matter of more quantity as it is of quality - doing what is 
most important, and doing it thoroughly. 

Curriculum focus 

Another major issue around which concern and criticism of 
the educational system cluster is that of focus and coherence. 
Applied to curriculum, this is expressed as a fear that schools 
are "all over the place," are trying to do too much, and, as a 
consequence, are doing too little really well. This is what is 
usually meant by the "overcrowded" curriculum, and often 
leads to the "back to the basics" call. This concern is most 
often expressed about the elementary school curriculum. 

Is the teaching and learning of foundation skills being 
slighted, or are traditional core subjects being pushed aside 
by a multitude of other subjects that are part of the elemen- 
tary school curriculum? In fact, most of the subjects present- 
ly prescribed have been part of the compulsory curriculum 
for a very long time - such subjects as language, math, 
science, music, history, French (or Anglais), geography, and 
physical education. 

There are a few that were added more recently: the arts 
now include dance; and technology and business studies 
were not always taught in the earlier grades. And within such 
traditional subject areas as physical and health education, for 
example, additional topics have been added: AIDS education 
is now part of the health curriculum because the disease is so 
dangerous and the need for education for prevention is so 

urgent. Curriculum, like many other areas that are impor- 
tant and in which careers are spent, expands - it never 
shrinks. New topics are added, but there is never agreement 
on what no longer need be taught. 

Teachers are also concerned that having to deal with a 
number of topics in a finite period tends to move them 
toward superficial coverage and over-dependence on meth- 
ods that do not permit students to explore, question, try 
alternative solutions, and, in general, reach a real under- 
standing, rather than a superficial familiarity useful only for 
short-term recall. It has often been said that it is too easy for 
curriculum to become a mile wide and an inch deep. Educa- 
tional researchers looking at comparative international 
success rates observe that in countries where students excel 
in mathematics, for example, the math curriculum tends to 
be less extensive and more intensive, so that material is 
learned very well the first time, is thoroughly comprehend- 
ed, not merely memorized, and does not have to be re- 
learned over and over again. 

While teachers and parents may feel that the curriculum 
is overcrowded, in our opinion the array of subjects included 
in The Common Curriculum does not, by itself, make this 
inevitable. If course guidelines seem to mandate too much 
content, and do not suggest to teachers how to condense or 
integrate, then the curriculum will be overcrowded. 

Teachers need a curriculum which is well defined and 
clear, with sequences of learner outcomes by subject area, 
illustrated by topics with examples, to ensure consistency 
and cumulative learning. Teachers need guides on taking 
apart a well-sequenced and cumulative curriculum, and on 
putting it back together. 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Introduction 

It is essential that subjects and topics form some kind 
of meaningful whole or pattern, both at the level of an 
individual course, made up of component parts, and at 
the level of the program, made up of many courses over 
a year or over several years. 

We believe that well-written curriculum guidelines and 
support documents can show teachers how to enrich with- 
out adding on - how, in effect, to accomplish more than one 
thing at a time. For example, teachers may perceive co-oper- 
ative, small-group learning, which is a teaching and learning 
technique; anti-racist education, which is a focus on equity 
in the curriculum; and mastery of a body of knowledge - for 
example, the pre-European contact history of Canada - as 
three different teaching "assignments." In fact, Canadian 
history is the content, and the topic naturally lends itself to 
informed discussions of culture, race, and racism in history. 
The co-operative small group is part of the process. 

If the classroom is racially heterogeneous, and the small 
groups are structured to reflect that mix, if the teacher 
understands and has made sure that students understand the 
prerequisites for successful small-group work, the exercise 
will automatically become a piece of anti-racist education 
with a high potential for decreasing intolerance and barriers 
between groups. Such examples are an important part of 
curriculum support materials, and every effort should be 
made to facilitate teachers' knowledge of, and competence 
in, this kind of process/product curricular integration. 

We think the real issue is not curriculum crowding but 
curriculum clarity. Both data and anecdotal evidence suggest 
that students are not overburdened - generally, the amount 
of homework they have is moderate to low by international 
standards. Their agendas do not appear to be overcrowded, 
though their teachers' well may be. We believe there is suffi- 
cient time in students' days and weeks for physical exercise 
and for learning the essentials of health, for example, with- 
out cutting into the time needed for the language, mathe- 

matics, or the arts and sciences curricula. We also think that 
the fitness and health curriculum could be delivered by 
people from the municipal recreation department, the public 
health department, and other community agencies, and that 
teachers would benefit from being able to put more time and 
focused thought into planning and delivering the academic 

It is essential that subjects and topics form some kind of 
meaningful whole or pattern, both at the level of an individ- 
ual course, made up of component parts, and at the level of 
the program, made up of many courses over a year or over 
several years. 

Fairness and openness 

People ask about the curriculum: Is it constructed so that 
people with different strengths and paths to learning are 
equally well accommodated? Does it shut out or give greater 
advantage to certain groups of people or certain types of 
learners? Does it recognize and honour the cultures, 
languages, and histories of the school's students and their 
families, and of this country? 

Phrases such as a "representative" or "pluralistic" curricu- 
lum are used to reflect this concern for fairness and inclu- 
siveness. An authentic curriculum is inclusive, and it is also 
global in that it reflects a broad range of experiences and 

A science curriculum, for example, which acknowledges 
only the contributions to science of men of European 
heritage is incomplete and therefore incorrect, leaving 
female and minority-group learners at a disadvantage. A 
curriculum on the history of railway building in Canada that 
does not reflect the role and the treatment of Chinese work- 
ers is also incomplete and incorrect, distorting what really 
happened. Similarly, there is every reason to ensure that the 
curriculum reflects the global village of which Ontario is a 
part. Over the course of a school career, students should 
have access to quality literature - not just Canadian, Ameri- 
can, British, and French, but that of many other countries. 

Inclusiveness relates not only to curriculum per se, but to 
the issue of openness. In speaking to the Commission, many 
people made the point that they find the education system a 
closed one; that, although the public funds education, the 
public is not allowed "in." The culture of schools typically 
defines the curriculum as exclusively the province of educa- 

For the Love of Learning 

tors, which parents and others may, at best, observe; they 
may make suggestions, but not seriously influence planning 
or delivery. Not surprisingly, parents often experience this as 
conflicting with their understanding of pubUc education as 
democratic and inclusive, as well as with the schools' 
frequent assurances about the value of parental involvement 
for children's achievement. 

Furthermore, interpreting the whole curriculum as neces- 
sarily the exclusive property of educators means that one of 
the most promising ways of "uncrowding" it is not pursued. 
On the one hand, teachers complain of being overburdened 
by having to cover a wide variety of topics and concerns that 
are essentially non-academic: drug education, for example, 
or health and safety. On the other hand, they cannot (or 
they believe they cannot) delegate some of these responsibil- 
ities to non-teachers. 

We suggest that, on the contrary, there are many things 
schools and teachers should not necessarily do by them- 
selves, or do alone, but which should and could still be avail- 
able to students. If teachers are to focus on academic learn- 
ing and on teaching so that students understand, if teachers 
are to develop truly literate learners, they must not be 
diverted by a multitude of important but non-academic 
issues. Teachers must, most certainly, care for and about 
their students as persons; if they do not, or if they seem not 
to, their effectiveness as teachers is extremely limited. More- 
over, a student with serious personal problems that are not 
dealt with will not only be unable to learn well, but may 
prevent others from learning by acting disruptively or 
diverting the teacher's attention. 

Fortunately, in specific curricular, as well as extra-curric- 
ular areas, there are others who might be available, whose 
training might be equally or even more suitable, and who 
might appropriately take on tasks that involve teaching, but 
need not directly involve teachers. While the potential of 
community alliances is discussed more fully in a later chap- 
ter of this report, its specific application to the curriculum is 
explored in this section. We refer to a few specific areas of 
the traditional curriculum that could be delivered by teach- 
ers, among others, but not necessarily or principally by 
teachers. We suggest that community alliances for delivering 
the broader curriculum can help schools become more 
focused and more inclusive, open, and responsive. Examples 
include health and fitness curricula, social skills curricula 

such as anti-violence and "peacemaker" programs, arts activ- 
ities, and career education. 


In Ontario, curriculum writing has been more decentralized 
than in other provinces. Like many of those we heard from, 
we see little benefit in the current duplication of effort that 
exists in developing curriculum that way. Local boards, as 
well as some schools, are expected to do detailed curriculum 
planning and writing, in the absence of more centralized 
production of possible course units and sequences. We 
believe this function can be efficiently centralized, and done 
in a way that facilitates teachers' work, allowing them to 
focus on teaching without constraining their professional 
development or creativity. 

We recognize the validity of recent attempts by boards 
and the Ministry of Education and Training to share the 
work of each board among all boards (e.g., the Curriculum 
Clearing House), and encourage continuation of that effort, 
as a result of which many valuable resources have already 
been developed. But we think the time has come to central- 
ize the development of new curriculum. We expect that this 
would lead to the use of fewer teacher resources within 
school boards for responsibilities that take them out of 
schools and classrooms. 

In saying this, we do not intend to prohibit local efforts 
when boards or schools feel some compelling reason to 
make them; and the local curriculum option we propose 
could provide such a reason in some cases. But we do 
propose that the documents needed to supplement The 
Common Curriculum be developed centrally and disseminat- 

Learnmg; Our Vision for Schools Introduction 

ed to all boards and schools, and that the same rule apply to 
curriculum for the early years and for the specialization 

In Chapter 5 (on learning) and in this volume, we make 
the case that the curriculum in Ontario's schools must be 
representative, inclusive, and academically honest and ambi- 
tious. In a system like the one we suggest, in which curricu- 
lum is developed provincially, the Ministry of Education and 
Training has a strong responsibility to make certain this 
focus is integrated into future curriculum development. 

In 1993, the Legislature of Ontario passed Bill 21; among 
other provisions, it required school boards to establish anti- 
racism and ethno-cultural equity plans that would focus on 
such things as curriculum; student languages; guidance and 
counselling; and student evaluation, assessment, and place- 
ment. This means that each school board must develop poli- 
cies in each area. We support the development of such poli- 
cies, but are concerned about duplication in the preparation 
of curriculum and other materials and procedures that will 
result. We believe that curricular changes necessary to imple- 
ment such new policies should and can be developed once, 
centrally, rather than a hundred times. 

We note that, in his report on race relations, Stephen 
Lewis made similar suggestions. He recommended, for 
example, that the new Assistant Deputy Minister of Educa- 
tion for Anti-racism, Equity and Access "establish a strong 
monitoring mechanism to follow-up the implementation of 
multicultural and anti-racism policies in the School Boards 
of Ontario." He also suggested that the province's leaders 
"continue to pursue, with unrelenting tenacity, the revision 
of curriculum at every level of education, so that it fully 

reflects the profound multicultural changes in Ontario soci- 
ety."* We agree, and want to emphasize our strong belief that 
as a priority in its new responsibility for developing curricu- 
lum, the Ministry must ensure that all curriculum developed 
in Ontario is anti-racist, gender equitable, and representative 
of all people of Ontario. 

In the section of this report dealing with governance and 
regulation of the educational system, we recommend a 
procedure for the centralized creation of curriculum. It is 
our firm expectation that whoever the Ministry may appoint 
to carry out any particular piece of curriculum development 
will be able to draw on the rich human resources in curricu- 
lum that exist in Ontario's school system. This would ensure 
continued sensitivity to regional differences and to the needs 
of the francophone and Roman Catholic components of the 
school system. Their interests will be represented by the 
existing French-language team as well as the Roman 
Catholic education policy and program team whose creation 
we recommend. 

When centralization of curriculum is discussed currently, 
the discussion often embraces the idea of a national curricu- 
lum. Formal education in Canada is and always has been 
governed provincially (and even aboriginal students on 
reserves follow provincial curricula). But the Commission 
heard from many people who advocate a national 

Over the last two years, the first national assessment 
program, organized by the Council of Ministers of Educa- 
tion, has been established, and we have begun to see inter- 
provincial co-operation in developing curriculum at the 
regional level. Whether this interprovincial co-operation will 
become a driving force in creating a national curriculum 
remains to be seen; certainly, it seems to have been possible 
to reach agreement on testing in spite of the lack of a 
uniform curriculum. 

Whether or not it is possible for Canada to have a nation- 
al curriculum is probably more a political than an educa- 
tional question. At the practical, pedagogical level, it is 
certainly plausible. We do not expect that fundamental skills 
and core curricula would vary greatly from province to 
province. We believe that the public would support an inter- 
provincial initiative to create a framework for a national 
curriculum, specifying expected outcomes for elementary 
and secondary education across Canada. 

For the Love of Learning 


At the same time, we do not believe that a national 
curriculum means that students would learn more - only 
that there might be a greater sense of consistency and 
unified purpose in education. The quality of education and 
learning for Ontario's students does not depend on greater 
centralization at the national level. 

In its 1992 report, Newfoundland's Royal Commission on 
Education' recommended that an examination be made of 

the possibility of introducing a federal presence in education; in 
particular, the creation of a national office of education. Such an 
agency would address national goals for schooling, establish national 
standards for the collection of educational data, conduct national 
education assessments, and serve as a centre for the information on 
education research and improvements. 

Unlike that Commission, we do not want to promote a 
constitutional debate about a move that might not do much 
to transform the quality of education in our province. But 
we applaud the intention of the Council of Ministers of 
Education to explore the possibility further. Such discussions 
would be welcomed by people who want greater consistency 
in educational goals and standards across Canada; we also 
recognize that some national activities could offer 
economies of scale. 

Strategies for improvement: A learning system 
tiiat focuses on the learner and on literacies 

We are convinced that a learning system, emphasizing seri- 
ous learning and more of it, is needed; and that it must real- 
ly be a system, with a strong focus and purpose and strongly 
linked component parts. The curriculum should embody 
that focus and those goals, rather than allowing content 
unrelated to learning and literacies to "crowd" the 

How systematic is what we have now? To what extent 
does it focus on learners and learning? If we define sophisti- 
cated literacies - not elementary knowledge and understand- 
ing of subjects - as our overall focus, how would the system 
have to change? 

The system 

Whether we choose to call formal education in Ontario a 
learning system, an education system, or a school system, we 
must ask whether it is a system at all. A system is a whole. 

it A ^> he problems and challenges 

I facing Ontario schools are nation- 
al in scope, and they require Canada- 
wide responses. Yet we are probably 
the only m^or country in the world 
that does not have a national agency 
responsible for addressing our 
common, nation-wide concerns in 

Council of Ontario Universities 

not a collection of unconnected parts; it has purposes and 
goals that are consistent throughout. Do we have a system in 
education? The recent reorganization of three governmental 
departments - education, colleges and universities, and skills 
development - into the Ministry of Education and Training, 
makes it clear that such a system is the goal. But reorganiza- 
tion by itself does not a system make. 

Formal education begins, as an option, at age 4; it is 
compulsory from age 6 to 16; and must be provided free to 
anyone through age 21. As well, an increasing number of 
adult students are also being educated in the public schools, 
at the discretion of local boards. 

Thus there is, if not a cradle-to-grave provision for free 
public education, at least a continuum that occupies many 
years of the youth of all of our citizens, and that reaches out 
to adults. 

Whether all parts of that system mesh is another ques- 
tion. Presumably, if we had clear agreement and indicators 
about what all adults in our society need to know, our 
universal education system would rest on a continuum of 
knowledge and skills learned in sequence. While there is no 
such explicit continuum, the formal curriculum of schools 
does reflect an assumed agreement about what should be 
learned, and when. Although the connections are not always 
clear or smooth, definite principles underlie what children 
and youth are expected to know and to do, based on an 
assumption that learning is cumulative. 

But this assumed continuum is also characterized by 
transition points, and it is around these points that systemic 
continuity falters, that disconnectedness and disagreement 
about program are most likely to occur. These transition 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Introduction 

school, no matter what the subject or who the students) 
rather than as bodies of knowledge and skills to be acquired. 

As well, if we are interested in knowing what students 
have learned, rather than simply what they have been taught, 
our interest can encompass other learning experiences, 
outside the classroom. The system can recognize what we all 
know and appreciate - that learning happens in every 
setting, and that good learning is generalized from one situa- 
tion to another. 

points are as follows: the transition to school (at what age? 
teaching what content?); the transition to adolescence (what 
must change at school because of changes in the situation of 
the learners?); and the transition to post-secondary educa- 
tion and work (how should education be similar or different 
for the entire range of students who will reach this point? to 
what extent should the next stage of hfe affect the curricu- 
lum of secondary school?). In order to make a system of the 
whole, or a whole of the system, there must be, first, a focus 
on the learner; and second, a focus on literacies, from the 
beginning to the end of formal schooling. 

The learner 

In the last few years, educators have attempted to define 
curriculum in terms of results rather than content: the focus 
has moved from what is taught to what is learned. We are 
aware that there are pitfalls to this approach (which may 
convey an unrealistically linear view of learning), and that 
no single strategy can create perfect social consensus about 
what schools and education should be and how we evaluate 
their success. Nonetheless, we believe that the general idea of 
measuring the quality of the curriculum - by looking at its 
effects on what students learn - is sound. It gives momen- 
tum to the push for more and better student assessment, 
which we think is essentially healthy in a province that has 
collected very little information on student achievement (see 
Chapter 11). It can also contribute to a better-articulated 
learning system, one in which each level builds clearly on the 
one before it. Moreover, it challenges the practice of thinking 
of curriculum as something to be delivered in specified, 
uniform time units (e.g., a course is 1 10 hours in secondary 

A curriculum for literacies 

In our opinion, nothing matters more to society or to indi- 
viduals than learning. If schools are truly learning commu- 
nities, schooling, by definition, will be enriching, challeng- 
ing, and intellectually rewarding. 

Reading, writing, and communicating are essential tools 
across all knowledge domains, and underlie mathematical, 
scientific, technological, and artistic literacy. But if education 
is meant to help learners become capable of understanding 
and adding to an array of knowledge that will enrich and 
improve their lives and the life of their communities, the 
fundamental need is for more than basic literacy. It is also 
for advanced, high-level literacies that enable people to 
continue to learn, not to be easily stuck when a new problem 
comes along. 

We believe that most parents and members of the public 
want secondary school graduates to be "well educated," a 
term that includes both the notion of being well informed 
and of having intellectual skills. Being well informed signi- 
fies being conversant with bodies of knowledge - being well 
informed about literature, or art, or science; having intellec- 
tual skills suggests knowing how to organize information, 
frame questions, test an argument, generalize from specifics, 
and relate knowledge in one domain to that in another. 
Being well informed in an area and having intellectual skills 
to apply to that information is what we mean by literacies. 

Whether the topic is literature, painting, science, history, 
or mathematics, the literate person brings certain skills to it, 
including the ability to read efficiently and accurately. 
Although "reading" a painting or an experiment is different 
from reading a poem or a play, it is still reading. As well, 
literate persons express themselves accurately and not clum- 
sily in writing, speaking, or in other forms of communica- 

For the Love of Learning 

Literacy is understood as being able to 
speak, read, write, and reason and to have 
sufficient l<nowledge of history, science, 
literature, art. and. increasingly, technology, 
to be able to hold or follow a conversation 
or argument that depends on prior exposure 
to facts and ideas. 

tion they may choose, including music, hmguages, or 

Broadly defined, literacy is understood as being able to 
speak, read, write, and reason and to have sufficient knowl- 
edge of history, science, literature, art, and, increasingly, 
technology, to be able to hold or follow a conversation or 
argument that depends on prior exposure to facts and ideas. 
According to this definition, a person who could not write a 
letter that was both expressive and grammatically correct, or 
could not follow a science article in a newspaper and note 
whether it included unsupported assertions, or who could 
not understand a layperson's book about computers, or who 
did not know who Aristotle or Mahatma Ghandi was, or 
who did not know how to use a reference library or, increas- 
ingly, a computer, could not be called fully literate. 

The common meaning of "literacy" is much narrower 
and more specific: it is learning to read and write, the first 
task of schooling, beginning in Grade 1. Educators now 
know that pre-school and kindergarten experiences, as well 
as the learning environment of a child's home, have strong 
effects on the quality and speed with which basic literacy is 
acquired in the primary grades, and this knowledge relates 
very directly to our recommendation concerning early child- 
hood education. And much is known about how to ensure 
that all children can learn to read and write in those years. 

Many parents, respresentatives of business, and other 
bodies told the Commission that they were concerned about 
whether Ontario's students are achieving satisfactory rates of 
literacy; many of their briefs focused on the early years of 
schooling, on basic literacy, and on the quantity and quality 
of instruction young children receive in reading and writing. 
There is wide consensus that the early years of school are 
critical to later success, and that literacy is the key to the 
whole. The matter can be more complex for children who 
come to school with a first language that is not the language 
of schooling, but the necessity of developing strong basic 
literacy skills, early, remains unchanged. 

Basic literacy, achieved early, is the foundation for the 
higher literacies. Building a strong, early foundation will 
result in an upgraded curriculum at all grade levels, and in 
students who make greater progress in learning, in learning 
how to learn, and even, we fervently hope, in learning to love 
learning. As a result, their expectations and those of their 
teachers and parents would rise, and students' attainment 

levels with them. A stronger foundation in early literacy 
would also diminish the learning disadvantages some chil- 
dren bring with them to school, and is one of the best strate- 
gies for ensuring that the curriculum is built on standards 
that are appropriately high and attainable for most students. 
Ultimately, this is the best way to prevent later categorization 
by class, colour, and national origin, and to build an excel- 
lent and equitable education system. 

We agree that literacy is the appropriate focus, as long as 
it does not stop at "basic" literacy. The literacy we believe 
children and adults need, and that schools should recognize 
as their primary goal, goes beyond basic to what we call the 
higher-level "literacies." Children must, of course, learn how 
to translate print into speech, and speech into print, and 
they must be able to demonstrate that they can do so. 

But literacy goes beyond simple decoding, not only in 
language, but in all subjects. Real literacy means being able 
to go beyond factual recall, to the ability to be critical about 
what one is told or reads; literacy, to us, means having 
genuine understanding, so that what is learned does not 
depend just on rote memory, but is not easily forgotten and 
can be generalized and applied to new situations, so that it 
serves people throughout their lives. 

We suggest that this higher-level literacy, also referred to 
as critical or higher-level thinking, involves the same cogni- 
tive skills applied to all subject areas. Therefore, we can 
speak not only of literacy in relation to learning and using 
language, but also of mathematical, scientific, technological, 
and artistic literacies. This higher-level literacy is closely 
linked to language, because language is inextricably linked to 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Introduction 

thought, no matter what the specific content of that 

The teaching of language should aim for more than the achievement 
of linguistic competence; it should attempt to improve communica- 
tion and critical thought." 

The literacies across the curriculum 

There is a transition to life; there is another transition when a child 
starts formal schooling in Grade 1; there is a transition into adoles- 
cence; and another when a youth is getting ready to move out of the 
school system and has to make decisions about where to go from 

In Chapters 7 through 9, we describe a "curriculum for 
hteracies" in three stages, roughly corresponding to these 
three transition points or phases in human development. We 
find these transition points - the transition to formal 
schooling, to adolescence, and to work or career education - 

a useful framework for considering the development and 
needs of learners, and think of them as "learning transi- 
tions," because learning and total human development are 
inseparable. The developmental framework also underlines 
the reality that health, broadly defined and including 
emotional health, is a pre-condition for optimal learning. 

The first learning transition is to life, and describes the 
cognitive development of the infant and toddler; the literacy 
curriculum for learners from birth to age 6 is discussed in 
Chapter 7. The next transition is to formal, compulsory 
education in school, and, about six years later, there is a 
third transition, the biological and social transition to 
adolescence. Both occur while children are in Grades 1 to 9, 
and we describe the literacies curriculum of these years as 
the "common curriculum," acknowledging that while the 
subjects in the curriculum, and its universality across all 
students, do not change as students enter adolescence, some 
of the organizational aspects of schooling, and the emphasis 
on future planning and decision-making do. Finally, there is 
the transition to adulthood - to independence, choices 
about the future, employment, and family formation - what 
we call the transition to post-secondary life, describing that 
part of the literacy curriculum (in Chapter 9) as the 
"specialized curriculum."'' 

While the definition of literacies broadens and expands at 
each of these transitions, what remains constant is that it 
always focuses on enquiry, expression, and understanding; it 
is about the learner's growing capacity to deal intelligently 
with information. 

For the Love of Learning 


UNESCO, International Commission on Education for the 
Twenty-first Century, Learning for the Twenty-first Century 
(Paris: UNESCO, 1994), p. 8. Prepared by G.S. Papadopou- 

Philip Nagy, "National and International Comparisons of 
Student Achievement: Implications for Ontario." Report 
written for the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning, 

A.G. Milliard, "Why We Must Pluralize the Curriculum," 
Educational Leadership 49 (December/January 1991/92), 
p. 12-14. 

Stephen Lewis, "Report on Race Relations," 1992. 

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Royal 
Commission of Inquiry into the Delivery of Programs and 
Services in Primary, Elementary, Secondary Education, Our 

Children, Our Future: Summary Report {St. lohn's, 1992), 
p. 20-21. 

Premier's Council of Ontario, People and Skills in the New 
Global Economy (Toronto, 1990), p. 27. 

Premier's Council on Health, Weil-Being, and Social Justice, 
Yours, Mine, and Ours (Toronto: Ontario Children and Youth 
Project, 1994), p. 33. 

We are using the term "common curriculum" to describe the 
curriculum of Grades 1-9 and "specialized curriculum" to 
describe the curriculum from Grades 10-12. We use these 
terms in preference to "elementary" and "secondary" for two 
reasons. First, this division is confusing, in that "elementary" 
will connote Grades 1-6 to some, 1-8 to many, and 1-9 to 
still others. Second, we think that the two terms suggest a 
degree of difference in curriculum and school organization 
that may be exaggerated to an undesirable degree. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Introduction 

The Learner from 
Birth to Age 6: 
l'**The Transition from 
Home to School 

The "curriculum" of the home and of early 
childhood, although unwritten, has a profound 
impact on the child's likely success in mastering 
the curriculum of the school, and in becoming 
an accomplished learner. For that reason, our 
discussion of curriculum - what we want 
children to learn - begins not at age 6 and in 
Grade 1, or at age 4 and in junior kindergarten, 
but at birth. 

The learner from birth to age 3: 

The literacies curriculum of home and care 

There is increasingly strong evidence that the relation- 
ship between early experience and the later ability to 
learn (competence), which we touched on in Chapter 
5, begins at birth. Recent research suggests that the interac- 
tion between environment and learning is intense from the 
very beginning of the infant's life, and may have far-reaching 
influence on later development.' This means that healthy 
environments for young children must be supported and 
strengthened. Poverty, after all, is a major determinant in 
lowering the level of their health and competence. We agree 
with the Premier's Council on Health Strategy that reducing 
poverty levels must be an integral part of any intervention 

Effective teachers and schools can offer children advan- 
tages, but they are probably not able to undo all the harm 
that poverty creates. Efforts to improve education that are 
not accompanied by programs to address life circumstances 
that handicap children early, and sometimes permanently, 
will never reach their goals. The equity question, which is 
most often raised when young people are in secondary 
school, must also be addressed in social policies and prac- 
tices that have an impact on what happens before birth and 
in the first years of life. 

Yours, Mine, and Ours, the report of the Children and 
Youth Project of the Premier's Council on Health, Weil- 
Being, and Social Justice, points out that two key determi- 
nants of a child's successful transition to life are the health 
of the mother, and her comprehensive care before, during, 
and after pregnancy. Therefore, we agree with the project 

recommendations for a comprehensive range of health, 
social, and parent support services. Health services for 
mothers are inextricably linked to educational outcomes for 
their children. When programs, whether "health" or "educa- 
tion," are funded, policy makers badly shortchange society if 
they do not consider these links. The opposite of value 
added is money wasted. Later in this report we suggest 
mechanisms for ensuring that these links are created and are 
maintained. A few prototype programs exist; in Ontario 
there is the Better Beginnings, Better Future project, an 
umbrella for eight programs in different communities, all of 
which address the social, emotional, behavioural, physical, 
and cognitive development of children from birth to 8. 
These programs work with children, families, schools, and 
communities, and are jointly funded by the Ministries of 
Community and Social Services, Health, and Education and 
Training, as well as the federal Department of Indian and 
Northern Affairs and the Secretary of State. They are long- 
term (25-year) programs with built-in evaluation, and their 
goal is to help everyone in a community come together to 
raise healthy children." 

As mentioned earlier, the first determinant of a healthy 
child is the presence of a nurturing, consistent, and depend- 
able caregiver, usually one or both parents or another adult 
who provides security, stimulation, and positive social inter- 
action. The other is a supportive (and safe) community, 
which can facilitate parents' efforts and, if necessary, attempt 
to compensate for ineffective parenting. Teaching good 
parenting skills in advance is, of course, much more effective 
and efficient than having to intervene later. Communities 
support healthy babies and young children through policies 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Birth to Age 6 

Children who are developing strong literacy skills at 
home are being read to, and are watching others read 
and write. 

Children of parents who cannot read or write are less 
ready for school, because there is such a wide gap 
between the curriculum of home and school. Thus, 
parental literacy programs are a very significant 
component of an educational system that supports 
children's learning. 

that allow families to spend time together and provide good 
out-of-family settings for children who need them. 

Yours, Mine, and Ours recommended family-friendly poli- 
cies in the workplace, to allow working parents flexibility, 
especially when their children are young - flexibility in 
hours, sick leave and parental leave, in part-time or at-home 
work (without diminishing benefits or career choices), and 
in flexible use of benefits. We view such family-friendly 
workplace policies as essential support for child care, and 
believe that governments should offer inducements and 
public recognition to employers, in order to encourage such 

One of the key determinants of school readiness is the 
amount of stimulation infants and young children receive in 
a nurturing environment. In a very real sense, the literacy 
curriculum of infancy and toddlerhood is the curriculum of 
the home. It is language- and speech-based, but also involves 
print. Children who are being readied for future learning 
(and, therefore, for school) are spoken and listened to; have 
their questions answered; are offered explanations; and are 
encouraged to try new words and ideas, to imagine, to guess, 
to estimate, to draw, and to observe. When they watch televi- 
sion, there is often a parent to mediate, either watching with 
the child or talking afterwards about what has been viewed. 

While most parents are aware that babies and young chil- 
dren benefit from stimulation through language, many may 
not know how important it is and how simply and effective- 
ly it can be provided. Because parents are their children's 
first and most powerful teachers, a society committed to life- 
long learning will support and encourage parents in that 

role, and remind them of the power and responsibility it 

Children who are developing strong literacy skills at 
home are being read to, and are watching others read and 
write. Children of parents who cannot read or write are less 
ready for school, because there is such a wide gap between 
the curriculum of home and school. Thus, parental literacy 
programs are a very significant component of an educational 
system that supports children's learning. 

We are aware that services to support new parents may 
have to be integrated and delivered in a different way, that 
the balance between centralized and local authorities and the 
relationship between public and private sectors may have to 
change. We are aware, too, that concern about these kinds of 
changes prevented implementation of recommendations 
made in earlier reports. The many government departments 
with responsibility for children's health, welfare, and educa- 
tion, and the local agencies they fund operate under differ- 
ent legislation and regulations, making co-ordination and 
integration very awkward. We believe that if government 
does not provide leadership in these areas, and if public 
support for a stronger commitment to children's well-being 
is not made clear, we cannot expect any decline in the factors 
that put children at risk for life - low birth weight, neglect, 
and abuse; we cannot expect children who live with this level 
of risk to be ready for school. We must understand that these 
consequences, which are universally deplored, follow from 
conditions that are obvious, and that we have the capacity to 
change. If we choose not to change them, we cannot be 
surprised that they continue to exist. 

If we want to build a learning system, we must begin, not 
at age 6, but before birth. We must address issues of income 
and the health of mothers, so that newborns will be fully 
equipped to learn. After that, the essential need is to reach 
out to new parents with information and support for effec- 
tive parenting. Policies that help parents to parent, to spend 
time with their children, to be nurturant, to become literate, 
and to provide a stimulating environment for the develop- 
ment of language and learning are a vital component of a 
learning system. Information, too, can make a difference, 
especially if it is widely disseminated. The Ministries of 
Education and Training and Community and Social Services 
could take joint responsibility for ensuring that all new 
parents have information and support in creating a stimulat- 

For the Love of Learning 


ing home environment for children. Informative brochures 
could be delivered to parents in doctors' offices and clinics, 
in hospital maternity wards and birthing centres, in public 
and school libraries, and at parenting and child-care centres. 
As well, television, telephone (an 800 number across the 
province), and computer networks are media that reach out 
to parents. 

As an example we suggest that the Ministries of Health, 
Community and Social Services and Education and Training 
collaborate with TVO/La Chaine Fran^aise to produce brief 
informational videos on stimulating home environments for 
infants and toddlers, showing the link to school readiness, 
and describing the availability of adult and family literacy 
courses. These tapes, in addition to being aired publicly on 
TVO/La Chaine and elsewhere (CBC, YTV) should be avail- 
able at doctors' offices, pre-natal clinics, and maternity 
wards, as well as through public libraries and schools, for 
individual use and as components of parenting courses. Such 
information is only one example of a variety of child-care 
services and resources that should be available to parents. 

The Ministry of Community and Social Services funds a 
number of parent resource centres that offer information 
and materials that assist parents and other caregivers. While 
these centres are sometimes located in schools and are often 
well used, it is not clear how strong a connection they have 
to schools. In our view, the two Ministries, Education and 
Training and Health, would enhance preparedness if they co- 
operated to help children with school readiness, and linked 
parents and schools before children enter the formal system. 

These and other recommendations in this report require 
inter-departmental co-operation in program development 
and delivery, and they are supported, later in the report, by a 
discussion and recommendations for implementing strate- 
gies that cross government departments. 

The learner from age 3 to 6: 

The literacy curriculum in a school setting 

At present, children arrive in Grade 1 at various stages of 
readiness, and with a wide range of prior knowledge and 
understanding, to learn in a group setting. The curriculum 
of pre-school or early education is a continuation of the 
curriculum of the home: the stress is on acquiring speaking 
and listening skills, increasing vocabulary, learning by obser- 
vation and inquiry, developing the ability to communicate 

North York Public Ubrary 
DIal-a-Story Service 

Encouraging young children 
to read, and parents to 
read to them. Is part of the 
mandate of public libraries. 
In order to promote these 
activities, the North York 
Public Library established a 
DIal-a-Story service: a new 
story is recorded every day 

in English, and once a 
week In French. Parents (or 
children themselves) can 
call and listen to a story, 
which Is especially helpful 
for parents who are not 
literate because it gives 
them access to children's 
literature and helps them 
to share language and 
ideas with their children. 

through writing and reading, and on learning in an environ- 
ment which is both very stimulating and very nurturant. 
And, as at home, a great deal of learning occurs within the 
context of games and play. What can be added to the 
curriculum of the home, as a vital piece of school readiness, 
are the skills for learning in a group - what we might call 
"interpersonal literacy." 

Many children, especially in disadvantaged neighbour- 
hoods, are identified in Grade 1 as having a poor prognosis 
for school success, and all too many of those do become 
unsuccessful students and eventual school failures. WTiile 
some children categorized as at-risk are helped successfully 
to overcome early gaps and to progress with their peers, 
many others are not. Earlier education is one of the most 
promising tools in the struggle to help these children, and to 
overcome the handicap of lack of stimulation and develop- 
ment. Effective school readiness programs are known to 
make a substantial difference for children's ability to benefit 
from compulsory education at age 6.' Thus, these programs 
are a very major response to the issue of inequitable 
outcomes of schooling. 

Research on early learning has changed our understand- 
ing of what is appropriate for toddlers. We now know, for 
example, that children acquire number concepts in infancy, 
and that by age 3 there are substantial differences among 
children in their understanding of how to count and calcu- 
late. These result in very different degrees of readiness for 
learning in Grade 1, gaps that schools must work intensely 
and extensively to eliminate, and which, in fact, usually grow 
rather than shrink in the elementary years. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Birth to Age 6 

• by age 3 there are substantial 

differences among children in their 

understanding of how to count 

and calculate; 

• by and before age 4, the failure of a 
great many of our children to acquire 

knowledge and understanding will 

have serious consequences for their 

formal education; 

• by the time children begin Grade 1, 
variations in oral language, vocabu- 
lary, and comprehension are so great 
that it is difficult for teachers to 
narrow the distance between children 
who are more and less ready to learn 
in a formal setting; 

• children identified in Grade 1 as 

having a poor prognosis for school 

success all too often do become 

unsuccessful students and eventual 

school failures; 

• effective school readiness programs 

are known to make a substantial 

difference for children's ability to 

benefit from compulsory 

education at age 6. 



Although many children start school with a well-developed under- 
standing [of the concept) of number ... not all children do so. In 
particular, when tests of conceptual knowledge were administered to 
groups of kindergarten children attending schools in low-income, 
inner city communities, (in Canada and the United States] a signifi- 
cant number have been unable to demonstrate the knowledge 
possessed by their middle-class peers.' 

The gap that develops among children between infancy 
and age 3 is the result of differences in environmental stimu- 
lation and emotional support in areas that affect the chances 
for later school success. We have known for some time that, 
by the time children begin Grade 1, variations in oral 
language, vocabulary, and comprehension are so great that it 
is difficult for teachers to narrow the distance between chil- 
dren who are more and less ready to learn in a formal 
setting. It is clear that, by and before age 4, the failure of a 
great many of our children to acquire knowledge and under- 
standing will have serious consequences for their formal 

There are a myriad of model programs for early child- 
hood education, some operating in the child-care framework 
and others in the public education systems of various juris- 
dictions. Many have been evaluated on how well they 
prepare children for compulsory schooling. 

One category is the full-day kindergarten for five-year- 
olds. In a 1989 review of studies that compared various 
effects of fiill-day and half-day kindergarten programs in the 
United States, almost two-thirds showed academic advan- 
tages for the full-day program. All the studies that focused 
on disadvantaged students reported significant differences in 
academic gains for those in the full-day program. Nine stud- 
ies compared such social effects as classroom behaviour and 
attitude to school and only one favoured the half day. Staff 
and parent reactions to full-day programs were very 

A Toronto study of all-day kindergarten showed gains in 
language, attentiveness, and positive student-student and 
student-teacher interaction. A follow-up four years later 
found that students who had been in the all-day program 
had a lower rate of failure by Grade 4 than the comparison 

An Ottawa-Carleton study conducted in the context of 
French-language education in a minority setting examined 
the impact of full-day kindergarten on the development of 

For the Love of Learning 

specific aspects of competence in French (reading readiness, 
oral vocabulary, and language use). After a year, all the chil- 
dren in full-day programs showed significantly greater gains 
in language development than those comparable children 
not in the program. 

One of the groups for whom pre-school education could 
be most critical in Ontario is the Franco-Ontarian commu- 
nity and other francophone children. Assessments consis- 
tently show francophone students performing below anglo- 
phones in mathematics, science, and literacy/communica- 
tion. Not only do Franco-Ontarians have, overall, a relatively 
low number of years of schooling; they also often have weak 
skills in French, and consequently real difficulty supporting 
their children's education when they have elected to send 
them to a francophone school. 

At present, 85 percent of Ontario's four-year-olds and 99 
percent of five-year-olds are enrolled in kindergarten 
programs, almost all half-day. While these are intended to 
stimulate children's curiosity and develop their language 
awareness and desire to learn, they are not defined as school 
readiness programs. As a result, they suffer some isolation 
from the rest of the curriculum, as well as a certain devalu- 
ing by those parents, teachers, and others who often view 
them as mere baby-sitting. 

Although good pre-school education can benefit all chil- 
dren, much of the research on pre-kindergarten programs 
has focused on programs targeted to children who come 
from disadvantaged backgrounds, and who are likely to be at 
risk of later school failure. The most cited example in the 
educational research literature is the Perry Preschool Study, 
which has a very unusual longitudinal component - follow- 
up over 24 years. Children who, at the age of 3, participated 
in small groups in a well-designed pre-school program, 
based on a curriculum that emphasized thinking and learn- 
ing skills and that included meals and health care as well as 
outreach to parents, have been followed to age 27. They 
came from an extremely poor neighbourhood in the state of 
Michigan, and they and a comparison group from the same 
area, who did not go to the pre-school, have been followed 
by researchers through the intervening years. The high 
school completion rate of the pre-school group was 71 
percent, compared with 54 percent for the others. 

After 24 years, the pre-school group was characterized by 
higher incomes, fewer children born outside marriage, lower 

arrest rates, and more home ownership. This study is cited 
so often because the long-term follow-up makes clear how 
much is saved, financially as well as socially, by effective early 
education. If the Perry alumni and the members of the 
comparison group continue to be followed, one would 
expect to see further differences in the next generation, 
whose early learning context is affected by their parents' 
levels of education and stability.' 

The Perry follow-up data help to clarify the connection 
between high-quality education that begins early, and pover- 
ty: a strong start means a better chance of succeeding in 
school, which, in turn, means a better chance for a decent 
job, which means that the next generation does not grow up 
in poverty, does not need extra help to succeed in school, 
and so on. 

Programs like Perry Preschool were designed for children 
from disadvantaged homes, those who have the most need, 
and stand to gain the most from good early education. They 
are exemplars of fairness and equity, of attempts to decrease 
the disadvantages borne by children who otherwise would be 
severely limited in their opportunities for later success in 
school and in life. 

In some countries full-day public education begins at age 
3 for all children, because the culture subscribes to the idea 
that all or most children will benefit from the group learning 
experience at that age. In such systems, early education 
serves goals of both equity and excellence; it is viewed as a 
head start for all, and a way of increasing opportunities for 
learning later on, by building a strong foundation. 

Universal early education is not uncommon in Europe. In 
France, for example, the ecoles maternelles for three- to five- 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Birth to Age 6 


year-olds were established as a response to the perceived 
advantages of early education, long before it became 
common for mothers of young children to enter the work- 
force. The ecole maternelle was not conceived as a child-care 
program and was not targeted at those living in poverty, but 
as part of universal, free, public education. The staff is led by 
teachers, and while the curriculum is tailored to the age of 
the children ("age appropriate"), the goals are academic and 
social preparation for primary school. According to a Toron- 
to teacher quoted in the media: 

The world can look to France's preschool system the way it can look 
to Canada's health-care system: Despite its critics and the inevitable 
recession-induced financial strains, it's there and it works: Ninety- 
nine percent of French children, ages 3 to 5, are in preschool for free 
or for next to nothing ... The French take preschooling seriously ... 
It's not something done to and with kids alone; it's an integral part 
of the community ... it pays off financially ... It also pays off social- 
ly. Children who go through the preschool "don't have the difficul- 
ties" in later levels of school experienced by kids who don't go to 
pre-school ... Teachers alone don't determine what happens to a 
child. Local government is involved ... And the parents have their 
say too ... in North America ... it seems schools are left to the 
teachers and students. Here it's everybody. As a teacher, I can say it 

There is evidence that this is true: 1983 data from France 
indicate that, with each year of pre-school (one, two, or the 
maximum of three), the number of children who are 
required to repeat Grade 1 decreases, and this is true regard- 
less of the parents' occupation. The gap between the children 
of the most and least skilled workers does not disappear, but. 

at each level, the children benefit. In 1980, the French 
Ministry of Education identified a sample of 20,000 sixth- 
graders and monitored their progress. Each year of pre- 
school enrollment increased the likelihood that a child 
would be promoted from sixth to seventh grade, and later 
follow-up showed this was also true at the high school level.' 

A recent review of research on pre-school education in 
Britain, Sweden, and the United States concludes that 

the long-term educational benefits stem not from what children are 
specifically taught but from effects on children's attitude to learning, 
on their self esteem, and on their task orientation ... learning how 
to learn may be as important as the specifics of what is learned. The 
most lasting impact of early education appears to be children's aspi- 
rations for education and employment, motivations and school 
commitment. These are not moulded directly through experiences 
in the pre-school classroom but are indirect effects of children 
entering school with a learning orientation and beginning a "pupil 
career" with confidence. This enables them to avoid early school fail- 
ure and placement in special education ... Early childhood educa- 
tion may be viewed as an innovative mental health strategy that 
affects risk and protective factors."' 

Early childhood education is an innovative educational 
strategy in North America, where the new demographics of 
families, and an understanding of the importance of early 
learning, have been ignored. 

Time and again, the Commission was told to learn from 
other countries, and early education is an area in which we 
found much to learn. 

Because there is powerful evidence that early education 
alters the amount and kind of learning students engage in, 
and because this is most true for children whose potential is 
otherwise most likely to be unrealized, we believe early 
education is one of the most powerful engines for trans- 
forming our educational system. That is why one of the four 
major recommendations of this Commission is that a school 
readiness program be created for three- to five-year-olds, 
closely modelled on that in France. 

While we appreciate the need to proceed gradually, we are 
convinced that early childhood education must be part of 
public education, offered as an option for all three- to five- 
year-olds for the full day, with the option of a half-day 
schedule for those parents who may prefer it. 

For the Love of Learning 

Recommendation 1 

*We recommend that Early Childhood Education (ECE) be 
provided by all school boards to all children from 3 to 5 years 
of age whose parents/guardians choose to enrol them. ECE 
would gradually replace existing junior and senior kinder- 
garten programs, and become a part of the public education 

We note that a very similar recommendation was made 
by George Radwanski in his report to the Ontario Ministry 
of Education in 1987: "That all school boards in Ontario be 
required to provide universally available early childhood 
education in public and separate schools for children from 
the age of three." Radwanski concluded that such education 
should be universal rather than targeted at disadvantaged 
children for a number of reasons, and suggested that 

The need for deliberately provided early learning experiences and 
intellectual stimulation outside the home may no longer be limited 
to children from the most obviously disadvantaged households ... 
numerous children of non-needy and relatively well-educated 
parents are spending much of their time in sub-optimal care 
arrangements that do not provide the fullest opportunities for early 

Although the reduced need for later remedial school 
programs, as well as for income support and correctional 
services, offers the promise of enormous savings, providing 
one and one-half extra years of education also involves an 
initial cost. Some monies will be recovered as the need to 
subsidize child care for low-income parents is eliminated. 
(There will be other economies in the system that will help 
to fund Early Childhood Education. For example, see Chap- 
ter 9 for a discussion of eliminating the fifth year of high 

For these reasons, as well as because it affords an oppor- 
tunity to monitor and evaluate new programs, and because 
some schools currently lack the physical space to expand 
their programs, gradual phase-in would be sensible, initially 
providing funding for only a limited number of spaces, and 
looking at mandated province-wide delivery as being some 
years away. 

Recommendation 2 

*We recommend that the ECE program be phased in as 

space becomes available. 

1992. the Lincoln County 
Roman Catholic Separate 
School Board implemented 
full-day kindergarten: one 
year later a program review 
revealed that parents felt 
their children had devel- 
oped a wider range of 
academic and social skills, 
while teachers said that 
the longer day was useful 

for learning experiences. 
Observation indicated that 
more students showed 
competence in more areas 
of performance. While 
parents could choose the 
half day, only 5 percent 
did, but they were pleased 
with their choice and hoped 
the half-day option would 

We do, however, wish to make a recommendation regard- 
ing priorities in funding because of the particular disadvan- 
tage suffered by the many children of Franco-Ontarian 
cultural background who do not have a strong home back- 
ground in the French language. 

Recommendation 3 

*We recommend that, in the implementation of ECE. the 
provincial government give priority funding to French-language 
school units. 

ECE classes would likely be served by teams headed by 
trained teachers, would include child-care workers, and 
would emphasize cognitive and linguistic stimulation, social- 
ization, and skills in learning in a group. 

Our expectation that the costs of this program would be 
partially offset by less money spent on remedial and special 
education, and on other programs for those who now fail to 
thrive in school, is supported by evidence from well- 
designed child-care and early education programs.'- Extend- 
ed daycare should be available (before and after the school 
day) on a cost-recovery (parental-fee) basis, with subsidies 
available (as at present) for low-income parents. 

We have stressed the critical importance of Early Child- 
hood Education for Ontario children, and we also insist that, 
despite its urgency, the recommendation we make is a 
longer-term one, and implementation of the program 
should proceed gradually. The question of existing and addi- 
tional human resources needed to staff the ECE classes, of 
personnel training or retraining, of the issues of differentiat- 
ed staffing provisions, of the portability of experience, and 
of educational backgrounds are but a few of the challenges 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Birth to Age 6 



Ontario's schools should 

• support a continuum of quality care 
and learning in education for all 
children in Ontario; 

• provide support for this ... in a way 
that ensures equity of access; 

• support a co-ordinated day, linking 
the home, the child-care facility, and 
the school; 

• link in a meaningful way with 
organizations that support children 
and families within the school 
community, such as family resource 
centres and child-care centres not in 

The Ontario Association for Child Care in Education 

of implementing ECE. Our thinking on this subject will be 
found in Chapter 12, where we discuss issues and concerns 
of educators as professionals. 

In the same vein, we do not want to minimize the chal- 
lenge posed by the space needed to accommodate ECE class- 
es. Lots of work will be required to develop and design good 
detailed implementation of this key proposal of our report. 
But it would be very disappointing, and frankly only too 
facile, to hide behind such constraints to do nothing, or to 
turn them into insurmountable barriers prohibiting the 
implementation of a much-needed policy for our children. 

Just as new parents need to know, even before their child 
is born, what constitutes a nurturant and stimulating envi- 
ronment for infants, so do parents of older pre-schoolers 
need to be able to obtain information on ways they can 
support growth in learning for three- to five-year-olds, irre- 
spective of whether their children are enrolled in ECE. The 
Ministries of Education and Training and Community and 
Social Services would perform a useful service by making 
information widely available on healthy environments for 
learning for three- to five-year-olds. Information tailored to 
the home environment, describing ways of supporting learn- 
ing for toddlers, whether or not they are enrolled in ECE, 
could be distributed very widely at schools and elsewhere. 

It is clear that children flourish when the worlds in which 
they live intersect. They are supported if parents are familiar 
with the class, and teachers are familiar with the home, and, 
when before- and after-school programs are involved, the 
child-care and the teaching staffs know one another and are 
willing to work co-operatively." 

Research supports the belief that these links have a posi- 
tive effect on children. Home visits by teachers, for example, 
are a very effective vehicle for welcoming new children into 
school. Early childhood education programs that involve 
regular contact with parents tend to be among the most 
successful in the long term, and have shown benefits for 
younger siblings as well.'^ Early involvement of parents in 
their child's education lays the foundation for a strong 
home-school link. 

While excellent early education is an advantage for all 
children, those who, as early as age 3, show signs of learning 
or interpersonal problems will have the advantage of being 
identified and helped much earlier. Experience in primary 
classes in Ontario and elsewhere shows that teachers can 
identify such difficulties in young children,'- and in some 
cases, early remediation has been effective. To the extent that 
this identification and intervention takes place earlier in the 
child's life, it has the potential to be more effective in the 
long term, including in the primary years when the funda- 
mental literacies and numeracies are being acquired. 

The Common Curriculum, Grades 1-9, recently developed 
by the Ministry of Education and Training, specifies desired 
learning outcomes for students. The Ministry could usefully 
develop a similar set of desired learning outcomes for ECE, 
to make clear how the curriculum of the early years is 
connected to that of the primary years. The earliest 
outcomes described in The Common Curriculum apply to the 
end of Grade 3; a parallel description should be created for 
the transition to Grade 1, indicating desired outcomes for 
literacy, numeracy, and interpersonal and group-learning 

As well, a developmental continuum that indicates stages 
of cognitive and social growth for children from birth to 
adolescence would be a real asset to all parents, teachers, and 
child-care workers, and would promote continuity and 
consistency among the home, daycare, and school. 

For the Love of Learning 

Recommendation 4 

*We recommend that ttie Ministry of Education and Training 
develop a guide, suitable for parents, teachers, and other 
caregivers, outlining stages of learning (and desirable and 
expectable learner outcomes) from birth onwards, and that it 
link to the common core curriculum, beginning in Grade 1. 
This guide, which would include specific learner outcomes at 
age 6, would be used in developing the curriculum for the 
Early Childhood Education program. 

Speaking generally, we would suggest that the outcomes of 
ECE should include both achievement and attitude-related 
elements, including a greater readiness to learn to read, a 
better sense of number and quantity, and better skills related 
to working with others, listening to directions, and helping 
others. Children should be both more mature, as a result of 
opportunities for social and emotional growth, and more 
learned, as a result of increased exposure to an environment 
that is rich with talk and print. 

We note that research supports a carefully structured 
environment for young children, with considerable adult- 
child and child-child interaction. A recent study of exem- 
plary kindergarten programs in Ontario found three basic 
components: play and problem solving, language and litera- 
cy, and social-emotional development." 

Play, structured or unstructured, is demonstrably related 
to problem solving, cognitive development, emerging litera- 
cy, and social and personal development. It is not, as some- 
times it is assumed to be, a frivolous and purposeless use of 
time. The extensive literature on children's play documents 
the extent to which children at play are working on under- 
standing and expanding language, as well as such concepts as 
cause and effect, patterns and categories, and other basics." 
When teachers structure play so that children are confronted 
with new problems and new challenges, and observe it 
systematically, they have an optimal opportunity for both 
evaluating a child's level of development and building on it - 
to know what the next step is and help the child reach for it. 

Over and above what would occur naturally as children 
mature, language development is a realistic and central 
component of early education; it depends on an active, 
purposeful, interaction of adults with children in the class- 
room. Number pattern and sense, too, are also reinforced by 
structured play and experiments. 

Similarly, children's best social and emotional develop- 
ment depends on teachers' abilities to arrange positive peer 
experiences and prevent or interrupt negative ones. 

Well-structured programs for young children must also 
be based on careful observation and monitoring of individ- 
ual progress. Youngsters' ability to use language varies 
considerably, as does their skill in carrying out tasks and 
interacting successfully with peers. The teacher's role as child 
monitor and as program designer and redesigner is crucial, 
and she or he must be able to amplify or simplify tasks so 
that each child has opportunities to be challenged and to 
succeed. Those whose literacy develops earlier must have 
appropriately demanding tasks in order to move on. 

In fact, research suggests that children from backgrounds 
where the language is other than that of the school may be 
more successful in school if they participate in pre-school or 
kindergarten programs that use their first language for 
instruction." In other words, a local school community 
might opt for ECE in Portuguese or Vietnamese; there is 
evidence that, when skills in their native language are more 
fully developed, children are likely to be more successful in 
English later. (See Chapter 10 for more discussion of transi- 
tional use of languages.) 

There must be acknowledgment of the minority groups 
from which children come, in order to foster the child's 
sense of self-worth. All educators must be sensitive to identi- 
ty issues: in a study of both English- and French-language 
kindergartens, for example, an emphasis on their culture was 
identified as a key to French-language kindergarten 
programs for the Franco-Ontarian community. Its members 
want an educational milieu that counteracts the forces of 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Birth to Age 6 

A learning system that is 
continuous from age 3 
through secondary school 
is based on the belief that 
children can know more 
and do much more by the 
time they are adolescents 
than is now the case. That 
concept rests on the funda- 
mental premise that, 
having entered compulsory 
schooling with the 

advantages of Early Child- 
hood Education, children 
will be predisposed to 
become literate and numer- 
ate in the primary grades. 
An early start - whether at 
home, at school, or ideally, 
both - will enable teachers 
and students to embark on 
the common curriculum 
with high expectations. 

assimilation by validating and supporting the non-dominant 
language and culture." Children in a French environment 
w^ho have opportunities to use that language in different 
contexts and for different purposes are building a solid base 
for conceptual development, as well as a positive personal 
and cultural identity. All children benefit from the opportu- 
nity to build a positive personal and cultural identity. 

One of the best ways to honour all children's identities, 
and at the same time to strengthen home-school and school- 
community ties, is to bring parents and other community 
members into the school as valued helpers and resources; it 
is also useful to take children out to see and participate in 
diverse community and work settings in the neighbourhood. 
Such community-based curriculum, while simple and enjoy- 
able, offers a multitude of benefits by combining community 
studies, career awareness, and neighbourhood safety. (There 
may have to be additional planning and organization for 
community-based curriculum in municipalities with few 
activities, programs, and resources in French.) 

Early Childhood Education is one way of creating learn- 
ing contexts for young children. There are others for those 
who will not be participating in ECE but will be cared for at 
home; the network of support and education described in 
the section on birth to age 3 must continue, along with 
parent-friendly policies in the workplace, and the informa- 
tional outreach suggested earlier. Some schools already oper- 
ate drop-in centres for parents and others who care for 
young children; and some of these centres are located else- 
where in communities. Parenting courses and adult and 
family literacy courses are offered, through both schools and 
community agencies. School libraries can also be available to 

parents of young children, especially if an older child already 
attends school. Public libraries offer resources for children 
and parents in many languages. 

In the following pages, we build on the idea of a learning 
system that is continuous from age 3 through secondary 
school, and is based on the belief that children can know 
and do much more by the time they are adolescents than is 
now the case. That concept rests on the fundamental 
premise that, having entered compulsory schooling with the 
advantages of Early Childhood Education, children will be 
predisposed to become literate and numerate in the primary 
grades. An early start - whether at home, at school, or ideal- 
ly, both - will enable teachers and students to embark on the 
common curriculum with high expectations. 

For the Love of Learning 


See, for example: 

R. Arend, F. Gove, and A. Sroufe, "Continuity of Individual 
Adaptation from Infancy to Kindergarten: A Predictive Study 
of Kgo- Resiliency and Curiosity in Pre-Schoolers," Child 
Development 50, no. 4 (1979): 950-59. 

J.K. Kielcot-Glaser and R. Glaser, "Stress and Immune Func- 
tion in Humans," in Psychoneuroimmunology, 2nd edition, 
ed. R. Ader, D.L. Felten, and N. Cohen (New York: Academic 
Press, 1991), p. 849-67. 

U. Shafrir, M. Ogilvie, and M. Bryson, "Attention to Errors 
and Learning: Across-Task and Across-Domain Analysis of 
the Post-Failure Reflectivity Measure," Cognitive Development 
5, no. 4 (1990): 405-25. 

Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, Better Begin- 
nings, Better Futures Project: Model, Program and Research 
Overview (Toronto, 1994). Prepared by R. DeV. Peters and 
C.C. Russell. 

J.R. Berreuta-Clement and others. Changed Lives (Ypsilanti, 
MI: High/Scope, 1984). 

S. Griffin and others, "Providing the Central Conceptual 
Prerequisites for First Formal Learning of Arithmetic to 
Students at Risk for School Failure," in Classroom Lessons: 
Integrating Cognitive Theory and Classroom Practice, ed. K. 
McGilly (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books, 1994), 
p. 25-50. 

P.M. Bickers, "Effects of Kindergarten Scheduling: A Summa- 
ry of Research," Research Briefs series (Arlington, VA: Educa- 
tional Research Service, 1989). 

Ontario, Ministry of Education, Kindergarten Programs: 
Comparison and Follow-Up of Full- and Half-Day Programs 
(Toronto, 1986). Prepared by J.H. Bates and others. 

Berreuta-Clement and others. Changed Lives. Also, W.S. 
Barnett, "Benefit-Cost Analysis of Pre-School Education: 
Findings from a 25-Year Follow-Up," American Journal of 
Orthopsychiatry 63, no. 4 (1993): 500-508. 

P. Goddard, "Educators Eye French Success," Toronto Star, 5 
June 1994. 

9 Ian McMahan, "Public Preschool from the Age of Two: The 
Ecole Maternelle in France," Young Children (July 1992): 


10 K. Sylva, "School Influences on Children's Development," 
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 35 (1994): 1 35-70. 

1 1 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Ontario Study of the Rele- 
vance of Education, and the Issue of Dropouts (Toronto, 1987), 
p. 125. Prepared by George Radwanski. 

12 K. Sylva and P. Moss, "Learning Before School," NCE Briefing 
no. 8 (London, England: National Commission on Educa- 
tion, 1992). 

13 U. Bronfenbrenner, The Ecology of Human Development 
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979). 

14 K. Swick, Teacher- Parent Partnerships to Enhance School 
Success in Early Childhood (Washington, DC: National 
Education Association, 1991). 

15 See, for example: 

R.G. Stennett, Early Identification System: Six-Year Followup 
of the Grade I Class of 1978-79 (London, ON: London Board 
of Education, 1985). 

A.E. Virgin and P. Crawford, A Study of Kindergarten Teach- 
ers' Predictions of Their Pupils' Subsequent Performance and 
the Effects of an Intervention Program at the Grade 1 Level 
(North York, ON: North York Board of Education, 1974). 

16 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, What Makes 
Exemplary Kindergarten Programs Effective? (Toronto, 1993). 
Report prepared by C. Corter and N.W. Park. 

17 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, Exemplary 
Kindergarten Programs, p. 19-23. 

18 J. Cummins, Empowering Language Minority Students (Sacra- 
mento: California Association for Bilingual Education, 

19 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, Exemplary 
Kindergarten Programs. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Birth to Age 6 

■ •f-.'U:i--\^-'^.--\>, =-r-.."::5" --•'■■-..■t ■■ruflfiQ'reF 

[The Learner from 
kge 6 to 15: Our 
Common Curriculum 

The advantage of an excellent Early Childhood 
Education for children aged 3 to 5 is that, when 
children begin compulsory schooling at age 6, they 
will have been prepared to learn during these first 
three years. There is widespread agreement that 
the foundation of a good education is laid down in 
these years, and that the success a child experi- 
ences in acquiring literacy and numeracy at this 
stage is an accurate indicator of long-term success. 

If, when they begin Grade 1, children are disposed 
to learn, are able to concentrate, know how to learn 
in a group, and have high expectations of them- 
selves as students, the probability of creating a 
learning community in each classroom becomes 
much greater. 

The transition to compulsory schooling 

At present, teachers attempt to establish a learning 
community despite the fact that every classroom 
includes some children who are unable to take 
turns, wait for the teacher's attention, or absorb the infor- 
mation being offered. While a sound program in the early 
years does not guarantee that every child will be perfectly 
ready for formal learning, it will go a long way toward 
ensuring that they are more ready, socially and cognitively. 

The child who is ready to learn needs skilled and nurtur- 
ing teachers who have clear ideas about what children 
should learn, and a variety of solid strategies for helping 
them do it. 

As the report Yours, Mine, and Ours points out: "Children 
need positive social interaction as their thinking and 
language competencies develop."' This is as true at school as 
at home: young children depend on teachers to be warm, 
supportive adults and to facilitate safe and positive peer 
interaction. Without a sense of safety, it is very difficult for 
youngsters to pay attention to learning tasks. 

Students and teachers must know what the learning goals 
and expectations are. The curriculum should be a plan, 
shared by all teachers, that describes where they are attempt- 
ing to lead students, and the sequence in which they will do 
so. Annual and long-term goals and expectations must be 
clear to teachers and students and to parents whose support 
and help in the overall plan is crucial to its success. We 
cannot be surprised by confusion and dissatisfaction about 
what students need to know - whether they learn it well 
enough and are well prepared for the future - if we are not 

clear about what we expect them to learn, what the learning 
outcomes are, how we will know they have learned it, and 
what the standards of acceptable attainment are. Moreover, 
teachers must have clear guidelines about what is essential 
and what is not and must be prepared for, and supported in, 
their work. A common curriculum, commonly described 
and understood, and with well-defined standards, is the 
essential underpinning of publicly supported schools. 

This chapter is divided into five parts. The first four deal 
with curriculum components and the supports at the school 
and community level that are necessary for effective curricu- 
lum implementation for children and young adolescents, 
from Grade 1 to Grade 9 inclusively: that is, what needs to be 
in place in order for all or almost all students to learn what 
we agree they should. 

The last part concerns curriculum organization and 
development, and deals with some principles that we think 
will support effectiveness, efficiency, and equity. 

We are suggesting that curriculum guidelines should 
recognize the primacy of certain skills, and that teachers, in 
the early grades especially, should emphasize and carefully 
monitor the acquisition by all students of these foundation 
skills, within the context of an integrated curriculum. 

Because of the emphasis we put on the early acquisition 
of foundation skills within the context of a core curriculum, 
the first half of this chapter appears to stress the early years 
(Grades 1 to 3), although much of what we say applies 
equally to the whole of the common curriculum. Grades 1 
to 9. 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Some definitions: 

"common curriculum": a curriculum that defines what students 

of a particular age will study. 

"The Common Curriculum, Grades 1-9": a document released by 
the Ministry of Education and Training in 1993, which defines a 
common curriculum of about 15 subjects organized into four 
integrated "strands," which comprise the whole of the curricu- 
lum for all students for all of the nine years. 

"foundation skills": as defined in this report are 
literacy/communication skills, numeracy/problem solving, 
group learning and interpersonal skills and values, scientific 
literacy, and computer literacy. While these foundation skills are 
represented in particular subjects within the common curricu- 
lum, such as English/Fran^ais, mathematics, and science, they 
are also fundamental in most other subject areas. 

"core curriculum": all the subjects taught within the common 
curriculum in addition to the foundation skills. 

The foundation: The essential elements 
of the elementary curriculum 

Children begin compulsory education in Grade 1, in the year 
they reach age 6. For the next nine years, their curriculum is 
prescribed according to The Common Curriculum, 
Grades 1-9 released by the Ministry of Education and Train- 
ing in 1993.- The basic curriculum plan for those grades, it 
was being revised while this report was being prepared, and 
is expected to be revised periodically. 

The curriculum is presented as four integrated strands: 
language; the arts; math, science, and technology; and a 
catch-all, self and society, which includes social studies, busi- 

ness studies, family studies, guidance, and physical and 
health education. The Common Curriculum describes what 
students should know and be able to do by the end of 
Grades 3, 6, and 9, across a range of subject areas. The 
curriculum is termed "common" because it applies to all 
students, and accounts for all or most of their learning time 
during the school day. 

The Common Curriculum does not give priority to any 
particular subjects. It seems to us, however, that some skills 
really are grounding for further learning; they include the 
traditional basics - literacy and numeracy - as well as the 
"new basics" - group learning and interpersonal skills and 
values, scientific literacy, and computer literacy. Therefore, it 
is reasonable to ask primary and junior grade (1 to 6) teach- 
ers to concentrate on helping students achieve competency 
in these five areas. 

We are not suggesting that these skills be taught without 
context, or that the context is not important to the learning. 
We know that best practice does not entail teaching "basic 
skills" first and "thinking skills" afterwards. Rather, children 
must be focused on both form and meaning from the begin- 
ning, so they understand that reading and arithmetic are 
supposed to make sense; if the word makes no sense in the 
sentence, or the answer does not fit the problem, the child 
must question it and try again. Teaching children how to 
estimate answers in arithmetic is an example of teaching for 
meaning, and of giving students the skill to question, and if 
appropriate, correct a specific response. 

A child would have a very firm educational foundation if, 
by the end of Grade 3, he or she was well able to learn from 
print; could apply a basic understanding of arithmetic to the 
kinds of problems that might be encountered in appropriate 
school projects (constructing, measuring, drawing, graphing, 
etc.); knew the kinds of questions to ask to test an idea or an 
argument; and was capable of knowing how and when to ask 
for help, offer help to others, and work independently or 

Young children are not equipped to learn from abstrac- 
tion, and it is essential that both verbal and quantitative 
skills be learned through the concrete; that is why arts and 
hands-on science and other kinds of "projects" are so impor- 
tant. These applied areas of curriculum act to motivate 
young students, giving them reasons to read, write, compute, 
and think. Like adults, children need to know the purpose of 

For the Love of Learning 

Students, parents, and teachers must know what th' 
learning goals and expectations are. 

Teachers must have clear guidelines about what is 
essential and what is not, and must be prepared for 

and supported in their work. 

learning, and a concrete outcome - a chart, a picture, a 
tower, a play or a debate provides that purpose, whether for 
reading, writing, measuring, calculating, or co-operating. 

Acknowledging the existence of priorities in Grades 1 to 
3, literacy, numeracy, group learning and interpersonal skills, 
as well as an introduction to scientific reasoning gives a 
focus to the common curriculum in these foundation years. 
While other subject areas can and must be used to make the 
abstract concrete, and to enrich children's exposure and 
experience, "covering" an extensive list of topics or outcomes 
in myriad subject areas should not be the teacher's agenda. 
(The other "new basic," computer literacy, should also begin 
in the primary grades but will probably be developed most 
after Grade 3.) 

In the junior grades (4 to 6), there is a similar need to 
teach and review the skills required for working together, 
which are essential for optimal learning. And while basic 
literacy is most intensely acquired before Grade 4, junior 
grade teachers must be able to diagnose their students' litera- 
cy levels quickly and accurately; they have to know the 
language and cognitive development continuum so that they 
can "scaffold" learning for each student - know what the 
next step is and how to help the youngster achieve it, as well 
as how to use peers and others to support a learning envi- 

The emphasis on numeracy must continue, as students' 
knowledge of the fundamental arithmetic operations is being 
extended and consolidated. Scientific literacy should be 
increasingly emphasized and computer literacy should 
become a focus. 

The fact that these generic skills - communication, prob- 
lem-solving, group learning and interpersonal relationships 
and values, scientific and analytic thinking, and computer 
technology - are acquired continuously as the child develops 
is illustrated by a recent draft document produced by the 
College Standards and Accreditation Council of Ontario. It 
describes communications, mathematics, group learning and 
interpersonal skills, analytic skills, and technological literacy 
as the generic skills around which learning outcomes must 
be organized at the college level. 

We believe that if teachers and parents are to know how 
well students are acquiring these skills, clear standards must 
be developed for each skill. At present, the standards for 
mathematics have been set out; they are in draft form for 

language.' We believe that, in addition, they should be estab- 
lished for science, computer literacy, and group learning and 
interpersonal skills and values. We suggest that the Ministry 
of Education and Training use the expertise of professional 
educators to create and assist in field testing standards in 
these areas. 

Recommendation 5 

*\Ne recommend that learner outcomes in language, mathe- 
matics, science, computer literacy, and group learning/ 
interpersonal skills and values be clearly described by the 
Ministry of Education and Training from pre-Grade 1 through 
the completion of secondary school, and that these be linked 
with the work of the College Standards and Accreditation 
Council, as well as universities: and that clearly written stan- 
dards, similar in intent to those available in mathematics and 
language (numeracy and literacy), also be developed in the 
other three areas. 

These standards should be used as guides by teachers for 
regularly monitoring and assessing students, using a variety 
of strategies, including performance and portfolio review 
(see Chapter II). 

The following is a description of our concept of each of 
these fundamental skills areas. 

Literacy/communications skills 

With or without Early Childhood Education, the primary 
school grades are correctly seen as laying the foundation of 
the child's education. In the minds of parents and public, 
these grades are, above all, about learning to read and write. 
Parents are right: nothing is more related to a student's 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

success in school (and few acquired abilities are more funda- 
mental to life opportunities) than reading and understand- 
ing what is read. 

Unless there is a solid foundation, laid down early, 
students face a long, hard struggle to gain what they should 
already have. Far too many do not succeed in that effort. All 
teachers must be capable of finding the student's level of 
literacy development and raising it, or early literacy gains 
can be lost. The most critical moment comes early, in Grades 
1 and 2. 

Basic literacy is not complete by the end of Grade 3, and 
the ability to read and communicate effectively is acquired 
and enhanced over many years. If students do not continue 
to develop their abilities to think and to read, their early 
learning becomes entirely inadequate. 

We should understand literacy as the ability to speak, 
listen, read, and write well enough to deal with any situation 
in adult life requiring this most fundamental competency. 
Becoming literate involves expanding the oral language chil- 
dren bring with them to school (vocabulary, sentence length, 
grammatical structures) and enabling them to use printed 
language as effectively as spoken language. 

While the public tends to take speaking and listening 
skills for granted because, unlike reading and writing, they 
begin to develop long before school begins, employers and 
educators know that the ability to take direction from the 
spoken word and to communicate clearly by speaking must 
also be developed very significantly long after childhood. In 
fact, one of the least understood and most basic realities 
about becoming literate is that it is closely tied to experience 

in communicating orally. That is precisely why early school 
success depends so much on the home environment. 

Furthermore, development of oral language and develop- 
ment of cognitive skills are closely tied: we need language to 
think with, and it develops first as spoken language. 

Nonetheless, it is high-level literacy - being able to read 
and write at the level of a well-functioning adult - that tops 
everyone's list of what students must ultimately achieve in 

Being fully literate now means acquiring technical litera- 
cy. The spread of information technology has made the abil- 
ity to read technical manuals and directions increasingly 
important. Historically, this kind of reading has been miss- 
ing from language and literature classes, being relegated to 
the special technical classes in which only a minority of 
students enrol. However, it is increasingly clear that all learn- 
ers and workers require technical literacy. Even those for 
whom literacy was once not considered necessary are 
becoming more dependent on various kinds of information 
technology - for example, the office janitor who pushes a 
mop along a hallway now finds it essential: the cleaning fluid 
at the end of the mop comes in containers with vital infor- 
mation on use, storage, and disposal, as well as on health 
and environmental hazards. 

The material presented to students in language and litera- 
ture classes beyond the primary grades must include more 
non-fiction in general and, as youngsters progress into 
adolescence, more technical literature. 

In other words, the more education U.S. students have, the less likely 
they are to be able to navigate through the world of consumer tech- 
nology. Those with master's degrees ... might as well be functionally 
illiterate ... in other countries, people with high levels of education 
were most adept at reading technical manuals ... Students don't 
graduate from high school in the industrialized nations of Europe 
and Asia today without the equivalent of four years of technical 
reading and writing.' 

Teaching "literacy skills" does not stop once students have 
learned to read and to write; we move them from literacy to 
literacies, which we describe as higher levels of competency 
in communication and such other basics as problem-solving, 
analytic thinking, and the ability to learn collaboratively as 
well as individually. These will continue to evolve, not only 
throughout the school years, but throughout life. 

For the Love of Learning 

Once children have "broken the code," they have acquired 
the basic tool for further intellectual development. While 
literacy is not a prerequisite for critical thinking or even for 
intellectual brilliance, its lack seriously handicaps any 
student. Without literacy, group instruction is inevitably 
slower and more painful. And the reality is that children 
who do not acquire functional literacy early rarely overcome 
the serious disadvantage that their handicap imposes in 
school and in life. 

Recognizing this, parents express great concern about the 
acquisition of literacy and numeracy. There is a strong 
public feeling that, in the early school years in particular, 
these fundamental skills must take priority over any other 
curricula and that teachers must be able to show parents the 
level of literacy their children have attained in a way parents 
can understand and support. We agree. 

We understand why no issue engages parents more than 
this. But we do not usually find the long media debates 
about how children should be taught to read, or at what age 
a particular landmark should be reached, helpful or enlight- 
ening. The debate about how reading should be taught - the 
"phonics versus whole language debate" as it has often been 
phrased - has obscured, rather than clarified, the main issue, 
which is how solidly all or almost all children are learning to 

At the present time, most children are able to read and 
write at an appropriate level by the end of Grade 2. But this 
is truer of some groups than others, depending on parents' 
education, immigrant status, and other circumstances. We 
expect that, if first-rate early-years education is available and 
widely utilized, the gap between more and less advantaged 
groups will shrink very considerably: that 80 percent or 
more of all children, regardless of background, will be able 
to read and write at the age-appropriate level by the end of 
Grade 2, and that all students, excepting only those with 
serious learning problems, will be able to do so by the end of 
Grade 3. We define that as a school system which, from the 
beginning, is both excellent and equitable. 

Earlier education should mean fewer children having 
difficulties in Grade 1, and more moving smoothly into read- 
ing. Some who have been in early education will already 
have received the help they need, and those who have read- 
ing-related difficulties in Grade 1 must be identified early. 

We suggest that the expec 
tation of literacy attainment 
for all children (excluding a 
very few who have serious 
learning handicaps) by or 
before the end of Grade 3 
should be so strong that it 
constitutes a "literacy guar- 
antee" to parents. 

Any child who might otherwise be left behind should 
quickly receive in-school, appropriate help, before or very 
early in Grade 2. This should ensure that nearly all students 
will be able to achieve the reading, writing, listening, and 
speaking outcomes specified as appropriate to the end of 
Grade 3 by then. Increasingly, with early education, those 
outcomes will be reached by the end of Grade 2, although 
some "late bloomers" may require longer to attain literacy. 

In fact, we suggest that the expectation of literacy attain- 
ment for all children (excluding a very few who have serious 
learning handicaps) by or before the end of Grade 3 should 
be so strong that it constitutes a "literacy guarantee" to 

However, if that guarantee is to be made in good faith, 
parents must acknowledge that they have a part to play. It is 
essential that they act on the advice and information that 
must be forthcoming from educational authorities, provin- 
cial and local, concerning the importance of talk and print 
(in the language used at home) to children's lifelong learning 

lust as schools must reach out to parents with borrow-a- 
book programs, family literacy programs, and other home- 
school literacy links, parents must take up such invitations 

Although there is controversy on the subject, educators 
do know a great deal about teaching children to read, and 
the importance of including a variety of teaching methods. 
Balanced reading programs include both phonics and 
"whole language" or meaning-based approaches. (For a brief 
discussion of the issue of phonics in balanced reading 
programs, see Chapter 6, where the topic is mentioned in the 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

FI«inington El«mentary 
School, North York 

As part of the school's 
efforts to encourage more 
reading at home. Fleming- 
ton developed a video 
show/ing local students and 
their families reading to- 
gether. The tapes featuring 

the "local stars" are avail- 
able to teachers and other 
professionals for use with 
families, to other schools, 
and to families that have 
VCRs. Using neigbourhood 
students and families has 
made the message more 
real to the community. 

context of pedagogical expertise.) This knowledge, however, 
is not always in the hands and heads of the people who most 
need it - the classroom teachers of young children. Some- 
times, it is most familiar to only a very few teachers, those 
with special remedial responsibilities. 

One phenomenon in Ontario education in the last two 
years has been the excitement generated by a remedial read- 
ing program called Reading Recovery, created in New 
Zealand, for children who show difficulty in learning to read 
in Grade 1, and adopted by the Scarborough Board of Educa- 
tion. Well designed and well researched, it helps many 
youngsters; the program involves hundreds of hours of 
training for teachers, and is delivered one-on-one for 20 
minutes a day over several months. Reading Recovery is 
highly structured, for both students and teachers, who 
monitor each step of the child's performance. While it does 
not solve every child's problems and its rate of success is not 
unique among remedial reading programs, it is certainly a 
promising intervention for many children. 

But to begin with remediation is to begin at the wrong 
end. In New Zealand, teachers receive very rigorous training 
in how to teach reading before they teach their first class- 
room. Teacher training for literacy acquisition is by no 
means so extensive or intensive in Ontario. But good early 
education depends on teachers receiving thorough training 
in their pre-service education, or soon afterward. The ulti- 
mate prevention program is excellent teacher education. 
With it, a greater number of children will learn to read in 
the regular classroom, without expensive tutorial assistance, 
and the need for reading "recovery"/remediation will shrink. 

There is no lack of technology for teaching adults how to 
teach children to read; the issue is delivering that technology 
to prospective and practising teachers, especially those in the 
primary grades. If that is done - if all teachers of young chil- 
dren know how to be effective reading teachers (and, 
crucially, if those teachers know how to teach parents and 
other volunteers, including older children, to be effective 
reading coaches) - schools can deliver on what must be 
considered a basic entitlement: that, with few exceptions, all 
children will be functionally and effectively literate in 
English or French by or before the end of Grade 3. (This 
issue is discussed further in Chapter 11.) 

Among the learner outcomes statements for the end of 
Grade 3 in The Common Curriculum are the following, 
which describe what students will be able to do with written 

• Understand a story and predict what may happen next; 

• Learn new words through reading; 

• Be able to interpret simple diagrams, charts, and maps; 

• Be able to follow written directions; 

• Understand the purpose of spelling and punctuation and 
use them correctly to make meaning clear. 

The Common Curriculum must become real. The stated 
goals are realistic for most nine- or ten-year-old children, 
and they should and could be guaranteed almost universally. 
The relatively few exceptions will include children who are 
profoundly handicapped or developmentally delayed; those 
who are recent non-English or non-French-speaking immi- 
grants; and some who enter school in kindergarten without 
oral fluency in the language of instruction. 

We believe that parents should be encouraged to monitor 
their children's growing literacy, and that educators should 
welcome them as advocates for such growth. Parental exper- 
tise should be built, not dismissed. One way of doing so is 
for the Ministry of Education and Training, with the assis- 
tance of teachers and librarians, to develop a list of high- 
quality children's books for parents and teachers, books that 
are readily available in libraries and bookstores, and group 
them by reading level, according to age or grade. We suggest 
that public as well as school libraries organize books accord- 
ing to such categories, to help parents and children select 
books at the child's level. 

For the Love of Learning 

Such a simple step would enable parents and children to 
select books together; parents could deliberately choose to 
read books to their children that were just beyond the child's 
independent reading ability. And parents would have a very 
good idea of their child's reading level and rate of progress, 
as a basis for discussions with the child's teacher. 

The Ministry of Education and Training is in the process 
of developing standards for measuring literacy at the end of 
Grades 3, 6, and 9. We believe it is both possible and essen- 
tial for almost all students to achieve at least an adequate 
reading standard, and for a large minority to reach a superi- 
or level. Clarity is required so that teachers and parents 
know what is expected. A high level of teacher competency 
in reaching and teaching the range of learners in any class 
is necessary. Such supports as intensive reading-tutoring 
programs must be provided to children who need them. As 
well, there must be a continuing commitment, provincially 
and locally, to assessment for improvement. (See 
Chapter 11.) 

Finally, it is important to remember that literacy is not 
owned by language arts teachers. Once children have the 
foundation skills - reading, comprehension, writing, and 
communicating - these must be expanded by all teachers 
across all subject areas: literature is certainly not the only 
vehicle for developing literacy skills. In the arts and sciences 
and in technical studies, teachers have the right to expect 
students to be able to read for information and to write 
expressively and correctly. They also have the responsibility 
to help students develop these skills, no matter what the 
subject context. 

The Commission's interest in fundamental literacy skills 
and on higher literacies as a primary learning issue is 
evident in our emphasis on language development as an 
essential for babies and toddlers in the curriculum of home 
and care, and the curriculum of the Early Childhood Educa- 
tion for three- to five-year-olds. In addition. Chapter 1 1 
focuses on assessing literacy at the end of Grade 3, to evalu- 
ate students' progress and the way the educational system 
functions for young children. 


Narrowly defined, numeracy corresponds to the narrow defi- 
nition of literacy: a knowledge of the basics - the ability to 
compute, measure, estimate quantity, and manipulate 

numbers, in order to deal with the practical demands of life, 
including money. Just as the person who cannot read a 
manual or a newspaper, who cannot write a memo or 
friendly note, will be less employable and will suffer a 
certain loss of dignity and self-esteem, the person who is 
unable to check an invoice, understand a simple chart, 
divide a restaurant cheque, or estimate the cost of groceries 
is also under a genuine economic and social handicap. 

As with literacy, we see the responsibility of the schools 
going far beyond basic numeracy to genuine mathematical 
literacy. As well as a solid grounding in simple arithmetic, 
this includes the ability to solve both abstract and practical 
problems efficiently by creating algebraic models to repre- 
sent them; understanding and being able to use mathemati- 
cal symbols; understanding formulae as generalizations 
about observed patterns; and being able to solve problems 
by applying patterns to them. 

In this broader definition, genuine mathematical literacy 
gives a person another way of representing and understand- 
ing reality, a mode of critical and analytic reasoning that, in 
many situations, is the most efficient and effective one, and a 
language that is essential to the physical sciences. 

While we share parents' wishes to have children acquire 
basic numeracy skills early in their formal education, we are 
aware that international math testing over the last decade 
suggests that most children in Ontario, like most of North 
America, need to have a better grasp, not of number facts 
and simple arithmetic, but of the language and conceptual 
basis of math, the patterns on which mathematical models 
are built.' When clearly instructed to do so, most students 
can show they have learned how to add, subtract, multiply. 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 


Evidence suggests that appropriate emphasis on prob- 
lem-solving skills can and should begin as early as 
Grade 1. 

By the end of Grade 3, almost all children should exhib- 
it adequate-to-superior skills in fundamental mathe- 
matical operations and be able to apply them to age- 
appropriate problem-solving. 

and divide; but they do far less weW when they have to move 
beyond mechanical skill - for example, reading a problem 
that does not dictate the procedure to follow, and deciding 
what operations are required, and in what order. 

Evidence suggests that appropriate emphasis on problem- 
solving skills can and should begin as early as Grade 1. Not 
only is this pedagogically important, it also ensures that, 
from their first experience with arithmetic, children will 
understand its practical value and the useful reasons for 
learning it. Thus, good pedagogy reinforces students' moti- 
vation as well as their competence. 

Research into primary classrooms in Japan, Taiwan, and 
China suggests that the advantage children show on interna- 
tional tests begins early, and that teaching methods in those 
countries differ from our own in important ways. Although 
classes tend to be larger, teachers structure class time for 
maximum interaction with students. Such unproductive 
practices as long periods of individual seatwork, often in the 
latter part of the instructional period and without immedi- 
ate feedback from the teacher, are much rarer in Asian than 
in North American schools. Students there frequently exhibit 
their work to teachers and classmates, and discuss how they 
arrived at their conclusions. Incorrect answers are treated as 
an opportunity for teaching, rather than as evidence of igno- 
rance or a failure from which nothing can be learned. 

There is a clearer focus on teaching for understanding, 
rather than for memorization and recall. Not only is there 
less uninterrupted seatwork, there is more direct instruction, 
more guided practice, more value placed on reasoning. Math 
educators in North America support these strategies and 
approaches, and it seems highly likely that, if teachers were 

better educated in the language of mathematics and in 
teaching that language, we could reasonably expect to see 
most young students exhibiting more-than-adequate profi- 
ciency in the subject. Our recommendation in this area 
concerns teacher preparation and on-going education. (See 
Chapter 12.) 

In numeracy as in literacy, it is essential that all young 
learners have a solid foundation on which to build. The 
literacy guarantee must apply to numeracy as well; by the 
end of Grade 3, almost all children should exhibit adequate- 
to-superior skills in fundamental mathematical operations 
and be able to apply them to age-appropriate problem-solving. 

The Ministry of Education and Training has developed 
standards that are appropriate for measuring the mathemati- 
cal skills of young learners; it is essential that parents under- 
stand what is expected of their children, be given assistance 
in supporting their learning, and, through regular reporting, 
be kept aware of the clear indications of their children's 
progress in math. End-of-Grade 3 assessment (as recom- 
mended in Chapter 1 1 ) should bring no surprises, and 
should affirm children's acquisition of the basic skills, 
including an understanding of how to read and think about 
and solve math problems that derive from, and apply to, 
everyday situations. 

Group learning and interpersonal skills and values 

Although it is clear that schools have a primary academic 
function, there is a growing consensus that they must also 
recognize the importance of teaching and building on skills 
that facilitate learning, that enable groups to function 
harmoniously, and that offer a range of personal and inter- 
personal skills that are vital to children and adults. 

In order to learn at school, students must be able to 
benefit from group learning situations. In classes of 20 to 35 
students, very little instruction can be one-to-one, teacher- 
to-student. Although effective teachers are aware of each 
student and constantly monitor individual progress, most 
classroom learning occurs at the whole-class or small-group 
level. It involves listening as well as speaking, and is essen- 
tially interactive: students must be able to learn from others, 
from the teacher and from peers. 

As well, students must be able and willing to learn in 
groups that are inclusive, respectful, and appreciative of 
individual and group diversity. Learners who cannot or will 

For the Love of Learning 

not accept as peers and colleagues persons who are of a 
different gender, colour, or background are clearly at a disad- 
vantage and are limiting to others. 

Furthermore, it has become increasingly obvious that 
these same interpersonal skills are essential in the workplace. 
At a minimum, learners/workers must be able to listen, to 
take turns, to offer help to and accept it from a wide range of 
others. Beyond that, it is clear that people who welcome the 
opportunity to learn from and with their peers have signifi- 
cant advantages both academically and in their careers. Many 
students in Ontario study in classrooms and schools that are 
richly diverse, as is the local society of which they are part. 
For these students, interpersonal skills are both complicated 
and enriched by cultural heterogeneity. Group learning and 
interpersonal skills in heterogeneous societies are simultane- 
ously more multifaceted and subtler. 

In general, Ontario's schools succeed in bringing together 
young people from extraordinarily diverse heritages to inter- 
act positively. Schools must continue to be strengthened in 
their role as centres for excellence in the development of a 
citizenry dedicated to equity. In a society as complex and 
diverse as ours, it is unwise to assume that individuals and 
groups will interact positively without some support, inter- 
vention, and teaching. 

If we think of interpersonal literacy as being as much a 
part of the learning continuum as any other of the founda- 
tion literacies, we see tolerance as literacy in a narrow sense; 
genuine appreciation, welcoming and learning from diversity, 
is a higher-level interpersonal literacy. And, like other higher 
level literacies, it is not inborn, but is learned - or not 
learned - from parents, teachers, and peers. 

Although home is the primary source of values, school is 
also an important setting in which they are learned. Teachers 
and schools teach values implicitly, when they encourage 
students to work together in groups, to help one another as 
tutors, and to engage in community service. Teachers often 
choose books, to read to or to be read by students, that rein- 
force such values as honesty, compassion, and altruism. 
Fortunately, many teachers also recognize teachable moments 
not only in academic but in interpersonal contexts. In the 
younger grades, teachers often use stories and games to elicit 
children's feelings about themselves and others, in order to 
make them conscious of the need for self- and mutual 

£A ^^ ather than concentrating on 
Im manufacturing students who can 
compete in the global marketplace, 
we need to focus on developing 
students who can collaborate on the 
global commons." 

Skid Crease, from his brief to Commission 

While teaching values is a controversial and contested 
area - in a heterogeneous society, values differ among 
groups and among individuals - it is nonetheless true that 
making an absolute distinction between knowledge and 
values is creating a false dichotomy. The curriculum is a 
statement not only of what we want children and youth to 
learn; it is also about what we want them to feel for their 
fellow humans. Thus, we find statements of desired learner 
outcomes in language in The Common Curriculum such as: 
"By the end of Grade 3, students will use vocabulary that 
shows respect for people of both sexes and all backgrounds."' 

Group learning and interpersonal skills are important for 
school success, but schools and teachers also recognize that 
students must be educated to behave responsibly; that 
education is for greater human good, not only for individual 
success and achievement; and that schools and teachers also 
have a character-building role to play in the lives of children. 
A "literacy of values" is part of a general cultural literac)'. 

The connection between group learning and interperson- 
al skills and values is also evident in the problems that arise, 
in school and elsewhere, between male and female students. 
If schools do not attempt to discourage harassment by peers, 
and, at the same time, teach good communication skills that 
can overcome barriers posed by gender (and by race, 
language, and culture), they lose an opportunity to influence 
young people positively. That loss may have serious implica- 
tions for the relationships students have with others 
throughout their lives. 

While it is difficult for schools to overcome negative 
forces that confront students elsewhere, it is essential that 
they demand high standards of behaviour from students. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Bruce Mines Central 
School (Central Algoma 
Board of Education) has 
developed a peer media- 
tion program in order to 
help reduce violence. 
Students in Grades 6 to 8 
learn how to function as 
conflict mediators for their 
peers and for younger 
students. The staff say the 
program supports learner 
outcomes in the language, 
arts, and self and society 

For example, the mediation 
process enhances develop- 
ment of language compe- 
tence and thinking skills by 
creating the need to talk to 
a real audience, and by 
creating opportunities to 
use language purposefully. 
The fact that the peer 
mediation program is 
linked to curricular objec- 
tives both justifies its inclu- 
sion as part of a learning 
program and points to 
important and otherwise 
less obvious ways of evalu- 
ating its success. 

Even closer to schools is the resource of students themselves. Peer 
tutoring, especially cross-age peer tutoring, has modest effects. But 
the effects are so consistent, and the effects in terms of self-esteem of 
both tutors and children tutored so visible, that one authority has 
labelled peer tutoring an "educational conjuring trick." Peer tutoring 
is very much more cost-effective in raising pupil achievement than 
many more widely-advocated strategies . . . Implementation of effec- 
tive peer tutoring programs requires goodwill and organization, but 
little else; it is a resource there for the taking.' 

while guaranteeing them safety from harassment and bully- 

While teachers must always model good communication 
skills and positive interpersonal behaviour, they should not 
be expected to be the sole deliverers of programs that mental 
health workers and counsellors, for example, are equipped to 
offer. Such social skills programs as peer coaching and group 
skills for co-operative learning, which are very clearly class- 
room oriented, are naturally taught in the classroom, most 
often by the teacher. But anyone with the requisite expertise 
can also deliver that kind of training in a classroom setting. 

Because co-operative learning and peer and cross-age 
tutoring facilitate learning, it is essential to teach these to 
children who would otherwise quickly falter. Having one 
student tutor or coach another is one of the least expensive 
and effective ways of increasing learning, for both "teacher" 
and "pupil." Peers may be more effective communicators 
than teachers when a student is confused or doesn't under- 
stand: for example, thinking of another way to reword the 
teacher's explanation. Moreover, the student in the teaching 
role is forced to think clearly and logically, and often to face 
and fill previously unidentified gaps in her own understand- 

As well, cross-age tutoring is a valid form of community 
service in the school." As long as all students have the oppor- 
tunity to help another if they wish (and cross-age tutoring 
makes this possible for almost all students), it is appropriate 
for teachers to describe and students to understand that this 
is service to others. As such, it can begin early and act as a 
child's introduction to that concept. 

Another part of a life skills curriculum that should be 
delivered by an educator - though it can be a retired teacher 
volunteer - is the practice of studying: teaching students 
study skills, such as how to read texts for information, using 
tables of contents and section headings, and how to review 
material for tests, etc. 

Students need these skills, which can be taught; it is 
essential that some youngsters not be placed at a disadvan- 
tage because they have not been taught at school what others 
may be taught at home. 

It is essential that teachers know and can act according to 
principles of eft'ective classroom management, and that they 
know how to help students learn effective interpersonal 
behaviour - working in groups and helping one another - as 
well as personal organizational and study habits. But they 
cannot be expected to single-handedly create and take sole 
responsibility for implementing and maintaining such 
important school-wide safety initiatives as anti-bullying or 
conflict mediation programs, although they must know how 
to support and reinforce them. 

Teaching and learning interpersonal or life skills is an 
area in which community partnerships are absolutely neces- 
sary. Teachers need some essential strategies for promoting 
negotiation and problem-solving among students, in order 
to implement such processes as co-operative learning and 
peer coaching and as a vehicle for curbing anti-social behav- 
iour in the classroom and on the playground. Most teachers 
have no special knowledge in these areas, and may not know 
what questions to ask, what strategies to teach, to get beyond 
negative and reach positive behaviour. Just telling a student 
to behave differently is rarely enough. Other expertise is 
necessary, either through more and different teacher prepa- 
ration, or through the assistance of others with appropriate 

For the Love of Learning 

It is essential that all teachers know how to mode! and 
teach negotiation skills and conflict resolution, as well as 
other social skills that enable students to work productively 
together, such as the listening and questioning skills neces- 
sary to learning in large- and small-group situations. 

While, in theory, the best time to acquire some of this 
knowledge may be in pre-service, most teachers probably 
find it useful after they begin teaching, in the context of the 
school and the larger community. And while all teachers 
(one could argue all persons) need these skills, teachers of 
young children are able to establish a firm foundation in this 
area - an important responsibility. 

There are people, including retirees, in a variety of disci- 
plines - social work, mental health, youth work, counselling 
- who are able to teach and model these skills for teachers as 
well as for students directly. Involving community helpers, 
whether salaried or volunteer, also ensures that culturally 
different habits and customs are understood, and that this 
diversity is used to support such school-wide group and 
interpersonal skills as conflict mediation. 

If schools are to be effective learning communities, the 
need for a safe and constructive social environment cannot 
be ignored. By themselves, teachers cannot develop and 
deliver programs needed to create that environment. 

In order to be "fit" for learning, students must feel safe 
and secure at school, not threatened in the classroom, on the 
playground, or elsewhere by others who cannot control their 
anger, or who react to frustration with verbal or physical 
aggression. Prevention programs, whether school-wide, in 
small groups, or for individuals, are also part of interperson- 
al and group learning skills; schools must depend on the 
resources of the larger community to deliver a range of such 

Other interpersonal skills curricula that could be better 
delivered by community partners are such aspects of family 
studies as knowledge of child development as it applies to 

We have identified group and interpersonal skills as an 
essential literacy - like computers, communication, numera- 
cy, and scientific reasoning. Therefore, we are calling on the 
Ministry of Education and Training to develop standards in 
this area, as a tool for measuring achievement and progress 
over time. 

violence Prevention In 
East York Schools 

R.H. McGregor Public 
School in East York is in 
year four of a highly 
successful violence preven- 
tion program. There are 
several components that 
make the program exem- 
plary and highly effective. 

Rrst, there is a consistent 
school-wide discipline poli- 
cy based on the principle 
that everyone in the school 
has the right to be safe, 
both physically and emo- 
tionally. In the playground, 
there are staff members 
and peer helpers (a team 
of Grade 5 students) who 
will assist students in 
resolving conflicts. 

A school guidance program 
is another component of 
the violence prevention 
program. An elementary 
guidance curriculum was 
developed and initially 
taught throughout the 
whole school, and in 
subsequent years specifi- 

cally targeted at the prima- 
ry grades, with a view to 
preventing violence. 

Parent programs are anoth- 
er component of the vio- 
lence prevention initiative. 
Teachers increased the 
number of good-news 
phone calls to parents. The 
guidance teacher devel- 
oped a series of parenting 
programs targeting specific 
age groups, and offered 
them each term. Parents 
were introduced to the idea 
of resolving conflicts in a 
win-win manner, and were 
provided with opportunities 
to share ideas and improve 
their own self-esteem as 

Finally, social skills group 
sessions, co-led by the 
guidance teacher and a 
child-and-youth worker from 
the Aisling Centre for Chil- 
dren and Families, are of- 
fered each term. Sessions 
are held weekly from 4:00 
to 5:00 p.m. 

We do not anticipate that elaborate testing or systematic 
performance assessment will be necessary - they would be 
artificial, time-consuming, and inefficient when applied 
here. Neither do we wish to see evaluation in this area left to 
chance, or neglected. We assume that the most effective way 
to assess student achievement in group and interpersonal 
learning goals would be to create a checklist, with learner 
outcomes stated as a continuum, just as they are in other 
areas (at the end of Grades 3, 6, and 9). This would enable 
teachers, on the basis of frequent observations of a student 
in class, in the hallways, and on the playground, to let 
parents and students know how well group learning and 
interpersonal skills are being developed. 

At the class and school levels, teachers and administrators 
can use this data to decide what improvements are needed, 
what programs they and/or community helpers should be 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

W.E. Gowling School, 
Ottawa, opened in 1947 to 
serve the newly developed 
veterans' housing area. 
This public school is now a 
very multicultural school of 
more than 700 students 
from 47 different coun- 
tries, from junior kinder- 
garten to Grade 8 in the 
regular English program. 

In addition to the daily free 
breakfast club undertaken 
by volunteer parents, a 
part-time social worker, a 
part-time psychologist, and 
a half-time multicultural liai- 
son officer work in the 
school. Two more projects 
are flourishing at W.E. 
Gowling school: a "Children 
Learning for Living" project 
and a "Lighthouse" one. 

"Children Learning for 
Living," funded by Health 
and Welfare Canada as a 
demonstration project, is a 
mental health promotion 
initiative of the Ottawa 
Board of Education. Its aim 

is to help children develop 
the skills and confidence to 
deal more constructively 
with their everyday con- 
cerns. A Child and Family 
Resource Centre, located 
in the school, Is where 
small workshops with kids, 
or with parents, take place, 
as well as individual coun- 
selling and other initiatives. 
The Centre also has a play- 
group/drop-in, and a toy 
library open to all. 

The "Lighthouse" program, 
also located in the school, 
provides a variety of activi- 
ties and courses for the 
whole community, after 
regular school hours, on 
evenings, and on Saturday 
mornings. Offerings include 
sports and general interest 
projects for both children 
and adults, at a minimal 
registration fee (to cover 
salaries and supplies). It is 
advised by a council made 
up of volunteers from the 

Scientific literacy 

Scientific literacy includes a basic understanding of key facts 
that explain natural phenomena, and of scientific principles 
of analysis, fundamental to critical thinking and to the 
design and execution of experiments. The need to develop in 
young children a sense of how to understand natural events 
and the world around them, and how to think scientifically 
and analytically - to look at cause-effect relationships, diver- 
sity and variation, probability and prediction, and to learn 
more about something new by comparing and contrasting it 
with the known - these are necessary and fundamental tools 
for thinking and comprehending, irrespective of the area of 
study or work. As well, early science programs can build on 
and enhance children's natural curiosity, which the school 
must nurture as an important intellectual force. Children 
can test their hypotheses and be rewarded with concrete 
feedback on their thinking. 

Since 1984, when the Science Council of Canada issued 
its report. Science for Every Student," there has been consid- 

erable growth in science education in the province's elemen- 
tary schools. A report issued by the government in 1991" 
concluded that science education in Grades 1 to 6 had 
improved significantly over the previous four years. Science- 
related curriculum guides and resource documents were well 
received and apparently fairly well utilized. 

Some science educators, however, feel that there is still 
too little science in elementary schools, and tie this to the 
relatively small number of university students who choose 
the physical sciences as their major field of study; that, in its 
turn, means that a relatively small number of teachers, espe- 
cially at the elementary level, have a background in the phys- 
ical sciences. 

The possibility of a link between science in Grade 1 and in 
Grade 12 was the subject of a research study that followed 
children who had been given a course of science lessons in 
Grades 1 or 2, and a comparison group who did not have 
the lessons. Both groups were interviewed several times over 
the next ten to eleven years, and were asked questions about 
scientific concepts. The study probed their thinking about 
objects or events they had manipulated or observed during 
the primary science unit. Researchers found that the differ- 
ences in favour of the science-instructed group were greater 
at Grade 12 than they had been at the end of Grade 1 or 2. 
They concluded that: 

The remarkable finding of this study is that a relatively few hours of 
high quality science instruction in grades one and two apparently 
served as a kind of advance organizer for many students for later 
instruction in science ... The data suggest that primary grade chil- 
dren have much science concept learning capability that goes unex- 
ploited in our schools ... it seems evident that much meaningful 
learning potential remains unexploited in our school children." 

There has been considerable interest and concern in 
science education at the middle elementary level (Grades 4 
to 6). There are two obvious reasons why: 

First, although Canada exceeds almost all countries in the 
world in the number of young adults enrolled in university, 
and ranks near the top percentage of adults with post- 
secondary education, it is very low, among developed coun- 
tries, in the proportion of science and engineering degrees 
being granted. Many people consider this an economic 
liability for the country, and are concerned that positive atti- 
tudes towards and interest in science be developed early. 

For the Love of Learning 

Second, there is a concern for excellence. International 
test results suggest that our elementary students are doing as 
well as most, but not better. "Overall, Ontario students 
appear to be achieving at around the international average in 
international studies, but significantly less well than students 
in British Columbia and Alberta."" Science educators are 
convinced that our students would show greater aptitude 
and interest in science if they had greater exposure to it in 
elementary school, and if it were taught in ways that were 
more relevant and interesting to them. 

While the gender gap in math/science achievement and 
participation has decreased so substantially that it has essen- 
tially disappeared before the senior years of secondary 
school," educators tend to agree that later participation in 
these disciplines would improve significantly if young 
women, beginning early and continuing through secondary 
and post-secondary education, were offered practical and 
human applications of the physical sciences. This emphasis 
on meaningful uses of science would seem to be what is 
needed for all young learners, not just for females, although 
its absence may have more impact on their long-term 
involvement. "Gender-fair teaching strategies for mathemat- 
ics, science, and technology are good practice for all students 
... [Programs] designed to encourage girls in the primary 
grades in the use of mathematics depend[s] on problem- 
solving activities all students would find useful."'- 

Science educators say it is necessary to present a more 
"authentic" view of science, to emphasize the science/tech- 
nology/society connection, and to make clear the connec- 
tions between scientific literacy and the lives and work of 

Nothing motivates students to higher performance more than a 
sense that what they are studying is of real relevance and importance 
to themselves, their lives and personal aspirations. Science and tech- 
nology are of enormous relevance to the lives and careers of all 
young people in school today. Yet too often the way it is taught fails 
to highlight this relevance. Science is seen as "just another school 
subject" rather than as the key to a door to rewarding work or excit- 
ing opportunity. The ways in which mathematics, science, and tech- 
nology are taught need to be examined for these links to the real 
world of students.'" 

A 1991 survey of Grade 4, 5, and 6 classrooms in one 
Ontario region'" showed that most teachers had never invit- 
ed another person to make a presentation that was related to 

the science program. The need for community-based educa- 
tion, to enrich programs and make them real for students, 
extends to all areas of the curriculum. 

The issues we have already raised about preparing 
elementary school teachers to teach math are also true of 
science. Many teachers take no university-level science 
courses, and even if they did, it is not at all clear that they 
would be much better science teachers: it is questionable 
whether science courses, as taught at the university level, are 
good models for teaching science to younger students or to 
anyone who is not a science specialist. 

Preparing to teach science must combine preparation in 
science and in pedagogy (an issue that is dealt with in more 
detail in Chapter 12). Teachers need models for presenting 
curriculum in a more integrated and life-like way, connect- 
ing scientific concepts with meaningful examples drawn 
from everyday life. 

We believe that scientific literacy is an essential for Cana- 
dians, and we urge support for teaching and learning science 
as part of the common curriculum through more and better 
science education for prospective teachers, adequate labora- 
tory resources, and development of clear and high standards 
for student achievement. 

Computer literacy 

[A central curriculum question is] ... how, in particular, to redefine 
the core curriculum in a situation in which technolog>' is becoming 
part of the general culture, with all the implications that this has for 
the redefinition and acquisition of the basic competencies needed 
for the transition to adult life. Computer literacy, for example, has 
become part of the new basics in education." 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Science Lighthouse in 
Renfrew County 

One of the first recipients of 
the Prime Minister's Awards 
for Teaching Excellence in 
Science, Technology and Math- 
ematics, Wayne and Carol 
Campbell, have made an 
outstanding contribution to the 
promotion of science and tech- 
nology in Renfrew County. 

The Renfrew County Roman 
Catholic Separate School 
Board operates 26 schools in 
Ontario's largest county. Deliv- 
ering science programming in 
this large, rural county is chal- 
lenging. In 1987 Carol and 
Wayne Campbell were hired as 
teachers to assist in the 
upgrading of science education 
at the primary and junior 
levels. This project was named 
the Science Lighthouse 
Program. Carol and Wayne's 
role in this program was not 
only to teach science but to 
model, for teachers, an 
approach to science education 
that stresses relevance, skill- 
building, and "hands-on" activi- 

Teachers volunteer to take 
part in the program, and the 
Campbells visit their class- 
rooms to deliver a science 
lesson on a topic chosen by 
the teacher. Teachers typically 
select those topics that they 
need some support in. Both 
the students and the teacher 
benefit from this approach. 

Another mandate of the 
program was to increase the 
involvement of students in the 
Renfrew County Regional 
Science Fair. In 1987, very few 
students from Renfrew Coun- 
ty's separate schools entered 
the regional fair. The Camp- 
bells organized the develop- 
ment of in-school science fairs, 
with winners moving on to the 
regional. Students from these 
schools took 25 category 
awards at the 1993 Regional 
Science Fair. 

The Science Lighthouse 
Network is growing and evolv- 
ing. In 1987, five volunteers 
took part; lately 75 teachers, 
from JK to Grade 11, and their 
students were taking part. The 
philosophy behind this program 
is being adapted and used at 
Bishop Smith Catholic High 
School in Pembroke. The 
Hila/Bishop Smith Research 
Centre will support R&D-type 
projects at a high school level 
and link students with area 
research scientists at Atomic 
Energy of Canada Limited and 
the Petawawa National 
Forestry Institute. Co-op 
students at the school can 
then be placed for work experi- 
ence at one of these area 
research labs. With this 
support, these students 
should move on to take their 
place in Canada's science 

When we speak of computer literacy as a foundation skill, 
we are referring to the ability to use the computer, equipped 
appropriately with CD-ROM player, modem, and phone or 
cable line, as well as output devices such as printers and 
plotters; to gather information; analyze, organize, and 
understand that information; and present it clearly and 

Being able to use the central tool of information technol- 
ogy, the computer, is no longer a luxury restricted to a privi- 
leged few, or even an option for those growing up in today's 
world. Computer skills are basic, used not just in the work- 
place but in the home, for recreation and leisure, and in 
innumerable other ways. 

Many people use computers to "draw" and "paint," adding 
graphics to work and play. And, as was evident on the 
TVOnline discussion on education, organized for the 
Commission, many people spend hours sharing ideas, asking 
questions, and seeking information through computers. 

Aside from their pervasive influence on society, comput- 
ers and other informational or instructional technologies, 
used properly, can have a transforming effect on learning 
and teaching. They can individualize learning and allow 
students to achieve excellence at varying rates of speed, and 
can give them access to far more information than what is 
contained in the school library. 

Clearly, acquiring computer literacy cannot be left to 
chance, to unequal opportunities outside school, or to a few 
older students who may be interested in the inner workings 
of the hardware or software. If we do not commit ourselves 
to making all our students computer literate, we create a 
significant barrier to their in-school education and to their 
success as learners throughout life. All classrooms need 
computers, and all teachers and students need computer 
literacy. Unless teachers are equipped to guide their students 
into the world of Information Technology (IT), the remark- 
able potential of this new learning tool will not be fully real- 
ized, and students' opportunities to learn will be significant- 
ly curtailed. 

Given that, the Ministry must establish clear outcomes 
for the computer literacy skills students must acquire as they 
progress through school. The Ministry must differentiate 
clearly between learning with computers and learning how 
to use computers. The machines must be used to help 
students learn how to learn, as well as to strengthen their 

For the Love of Learning 

learning in biology, history, and instrumental music; but 
they must also learn to be comfortable, competent computer 
users, knowledgeable in harnessing computer power in their 
work and their play. These skills will give them an edge in 
the job market and will also give them the confidence to 
continue learning, to access information for their own 
benefit, and to make the best use of computers for personal 

The value of the computer, properly used as a tool for 
young learners, is boundless. That's why we have classified 
technology as one of the four engines that we believe are 
crucial to the reforms to the system that are now necessary. 
In Chapter 13, we discuss in detail the role of the computer 
in supporting learning and teaching, and (in Chapter 11) 
assessment, as well as in professional development for 

AA |n any discussion of the educational 
I system in the 1990s there are three 
things that always emerge as impor- 
tant issues: the information age, the 
impact of technology and lifelong 
learning. More information has been 
produced in the last thirty years than 
in the previous five thousand. The 
amount of information available 
doubles every few years. The fast- 
paced, rapidly changing world of tech- 
nology today is making this possible 
... Included in the concept of IKeracy 
for the 1990s student must be that of 
informcition literacy - that is, the abili- 
ties to structure, cicquire, analyze, 
and synthesize information." 

Ontario School Library Association 

Core subjects 

The core curriculum is that array of discipline-specific 
subjects to which students are expected to be exposed so that 
they can become educated, productive members of society. 
Typically, the core subjects occupy almost all the formal 
curriculum of elementary school; by secondary school, 
students are given more options, and the core subjects occu- 
py much, but not all, their attention. 

While we believe that the foundation skills underlie all 
learning, and at no time more than in the early years of 
schooling, we are not suggesting that the rest of the common 
curriculum be neglected, or be viewed as a frill. Nor are we 
suggesting that students delay their introduction to the arts, 
the social sciences, or broad-based technologies until after 
they have mastered the foundation skills. On the contrary, all 
of the core subjects of the common curriculum have an 
important place in the education of children, from the 
beginning, as a context for learning and applying foundation 
skills. Similarly, foundation skills are not finally acquired at 
the end of Grades 3 or 6; they must be built upon through- 
out the years of formal education, and beyond. Students 
certainly must continue to study literature even after they 
become literate, and mathematics even after they can 
perform the fundamental operations. Similarly, they must, 
over the years, acquire increasing knowledge and under- 
standing of history, geography, the arts, and the many other 
subjects that comprise the common curriculum. 

Whereas the foundations, as we described them, are 
generic skills that apply across all subject areas, the rest of 
the core curriculum is the knowledge base to which students 
apply those generic skills. We want students to develop 
communication, problem-solving, group learning, interper- 
sonal, analytic, and computer skills within a content-rich 
context. One cannot argue a point about constitutional 
rights, judge an argument on municipal election reform, or 
analyze an experiment in biology without a base of knowl- 
edge of the subject. Thinking is always about something, and 
the more knowledge of the subject, the more developed and 
substantive the thought. Expert performance in a subject 
requires subject-specific knowledge as well as thinking and 
learning skills. 

It is also true that students learn not only bodies of fact 
but specific and essential thinking skills within disciplines. 
Maps, musical scores, and diagrams are generalized ways of 
organizing information for understanding and recall, 
although they derive from particular subject areas. 

Different subjects depend on different patterns of think- 
ing: the way arguments are developed and evidence is orga- 
nized differs according to subject. Well-educated people are 
able to read and understand across a range of subjects not 
only because they begin with a knowledge of content, but 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Some skills are grounding 
for further learning. We call 
them the Foundation Skills, 
and they include literacy 
and numeracy - the tradi- 
tional basics - as well as 
the "new basics": group 
learning and interpersonal 
skills and values; and 
scientific and computer 
literacy. Curriculum guide- 
lines should recognize the 
primacy of these founda- 
tion skills, and teachers, in 
the early grades especially, 
should emphasize and 
carefully monitor their 
acquisition by all students. 

A child would have a very 
firm educational foundation 
if, by the end of Grade 3, 
he or she were well able to 
learn from print; could 
apply a basic understand- 
ing of arithmetic to solve 
problems involving con- 
struction, measurement, 
graphing, and so forth; 
knew the kinds of ques- 
tions to ask to test an idea 
or an argument; and were 
capable of knowing how 
and when to ask for help, 
to offer help to others, and 
to work independently and 

because exposure and familiarity tell them how to read and 
what to expect in different disciplines and genres. 

It is important to note that the core curriculum may be 
delivered in a variety of ways (for example, with subjects 
segregated or integrated); differently at different age levels; 
and differently in different schools. What it implies is that, 
across schools and teachers, there is some common content 
and that assessment will be based on that content to create a 
degree of consistency in what is taught and what is learned. 

While many teachers and parents are concerned that the 
curriculum may be crowded, and that foundation skills may 
be neglected or core subjects slighted, we did not hear any 
suggestions from the public about dropping any of the 15 
subjects that are part of the common curriculum. Language 
and literature, mathematics, and science, each built on a 
foundation of literacy, are certainly part of the core curricu- 
lum all through school. 

Few people disagree with the idea that computer literacy 
is also a fundamental part of core curriculum, and there 
were no suggestions that history or geography or art not be 
offered to all students. Each subject has many advocates, and 
a traditional and accepted place in the curriculum, although 
newer additions to the elementary curriculum, such as busi- 
ness studies, are less likely to be seen as part of the core 

There was more discussion in the public hearings and 
briefs of a few core subjects because people were concerned 
they might be neglected now or in the future. We comment 
on these briefly, reminding the reader that we are not 
attempting to include all core curriculum subjects in this 

The arts: Dance, drama, music, visual arts 

The arts are an integral part of any complete education; and 
they can and should be a very rewarding part. They are 
unique as a way of taking in information and as a vehicle for 
communication and self-expression. The point is that what 
is best understood or expressed in music, in movement, or 
in a drawing cannot be paraphrased in words. Students 
denied access to the arts are denied literacies and are impov- 
erished as learners. All young people should receive at least 
an introduction to the arts in school. Art and art education 
will be a major source of fulfilment and the most developed 
mode of learning and communicating for some students; 
they will at least open an important door to the world for 

In contrast to the idea that non-essentials might crowd 
out the fundamentals, many people connected with the arts 
argued that in a time of decreasing resources and increasing 
anxiety about economic competitiveness, budget cuts already 
affect delivery of the arts curriculum: there is no money to 
increase or even replace the inventory of musical instru- 
ments, no money to sponsor artists in the schools, no funds 
for trips to museums and galleries, and the like. 

This is a concern for two reasons, we believe; first, the 
arts are part of the core curriculum and not inherently less 
valuable as part of a well-rounded education than any other 
subject; they are not "frills" and should not be treated as 
such. Not only does every student have the right to be intro- 
duced to the arts as an area of cultural knowledge, learners 
also need ways of making abstract ideas concrete. Like 
science, art is a hands-on way to apply mathematical and 
logical reasoning skills, explore ideas, and have the satisfac- 
tion of making something with what one has learned. 

Second, art is the major route to learning for many 
students, their most developed "intelligence" and their best 
way of solidifying foundation skills. Drama, for example, has 
been shown to motivate students who otherwise avoid writ- 
ing to write - and write well. Music is mathematical in 
structure, and some evidence suggests that it may be similar- 
ly related to understanding and describing spatial relation- 
ships. Saving money by targeting arts programs probably 
does a disservice to all students, and can impose a particular 
hardship on many of them. 

For the Love of Learning 

AA iVhe 'global village' has become a 
I reality and the arts provide a 
meaningful medium for communicating 
across language and cultural barriers." 

The Arts Education Council of Ontario 

Any school system that fails to open up the spirit of the 
arts to its students is unworthy of public support. 

Career education 

An opinion, commonly heard by the Commission, is that 
schools often neglect the part of their mandate, beyond the 
traditional academic subjects, that other people consider 
important. This other function of schools involves making 
students aware of the kinds of work that are available, and of 
the personal attributes and educational preparation suited to 
a variety of occupations and careers. The point was 
frequently made that students are interested, from the 
youngest grades, in what adults do, and that this interest 
should be cultivated in a planned way; that would enable 
students, by the time they are beginning to consider their 
high school options, to do so on a very strong base of 
knowledge and information about the opportunities that 
exist, the preparation needed for different careers, and a 
sense of their own interests, abilities, and suitability. 

Students and parents across the spectrum articulated 
their desire to see career and occupational awareness and 
preparation built into the curriculum, beginning well before 
secondary school. This desire was generally phrased, not as a 
request for specific occupational channelling or training, but 
as a perceived need to help students see the link between 
formal education and the world of work, and help them plan 
their courses in keeping with their interests and strengths, 
and the opportunities available. We believe this is a sensible 
notion, one that is well worth pursuing. 

While education in the career planning sense may best be 
described as part of the core curriculum from Grade 7 on, it 
is clear to us that it must rest on an earlier and continuous 
exposure to the resources of the local community; it must be 
an experience-based program in which young students learn 
to think about their interests, aptitudes, and responsibilities 
within a community framework. For that reason, we view 
community-based education with a strong component of 
career awareness as an essential part of the core curriculum 
in elementary school beginning in the primary grades. Every 
zoo trip is an opportunity to learn from and about the 
people who work there: Who feeds the animals, and how did 
keepers train for their jobs? Who decides what plants to put 
in different enclosures, and what do they have to know in 
order to do that? 



'e recognize the essential princi- 
ple, celebrated and inculcated 
by the fine arts, that the best work we 
do is based on its own inherent value, 
a "something extra' that exceeds the 
requirements of mere utility ... The 
arts are the principal domain in which 
the faculties of invention and imagina- 
tion can be cultivated by all students." 

Faculty of Fine Arts, York University 

Community-based "career" education also means that 
students walk through the neighbourhood with local hosts, 
and visit such neighbourhood workplaces as libraries and 
fire stations. It means science projects that involve municipal 
employees: park workers, engineers, and others, and taking 
students to important natural sites nearby. Children come to 
school knowing that the most important resource in their 
world is other people. Schools must build on that knowledge 
systematically, so that, from a young age, children appreciate 
and value human diversity, understand that they can learn 
from everyone they meet, and have a sense of the role educa- 
tion and training play in the lives of adults in their commu- 

The complement of learning about what other people do 
and how they prepare for it is an understanding of one's 
own strengths and interests, of the learning or development 
needed to grow more competent in those areas. These self- 
appraisal and reflective skills are explicitly built into effective 
career-awareness programs. 

Like all curricula, the career education component is 
developmental: it starts as a self- and community-awareness 
program (including an emphasis on community service), 
and, for adolescents, develops into explicit career education 
to help students make informed plans for their future occu- 

The school's community is as essential to this as it is to 
the interpersonal and life skills curriculum. It is impossible 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools JUe Learner from Age 6 to 15 

In the absence of linkages to 
the working world, education 
becomes abstract and flirts 
with irrelevance. Unable to 
make the connection between 
what they are being taught 
and the world around them, 
many students tune out at an 
early age and drop out as soon 
as they have the opportunity. 
The more disadvantaged the 
student, the more this will 
seem a rational decision. The 
way to smooth the school-to- 
work transition is to make it 
as seamless as possible, by 
bringing the world of work 
into the classroom early in a 
student's school career. 

W.E. Northdurft, 1989" 

for teachers and other school staff members to meet all 
students' needs for exposure to a variety of learning environ- 
ments. As pointed out in Chapter 6, the teacher's role is as 
general practitioner/diagnostician: knowing who can 
provide special help and when it is needed. 

Teachers cannot be experts in occupations ranging from 
aerospace to zoology. They depend on local individuals, 
businesses, and agencies to support their students' search for 
diverse role models and hands-on opportunities for educa- 
tional experiences - just as other people provide physical 
and mental health supports for students, recreational and 
library programs to supplement the school's facilities, and a 
host of other professional and voluntary services. 

If school-level integration of services and resources is to 
be achieved, changes will have to be made in the way 
services are funded, in who undertakes co-ordination of 

efforts between the school and the community. As well, ways 
must be found to increase the use of information technology 
by teachers and students - of both sophisticated computers 
and simple telephones that must be available in all class- 
rooms to all teachers and learners. 

Community-based education also includes an early intro- 
duction to the value of community service and the need to 
take on that responsibility, with visits to homes for the aged, 
blood-donor clinics, and the like. This simple but funda- 
mental expansion of the curriculum to include the human, 
the built, and the natural community around the school is 
the foundation upon which a continuous career education 
curriculum is built. This is true even though students will 
not define this aspect of community-based curriculum as 
career education until they are entering adolescence. 

Because this kind of education has not been systematical- 
ly developed and implemented in the past, teachers need 
numerous examples of community and workplace visits, and 
preparatory and follow-up activities, to support age-appro- 
priate, community-based career awareness programs. We 
would hope that the Ministry of Education and Training 
would arrange for the preparation and distribution of such 
materials in the future. Teachers also need support at the 
local level to co-ordinate such a program, and we will 
recommend that support in Chapter 10, in the section on 
career education. 

But there is more to linking schools to communities than prepara- 
tion for work. The essence of "environmental" education, of "global" 
education, of studying "history," "science," or "English," can be the 
means of coming to understand one's community in all its dimen- 
sions. There is too often a sense in which the school experience, 
while trying to prepare its students for a broad variety of experi- 
ences in life, merely abstracts them with something disconnected, 
irrelevant (to them) and alienating. If school is to be a place worth 
staying in (for a student) it must be a place where connections are 
made, where learning is meaningful and where people learn more 
about coping with the complex realities of their many communi- 

Some French-language schools and classes have the addi- 
tional problem of lack of a local French-language communi- 
ty resource base; therefore, there is a need for long-term 
planning and organization for community-based learning 
when French-language resources are not as visible or accessi- 

For the Love of Learning 

ble in the immediate society. In such a case, identifying 
community resources and creating networks may be done 
most efficiently through centralized planning, within a 
general language-planning policy of French-language 
schools, to ensure that French resources are available in the 
milieu, regardless of geographic region or concentration of 


History, as many people reminded us, is more than a collec- 
tion of dates and facts: like good literature, its stories 
provide repeated opportunities for wonder, questions, 
debates, clarification, and thinking through difficult issues to 
logical conclusions. 

Teachers must give students the opportunity to relate the 
past to the present. In many cases, the conflicts that beset us 
currently are older than Confederation; students, who will 
be voters, must understand those links. 

Canadian history, because it is the story of all Canadians, 
cannot be accurate without being truly inclusive; it must not 
ignore the country's history before European contact. It 
should be taught so that students know and appreciate the 
diversity at our core from then until now and are more 
tolerant of the stresses that inevitably accompany hetero- 
geneity, and can consider those in the context of our 
common humanity and basic community values. 

Besides being information- filled, history (Canadian 
history, world history) is also value- filled, and offers oppor- 
tunities for thoughtful consideration of ethical issues. 
Students are eager to discuss notions of justice, altruism, and 
ethics, and such discussions are an essential part of an 
adequate education. While they must also occur throughout 
the curriculum - in literature, science, art - history is 
extremely important as a context for such exchanges because 
it is the reality of the human record, and the basis for think- 
ing about who we are as a people, and what we want to 
become. Issues of majority rule, of minority rights, and of 
the rights of minors, of the way freedom and responsibility 
must complement each other, of community responsibility, 
of individual versus collective rights - all these are issues 
that educated people must have experience in considering 
and debating. All have moral and value-laden dimensions 
that should not be avoided but, instead, should be exploited 
as an opportunity to develop critical thinking that engages 

££ ^^ur young people need a liberal 
\#education to prepare them for 
their personal lives, for future training 
and professions. History is one of the 
best ways to get that liberal educa- 
tion. It trains the mind and touches on 
an extraordinary range of human 
experience. Our children deserve a 
fair chance to profit from that experi- 
ence by receiving a healthy dose of 
history in the school curriculum/ 

students' desire to mature, and to gain expertise and respon- 

Official languages and international languages 

Official languages 

English as a second language: 

English becomes compulsory as of Grade 5, as stipulated in 

the Education Act. (It will be recalled that anglophones must 

start taking French by no later than Grade 4.) In either case, 

initiatives for teaching the second language sooner, even as 

early as nursery school, are permitted. 

The attraction of English and its dominant position as an 
international language are such that compulsory formal 
instruction in Grade 5, at about age 10, strengthens skills 
acquired in French, the weaker, less visible language in the 
surrounding society. It is felt that some 80 percent of school 
activity should therefore be conducted in French. Students 
can then hope to achieve a minimal level of competency in 
French, which is critical to good cognitive development, 
before learning the second language. 

The fact that the elementary classroom teacher teaches all 
subjects, including English, may pose problems for second- 
language learning, particularly if the teacher has limited 
competency in, or expresses a negative attitude towards, the 
second language. The teaching of English by someone other 
than the classroom teacher may help the student to make a 
clear-cut distinction between the two languages used at 
school and in society, and thereby help to achieve additive 
bilingualism in the Franco-Ontarian community, that is, 
bilingualism that is firmly entrenched. A public information 
document clarifying the role and place of English in Franco- 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

having moderate competency; and finally, programs for 
students having a high degree of bilingual competency. We 
feel The Common Curriculum, Grades 1-9 addresses these 
various needs. 

Ontarian schools virould promote a better understanding of 
the situation on the part of parents and other social inter- 
veners. We would point out that it is a specialist teacher 
other than the classroom teacher who teaches French as a 
second language in anglophone classrooms at the primary 

The following passage defines the concepts of "additive 
bilingualism" and "subtractive bilingualism" as used by Fran- 
co-Ontarian educators and researchers. 

Additive bilingualism is stable and promotes social integration of 
the members of a community without devaluing their language and 
culture. Subtractive bilingualism is transitional in nature; it is a stage 
in the processes of assimilation and acculturation. Only additive 
bilingualism can ensure the long-term survival of a weak linguistic 
community. A broadened definition of additive bilingualism encom- 
passes the linguistic, cognitive, affective, and behavioural aspects of 
language development; a high degree of competency in the mother 
tongue and the second language in both interpersonal and cogni- 
tive-academic communication; the maintenance of a strong ethno- 
linguistic identity and the development of positive beliefs about 
one's language, culture, and community, along with positive atti- 
tudes towards other languages, cultures, and communities; extensive 
and continuous use of one's mother tongue without diglossia, that 
is, without usage being confined to too limited a number of social 

Like French-language programs, English-language 
programs must address the new school clientele. They must 
therefore include, based on local needs, beginners' programs 
aimed at anglophone students, and francophone students 
having no English competency; programs for students 

The other official language in anglophone schools: 
French in English-language schools is part of the common 
curriculum, most commonly taught as a subject like any 
other, by a French specialist teacher. However, a number of 
English-language schools offer FSL (French as a second 
language) in an immersion program, in which students learn 
other subjects, such as geography or science, in French. 
Canada has been a world leader in developing language 
immersion programs for young learners. 

At present, the only other languages that may be offered 
at the elementary level are American Sign Language (ASL) 
and La Langue des Signes Quebecoise (LSQ), the English 
and French sign languages, which are permitted as languages 
of instruction for students with hearing problems; and 
Native languages, which may be taught as subjects. 

International languages in Ontario schools 
In addition to achieving a high level of language skills in 
both official languages, many parents and communities want 
their children to have opportunities to learn other languages 
as well, in both elementary and secondary school. The ratio- 
nale varied among groups, but all had the same goal: to give 
their children more of a chance to become or remain bilin- 
gual or multilingual in a bilingual, multicultural country. 

Some are most interested in the cultural benefits of learn- 
ing another language, and argued that learning another 
language and about the culture from which it springs helps 
students appreciate other people, here and in other coun- 
tries. Another language gives them access to the literary rich- 
es of other cultures (available to non-readers of that 
language only in translation) and to other windows on the 

Others saw foreign language acquisition in terms of travel 
and personal enrichment. Slightly altering the old adage 
"When in Rome, speak as the Romans do," they suggested 
that their children would be better able to make their way in 
other societies if they have a grasp of the language. 

Still other groups emphasized the importance of knowing 
other languages in this era of global business. In June 1994, 

For the Love of Learning 

Northern Telecom made a significant grant to the University 
of Toronto to develop an Ibero- American program. (Ibero- 
America is defined as Spain, Portugal, and the Spanish- and 
Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America.) The 
purpose is to develop closer business and cultural collabora- 
tion between Canada and Ibero-American countries. 

Clearly, business sees the need to develop language skills 
among Canada's young people. As a trading nation, being 
able to speak the language of our trading partners is an 
advantage. Northern Telecom wants to do more business in 
Latin America and needs more people who can not only 
speak the languages, but have some cultural and business 
knowledge of those countries. 

Still others are seeking ways to maintain the linguistic 
skills conferred on children by their heritage. In October 
1993, the Heritage Languages Advisory Work Group present- 
ed its report to the Minister of Education and Training. The 
report focused on strengthening the International Language 
Program (Elementary),* which provides non-English/non- 
French instruction, primarily after school and on weekends, 
generally by non-certificated instructors. It should be noted 
that, while most students in the program share the cultural 
heritage of the particular language, classes in the program 
are open to all students, regardless of background. 

Ontario benefits from the rich variety of linguistic abili- 
ties that result from the number of immigrants in the 
province. At a time of increasing global competition, we are 
told that the ability to speak the languages of other trading 
nations can make the difference between a deal and no deal. 
This is one reason for supporting the idea of having students 
add a language instead of trading one tongue for another. 

The Work Group called teaching and learning interna- 
tional languages "a positive economic investment in our 
students." In addition, there is the evidence that strength in 
one language enhances proficiency in others. Thus, non- 
native speakers of English/French are likely to carry over 
language-learning strengths from their native language, if 
they continue to use it, into the language of the school. (See 
also the discussion of bilingual and immersion programs in 
Chapter 10.) 

• The Minister accepted the recommendation of the Heritage Languages Advisory 
Work Group to change the name of the Heritage Languages Program to Interna- 
tional Languages Program (Elementary). 

AA^Phat the Commission encourage 
I governments and universities to 
support biiingualism in Canada and the 
learning of French, as well as one or 
two other languages, to better prepare 
students for the realities of an evolv- 
ing global community. 

Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTf) 

The Commission strongly agrees that learning interna- 
tional languages, in addition to English and French, is valu- 
able and should be encouraged. At present, there is virtually 
no international language instruction in elementary school 
and relatively little in secondary school. The International 
Languages Program (Elementary) is typically viewed as a 
frill or extra, rather than being made part of the formal 
school program, even in schools that extend the day so that 
these languages can be taught during school hours, rather 
than after school or on weekends. 

We understand that, at the secondary level, the propor- 
tion of students taking languages other than French and 
English has decreased over the years. For example, of the 
more than 111,000 students who received their secondary 
school diploma in 1992-1993, 49 percent (55,000) had at 
least one OAC (a credit toward university admission) in 
English, and 18 percent (20,000) in French. But the largest 
numbers in all the other languages (such as Spanish and 
German) were less than one percent - in the range of 400 to 
500 students. We are thus eager to see children offered the 
opportunity to learn an additional language while they are 
young and especially able to acquire native-like oral fluency. 

Recommendation 6 

*We recommend that the acquisition of a third language 
become an intrinsic part of the common curriculum from a 
young age up to Grade 9 inclusively, with the understanding 
that the choice of language(s) taught or acquired will be 
determined locally, and that the acquisition of such a third 
language outside schools be recognized as equivalent by an 
examination process, similar to what we term challenge 
exams within the secondary school credit system. 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Ontario benefits from the rich variety of linguistic abih- 
ties that result from the number of immigrants in the 

The learning of a third language, like the learning of 
English, may present special challenges for Franco-Ontarian, 
French-language schools, for consolidating and enriching 
the spoken and written French of their young people. Fran- 
co-Ontarians and newcomers, however, have as much of an 
interest in learning a third language as do Ontario's other 

Because of the local variation in context for offering and 
learning a non-official language, we are not suggesting that 
all schools be required to do so, and we are not, therefore, 
suggesting that The Common Curriculum be amended to 
include one or another international language. We do, 
however, wish to encourage schools wherever possible to 
offer their students this wonderful opportunity, and we 
suggest that one excellent use of the local curriculum option 
that we are recommending be available to schools (see 
Recommendation, below) would be to offer an international 
language to all students in an elementary school (or to all 
students beginning in a particular grade). 

Physical and health education 

We heard a good deal from professional organizations, from 
parents and from students, about the importance of physical 
education; the most common recommendation was that all 
students should be involved in at least 30 minutes of contin- 
uous physical exercise daily. This is based on sound fitness 
guidelines, and we believe the idea should not be ignored. It 
is another area in which curriculum delivery should be 
shared with non-school staff, such as recreation workers and 
health agents. Daily or thrice-weekly physical exercise 

programs can be led by a variety of trained and volunteer 
staff who are not teachers. 

Physical education, usually based on games and sports 
activities, has long been a part of public education, based on 
the widely held belief that physical exercise and exertion 
improve mental sharpness and the ability to concentrate. As 
well, society has become increasingly aware of the impor- 
tance of exercise for health, and in that sense, a physical 
education program that includes regular exercise should 
serve as the basis for lifelong participation in health- 
promoting activities. 

The Commission heard many voices raised in favour of 
expanding the amount of physical exercise in the daily 
program at both the elementary and secondary levels, 
including advocates who were particularly eager to have 
female adolescents appreciate the value of physical exercise 
as a source of strength and self-esteem and as a much 
healthier weight-control strategy than stringent dieting. 
They believe all students should be required to have daily 
physical exercise throughout their school career. 

While competitive sport is a well-established part of 
school life, physical exercise for fitness is the universal need 
of young people (and adults). We believe there is abundant 
evidence that daily physical exercise is a strong component 
of health. 

Recommendation 7 

*We recommend that all elementary schools Integrate a daily 
period of regular physical exercise of no less than 30 
minutes of continuous activity as an essential part of a 
healthy school environment. Schools that have problems 
scheduling daily periods should, as a minimum, require three 
exercise periods per week. 

All schools should encourage students, parents, other 
community members, and health and fitness professionals to 
become involved in delivering exercise programs at school 
and in creating healthy schools. Students who choose to 
engage in regular sports programs or physical education 
classes at school could be exempted from exercise sessions. 

While we firmly believe this policy will benefit all 
students, we are convinced that female students, in particu- 
lar, will profit from lesser emphasis on competitive sport, 
traditionally very male dominated. 

For the Love of Learning 

As well, we believe that health education - drug and sex 
education and parts of the family studies curriculum - 
should be delivered by community partners on whom the 
schools can draw. Increasingly, as schools attempt to deal 
with such health crises as drug use, violence, and HIV, non- 
academic concerns have sometimes taken time away from 
the core curriculum and have used teacher time inappropri- 
ately. Although they are not part of the academic curricu- 
lum, these are essential areas of instruction for students, but 
they need not be delivered solely by teachers. 

Both the life skills and career education components of 
community-based or partnership education are incorporat- 
ed into a program known as the Healthy Schools model. 
Developed in Europe and North America, it now exists in a 
Canadian version that evolved in British Columbia, where 
the program is called "Learning for Living" and extends 
from the primary grades to the end of secondary school. It 
includes curriculum-based instruction, services for students, 
and an emphasis on a healthful school environment, i.e., a 
sound social climate as well as healthy physical surroundings. 

We believe the model of a continuous, elementary- 
secondary emphasis on health promotion is a positive devel- 
opment in curriculum. We also note the emphasis on healthy 
environments that is the essential rationale of all public 
health programs, and that has recently expanded to include 
healthy communities. 

Physical and health education can be seen both as part of 
the core curriculum and as components of a healthy school, 
one in which staff model, and students appreciate, the link 
between exercise and health. In addition to physical exercise 
and physical education, healthy schools emphasize a safe and 
healthy environment, community participation, with 
students and teachers taking responsibility for making 
health-related decisions. 

The healthy schools initiative is an excellent example of 
education that can be community-based, rather than 
depending exclusively on teachers to plan or deliver the 
curriculum. It is the kind of initiative around which student 
energy can be mobilized, and it may be extended to include 
such activities as participation in community "runs" for 
charity, as well as in other kinds of community service, 
inter-generational programs, and diverse strategies for build- 
ing students' experience in decision-making; it emphasizes 
the willingness to accept real community responsibilities. 

AA4[Phe school systems are not 
I responsible for meeting every 
need of their students. But where the 
need affects learning, the school 
must meet the challenge. So it is with 
health. Efforts to improve school 
performance that ignore health are 
ill-conceived, as are health improve- 
ments that ignore education." 

Part of this ambitious agenda belongs within the core 
curriculum, and part of it can occur outside class time. 

We believe that a comprehensive school health model, as 
recommended by the Canadian Association for School 
Health, and as exemplified by the Learning for Living Prima- 
ry-Graduation curriculum in British Columbia, is a healthy 
direction for Ontario schools, and suggest that the Ministry 
of Education and Training work with appropriate profes- 
sional groups and partners to learn from the B.C. experi- 
ence, and encourage and support a healthy school emphasis 
within the core curriculum, that is strongly community- 
based and that incorporates mechanisms to facilitate collab- 
orative planning and funding between the school system and 
public or private agencies concerned with physical and 
mental health. 

Technology (broad-based) 

Like art, broad-based technological studies, which challenge 
students to apply mathematics and science to materials and 
processes - to design and develop objects and techniques as 
ways to solve problems - are extremely important, and it 
makes good sense to include them in the elementary 
curriculum, from the early years onward. Broad-based tech- 
nologies include: communications, construction, technologi- 
cal design, hospitality services, manufacturing, personal 
services, and transportation. 

As part of the core curriculum, technology offers all 
students the opportunity to apply the problem-solving and 
reasoning strategies they acquire in math, science, and 
language to concrete problems of design and use of tools 
and materials. All students need a basic understanding of 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

While we believe the foun- 
dation skills underlie all 
learning, all of the core 
subjects of the common 
curriculum - the arts and 
literature, mathematics and 
science, the social studies, 
languages, physical and 
health education, technolo- 
gy, and career education - 
have an important place in 

children's education, as 
content and as context for 
learning, applying the foun- 
dation skills. We want 
students to develop 
communication, problem- 
solving, group-learning, 
interpersonal, analytic, and 
computer skills within a 
content-rich context. 

how physical materials and processes are produced and 
applied, and many learn best when they are given frequent 
opportunities to make the abstract concrete. This is most 
obvious for young learners (through Grade 6), but even 
students mature enough to deal with abstraction benefit - 
some very strongly - from testing their knowledge concrete- 
ly and appropriately. 

Students whose way of learning is more spatial than 
linguistic benefit especially from the inclusion of technologi- 
cal education in the core curriculum. But it is also true that 
technological education helps to develop literacy skills, in an 
applied and immediately relevant way, because it requires 
the student to read manuals, make lists, write requisitions, 
and give and follow oral and written instructions. 

Continuity in curriculum and learning, Grades 1-6 

The organization of elementary schooling supports the 
possibility of good communication and good relationships 
between students and teachers, and between teachers and 
parents. Because students in Grades 1 to 6 spend most of 
their time each year with one teacher, they and their parents 
can establish a relationship of personal knowledge and trust 
with her. In the same way, the teacher has a manageable 
number of students each year with whom she can quickly 
become familiar, both as teacher and diagnostician. But what 
is missing is continuity of supervision over the years, and 
continuous monitoring of the student's academic well-being. 

While parents are often well aware of their children's 
development - the gaps that have been closed and those that 
have not, the gifts that have been noticed and exploited posi- 
tively by one teacher but not by another - the school has no 

structure or process that guarantees continuous monitoring 
from teacher to teacher, and across the years. Too often, only 
when a child is in serious difficulty do teachers examine the 
student's record and begin to ask questions that should have 
been asked earlier. 

Even when learning issues are addressed in a timely way, 
there is no assurance that next year's teacher will be aware of 
what has happened, and of how to build on it. We think it is 
important for all students and their parents to be assured 
that there is an educator, one person, who is keeping track 
over time of each student's progress. 

We do not think that, at this early level, it is necessary for 
students to meet regularly with a teacher other than that 
year's classroom teacher. But we do believe that students, 
and especially their parents, should know that someone is 
aware of how the student is doing over time, and that this 
teacher (or principal or vice-principal), who is a kind of case 
manager for the student, can be contacted by parents 
concerned about an issue related to their child's progress, 
about which the current teacher may be unaware or insuffi- 
ciently informed. 

We do not consider it advisable for only the principal, or 
only the principal and vice-principal, to fulfil this responsi- 
bility: it would be difficult, except in exceptionally small 
schools, for them to do so well on behalf of many dozens or 
hundreds of children. If all certificated staff are involved, it 
is unlikely that any one of them would be responsible for 
more than 20 to 30 students, a number that makes it possi- 
ble for the adult to know each student personally - particu- 
larly because the group for whom they have responsibility 
would change by only a few students per year. 

Recommendation 8 

*We recommend that, at the Grade 1-5/6 level, * an educa- 
tor monitor a student's progress during the years the student 
is at the school, and be assigned responsibility for maintain- 
ing that student's record. 

The educator will ensure that each of the child's teachers 
is aware of that record, will be aware of and act on behalf of 
the continuity of the student's progress, and will be a contact 

* Whether it is Grade 1-5 or 1-6 depends upon the school organization. In either 
case, we are describing the level of schooling at which students remain all or 
almost all of the day with one teacher, their "classroom" teacher. In some cases, this 
might be the situation through Grade 8. 

For the Love of Learning 

for parent(s) or guardian(s) when there are questions related 
to progress over those years. Excellent school transition 
programs for young students would include contact and 
communication between the educator who monitored their 
progress through Grade 5 or 6, and the educator who 
becomes responsible for their educational planning at the 
next level. 

Adolescents increasingly demand to be treated as 
adults: to make choices, participate in important 
decisions, and take control over their own lives, 
including their lives at school. 

The transition to adolescence: Special considera- 
tion of the needs of learners from age 12 to 15 

While there is no change in curriculum content between 
Grades 1 to 6 and Grades 7 to 9, there are significant 
changes in the way schools are organized and curriculum is 

As well, there are important changes in the students. 
First, they must begin to consider where their interests and 
achievements are leading them, and to become more future- 
oriented in terms of secondary and post-secondary educa- 
tional and career choices. 

Second, they increasingly demand to be treated as adults: 
to make choices, participate in important decisions, and take 
control over their own lives, including their lives at school. 

We suggest that there are some inherent contradictions 
between the way schools are organized and the needs of the 
young adolescent learners, and offer some suggestions for 
ways of meeting their needs more effectively. 

Relational needs 

Adolescence is "a period of rapid and uneven physical 
growth and unsettling emotional development. It is a time 
when most human beings experiment with the limits of 
acceptable behaviour and physical risk. Peer pressure is 
strong. Vulnerability is high."" And, at the same time that 
adults are sensitive to increased vulnerability among adoles- 
cents, the young people themselves are seeking increased 

Acknowledging these realities has led to considerations 
about ways of providing stability and, at the same time, of 
challenging students of this age. Some of their identified 
needs include a strong requirement for positive peer rela- 
tionships, for caring adult relationships, for opportunities to 
learn what they do well, and to be recognized for that as part 
of constructing a positive self-image. 

Finally, they need to participate meaningfully in the 
world around them, including the world of school, where so 
much of their time is spent. 

As students move into adolescence, at age 12 or 13, they 
have to deal with warring feelings. On one hand, they are 
eager for more autonomy and, on the other, they feel 
increasingly self-conscious and easily alienated. They seek 
independence from parents and other adults, and closeness 
to peers; at the same time, they are anxious for adult 
approval and disappointed and angry when teachers and 
other adults fail to appreciate them or are not sensitive to 
their feelings. 

While, at this age, students often yearn for the change 
and sense of maturity they associate with a large, depart- 
mentalized secondary school, there is. evidence that such 
large and relatively impersonal institutions are not in their 
best interests, academically or socially. Large schools do 
provide economies of scale in terms of facilities and equip- 
ment, but research suggests they are not optimal learning 
environments for adolescents.-' For this reason, educators 
increasingly urge that the size of schools be decreased in 
order to provide a sense of community, and a peer group 
that has some constancy. 

When existing buildings are large and cannot be replaced 
within current budgets, as is the case in much of Ontario at 
present, the preferred strategy is to create what is called a 
school-within-a-school, a kind of separate house system. 
Students may take some classes (technology and lab classes, 
for example) outside their "school" or "house," but take most 
of their other core classes within their school unit. An ideal 
school-within-a-school is often described as between 100 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

An additional strategy for creating a sense of community 
in a French-language school is a well-structured 
program of "animation culturelle" (activities that 
develop pride in, and a sense of belonging to, a 
pluralistic Franco-Ontarian community) integrated into 
the school curriculum. 

Central to developing community vvfithin a Catholic 
school is the shared spiritual and sacramental tradition 
of the students and staff. 

and 500 students, with a group of teachers attached to that 
unit to teach such subjects as language, mathematics, 
science, and social studies. 

In these "houses," and in large, conventional junior-high 
and secondary schools as well, there are distinct advantages 
to having each teacher specialize in and teach two subjects, 
rather than just one, in order to provide greater flexibility. 

An additional strategy for creating a sense of community 
in a French-language school is a well-structured program of 
"animation culturelle" (activities that develop pride in, and a 
sense of belonging to, a pluralistic Franco-Ontarian commu- 
nity) integrated into the school curriculum. This is particu- 
larly important because students in a French-language 
school in an English-language culture may feel ambivalent 
about their linguistic and cultural identity, and are likely to 
need, and will benefit from, an emphasis on cultural solidar- 
ity that creates mutual respect and support among franco- 
phone students and between the students and their teachers. 

Central to developing community within a Catholic 
school is the shared spiritual and sacramental tradition of 
the students and staff. The school is a community of faith, 
and many Catholic secondary schools have chaplains and 
pastoral teams who focus the school's energies on liturgical 
events, retreats, community outreach, social justice projects, 
and the needs of the students themselves. For many 
students, these services and activities become an essential 
part of the school experience, and are frequently vehicles 
that help them cope with personal and home problems. 

Another way of offering some stability and sense of 
community to students who move from class to class with- 
out any constant peer group is to establish a teacher advisory 

system: each teacher acts as advisor to a group of about 15 
students, who meet together often - usually daily. 

In a school organized on the rotary system (a different 
teacher for each subject), which often begins in Grade 6 or 7, 
teachers may have as many as 250 students on their register, 
and cannot possibly know all or even most of them individ- 
ually. While there are certainly advantages to having special- 
ist teachers - they can offer students more depth and preci- 
sion in subject areas - it is not surprising that some students 
feel quite alienated and unnoticed in large, departmentalized 
schools. This situation is exacerbated by the credit system, 
which now begins in Grade 10, and replaces the stability of a 
fairly constant peer group with a different set of students for 
each subject. 

No teacher, however well prepared and hard working, is 
likely to be successful with students if she does not commu- 
nicate that they are important to her as individuals as well as 
learners. In earlier grades, where teachers have responsibility 
for a single group of students, that can and most often does 
happen, although it becomes more difficult as the number of 
students in the class increases. 

But when teachers have hundreds of students on their 
roll, and see them for only 40 or 50 minutes a day - when 
students spend these brief periods with seven or eight teach- 
ers per day - the opportunity for real interpersonal contact 
and caring is seriously attenuated. At the very time when 
students most need to develop a relationship of trust with an 
adult other than a parent, something else is required. 

Even in a modified rotary system, sometimes used for 
Grades 6 to 8, students usually have at least four teachers, 
and teachers have many more than a hundred students. (The 
modified rotary, however, has real advantages over full 
rotary: students can remain together as a group for at least 
half the day, and it can be seen as a helpful transition 
between the typical elementary and secondary structures, as 
they exist at present.) 

Advisory or mentor arrangements create a role for teach- 
ers, not as either instructor or evaluator, but as advisor and 
advocate. Ideally, the contact between student and teacher is 
maintained during their years in the school, giving students 
and their parents an optimal opportunity to establish a 
personal and trusting relationship with the advisor. 

While some of the advisory group meetings may be brief 
(a daily ten-minute "check-in" for attendance and announce- 

For the Love of Learning 

merits), other, longer, regular meetings, usually scheduled 
once or twice a week, give students an opportunity to 
discuss issues of concern to them. As well, individual advi- 
sor-student meetings occur regularly, to provide an opportu- 
nity for student and advisor to share information and 
concerns, discuss the student's progress, and decide whether 
the student needs other kinds of support or whether teach- 
ers or parents should be involved in any decisions. The advi- 
sor functions as co-ordinator of each student's program, 
collecting necessary information from other teachers, and 
acting as a contact point with the school for parents. 

Even when students have a teacher-advisor and a small 
advisory group with whom they meet regularly, they still 
benefit from a unit in which there is a real possibility that 
they will have face-to-face contact and familiarity with all 
members of the school community. We suggest that much 
smaller school units - ranging between 100 and 500 students 
- and teacher advisory programs create optimal learning 
situations for adolescents. 

We want to create contexts that support students and give 
substance to the rhetoric of "communities of learners." We 
believe this will happen when there are smaller learning 
units, such as schools-within-schools, or house systems, that 
can create stronger bonds between students and students, 
between students and teachers, and between teachers across 
disciplines and departments. 

Recommendation 9 

*We recommend that the Ministry of Education and Training 
and the local boards of education provide Incentives to large 
middle (and secondary) schools to create smaller learning 
units, such as schools-v/ithln-schools or houses. 

In addition to downsizing schools, stronger learning 
communities can be achieved by creating teacher-advisor 
relationships for students. 

The teacher-advisor program has additional important 
potential for supporting a stronger, more informed involve- 
ment of parents in the education of their adolescents, at a 
time when youth often do themselves a disservice by trying 
to exclude parents from that process. 

As an absolute minimum, any serious attempt to reduce the alien- 
ation that is a major cause of dropping out must begin by providing 
every student with an assured and regular relationship with at least 
one caring adult within the school system.-' 

Planning needs 

The need that many, if not all, adolescents have for a more 
personal relationship with a teacher coincides with what 
becomes, beginning in Grade 7, a strong need for education- 
al and career guidance. As students enter adolescence and 
what is traditionally considered middle or junior high 
school, they become more concerned with their future, and 
with the choices they are aware must be made, beginning in 
three years, when the curriculum becomes more specialized. 

At this point in their schooling, students will begin think- 
ing in a more focused way about their interests, the subjects 
they want to pursue, and even the kinds of education, train- 
ing, or work they might choose after high school. If they 
have been exposed to a multitude of community settings 
and work sites, through an active community-based, career- 
awareness program in their earlier years in school, they will 
be well prepared to begin this thinking. 

Nonetheless, students and their parents need an informed 
person at school who will talk with them about the various 
options at the secondary level. The role is one of an educa- 
tional advisor/career planner. Beginning in Grade 7, 
students, parents, and the teacher should be participating in 
a semi-annual review of the student's overall progress and 
experience to date, including both academic progress and 
other learning experiences. 

The Ministry of Education and Training has announced 
that it intends to develop guidelines for a Comprehensive 
Achievement Profile, a cumulative record of a student's 
achievements from Grade 7 to Grade 9. We suggest that this 
document would better be termed a Cumulative Educational 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

The process of creating the Cumulative Education Plan 
is at least as important as the final product. The value of 
such a process is that it demands that teacher, student, 
and parents regularly review what the student is learning 
and what opportunities and experiences she is acquiring, 
so that decisions about courses and futures are made on 
the basis of reflection and discussion begun years before 
any hard choices have to be made; this also allows many 
opportunities for exploring new alternatives. 

Plan (CEP), and be viewed as an essential education- and 
career-planning tool, to be maintained through Grade 12. 

In our view, the process of creating the CEP is at least as 
important as the final product. The value of such a process 
is that it demands that teacher, student, and parents regular- 
ly review what the student is learning and what opportuni- 
ties and experiences she is acquiring, so that decisions about 
courses and futures are made on the basis of reflection and 
discussion begun years before any hard choices have to be 
made; this also allows many opportunities for exploring new 

To be of value, such a process must not be rushed or 
mechanical. The conversation cannot last for just five 
minutes, and participants must share a common under- 
standing of its purpose. In order to develop and support this 
kind of program, teacher-advisors will need guidance from 
administrators or counsellors, who will have to review the 
CEPs periodically to ensure that the process is working. 

The major purpose of the CEP is not simply to record 
student history, but to serve as a planning guide in the short 
and long term. What interests and talents has the student 
exhibited? What difficulties, if any, need to be addressed so 
that she can work towards a chosen goal, whether in Grade 8 
or later? By the time the student reaches Grade 9, she and 
her parents will have been through this process four times. 
Thus, there will be a history of discussions about the 
student's interests and goals, and all parties will be reason- 
ably prepared to make decisions about the secondary school 

Recommendation 10 

*We recommend that, beginning in Grade 7, every student 
liave a Cumulative Education Plan, which includes the 
student's academic and other learning experiences, is under- 
stood to be the major planning tool for the student's 
secondary and post-secondary education, and is reviewed 
semi-annually by the student, parents, and by the teacher 
who has a continuing relationship with and responsibility for 
that student as long as she or he remains in the school. 

The CEP is part of a stronger student orientation, begin- 
ning in the elementary years, to career and self-awareness. It 
is also part of an emphasis we believe essential: the school's 
responsibility for continuous and purposeful monitoring of 
student progress. 

It is conceivable that schools may want to merge the CEP 
conference with the end-of-term meeting with parents; in 
that case the teacher-advisor would have to be prepared to 
discuss the student's current marks as well. 

We do not expect teacher-advisors to be career counsel- 
lors, nor do we intend that students should be completely 
dependent on subject teachers for career counselling. In 
Chapter 10 we make recommendations to support both 
teachers and students in this important area. 

The need for choice, decision-making, and control 

Key determinants of adolescent health may be defined as 
supportive environments on the one hand, and control over 
decisions and choices on the other. While adolescent 
students are likely to benefit from consistency and stability, 
this is the period when they ask for choice and control. One 
of the main complaints we heard from these and older 
students was that they had very little sense of control over 
their lives at school: decisions are made by others, and they 
do not feel they are acquiring experience that will equip 
them for decision-making later on. 

Students are not often asked what they think of their 
program, or their teachers, or whether the school is meeting 
their needs. When they are asked, their response is generally 
thoughtful and practical, which suggests that, in addition to 
giving them satisfaction, consulting the students provides 
principals and teachers with real input for improving their 

Students told us that student councils in many schools 
are perceived as acting as social conveners only, arranging 

For the Love of Learning 

dances and the like. They added that, as a whole, students do 
not see council members as representatives of the student 
body, and hence do not treat them as such. Clearly, if 
student councils are to represent students and to develop 
leadership, there must be some preparation for understand- 
ing the role of such organizations, not only for those who 
are elected, but for all students, and perhaps for staff as well. 

Even when student councils do provide real leadership 
and decision-making opportunities, they do so for only a 
very few students. Most students will not hold office or 
become sports heroes. In the classroom as well in a wide 
variety of co-curricular programs, opportunities can be 
created for greater student participation and responsibility. 

Most students, including those still in elementary school, 
appreciate the opportunity to make choices among topics 
and assignments. Even having options among test questions 
gives students a sense of greater freedom and control. By the 
time they are in adolescence, students regard the "contract" 
assignment, which puts control for acquiring, organizing, 
and presenting information squarely in their hands, as offer- 
ing them real responsibility - which, with practice, they are 
probably quite able to fulfil. 

Similarly, community-based education and work experi- 
ences, such as community service assignments, job-shadow- 
ing, and co-operative education, put students in adult-like 
roles, with significant responsibility and without heavy 
school-based supervision. The popularity of co-operative 
education among employers, as well as among students, 
suggests that most students who take these opportunities do 
not abuse them. 

There are many ways of increasing students' experiences 
and opportunities for making choices and decisions in what 
they are learning and how, and in the organization of their 
schools. The essential component is that teachers and 
administrators understand the importance of treating 
students respectfully, as maturing young men and women 
whose opinions are worthy of consideration, as well as the 
importance of giving them greater control over the learning 
and social environment of their schools. Inevitably, a 14- 
year-old is immature in the eyes of adults; but maturity 
depends not only on age, but also on practice, and practice 
depends on being given freedom and responsibility. Students 
need the support of adults to become adult. 


Community service offers 
another opportunity for 
decisionmaking and 
responsibility. A particularly 
impressive example is the 
program called United 
Wave, which aims to foster 
leadership and a sense of 
social responsibility in 
young people and which 
involves the United Way, 
Bell Canada, and four 
boards of education. 
Students develop propos- 
als for short-term commu- 
nity service projects; those 
proposals are reviewed by 
peers, who allocate the 
resources for implementa- 
tion. In 1992-93, for exam- 
ple, 16 projects in the 
North York Board were 
funded, most for a few 
hundred dollars each. 

The students created such 
projects as friendly visiting 
and pen-pal programs for 
seniors; an after-school 
recreation and tutoring 
program for local elemerv 
tary students; a bazaar to 
sell used clothing to those 
in need, with all proceeds 
donated to United Way; 
and a speakers series to 
promote AIDS awareness. 

Students learn organiza- 
tional skills, planning, 
money management, public 
speaking, proposal devel- 
opment, and community 
work. At the same time, 
they gain greater self-confi- 
dence, an increased sense 
of personal responsibility, 
better understanding of 
social issues, and an 
understanding that they 
have a role to play in 
responding to their own 
community's needs. 

Adolescence is the beginning of the transition to adult- 
hood, and any transition is best made gradually, not abrupt- 
ly. To expect students to be docile, passive, and dependent 
until they reach 18 or 19, and then to become mature and 
self-sufficient the day they graduate is to undermine a 
smooth passage to adulthood. 

We suggest that a very useful planning tool for senior 
elementary and secondary schools would be to a create a 
checklist of ways students could be involved in decision- 
making at both the classroom and the school level. Senior 
students, working with teachers and administrators, could 
create and field-test such tools, which could be used by 
student councils and school staff'to develop and periodically 
assess the school's atmosphere in terms of student opportu- 
nities and responsibilities. 

In the same way that a school uses results of a literac)' test 
to better understand how student needs and curriculum fit, 
a tool that assesses the school climate can be used to 
improve the school, and it has the advantage of being one 
the students can "own" and use. Recommendations concern- 
ing the collection of information from students, by students, 


Vol. II Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Excellent education for 
students must include 
caring and continuity. Every 
student should have one 
educator who is aware of 
her or his progress, and 
can speak knowledgeably 
about it, and on the 
student's behalf. This 
necessitates some differ- 
ent structures, especially 
once students move into a 
"rotary" schedule, where 
they see several teachers 
per day. As well, large 
schools must be scaled 
down, so that the school 
unit - the teachers and 
students with whom any 

one student learns - is 
small enough to work as a 
face-to-face community, 
where people have a sense 
of responsibility to one 
another, and where every 
student has a relationship 
with a teacher who helps 
the student with education- 
al and career planning in a 
way that is documented 
and cumulative. As 
students mature, they 
continue to require 
concerned adult guidance; 
they also need much more 
experience in decision- 
making and leadership. 

will equip them for increasing specialization at the 
secondary and post-secondary level. Our emphasis has been 
on the young learner, and the curriculum that will meet her 
growing needs. 

In the following section we discuss some aspects of The 
Common Curriculum about which we heard considerable 
comment and controversy. These issues include the 
destreamed Grade 9, learner outcomes as a way of structur- 
ing the curriculum, the integration of subjects, and the 
opportunity for local additions to the common curriculum. 

for the purpose of improving education at the school and 
board level are made in Chapter 15. 

At the end of Grade 9, students must make a choice of 
which courses they will take the next school year. While this 
choice is not, and should not be, binding or excessively 
constraining, it is highly significant. Making the decision, 
which is the first step away from a common curriculum into 
a set of options that lead in different directions, is easier if 
the student and her parents and advisor have been examin- 
ing and re-examining her interests and achievements since 
Grade 7, and if she has had significant opportunities - in 
and outside class - to reflect on her interests and perfor- 
mance, as well as to work in the community and to make 
decisions that affect her daily life in school. 

One of our major goals in this report is to build a system 
that, from the early years, focuses students on the connec- 
tion between themselves and the community of which they 
are a part, emphasizing work and career as important, not 
only to their own livelihood but to the role they will eventu- 
ally play in their community. We want to help students 
become aware of the connection between what is learned in 
school and what is used in life so that, by the time they reach 
the end of the common curriculum, they will have a rich 
understanding of themselves and their communities on 
which to base their choice of post-secondary education and 

In this chapter, we have described what we think is the 
essential content of and the essential supports in the school 
and community for a common curriculum - one that 
ensures that all children and young adolescents have the 
opportunity to obtain a solid and rich basic education that 

The curriculum as the basis of a learning 
system through Grade 9 

As we explained earlier, a common curriculum from Grades 
1 through 9 has recently been defined by the Ministry of 
Education and Training. This is an attempt to define learn- 
ing as continuous over the nine years, in place of previous 
curriculum documents that usually separated primary 
(Grades 1 to 3) from junior (Grades 4 to 6) and intermedi- 
ate (Grades 7 to 10). The continuum of learning across 
subject areas in The Common Curriculum is described by 
learning outcomes (descriptions of what students will know 
and be able to do) at the end of Grades 3, 6, and 9. We have 
recommended that, in addition, such outcomes be prepared 
for the end of Grade 1, so that the curriculum of Early 
Childhood Education flows into the curriculum that starts 
with the beginning of compulsory schooling. 

Many people spoke to us about the common curriculum. 
While we heard little argument about the range of subjects 
to be covered, there was considerable concern about the 
specific document. The Common Curriculum, Grades 1-9, its 
content and format. 

The Common Curriculum is a departure from previous 
practice in three major ways: 

• It includes Grade 9, based on the decision that, like Grades 
1-8, Grade 9 is now non-streamed, and all students follow 
the same program. 

• It describes curriculum in terms of its intended results for 
the students, rather than in terms of teacher inputs. 

• It describes curriculum in four "strands," rather than as 
more than a dozen separate subjects. 

We briefly discuss each of these innovations. 

For the Love of Learning 

While it is certainly dangerous to insist on outcomes that 
are easily measured, at the expense of highly valued but 
less easily gauged results, there is little value in state- 
ments that do not communicate clearly, to teachers or 
parents or students, v^fhat is intended, or how one would 
know if the outcome had been achieved. 

The inclusion of Grade 9 

The public is divided on the subject of destreaming Grade 9. 
Those who oppose it and prefer streaming believe that 
students gain advantages when they are divided on the basis 
of their prior level of achievement, and are taught in more 
homogeneous groups. Others support destreaming in Grade 
9, and believe that students will benefit from an additional 
year of common curriculum before they make a choice 
about their secondary program, which is, indeed, the 
purpose of destreaming. It is an attempt to respond to the 
high drop-out rate among students outside the university- 
preparatory (advanced level) stream and the fact that certain 
groups (defined by class and/or race) are under-represented 
in courses designed to prepare students for university. 

We note that research offers little support for the idea 
that all or most students benefit from streaming in Grade 
9," and we accept the idea that postponing specialization 
until Grade 10 is likely to help more students than not. As 
well, we are aware that this is the most common type of 
curriculum organization in Canada. 

The focus on learner outcomes 

The quantity, quality, and effectiveness of learner outcomes as 
a way of organizing curriculum 

The Common Curriculum outlines what students should 
learn by the end of Grades 3, 6, and 9, by listing the expected 
"learner outcomes" in each of four broad, integrated subject 
areas. The idea of focusing curriculum on what should be 
learned, rather than what should be taught, makes sense. 
Schools exist, after all, not to create employment for adults 
but to ensure education of youth. But neither, it should also 
be said, do statements about learner outcomes guarantee 
they will be attained. In other words, they contain no magic, 
and there is no reason to assume that learning or teaching 
will change simply because learner outcomes have been writ- 

Furthermore, while they may be helpful in communicat- 
ing to teachers, parents, and others (including the students 
themselves) the sequence of learning that is expected, they 
may, if improperly or over-used, convey the false impression 
that all learning is perfectly sequential, which it is not. 

While we heard little opposition to the idea of basing 
curriculum on learner outcomes, we did hear complaints 
about the quality and quantity of the outcomes specified in 

The Common Curriculum. Many people found them too 
numerous and too vague, and insufficiently clear for 
communicating to students, parents, and teachers the actual 
and concrete expectations of learners they imply. 

While it is certainly dangerous to insist on outcomes that 
are easily measured, at the expense of highly valued but less 
easily gauged results, there is little value in statements that 
do not communicate clearly, to teachers or parents or 
students, what is intended, or how one would know if the 
outcome had been achieved. How will parents or teachers be 
enlightened by the statement that, by the end of Grade 3, 
students will "recognize the values presented in literature"? 

We agree that the outcomes stated in The Common 
Curriculum are both too numerous and too vague. For 
example, there are 25 outcomes expected of students by the 
end of Grade 3 in reading. They range from the fairly specif- 
ic and concrete ("use such features as the table of contents, 
index, and glossary to find information") to the very general 
and non-specific ("use their knowledge and experiences to 
interpret what they read"), and reflect no particular order or 
degree of priority and importance. 

We believe that if teachers are'to check their course plans 
against a blueprint of essential learning, and if parents are 
to understand what they can expect their child to be able to 
read and absorb, they need fewer and clearer guideposts - 
or, if not fewer, then certainly a presentation in which major 
outcomes are grouped, and examples are given. The same is 
true in all curriculum areas. 

Major outcomes should be presented to parents as a fair- 
ly brief, descriptive list, which could appear on a report 
card, to give concrete indicators of a student's progress so 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

that a "satisfactory" in reading, for example, is broken down 
to tell the parent something about the particular reading 
activities and skills the student shows competence in. 

While The Common Curriculum, revised as of December 
1994, tries to address these concerns, it cannot fully succeed. 
Inevitably, there is a continuing tension between the need 
for clear, measurable learner outcomes and the need to 
ensure they are not overwhelmingly detailed and specific. It 
may be that learner outcomes are best expressed in fairly 
general terms, and illustrated with very concrete examples, 
used only as examples, and not meant to be exhaustive. 
Additional documents, such as standards (at least in founda- 
tion subjects) and course descriptions, will certainly be 
needed by teachers if they are to have sufficient guidance on 
what they are expected to teach and what students are 
expected to learn. 

By itself, The Common Curriculum is insufficient for 
informing teachers and parents about programs. While it is 
sensible to make learner outcomes the basis of curriculum 
design, it is also necessary to indicate what major areas, 
topics, or skills might be emphasized in an annual program, 
in a way that is not restrictive, but permissive and helpful in 
choosing priorities among alternatives. 

Teachers want and need some guidance about the 
elements of a subject to be addressed in order to achieve the 
learner outcomes described at three-year intervals. To argue 
backwards: if, by the end of Grade 3, a large number of chil- 
dren are unable to use such features as tables of contents, 
indices, etc., how will Grade 1, 2, and 3 teachers know how 
to improve the lessons to meet that target? 

What is missing now is a set of curriculum guidelines 
that describe at least some of the sequences. Without such 
common guidelines, there is no assurance of consistency in 
or between schools in what is taught and learned. Curricu- 
lum guidelines are frameworks within which specific 
programs can be elaborated in each school or class. Existing 
provincial guidelines below the Grade 10 level are not 
congruent with The Common Curriculum and must be 
redesigned. This is not necessarily a long and arduous 
process; existing materials may be adaptable. But some work 
is necessary at once, to give teachers and parents some guid- 
ance, support, and reassurance. 

We beheve the Ministry of Education and Training 
should support the development of updated course guide- 
lines based on the learning outcomes of The Common 
Curriculum, which will help teachers understand what they 
are expected to teach and what students are expected to 
learn each year. Such documents should encourage continu- 
ity from year to year, and avoid unnecessary duplication of 
effort at both the planning and delivery levels, and should 
help to create consistency both vertically (from Grades 1 to 
9) and horizontally (within and across schools and boards). 

The course guidelines must not be overly specific: if 
content is too closely prescribed, programs can become 
rigid, and teachers forced into a passive mode: as their 
opportunity to exercise professional judgement is eroded, 
their commitment to excellence is weakened. Guidelines that 
are appropriate and not overly detailed will encourage 
consistency without creating stultifying rigidity and an over- 
whelming concern for "covering" the curriculum that over- 
rides the teacher's judgment about what students are learn- 
ing, and how well they are learning it. 

While teachers do not need a detailed user manual for 
each course, it should not be necessary for each teacher to 
invent her own course guideline. Instead, she should be free 
to supplement the basic guidelines by selecting unit topics or 
modules (detailed examples of which, in menu form, should 
be available as curriculum support documents or within the 
guidelines, as examples and appendices). The teacher's job is 
not to write curriculum, but to decide how best to present it, 
based on available resources and on her knowledge of the 
students' interests and prior achievements. 

Parents (and students) also need course descriptions, in 
order to understand what is expected. These descriptions 


For the Love of Learning 

should be brief, but convey enough information to give 
parents a picture of what their children will be learning, and 
so that older students - beyond the primary years - have an 
overview of the course. (Even quite young students can use a 
look at the year's plan as a very good example of preparing 
and organizing for learning.) 

For example, this excerpt from a Grade 3 guideline called 
a "core knowledge sequence" describes the music component 
of the curriculum. Grades 1-3: 

In the first grade, students were introduced to three parts of music: 
melody, rhythm, and harmony. In the second grade, students studied 
melody in depth; in the third grade, they will study rhythm; and in 
the fourth grade, harmony. Students will also identify more of the 
musical instruments and their sounds. Children begin learning to 
read notes.-' 

An individual Grade 3 teacher might add some detail - 
for example, the instruments children will have a chance to 
play, the fact that they will learn songs from several coun- 
tries and cultural traditions, and a list of appropriate stories 
and books about music and musicians they could read with 
their parents. This level of information would tell parents 
what their children are learning in music in a way that 
encourages parental conversation and involvement in the 
child's learning experience. 

If parents and the general public can gain easy access to 
course descriptions that have clear learner outcomes, they 
can understand concretely what students are supposed to 
learn. Assessment in foundation skills, based on clearly stat- 
ed standards, will tell them how well those areas are being 
learned. Public systems depend on public support, which, in 
turn, depends on public information. And it is much easier 
for parents to support and monitor a child's progress if they 
have a map. These will give teachers and parents a clear idea 
of the basic structure of each year's course or subject, and 
should include suggestions to parents for supporting their 
children's learning. 

One important element, traditionally missing from 
curriculum guidelines, is a group of suggestions to teachers 
on helping parents enhance the work of the school. One 
reason many parents feel so frustrated about dealing with 
their child's school is that, when they ask how they can help 
their child at home, they may be told not to worry, because 

their child is doing well - suggesting that parents are super- 
fluous to their child's learning and growth. 

Parents should have a way of connecting to the child's 
school life, and should be encouraged to show interest. 
Parents' desire to help should be welcomed, not discouraged. 
Teachers must appreciate the value, for children, of the 
connection between home and school - an emotional value 
that has strong consequences for academic success. 

If conventional curriculum guidelines have sorely 
neglected the home-school link part of the curriculum, so 
have courses designed to prepare teachers for their profes- 
sion. Teachers need specific examples linked to specific 
curriculum pieces, so that they can give parents concrete, 
positive suggestions on what they can do at home as particu- 
lar projects or topics are being covered at school. We suggest 
that course guidelines for teachers include suggested 
summaries for parents and students, which teachers can 
distribute (with any additions they wish to make) early in the 
year, at a first parents' meeting or another suitable occasion. 

For example, using the description of the Grade 3 music 
curriculum above, teachers could include suggestions to 
parents for listening to music with their children, could 
suggest some children's music tapes available at libraries 
(including the school library) and book and music stores, 
could mention music- related television programs that 
parents could watch with children, could describe some 
simple rhythm and harmony games and tunes to play and 
sing together, and so forth. 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 


/eryone recognizes that all 
tudents learn at different rates. 
Why do we continue to make learning 
a function of time and expect all 
students in any course with finite 
time limits to be successful? ... 
[With] individualized learning where 
students are allowed to learn at their 
own rate ... dropout rates ... are 
considerably less than those of simi- 
lar courses where students are all 
expected to learn at the same rate." 

Don Matthews, Number College 

Recommendation 11 

*We recommend that curriculum guidelines be developed in 
each subject taught within the common curriculum, to assist 
teachers In designing programs that will help students 
achieve the learning outcomes in The Common Curriculum. 
These guidelines should include concrete suggestions on how 
teachers can share with parents ways to help their children 
at home. 

Outcomes and time 

Perhaps the single most significant rationale for serious 
attention to learner outcomes is that, if they are clear and 
precise, they can be far superior as an indicator of learning 
to amount of instructional time devoted to a subject. What 
is important about the elementary science curriculum, for 
example, is that, from it, students learn to recognize and 
understand certain natural processes and ways of asking 
questions scientifically - not that they have attended school 
180 days in the year and been exposed to an average of 20 
minutes per day of science instruction. Of course, without 
instruction and exposure they are very unlikely to learn; but 
exposure by itself is no guarantee of learning and, in fact, 
some very productive exposure that results in learning may 
happen outside the classroom. 

Focusing on learner outcomes makes it possible to aban- 
don the strict number of days or hours as a measure of 
"product" and allow for the reality that people learn at 
different rates. Then the teacher's and the school's commit- 
ment must be to monitor individual understanding and 
achievement very regularly, allowing those students who 
need it more time for learning; this can be done through 

additional tutoring and practice time during the school day 
or by making use of time during the summer. 

By insisting that all students learn material within a set 
time, usually one school year, we have created a whole cate- 
gory of students who are seen as handicapped. Sometimes 
they are called slow learners, a term that is sometimes 
confused with learning disabilities. And we have tried, usual- 
ly with little success, to create different, often separate, learn- 
ing programs for each of these groups. Learning outcomes 
offer an alternative approach, one that suggests that learners 
differ, not categorically but along a continuum according to 
rate of learning, and that these rates vary by subject matter. 
A person may learn mathematics slowly but learn French at 
an above-average rate. Another person may be slower than 
average in all or almost all subject areas, but be quite capable 
of attaining the target outcomes if given more time to do so. 

Making time a variable rather than a constant is most 
important when students are acquiring the foundation skills 
on which their future learning depends. If these are solidly 
acquired, students will be able to apply themselves to such 
subjects as literature, history, mathematics, and geography 
with some confidence. While learning rates will continue to 
vary, we would expect that students whose rate of learning is 
much slower than average would, with solid foundation 
skills, move closer to the average. 

While it is essential to allow for variability in learning 
rate, it is also true that there is and will be a range of 
achievement. Thus, for example, some students will receive a 
higher mark than others, but everyone in the range may be 
performing at an acceptable level, with the highest achievers 
showing more than adequate mastery. The standards being 
developed in language and mathematics by the Ministry of 
Education and Training reflect that range, by describing 
several "standards of performance" for each major area of 
the curriculum. In mathematics, there are four standards or 
levels of performance, called "limited," "adequate," "profi- 
cient," and "superior"; students are expected to reach either 
the "adequate" or the "proficient" level. 

If there was more flexibility in learning time, we could 
expect the range in performance to narrow to the degree 
that achievement at the "limited" level would drop to a very 
small percentage of students; some students would take 
longer to achieve at an "adequate" level; and those who were 

For the Love of Learning 

achieving at the "proficient" and "superior" levels would 
move more quickly through the curriculum. 

Many of the more traditional strategies for attempting to 
help slower learners have been largely unsuccessful. Repeating 
a grade, for example, is rarely associated with greater academ- 
ic success; most often, students who do so do not seem to 
benefit after the second year, and are again at the bottom of 
their class, unable to keep up. Eventually they swell the ranks 
of the high-school drop-out population." If a student has 
learned some, but not all, of what classmates have shown they 
understand, she does not need to be put back to the begin- 
ning, but needs help at the place she has reached. 

Rather than putting her in a different program with a 
different and less challenging curriculum, where she has no 
chance of completing the same work as her peers, her best 
chances for success will probably come from being in that 
same program, with support and assistance, so that she can 
move with them. In some cases, additional catch-up time 
can be made available during the summer. 

In a few schools, for example, all courses are broken into 
small units, meant to last ten months (one school year) for 
most students, but flexible enough to be compressed for 
students who can move faster, or to stretch longer (14 
months) for slower learners or for learners who are slower in 
a particular subject area. Evaluation is frequent, as are 
reports to parents. It should be noted that schools organized 
that way are offering this level of individualization, monitor- 
ing, and reporting to all their students, not just to a few 
slower learners. 

Another aspect of helping students learn more quickly 
has to do with lessening the likelihood they will forget what 
they have learned. Schedules that shorten the long summer 
break - whether they are year-round with month-long 
breaks twice a year, or extended school years in which 
students attend school 200 or 210 instead of 185 days - may 
have a significant impact, especially for young learners. 
There is some evidence that the long summer break is 
counter-productive for students who are already disadvan- 
taged in terms of school achievement.'* Some studies suggest 
that the "summer forgetting" phenomenon, which affects 
few advantaged but many disadvantaged students, might, by 
itself, account for much of the widening gap between the 
two groups in the later elementary years and beyond.'" 

Some summer programs have been implemented, such as 
the summer book-by-mail program in some downtown 

Toronto schools, which showed success in eliminating or 
narrowing the summer learning gap. While year-round 
schools are most often recommended as a way of avoiding 
the need to build new schools to accommodate growing 
enrolments (and, therefore, to save money), it is important 
to point out that the year-round school has positive implica- 
tions for learning, particularly for disadvantaged students, 
and that this is particularly true in the early years, when 
students are acquiring foundation skills. For this reason, we 
suggest that in some circumstances the idea of year-round 
schools and/or extended school-year calendars should be 
given careful consideration. 

Recommendation 12 

*We recommend that the Minister of Education and Training 
amend the regulations to enable school boards to extend the 
length of the school day and/or school year. 

For students who can move more quickly through one or 
several subjects, we recommend that exams similar to the 
challenge exams at the secondary level (see Chapter 9) 
should be available. A student who shows, on such an exam, 
that she is ready to move ahead to the next level should be 
helped to do so, whether or not the eventual result is acceler- 
ation (skipping a grade). 

Recommendation 13 

*We recommend that the Ministry of Education and Training 

work with curriculum and learning specialists to develop 

strategies (based on sound theory and practice and enriched 

with detailed examples) for providing more flexibility in the 

amount of time available to students for mastering 


Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

Bourgeoys School 

There is an emphasis on 
individualized learning at 
this Ottawa-Carleton 
French-language elemen- 
tary school. Individualiza- 
tion, small-group, and 
whole-class sharing of indi- 
vidual learning and under- 
standing (la mise en 
commun), and frequent 
contact with the teacher for 
instruction and verification, 
are features of the 
program. Students use 
individualized learning 
materials and, through 
their activities, work to 
advance to the next unit 
only when they successfully 
complete the previous one. 

The teachers monitor the 
students' progress and 
evaluate their work as 
acceptable when they have 
met all requirements and 
the work contains no 
further errors. 

When one activity is 
finished satisfactorily, 
student and teacher indi- 
cate this fact in the learn- 
ing guide, and the students 
can then select a new 
activity in their "contract." 
Parents receive a weekly 
report on their child's 
progress. Students and 
teachers describe activities 
and evaluate effort and 
progress each week. 
Parents comment and sign 
this report. 

Schools that want to move ahead on implementing 
aspects of these more flexible systems should receive incen- 
tives and be supported throughout the process; field-based 
monitoring and evaluation must be built in; and informa- 
tion on the process and the results should be quickly 
communicated to educators and the public, using electronic 
as well as other media for sharing and discussing the work as 
it progresses. 

Curriculum integration 

The Common Curriculum presents subjects as clustered, or 
integrated, into four strands: language; the arts; mathemat- 
ics, science, and technology; and self and society. So, the 
learner outcomes for history, for example, are embedded in 
the area called "Self and Society," which also includes 
outcomes pertaining to geography, family and business stud- 
ies, physical and health education, and other subjects. 

There is little research on curriculum integration, espe- 
cially with regard to its potential for improving achievement 
or mastery. The notion of curriculum integration derives 
from the fact that, outside of formal education, most learn- 
ing is integrated; therefore, it is both a more natural and a 
more attractive way to learn. Nonetheless, we cannot 
assume, in the absence of research, that curriculum integra- 
tion will prove to be more effective as a way of presenting 
information to students than the more conventional delivery 
of discrete subjects. 

It is certainly true that a more integrated, less fragment- 
ed, curriculum was a hallmark of some of the schools that 
most impressed us as engaging their students in the learning 
process. The argument can be made that the more life-like 
the model for learning presented in school, the greater the 
likelihood that students will transfer the habit of learning to 
the rest of life. Students may find learning by topic (e.g., a 
unit on fish and fishing that includes science, math, and 
technology) more interesting and motivating than learning 
in discrete subject/disciplines (although there is the risk they 
will not realize that, while learning about fishing, they 
learned some biology, some geometry, and some environ- 
mental science, and will not be able to reassure their parents 
when asked what they are learning!). 

Another logical argument in favour of integrated curricu- 
lum is that it organizes a disparate and extensive menu of 
courses into some reasonable framework; this makes it more 
coherent for both teachers and learners, and addresses, to a 
significant extent, the curriculum overload problem. 

Finally, and perhaps most important, integration of 
subjects may promote, in teaching and learning, the practice 
of bringing together - synthesizing - different kinds of 
information when working on a problem. Being able to 
transfer knowledge, understanding, and skills from one situ- 
ation to another is a very critical component of learning. At 
the simplest level, it makes the difference between being able 
or unable to learn from experience, and without it learners 
are severely handicapped. At a more complex level, where 
most learners function, it marks the difference between a 
basic and a more-than-basic level of understanding. The 
reader who can apply and transfer generalized knowledge 
from one situation to another is the level 4 or 5 reader (the 
"proficient" or "superior" one), rather than the level 3 reader 
(who is only "competent" or "adequate"). It is this latter 
standard of literacy that is too often not attained by our 

Integration of subjects certainly does not guarantee this 
greater level of understanding, and is not essential to it; but 
integration may help promote teaching for the higher levels 
of understanding that should be the heart of the repertoire 
of all learners. 

The primary integration is of learning and life, the problem of 
compartmentalization of learning is a subset of the bigger problem 
of learning not being meaningful to the learner. Whether or not 

For the Love of Learning 

students integrate their learning in biology with their learning in 
literature is a good question. Whether they integrate their learnings 
in these areas with their daily thought and action and view of the 
world is a much more critical question. The focus of all our integra- 
tive efforts, therefore, must be the students themselves.'" 

Curriculum integration is intuitively appealing, and it has 
significant potential for making school-based learning more 
coherent; therefore, while we would like to see it supported 
throughout the common curriculum and beyond, we recog- 
nize substantial structural barriers to its implementation, in 
addition to the need for more and longer-term evaluation of 
its results. For one thing, it is not supported by universities 
when they pressure secondary schools to prepare students 
for the disciplines the universities recognize and teach - a 
pressure that is very effective in shaping secondary school 

As well, an integrated curriculum does not guarantee that 
teachers will teach the essential skills of each subject logical- 
ly and cumulatively if there is no specific plan for doing so - 
if for example, mathematics is entirely embedded in, and 
determined by, science and technology projects. 

Because we are concerned about the potential dangers of 
losing a comprehensive and sequential view of learning in 
fundamental and core subjects, we have recommended that 
written standards be developed by subject in the foundation 

While the task of developing integrated curriculum that 
does justice to the various subjects is not impossible, it is not 
familiar or easy, and requires considerable expertise. A very 
real concern about integrated curriculum is that it takes 
considerable time, as well as expertise, to design it in such a 
way that it is not superficial and does not inadvertently 
omit crucial components in the development of bodies of 

Integrated studies can degenerate into theme work and topics which 
contain no real challenge and involve students copying copiously 
from resource books . . . Effective integration is secured according to 
agreed-upon high-level principles which bring different subjects 
together ... Discussion about, agreement upon, and planning around 
key skills, concepts and attitudes at the school and district level is 
exceptionally important in achieving effective integrated studies." 

While a great deal of extremely valuable professional 
development may occur when teachers in a school work 
together to build an intelligently and thoroughly integrated 
curriculum, it is unrealistic to expect that the time necessary 
for this process is available in many or most schools. In 
order to integrate subjects, teachers need an extensive menu 
of topics or themes keyed to the learner outcomes in the 
subjects to be integrated, sequenced appropriately. They 
need an abundance of good examples on which to draw. 
Otherwise, the amount of planning necessary for this kind 
of teaching will seem overwhelming, and a disincentive to 

Because we believe the teaching and learning of the 
common curriculum will be enhanced by the availability of 
many concrete examples of integrated curricula in the four 
"strands," at a variety of grade levels, we suggest that the 
Ministry of Education and Training, with the help of teach- 
ers and others with curriculum-writing expertise, create a 
"menu" of examples of integrated curricula keyed to the 
learner objectives of the common curriculum. 

Inclusiveness of The Common Curriculum 

As mentioned earlier, educators and the public assume that 
The Common Curriculum describes all the subjects and 
learning outcomes that are expected to be included in school 
from Grades 1 through 9. And many educators and members 
of the public fear there isn't enough time in the day to cover 
what is described. We have argued that time and crowding 
are not the main issues, but that focus and clarity of 
purpose are. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

The most reasonable basis 
for the organization and 
assessment of curriculum 
is student learning 
outcomes: expectations of 
what students of various 
ages and grades will know 
and be able to do. Teach- 
ers require curriculum 
guidelines that will suggest 
to them many paths to the 
achievement of these 
outcomes, and parents 
require clear summary 
statements of what their 
children are expected to be 
learning in school each 

While there is one set of 
learning outcomes for all 
students, flexibility in how 
and when those outcomes 
are achieved is essential. 
Flexibility in the length and 
organization of the school 
day and year should be 
encouraged as a way of 
meeting the needs of more 
students; and schools and 
school boards should have 
some flexibility to modify 
the common curriculum by 
adding some local compo- 
nents and priorities. 

We also believe that there should be room for local 
options within the curriculum of a school. We recognize the 
importance of local priorities - schools and communities 
with an interest in seeing young people become more 
involved in environmental issues, or in community service; 
the desire to ensure that students have more understanding 
of, and exposure to, local government or to local artists and 
writers; a school being distinguished by the special emphasis 
it puts on science or computers or Native studies. Such local 
priorities can be addressed by allowing up to 10 percent of 
school time (the equivalent of one half-day per week, or one 
full day biweekly) to be devoted to subjects that are outside 
of, or represent an expansion of, the common curriculum. 

The local option component would be part of the 
school's program, subject to the same guidelines regarding 
curriculum and monitoring as any other part. It would be 
necessary for the Ministry of Education and Training to 
provide criteria of acceptability; local proposals would have 
to conform to these in order to be approved by the Ministry. 
But the idea is to enable school communities to be able to 
articulate their own special interests on behalf of their 
youth, in a partnership between parents and educators. 

Recommendation 14 

*We recommend that local schools and boards be allowed to 
develop and offer programs in addition to those in The 
Common Curriculum, as long as those options meet provin- 
cially developed criteria, and as long as at least 90 percent 
of instructional time is devoted to the common curriculum for 
Grades 1 to 9. 

For the Love of Learning 


1 Premier's Council on Health, Well-Being, and Social Justice, 
Yours, Mine, and Ours (Toronto: Ontario Children and Youth 
Project, 1994), p. 37. 

2 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, The Common 
Curriculum, Grades 1-9, Working Document {ToTonlo, 1993). 

3 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, Provincial 
Standards: Mathematics, Grades 3, 6, and 9 (Toronto 1993), 
and Provincial Standards: Language Grades (3, 6, and 9): 
Validation Draft (Toronto, 1994). 

4 Willard Daggett, "Today's Students, Yesterday's Schooling," 
Executive Educator 16, no. 6 (1994): 20. 

5 Philip Nagy, "National and International Comparisons of 
Student Achievement: Implications for Ontario." Paper writ- 
ten for the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning, 1994. 

6 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, The Common 
Curriculum, Grades 1-9: Version for Parents and the General 
Public (Toronto. 1993), p. 42. 

7 See C.R. Greenwood, I.J. Carta, and R.V. Hall, "The Use of 
Peer Tutoring Strategies in Classroom Management: An 
Educational Instruction," School Psychology Review 17, no. 2 
(1988): 258-75, and "Big Kids Teach Little Kids: What We 
Know about Cross-Age Tutoring," Harvard Education Letter 
3, no. 2 (1987): 1-4. 

8 D. Conrad and D. Hedin, "School-Based Community Service: 
What We Know from Research and Theory," Phi Delta 
Kappan 72, no. 10 (1991): 743-49. 

9 D. Pratt, "'We Already Know More Than We Need to Do 
That': An Optimistic Brief to the Royal Commission on 
Learning." Paper prepared for the Ontario Royal Commis- 
sion on Learning, 1994. 

10 Science Council of Canada, Science for Every Student: Educat- 
ing Canadians for Tomorrow's World, report 36 (Ottawa: 
Department of Supply and Services, 1984). 

1 1 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Science in Primary and 
Junior Education: A Report of Progress (Toronto, 1991). 

12 I.D. Novak and D. Musonda, "A Twelve-Year Longitudinal 
Study of Science Concept Learning," American Educational 
Research Journal 28, T\o. 1 (1991): 117-54. 

13 Graham Orpwood, "Scientific Literacy for All." Background 
paper for the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning, 1994. 

14 A. King and M. Peart, The Numbers Game: A Study of Evalu- 
ation and Achievement in Ontario Schools (Toronto: Ontario 
Secondary School Teachers' Federation, 1994), p. 41. 

15 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, Engendering 
Equity, Transforming Curriculum: Validation Draft (Toronto, 

1994), p. 53. 

16 Orpwood, "Scientific Literacy for All," p. 16. 

1 7 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Junior Division Science 
Survey, Eastern Ontario Region (Toronto, 1991). 

18 UNESCO, International Commission on Education for the 
Twenty-first Century, Learning for the Twenty-first Century 
(Paris: UNESCO, 1994), p. 8-9. Prepared by G.S. 

19 J. Lewington and G. Orpwood, Overdue Assignment: Taking 
Responsibility for Canada's Schools (Rexdale, ON: John Wiley, 
1993), p. 94. 

20 W.E. Northdurft, Schoolworks: Reinventing Public Schools to 
Create the Workforce of the Future (Washington, DC: The 
Brookings Institution, 1989), p. 25. 

21 R. Landry and R. Allard, "L'assimilation linguistique des 
francophones hors Quebec: Le defi de I'ecole francjaise et le 
problfeme de I'unit^ nationale," Revue de TAssociation canadi- 
enne d'dducation canadienne de langue franfaise 16 (1988): 

22 Premier's Council on Health, Well-Being, and Social Justice, 
Yours, Mine, and Ours, p. 38. 

23 W.J. Fowler Jr. and H.J. Walberg, "School Size, Characteris- 
tics, and Outcomes," Educational Evaluation and Policy 
Analysis 13, no. 2 (1991): 189-202. 

24 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Ontario Study of the Rele- 
vance of Education, and the Jssue of Dropouts (Toronto, 
1987), p. 110. Prepared by George Radwanski. 

25 R. Slavin, "Ability Grouping in the Middle Grades: Achieve- 
ment Effects and Alternatives," Elementary School Journal 93 

(1993): 535-52. 

26 Core Knowledge Foundation, Core Knowledge Sequence, 
Grades 1-6 (Charlottesville, VA, 1993), p. 62. 

27 For a recent summary of this research, see P.R. Madak, 
"Grade Retention," Canadian School Executive 14, no. 1 
(1994): 24-26. 

28 Barbara Heyns, "Schooling and Cognitive Development: Is 
There a Season for Learning?" Child Development 58, no. 5 
(1987): 1151-60. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

29 D. Entwisle and K. Alexander, "Summer Setback: Race, 
Poverty, School Composition, and Mathematics Achievement 
in the First Two Years of School," American Sociological 
Review 57, no. 1 (1992): 72-84. 

30 David Pratt, Curriculum Planning: A Handbook for Profes- 
sionals (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1994), p. 

31 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Rights of Passage: A Review 
of Selected Research about Schooling in the Transition Years 
(Toronto, 1990), p. 118. Prepared by A. Hargreaves and L. 

For the Love of Learning 



The Learner from 
^ge 15 to 18: The 
Specialization Years 

It is our hope and expectation tliat, were tiie 
kind of system we have described in place for 
young learners, the more specialized program, 
beginning in Grade 10, would rest on a very 
solid foundation of learning skills, subject 
matter, knowledge of community and self, and 
on exposure to a large number of work settings. 
By the end of Grade 9, students would be ready 
and eager to commit themselves to some 
specialization, with a view to a post-secondary 
career; education from Grade 10 on would be a 
mixture of further general education and 
opportunities for specialization, and would help 
students make choices based on their sense 
of future possibilities. 

In the preceding chapters we have been building a learn- 
ing system that begins between the ages of 3 and 6, and 
continues from age 6 to 15, using a single curriculum 
that occupies at least 90 percent of all students' school time. 
We have emphasized what we call literacies, defined as the 
ability to read, write, reason, and think intelligently across a 
wide variety of subject areas. 

We have also placed a high value on a learning system 
that is focused, purposeful, challenging, and intellectually 
rewarding. We have defined what we think are the founda- 
tion skills, which should be strongly emphasized in the early 
years of the common curriculum, especially from Grades 1 
to 6. We have suggested a curriculum that is centrally devel- 
oped, and detailed enough to provide consistency across 
schools and teachers without overly constraining the teach- 
ers and the communities they serve. 

As well, we have described and recommended ways of 
assuring that students are well looked after individually, and 
that their progress is regularly monitored over time. We have 
urged that, from the time students enter adolescence, they, 
their teachers, and parents pay serious attention to academic 
and experiential preparation for post-secondary education 
and for work. We believe that, were such a system in place, 
students would be further advanced at an earlier age than is 
now the case: that a Grade 7 student in such a system would 
have the skills and knowledge more closely associated with 
today's Grade 9 student. 

The same emphasis on essential literacies, on challenge 
and rigor, and on coherent programming, must inform 
students' education after the common core curriculum years. 
As well, the concern we have expressed about support for 

students' personal, social, and educational/career planning in 
early adolescence is as much of an issue in the student's later 
years. Smaller school units, teacher-advisors, and support 
from career education specialists are important to 15- to 18- 
year-olds as well as to youngsters of 12 to 14, and we envi- 
sion a system in which all adolescents find their education 
organized with these concerns in mind, as well as the 
concern for their development as responsible decision- 
makers, with a strong voice and choice in matters that 
directly concern them. 

We envision a school that, from Grade 10 on, encourages 
specialization by interest, but does not separate students into 
disparate groups. It permits considerable flexibility, while 
depending on small school units and teacher advisory 
groups to give students a sense of belonging and of a 
peer group. 

While we are satisfied that our argument for this kind of 
schooling is logical - that a more focused, challenging, 
supportive, and common educational experience through 
Grade 9 will prepare students for a greater degree of special- 
ization, combined with a solid core of general education at a 
higher level - we have no illusion that such a restructured 
secondary system will satisfy everyone. 

There is, after all, no part of the educational system more 
fraught with controversy and disagreement about purpose 
and structure than the secondary curriculum. It has always 
been thus - and not only in Ontario: the same issues about 
the nature of post-elementary education are debated every- 
where. A move to earlier specialization is applauded by 
some, but heartily rejected by others, who see quality and 
equality in a common core of courses to be taken by all 

Vol. II Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

student Participation 

The Stormont, Dundas, and 
Glengarry Public School 
Board is embarking on an 
ambitious program to 
prepare its students for the 
21st century. The report of 
the Vision 2000 Commit- 
tee, "Towards Tomorrow," 
highlights several expecta- 
tions for students. One key 
area is student involve- 
ment, e.g., "Student lead- 
ership opportunities should 
be provided through 

student organizations" and 
"secondary students must 
show evidence of communi- 
ty and/or school involve- 
ment." In order to imple- 
ment this document and 
the key student involve- 
aspects, several student 
volunteers were hired to 
develop a Manual for 
Student Involvement in 
Secondary School during 
the summer of 1994. 

Students. On the other hand, specifyring a large number of 
required courses for all students is resisted by students who 
want more choice, and by those who feel that students' inter- 
ests and talents differ too much for them to be bound to a 
common curriculum. 

In addition to disagreements about specialization and 
choice versus general education and a common course of 
study, there is the ever-present controversy about the neces- 
sity of providing different types of courses, streams, or 
programs in response to the varying levels of achievement, 
ability, or motivation that characterize any large group of 
students, and meeting the needs of both university-bound 
and other students. 

As a group, we Commissioners are a microcosm of the 
diversity of public opinion and the desire to satisfy several 
different and sometimes conflicting agendas for students 
who are 15 or 16 and older. Our plan, which is a real 
compromise between the general and the specialized, and 
between a common core and the need to accommodate 
differences, is necessarily complex, and will inevitably leave 
many educators and lay persons dissatisfied, either because it 
does not wholly endorse the option they prefer or because it 
is less simple, less clear, and less well-defined than 
they hoped. 

We do not apologize for the fact that it is a mixed, not a 
pure, solution. We believe that a system that attempts to 
accommodate the tensions within itself- however uneasily - 
is better than one that ignores those tensions. That it is 
complex cannot be helped: compromise based on honouring 
diverse, legitimate intentions and preferences does not result 
in simple solutions. 

We freely admit that it will depend on others for more 
definition and clarification, and we acknowledge the inade- 
quacy of both the time frame under which we have operated 
and the very significant technical expertise required to 
implement new programs in the specialized area of curricu- 
lum design and organization. 

If the concept of secondary education that we are offering 
finds significant public support, its successful development 
and delivery will depend in very large measure on the tech- 
nical skill and the good will of curriculum planners and 
professional educators. 

In the following pages, we will first describe the existing 
organization of secondary education, and then offer a series 
of recommendations on its reform, aimed at creating a 
system that is more equitable and more successful for more 
students. We will make some suggestions concerning the 
content as well as the organization of curriculum. Finally, we 
will talk about the transition between school and post- 
secondary life as a complex one, one that is not always direct 
or unidirectional, and suggest ways of strengthening the 
transition for both young and adult learners. 

The current context of secondary 
education in Ontario 

In the 1980s, after extensive debate and consultation and 
after several secondary education reform committees had 
been appointed to respond to public concern about a 
program that was seen as too loosely structured and choice- 
driven, the Ministry decided that much of the secondary 
curriculum would be mandatory and uniform for all 
students. It replaced a "cafeteria style" curriculum menu that 
had been created, a decade or so earlier, as a reaction to the 
belief that the existing program was excessively rigid and 
restrictive. This is a perfect example of the cyclical nature of 
action and reaction that underlies so much educational 

The document that resulted from all the work of the early 
'80s is called OSIS (Ontario Schools: Intermediate and 
Senior). It defines secondary school de facto as four to five 
years, beginning after Grade 8. The curriculum is defined by 
credits, with every course credit being earned through 1 10 
hours of in-school work (except for co-operative education 
credits, which are a combination of in-school and work-site 
hours). Thirty credits are required for graduation with an 

For the Love of Learning 


Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD); of these, 16 are 
specified and the other 14 chosen from a range of options. 

If students complete most of the 16 specified credits in 
their first two years (eight per year), as teachers and counsel- 
lors have generally encouraged them to, they can choose 
many of their courses in the final two to three years. While it 
is quite possible for students to graduate in four years - the 
OSIS plan intended that - most students who complete the 
OSSD still take longer to do so, i.e., four and a half to 
five years. 

In some cases, this is because students are working part- 
time or are repeating courses they have failed or in which 
they want to improve their mark (only the higher mark is 
entered on the record). In other cases, students complete 
more than 30 credits before they leave high school because 
they wish to pursue different interests; those who are going 
on to university want to accumulate high marks in the 
courses that are most important for admission, and take the 
Ontario Academic Courses (OACs) until they have the 
required minimum (six), with high marks in each. 

Under OSIS, almost all courses are streamed - that is, 
offered at three levels of difficulty: as advanced (the univer- 
sity-qualifying courses), general, and basic. (The OACs are 
the exception: by definition, these university-qualifying 
courses are offered only at the advanced level.) 

The purpose is to give all students the same choice of 
subjects and opportunity for success at whichever of the 
three levels of difficulty is suited to their ability and prior 
achievement. While one might expect an even distribution of 
students among the three levels, that is not what happens: 
because two-thirds of students entering secondary school 
want to go to university, they therefore choose all or almost 
all their courses at the advanced level, obviously because 
these are the only ones accepted by universities. Only about 
one in three who follow this sequence from Grade 9 to grad- 
uation actually enter university (because of the limited 
number of university spaces); some go to college, others to 
different kinds of private post-secondary training or directly 
to work. About 88 percent of students who begin Grade 9 in 
advanced-level courses complete their OSSD, although some 
switch and take some or almost all their courses at the gener- 
al level before they graduate. 

lust over one in four students begin Grade 9 taking gener- 
al-level courses, and another 5 percent take mainly basic- 

Earlier specialization or a 

continued common core 

of courses? 

How much choice to 

respond to different 

student needs 

and interests? 

Streaming or destreaming? 

How can more students 

earn secondary 

school diplomas? 

level courses. In both categories there is an over-representa- 
tion of children of working-class parents, while the children 
of professional and managerial parents are under-represent- 
ed. (Many students in basic-level courses have not graduated 
from Grade 8, and have been transferred rather than 
promoted to secondary school.) 

The non-completion (drop-out) rate for students from 
general level courses is 58 percent, and for those from basic- 
level courses it is 65 percent - about six times higher than 
for those in advanced level. The difference in both selection 
and retention rates makes it clear that the three levels are not 
equally appealing or equally satisfying. There is general 
agreement that one cause of the high drop-out rate among 
those enrolled in general- and basic-level courses is that they 
recognize that these courses do not lead anywhere. 

Unlike the high achievement in advanced-level courses, 
the exclusive route to university, excellent performance in 
the other two levels guarantees nothing. They are not an 
exclusive route to college: colleges can, and often do, admit 
students who have completed the advanced-level/OAC 
course but whose marks were not high enough to qualify 
them for university. 

Only one in ten students who begin Grade 9 taking mainly general 
level courses enrol in a post-secondary program in communirv' 
college; therefore, the students in this broad category cannot be 
encouraged to remain in school by holding out the possibility of a 
college or university destination as the incentive. Opportunities for 
strengthening the connection between career opportunities and 
secondary school programs must be enhanced.' 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 


Post-secondary destinations of Grade 9 students, 
based on 1993 estimates 

^1 leave before graduation ("drop-outs") 

WM graduate and go directly to work 

^B graduate and go directly to college 

^P graduate and go directly to university 

Aside from university and college, there are very few 
post-secondary destinations or training programs to wrhich 
students can go. Ontario has very few apprenticeship places, 
and no tradition of employers hiring inexperienced workers, 
intending to make a substantial investment in their training. 

In fact, the only clear destination for secondary students 
who want one is university: only the advanced- 
level/OAC/university path is a clear, if highly competitive, 
one. The confused and confusing mandate of the colleges is 
part of the larger issue of unclear paths and lack of purpose 
confronting students who do not choose advanced-level 

While the colleges have recently examined their course 
offerings and the organization of their programs, their 
mandate remains unclear insofar as client groups are 
concerned - in our opinion, to the detriment of secondary 
school students who would benefit from having a valid alter- 
native destination to university. 

Figure 1 shows that, while 29 percent of students taking 
mainly advanced-level courses went to college, only 12 
percent of those taking general-level, and 2 percent of those 
taking basic-level, courses did. Moreover, of the advanced- 
level students, the only ones who can reach university, 37 
percent did.' Thus advanced-level students not only have a 
unique option (which they may or may not reach, but which 
only they can aim for), they also are much more likely to be 
accepted into college. Put another way, and adjusting for the 
high drop-out rates of students in basic- and general-level 
courses, the chances of high school graduates within each 
stream going directly to post-secondary education (college, 
for those taking general- and basic-level courses, college or 





All Grade 
9 students 

• • To other post- 
secondary destina 
outside Ontario. 









0% to Un 



0% to Univ 

Grade 9 students Grade 9 students Grade 9 students 

taking mainly taking mainly taking mainly 

advanced-level general-level basic-level 

courses (68%) courses (27%) courses (5%) 

A.J.C. King and M. Peart. The Numbers Game (Toronto: 
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, 1994). 

A.J.C. King, personal communication, based on: 

(a) college and university enrolment statistics through 1993; 

(b) 1990-91 and 1991-92 secondary school enrolment 
statistics as reported to the Ministry of Education and 

(c) Ontario Secondary School Diplomas (OSSDs) granted 
per year, through 1993. 

For the Love of Learning 

university for those taking advanced courses) are about 1 in 
17.5 for students graduating with basic-level courses; I in 
3.5 for graduates of the general level; and 1 in 1.3 for 
advanced-level course graduates. In terms of post-secondary 
education, there is no question about a differential pay-off 
for the high school diploma, based on course level, or 

It is clear to us that students in advanced-level courses 
have a double advantage: they are being uniquely qualified 
to apply to university, and are more likely to be accepted 
into college. Conversely, students in the other two programs 
have a double disadvantage, and it is out of respect and 
concern for them that we believe the college mandate should 
be re-examined and clarified. 

Clearly, the organization of the curriculum according to 
three levels of difficulty, as set out in OSIS, was unsuccessful 
in providing a meaningful or equal route to post-secondary 
education and work for most students. It does sort students 
more or less effectively as far as university admission is 
concerned, but it clearly fails to provide most students who 
will not be going to university with feasible alternatives. One 
result of this situation - although not the only one - is the 
dramatically different drop-out rates between advanced-level 
students and those in the other two programs. 

The efforts of some colleges in recent years to increase 
accessibility to a variety of groups must be acknowledged. 
One of the issues that must be considered as well is the liter- 
acy and numeracy levels of students who have completed 
general- and basic-level programs. Space providing, the like- 
lihood of more of these students gaining admission to 
colleges would increase if they had the skills to cope with an 
increasingly demanding program. 

Recommendation 15 

*We recommend that the Ministry of Education and Training 
review community college education - its mandate, funding, 
coherence, and how It fits into the system of education in 
Ontario, including clarification of access routes from 
secondary school to college, and with special attention being 
paid to students who are not university bound. 

AA^^ollege should be recognized as a 
\# legitimate aKernative to a univer- 
sity education, even for the most 
capable students. Because the oppor- 
tunities are becoming so specific, 
there are often few openings for 
someone with too general an educa- 
tion. College diplomas should be 
accepted as admirable, sensible goals 
for anyone, general or advanced." 

Regiopolis/Notre-Dame Ecole Secondaire, Kingstoi 

As well, colleges should be encouraged to implement 
appropriate recommendations from Vision 2000, the key 
directions document that resulted from a provincial consul- 
tation in 1988 and 1989. 

In the second half of the last decade, educators and the 
public began to question the high school drop-out rate, and 
to look for ways of lowering it; that rate has become the 
source of considerable debate, and has driven attempts at 
reform, such as the destreamed Grade 9, and reactions 
against such attempts. The four- to five-year drop-out rate 
(the percentage of students who begin Grade 9 and do not 
have a diploma four to five years later) is currently estimated 
at between 18 and 30 percent, depending on the way it is 
calculated. The most current source we know suggests that it 
is indeed 30 percent, although one-third of those "drop- 
outs" eventually earn a diploma, giving a net drop-out rate 
of 20 percent.' This means that one in five students who 
begin the secondary program never earn the secondary 
school diploma. 

Compared to the past and to other countries, this drop- 
out rate is not high: it is far lower than it has ever been, in 
fact, and represents a real and substantial success story. Over 
the past century, the definition of an adequate general 
education for all students has expanded from an elementary 
education to one that encompasses secondary school. It is 
only in the last 50 years or so that society has assumed that 
all students ought to earn a high school diploma; until 
recently, we acted on the belief that a Grade 8 - and, later, a 
Grade 10 general education - was sufficient for all but the 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

As recently as the 1950s, it was expected that most 
students would leave school after Grade 10, and indeed 
drop-outs were a majority, not a minority, in those days. To 
a large extent, that attitude still prevails in many countries 
outside North America, where the drop-out rate is much 
higher, but where, in many cases, those not bound for 
university move into apprenticeship training that may 
include some continuing general education. It is only in 
comparison to the United States (and, now, lapan) that our 
drop-out rate is high. 

Whether or not educating four out of five young Ontari- 
ans to the level of the secondary diploma is adequate is a 
matter of values. Increasingly, people have come to think of 
the diploma as a kind of rite of passage and a basic docu- 
ment of full citizenship - but it certainly has not always 
been so. 

Because we tend to equate education with schooling, to a 
greater degree than may be true in some other countries, 
there is significant stigma attached to the lack of the 

As well, because we (like the Americans) have never 
developed a strong apprenticeship system that brings togeth- 
er the education and training systems, we treat young people 
who leave school as being on their own when it comes to 
finding employment; that being so, we are reluctant to see 
them leave at age 16 or 17, without earning a diploma, 
knowing how difficult it will be for them to find living-wage 
jobs that offer opportunities for growth and advancement 
over time. 

But it is very important to appreciate that the drop-out 
rate is by no means uniform or uniformly low across groups. 

In a heterogeneous society like ours, non-completion rates 
reflect the same problems of inequity as does streaming 
students in secondary school. Drop-outs, including students 
taking general- and basic-level courses (who, as we have seen, 
make up far more than their fair share of drop-outs) are 
much more likely than advanced-course students or gradu- 
ates to come from lower-income homes, to be the children of 
parents who have relatively little formal education or who are 
recent immigrants, to come from single-parent homes, and to 
come from certain racial and linguistic groups - aboriginals, 
blacks, and Portuguese, among them. 

In fact, a 25-year longitudinal study of students in Toron- 
to shows that the drop-out rate among the children of work- 
ing-class and poor people is double that of children from 
better-off families: two-thirds of the working-class and poor 
children drop out, compared to one-third of those from 
better-off families.'' 

It was in response to these inequities, more than to the 
total number of drop-outs, that in 1987 George Radwanski 
recommended that all secondary students enrol in the same 
courses - that there be just one level of difficulty, or stream.' 
His argument rests on the historically accurate observation 
that, as long as there are different streams, students from less 
advantaged circumstances, or students who are handicapped 
by unfair assumptions and social and racial bias, will always 
be disproportionately represented in the least demanding 
courses, and will obtain a lower quality and quantity of 
formal education, to their long-term economic and social 

He offers abundant evidence to show that these disparities 
are not primarily related to differences in students' ability to 
learn, but to such non-academic factors as family income and 
parental education level. (The 25-year longitudinal study also 
found that the stream or level in which the student was 
placed bore more relation to that student's subsequent acade- 
mic success, or lack thereof, than did measured intelligence 
or elementary school marks.)' 

In response to the points in the Radwanski report and to 
other similar arguments, the Ministry of Education began to 
seriously consider destreaming high schools. But it was clear 
they would not accept Radwanski's recommendation "that 
the current policy of streaming high school students into 
academic, general, and basic courses of study be abolished, 
and replaced by provision of a single and undifferentiated 

For the Love of Learning 

high-quality educational stream for all students." Instead, the 
Ministry indicated an interest in the possible destreaming of 
the first and second years of secondary school, Grades 9 and 
10. This division fitted the existing pattern of curriculum 
guidelines, which defined Grades 7 through 10 as the inter- 
mediate division, and 1 1 to OAC as the senior division. 

It would also bring Ontario into line with other Canadian 
provinces, most of which begin streaming students after 
Grade 9. (British Columbia and Quebec begin doing so after 
Grade 10.) 

The recommendation brought a negative response from 
many secondary teachers, from the Ontario Secondary 
School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), from many secondary 
students, from the Ontario Secondary School Students Asso- 
ciation, from much of the university community, and from 
many parents of students in the advanced-level stream. The 
teachers took the position that homogeneous grouping was 
bound to be a disadvantage to both the most and the least 
able students; although our understanding of the research is 
that it does not support that position,' many teachers 
continue to adhere to it. Like the teachers, many parents of 
students who were or would be in the advanced programs 
felt that their children would be at a disadvantage and "held 
back" in more heterogeneous classes. There was also some 
opposition from a much smaller number of parents of chil- 
dren who were in basic-level vocational schools that, the 
parents considered, were offering their children a coherent 

In the face of this opposition, the Ministry proceeded 
with the destreaming of Grade 9 only, and gave schools three 
school years, from September 1993 to June 1996, to complete 
this change. By the time we held public hearings, and 
throughout the lifetime of this Commission, considerable 
opposition to destreaming continued to be heard, but 
response was mixed, and there were an increasing number of 
reports about schools and teachers who felt they were 
making a success of the destreamed Grade 9 program. 

In 1993, when schools began implementing Grade 9 
destreaming, they had a new curriculum outline to follow. In 
what is referred to as the "destreaming" and "decrediting" of 
Grade 9, the Ministry of Education and Training, through 
The Common Curriculum, Grades 1-9, made Grade 9 part of 
the common curriculum. No distinction is made between 
the curriculum of Grade 9 and Grades 7 or 8; the learner 

A4 ■ f there is to be any hope of 

I destreaming at the Grade 9 level, 
there must be an effort to keep 
students on a similar, challenging 
footing as early as Grade 1. If in 
Grade 1, we see students already 
being slotted into reading or 
mathematics groups of varying 
difficulties without having had 
adequate opportunity to realize 
their potential at a more advanced 
level, it is no wonder complete 
confusion will result at the start of 
secondary school." 

Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic 
Separate School Board. Student Senate 

outcomes that define the core curriculum are aggregated in 
three-year groups, and stated in terms of the final year: "By 
the end of Grade 6" and "By the end of Grade 9," students 
will have achieved certain results. Thus, Grades 7 to 9 are 
treated as a three-year block, in terms of common curricu- 
lum and learner outcomes. 

By including Grade 9, The Common Curriculum left the 
remaining school years undefined. Because of the lack of 
new directions, schools and teachers are operating under the 
old rules (although some interim decisions had to be made 
for the students who are in Grade 10 in 1994-95). 

In fact, the Ministry of Education and Training had 
begun the process of re-examining the secondary school 
curriculum before The Common Curriculum document was 
published; it abandoned the process when the Royal 
Commission on Learning was established, making secondary 
school restructuring, by default, part of our work. 

The process of consultation-begun by the Ministry 
focused on a number of issues, including the status of Grade 
10 (credits and streams or neither); the definition of a credit 
and use of fractional credits; school size; retaining students 
in school; life skills and social issues in the curriculum; 
career planning; curriculum guidelines; learner outcomes; 
and others. Equity issues were also a focus, as well as the 
education of adult and immigrant students. Information is 
available on responses to the consultation, most of which 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 


While the number of 
students graduating from 
high school has increased 
steadily and dramatically 
over the last half century, so 
that graduates are now the 
large majority, instead of a 
minority, the problem 
remains that some groups of 
students are much less 
successful than others. Chil- 
dren from homes with fewer 
educational and financial 
advantages are more likely 
to be streamed into lower- 
level programs, and to drop 
out of high school instead of 
graduating. The recent 
destreaming of Grade 9 is 
an effort to avoid premature 

and inequitable assignment 
of students to levels of 

As it becomes more and 
more difficult for people 
without post-secondary 
education to qualify for 
skilled employment, 
students who are not taking 
primarily university-preparato- 
ry courses will look increas- 
ingly to the college system 
for further education and 
training. Thus, a major issue 
is the need for clearer artic- 
ulation and access routes 
between high school and 

came from educators, but no action has been taken on any 
of these matters. 

Therefore, while The Common Curriculum has redefined 
the elementary curriculum over the past two years, that has 
not happened in relation to the secondary curriculum 
(which now begins in Grade 10). For that reason, we 
propose a number of significant changes to the way the 
curriculum that follows the common curriculum is orga- 
nized; we call it the specialized curriculum. Because we see 
curriculum as a continuum, rather than as a dichotomy, 
instead of referring to an elementary and a secondary 
curriculum, we prefer to think in terms of a common core 
curriculum from Grades 1 to 9 (which includes some 
options for local specialization) and a specialized curriculum 
after Grade 9, which nonetheless has considerable room for 
common courses. 

Based on careful consideration of what we heard and 
have read about change in general and destreaming in 
particular, we have decided not to recommend the extension 
of the common curriculum to the end of Grade 10, as has 
often been proposed. We note that many educators have 
found the decision to destream Grade 9 traumatic, and they 
told us they feel beleaguered by the pace of educational 
change and reform in the last decade: they have not had 
time to implement one change before another is upon them. 
We are convinced, both by what we have read and by what 
some teachers and principals told us, that a common core 
curriculum could be offered through Grade 10, as is done in 
British Columbia and Quebec, but do not recommend that it 
be done in Ontario at present. 

Suggestions for reorganizing the 
secondary sciiooi 

The Duration 

The most common form of school organization in Europe, 
Asia, and most of North America involves six years of 
elementary school, three of middle school, and three years of 
secondary school. Most students complete their final year of 
school in the year they turn 18; by contrast, students in 
Ontario have four years of secondary school after Grade 9, 
and most are 19 when they graduate. While the government 
has long intended to reduce secondary school by one year, to 
bring Ontario's structure into line with almost all other 
Canadian provinces and most other jurisdictions, the major- 
ity of our students take a half to a full year longer to gradu- 
ate. Fewer than four in ten finish in four years, according to 
recent data. Most typically, university-bound students study- 
ing their OACs (Ontario Academic Credits, taken in the final 
one to two years of secondary school, and required for 
university admission in Ontario) prolong their graduation in 
order to repeat courses and raise their average. Even students 
who would like to finish in four years are sometimes thwart- 
ed by inflexible timetables, while others simply wish to take 
additional courses in which they are interested. 

In principle, the Commission is committed to the idea 
that some students will take longer than others to complete a 
course, and that this kind of variability is preferable to the 
alternatives, which include lowering standards or punishing 
students with non-productive solutions such as repeating a 
grade; or, at the other end, forcing them to move more 
slowly than they are able. 

But we are conscious that no other jurisdiction in Cana- 
da, and few anywhere in the world, allocate more than three 
years to secondary education, or more than twelve years to 
the compulsory education system. There is no evidence that 
the result is superior performance in university, as compared 
to students who spend only four in secondary school. 

We concur with earlier commissions that have recom- 
mended that the fifth year of secondary education, or of 
education after Grade 8, be eliminated in Ontario, and that, 
starting in Grade 10, the program be defined as being three 
years in duration, regardless of the student's post-secondary 
destination, with the understanding that students may 
remain in school until they receive their diploma. 

For the Love of Learning 

Having said that, we wish to discourage this practice, and 
reduce public expense by capping the number of course 
credits that can be obtained before automatic graduation, to 
ensure that the speciaUzed curriculum is completed in three 
years. Thus we are recommending that a maximum number 
of credits (including any and all mandatory courses) be 
permitted, after which students will automatically receive 
their diploma, and will not be permitted to take further 

Under the present rules, simply prescribing the maximum 
(as well as the minimum) number of credits for graduation 
will not solve the problem. We reiterate: one of the principal 
reasons some students remain in secondary school longer 
than four years is that they are repeating courses, usually 
OACs, in order to improve their average, because universities 
typically base entrance requirements on a particular average 
in six OACs. At present, course repetitions do not show on 
the student's record; if they did, universities and colleges 
could, and almost surely would, choose the student whose 90 
in English represented the first try, rather than the second. 

Similarly, when a student fails a course, that failure does 
not appear on the Ontario Student Record; this lack of docu- 
mentation also acts as a disincentive to students to make the 
maximum effort needed to pass the first time. 

Some students take extra courses because they have 
changed their mind about the direction they want to take in 
future. While this will always be the case, we expect the 
emphasis on career awareness and career and educational 
planning that we are recommending - beginning in the early 
years, with explicit educational and career planning begin- 
ning in Grade 7, using and continually updating the Cumu- 
lative Educational Profile, and the student's on-going rela- 
tionship with the teacher-advisor - will result in fewer 
changes and a reduction in the resulting need to make up 

Another reason secondary school careers are prolonged is 
that students are permitted, until quite late, to drop courses 
in which they have enrolled. Many do so after the mid-term 
exam, if they have received low marks. This accounts in part 
for the popularity of semestered courses: a student can drop 
a course in December and pick up a new one in January. One 
result is that each January many students change to semes- 
tered schools in order to begin new courses, having aban- 
doned the course or courses they began the previous Septem- 

ber at a non-semestered school. While it is reasonable to 
permit students to change their mind about a course after 
only one or two classes, it is not reasonable, in our opinion, 
to make it easy to abandon most of a semester's work - or 
lack thereof. 

Repeating or dropping courses months after they begin is 
not productive, is not about learning, and requires unneces- 
sary public expenditures. By removing any consequences for 
repeating and abandoning courses, and getting lower-than- 
desired marks, the system encourages an attitude that 
prolongs dependence, and that values success, however 
gained, but does not value effort. 

Recommendation 16 

*We recommend that secondary school be defined as a 
three-year program, beginning after Grade 9. and that 
students be permitted to take a maximum of three courses 
beyond the required 21, for a total of not more than 24 cred- 
its. We further recommend that all courses in which the 
student has enrolled - whether completed or incomplete, 
passed or failed - be recorded on that student's transcript. 

It should be clear that we are not trying to make things 
more difficult for students who have legitimate reasons for 
taking time out of their secondary careers, or who take fewer 
than seven or eight courses per year. Those who must work 
part-time, who are caring for young children, who cannot 
cope successfully with a full load of courses, or who have 
other obligations that prevent them from finishing the 
specialized curriculum in three years, will not be penalized: 
we are not restricting the length of time students may take 
to finish the equivalent of three years of full-time schooling. 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

What should be Hmited, in our view, is the number of cours- 
es they can take, not the length of time in which they 
complete them. 

Curriculum organization 


In virtually every country, students are streamed in 
secondary school. Typically, there is an academic or universi- 
ty-bound route, a technology route (which may or may not 
lead to some form of higher education), and a vocational 
route, which goes no further. In many countries, streaming 
begins earlier than in most of Canada; in some, it begins 

As previously mentioned, Ontario's secondary school 
courses are offered at three levels of difficulty or what are 
often referred to as streams: basic, general, and advanced. 
Students leaving Grade 9 (previously. Grade 8) choose the 
level at which they will take most of their courses. This 
choice is often strongly influenced by teachers and guidance 
counsellors; parents may or may not be involved in making 
the decision, but must consent in writing. 

The rationale for different levels or streams is that, by the 
time they reach secondary school, students differ so greatly, 
in terms of previous achievement (and, it is often presumed, 
in basic ability) they cannot reasonably learn and be taught 
together. (Research at the Grade 9 level, as we mentioned 
earlier, is not supportive of this idea.) It is assumed that the 
best-prepared and brightest students will be held back, and 
the least-prepared and slowest students will fall behind and 
fail. In theory, segregating students by program means that 
the distribution of marks within each of the three programs 

will be the same, because, once they have been appropriately 
placed, students will be competing at their appropriate level, 
and, relative to their classmates, will have the same opportu- 
nity to excel, no matter the level at which they are working. 

In fact, this is not the case. There is abundant evidence 
that the marks of students in the general-level courses 
(math, English, etc.) are considerably lower overall than 
those of students in advanced-level courses. Furthermore, 
their failure rate is much higher: for example, in a 1992 
sample of 60 schools, 15.6 percent of general-level Grade 10 
English students failed their course, compared with 6.5 
percent who failed it at the advanced level.* Coupled with 
the fact that the drop-out rate is much higher among 
students in general- and basic-level programs, these data 
clearly indicate that streamed programs do not accomplish 
what they are supposed to do: to equalize opportunities for 
high achievement across levels. 

Observations of classroom procedures and course 
content, both in Ontario and elsewhere, consistently show 
lower expectations of students (for example, httle or no 
homework is assigned) and lower motivation on the part of 
teachers in non-university preparatory, or non-advanced- 
level courses. Rather than being organized differently or 
having a different emphasis on content that meets the needs 
of different kinds of learners, or learners with different 
interests, most observers find these classes "watered-down" 
versions of those at the advanced level." 

In principle, a student may take courses at different 
levels. For example, she might take advanced-level math 
classes but general-level French classes. In practice, however, 
most students take most courses at the same level. This prac- 
tice is so widespread that many schools, especially in urban 
areas, offer only one level of course across all subjects, on the 
assumption that this arrangement will accommodate most 
students' needs. Thus, we have basic-level schools, or coUe- 
giates that offer only advanced-level courses, making no 
allowance for possible differences in talent and ability by 
subject rather than by student. 

Perhaps the greatest problem with the existing system is 
that it succeeds for only a minority of students, if we take 
success to mean that they meet their stated goals. As 
mentioned earlier, two-thirds of students choose advanced- 
level courses, because they hope to be eligible for university. 
But universities can and do accommodate fewer than half 

For the Love of Learning 


that number; in other words, the majority of students who 
aspire to university will not get there. 

Low or failing marks given in the required first- and 
second-year secondary school courses (most notably in 
mathematics) function to screen out large numbers of 
students. Much higher proportions of students in advanced- 
level courses receive marks in the 50s and 60s than in the 80s 
or 90s in courses required for university. In other words, the 
marking curves are not normal or bell-shaped. But this is 
not true of several of the non-sorting courses - such as 
physical education, drama, and music.'" While most of these 
screened-out students do not realize or acknowledge, until 
their last or second-last year, that they will not get into 
university, their fate is quite predictable, based on the 
number of credits they acquire by the end of their first high 
school year. Almost all students try eight, or at least seven 
courses; those who have fewer than six passes will almost 
certainly be among the majority of advanced-level students 
who do not complete six OACs with marks that will gain 
them admittance to university. 

Unless universities double their admission rates - which 
seems highly unlikely - many students need a better option 
than they have. The issue is not the level of sophistication, or 
the content of advanced-level courses, but that the idea of a 
university education is so attractive. 

While that attraction is not likely to lessen, it is very 
important to attempt to provide an attractive and realistic 
alternative - not just a weaker version of similar courses that 
reach toward no particular goal. 

It is true, of course, that the problem is deep-seated in a 
culture that values and rewards academic and professional 
skills more than applied skills. In spite of the fact that we 
lament the lack of skilled craftspeople, and despite our 
chronic dependence on immigrants with these skills, we do 
not pay or honour skilled workers as we do those who have a 
university degree and professional training. 

University is the gateway to higher earnings and status, 
and is likely to remain so. We tend to equate general intelli- 
gence with academic intelligence, so that academic success 
and academic credentials become the major evidence of 
individual excellence and employability. As a consequence, 
courses or course sequences that do not lead to university 
eligibility will probably remain less desirable. 

The marks of students in 

general-level courses are 

much lower than of 

students in advanced-level 

courses, and the failure 

rate is much higher; 

The drop-out rate is much 

higher among students in 

general- and basic-level 


Teachers have lower 

expectations of students 

in non-advanced-level 


It is not surprising, therefore, that the majority of 
students choose, and are likely to continue to choose, the 
pre-university program even though it is perfectly clear that 
most will not be admitted to university after they complete 
secondary school. 


Notwithstanding the apparent difficulties, we are convinced 
that it is possible to fashion more successful alternatives that 
will help lower the number of students who leave school 
without a diploma, and will increase the percentage who 
attend college. At present, about 30 percent of secondary 
school students leave without a diploma (although one-third 
of those eventually earn it); about 25 percent go directly to 
university; about 20 percent go directly to college; a small 
percentage go to other post-secondary institutions; and 
about 20 percent go directly to-work (although half of these 
people later attend university or college). (See Figure 1.) 
A more successful set of options in secondary school 
might be expected to increase the percentage of students 
who go directly to college, increase the school-directly-to- 
work stream somewhat, and cut very substantially the 
number of students who leave school without a diploma. No 
matter how the curriculum is altered, there can be little 
doubt that students from disadvantaged homes and neigh- 
bourhoods will continue to be under-represented among 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 


those admitted to university. But a more successful multi- 
stream system should enable more of them to complete their 
diploma - which, in itself, is a measure of increasing equity. 
As well, better links with colleges increase the likelihood that 
more working-class and minority students will obtain some 
post-secondary education, a considerable asset in terms of 
employment and income opportunities. 

The success of any attempt to provide a workable and 
attractive alternative to pre-university education depends, in 
part, on the amount and quality of career education and 
awareness that has been built into students' experience 
before they have to make a choice. 

Students who are aware of a wide variety of career oppor- 
tunities, many of which do not hinge on university educa- 
tion, are much more likely to choose from among a wider 
range of options. 

We agree that it is not sufficient to offer only one 
program in secondary school; because students have differ- 
ent experiences, interests, and aptitudes, and are eager to 
make choices, we are not proposing that students should 
take exactly the same array of courses, all taught at a single 
level of difficulty. At the same time however, we do not 
believe that it is necessary to offer courses at three levels, or 
to specify a particular level of difficulty or stream for every 
course offered. Nor do we think it is necessary or useful for 
students to feel obliged to take all or or almost all their 
courses at one particular level of difficulty, rather than 
making distinctions in response to their own interests and 

Therefore, we recommend three major changes to the way 
secondary school courses are now being offered and 

Recommendation 17 

*We recommend that only two, not three, differentiated types 

of courses should exist. 

While our conception of these two levels is that they 
should differ in emphasis between a more academic and a 
more applied approach to learning, we understand that, in 
the minds of most people familiar with the current jargon, 
the two will be likened to the current advanced and general 

Using that terminology, we would have to say that the 
third level - the one we recommend be dropped - is the 
present basic level. We recognize that there is a small group 
of students - at least 5 percent - who learn more slowly and 
do need extra assistance. But we think that it makes no sense 
to create a special set of courses or a program for these 
students - a program that, at present, almost four-fifths of 
them do not complete. 

In our view, it is preferable to make extra support avail- 
able to these students, in the form of individual tutoring by 
teachers, teaching assistants, and/or senior student-tutors; as 
well, they should be given extra time to complete courses. 
The principle of increased flexibility in course completion 
time - both to permit acceleration and to accommodate 
slower learners and learners with other demands on their 
time - is very important to us, and is discussed at several 
points throughout this and the preceding and following 

Recommendation 18 

*We recommend that some courses, (to be called Ontario 
Academic Courses, or OAcCs) be offered with an academic 
emphasis; that others (to be called Ontario Applied Courses, 
or OApCs) be offered, with an emphasis on application; and 
that still others be presented as common courses, blending 
academic and applied approaches, and with no special desig- 

We recognize that one of the ways that people of all ages 
differ in their approach to learning is the degree to which 
they look for practicality, relevance, and applicability in 
what they are learning. While we are convinced that many 

For the Love of Learning 

students in elementary and secondary school - perhaps the 
great majority - are more motivated when their teachers 
help them see a connection between what they study and the 
rest of their world, we recognize that making this connection 
is more essential for some learners than for others. For those 
whose interests tend to be more technical and hands-on, 
courses in such subjects as English/franc^ais, mathematics, 
and the physical and social sciences, need to differ, not in the 
level of skill required, but in kinds of problems presented, 
and the use to which the content and concepts are put. 

Take English/fran^ais as an example: all students must 
have a command of correct and conventional language, 
spoken and written, and, by the senior years of school, must 
be able to comprehend texts at an adult level. But some 
students want to read for information about topics that 
directly interest them - perhaps in science or in politics 
-while others want to read fictional and non-fictional litera- 
ture as a source of ideas and themes about history and 
human nature. 

But the student with the more practical approach to liter- 
ature may have the more academic interest in science: differ- 
ences exist not only among learners, but in the way that each 
learner approaches each subject. Someone with a strong 
interest in the humanities, for example, may be intrigued by 
aesthetics and motivated to study literature or art as a foun- 
dation of ideas and wisdom, without looking for obvious or 
immediately practical applications for what is being learned. 
But the same student may have little interest in mathematics 
unless its application is made very clear. 

Consequently, we want schools to offer courses that meet 
the needs, not of two distinct kinds of students, but for two 
different emphases in course content, understanding that 
some students will prefer to select most of their courses as 
either OAcCs or OApCs, but not both; while other students 
will be more eclectic. 

While we have no illusions about the likelihood of solv- 
ing all problems or satisfying all stakeholders, we propose to 
change the nature of the secondary school course offerings 
and requirements into something that, we are persuaded, 
would be both more efficient and more realistic. (See 
Figure 2 on next page.) We want students to have the oppor- 
tunity to focus on what interests them, and what will bring 
some coherence and a sense of purposefulness to their 
secondary school program. 

Rather than dividing courses into different levels of diffi- 
culty, which then create streams or programs (of which only 
the advanced-level/OAC/university has a clear purpose and 
destination), we recommend that a number of programs be 
created. By these we don't mean streams, but rather packages 
of courses organized around such subject or career areas as 
math/science/technology, health -related occupations, 
communications, international languages, and finance. As 
well, the four integrated subject areas on which The 
Common Curriculum is built (math/science/tech, the arts, 
self and society, language/literature) offer one possible orga- 
nizing principle for clusters of courses, or academies. We 
envision students who have a particular interest or goal 
(environmental science, for example, or a college diploma 
course in early childhood education), with the help of their 
advisor, constructing a program which might include one or 
several academic, applied, and common courses each year, 
each of which would make sense as part of a package of 
courses supporting that interest and/or goal. 

Some models currently exist in secondary schools for 
students who want to specialize; there are a few arts acade- 
mies, for example. The current "business studies endorse- 
ment" and "tech studies endorsement" are secondary-level 
certificates that recognize a concentration of at least eight 
courses in those areas. In some jurisdictions outside Ontario, 
the variety of career academy models includes, in addition to 
the arts, health sciences, communications, etc. All of these 
options tend to make secondary programming more coher- 
ent, meaningful, and attractive to students. 

In Chapter 8, in the context of a discussion of the needs 
of young adolescents in middle and junior high schools, we 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

The idea is to contrast the high school program as it is now, under the present guide- 
Hnes, and as it would be in future, if our recommendations are implemented. To 
make this contrast, we show sample programs in the first and last years of secondary 
school for three (imaginary) students, who are called Anna, Tony, and Lee. 


Under our proposed scheme, Anna, 
Tony, and Lee would have definite possi- 
bilities of taking some of the same 
courses. (That can happen to Tony and 
Lee, now, but it is not likely to happen 
with Anna.) As well, under our proposed 
scheme, they would not choose all of 
their courses at one, single level. Our 
proposed scheme has no levels. It 
includes three kinds of courses: acade- 
mic, applied, and common, and most 
students would choose at least two of 
these types of courses. Academic cours- 
es would be chosen if the student has 
an academic interest in the subject - 
wants to pursue the study of it, or 
something closely related to it, typically 
at the university level. Applied courses 
would be chosen if the student would 

like to have an informed layperson's 
level of knowledge in that area; or, if 
the student is interested in applying the 
subject, he or she could do it with or 
without further post-secondary educa- 

Thus Anna is taking an applied science 
course in Grade 10, because she wants 
to have basic science; and Lee takes 
an academic science course in Grade 
10, but an applied one in Grade 12, 
because, while she needs a good under- 
standing of basic science, she is not 
going on to further study of science as 
a discipline. 

In addition, several courses are offered 
as "common courses," meaning in one 

format only. Thus if Anna, Tony, and Lee 
all want to take physical education, art, 
drama, media, or family studies, they 
will all find themselves in the same 
course. The idea is that many subjects 
are appropriately offered to everyone in 
the same format. If a student isn't inter- 
ested in drama, he won't take it; if he is 
interested, he'll take it with everyone 

So, under our system, here are the first 
and final (third-) year programs of our 
three students. (Note that Anna would 
not be in school any longer than Tony or 





Advanced level: 




Note: Annas courses 



are often spread over 


finite math 

two years 




phys ed 


General level: 

phys ed 

General level: 




design and technology: 



economics and management 

design and technology: 


General level: 


General level: 





phys ed 

phys ed 


entrepreneurial studies 



design and technology: 

design and technology: 



Basic level: 






The New Scheme 



It should be clear that these are exam- 










ples only, and are arbitrary; we don't 
know whether schools/colleges/ univer- 

common courses: 



sities will decide that law, for example. 


common courses: 

management studies 

needs to be offered in two formats, or 

phys ed 


environmental studies 

simply as a common course; or 
whether environmental studies will be 





offered as a common course, or should 



be offered in two formats. So much of 




this is hypothetical. 







The rule we suggest in the text is that as 

common courses: 

communications technology 

common courses: 

communications technology 

far as possible courses should be 

phys ed 


common ones, and that OAcCs should 

be offered ordy where they form an 
essential sequence for university admis- 
sion in a particular subject area or 








discipline. Thus, math and science 






must be offered at OAcC level for 

common courses: 

entrepreneurial studies 

anyone wanting to go to university in a 

common courses: 

construction technology 

construction technology 

science/math/engineering stream, for 

phys ed 

phys ed 

example. But someone wanting to go 
into law school after university may not 
need or want an 0.\cC math course. 

explained our preference for smaller schools, in which 
adolescents have a better chance of knowing and being 
known by their teachers and their peers, and are much less 
likely to feel alienated or to be simply a face in the crowd. 
We recommended that the Ministry and local boards 
encourage and provide incentives to schools that wish to 
reorganize themselves to create smaller learning units. 

Secondary schools are usually the largest of the school 
units - not uncommonly including well over a thousand 
students. Hence our concern for creating smaller communi- 
ties for students is especially applicable at the secondary 
level. Furthermore, there is another advantage to the small 
school at this level: given that most secondary schools in 
Ontario are large, and that the small units can only be 
achieved by creating "schools-within-schools" or "houses," in 
which two or more such units share a large building and its 
major facilities such as labs, library, gymnasium, and cafete- 
ria, it follows that the small schools within the large shared 
building could also specialize by subject or topic. One school 
building could, for example, contain four discrete schools, 
one an arts academy, one organized around the health 
sciences and allied disciplines, a third devoted to interna- 
tional languages, and a fourth with an emphasis on social 
sciences and helping professions. Students might take some 
courses outside of their "school" but within the same build- 
ing; but they would choose the "school" or "house" that best 
represents their main interest. 

Schools like this are somewhat analagous to the alterna- 
tive schools in some municipalities, which are deliberately 
small, focus on a particular program, and draw teachers and 
students who want to be part of that program. 

Both because smaller learning units support stronger 
bonds between teachers and students and between students 
and students, and because they offer the potential to support 
the kind of interest-focused curriculum packages that repre- 
sent a degree of specialization, we believe such smaller learn- 
ing units are productive for students of this age. 

Recommendation 19 

*We recommend that large secondary sctiools be reorga- 
nized into "sciiools-within-schools " or "houses, " in which 
students have a core of teachers and peers with whom they 
interact for a substantial part of their program. Such units 
may be topic-, discipline-, or interest-focused. 

At the same time that we expect programs with a signifi- 
cant degree of specialization and focus to be attractive to all 
students, we recognize the necessity of involving universities 
and colleges in organizing and structuring various programs 
and program options, as a way of marking out paths to post- 
secondary education. A locally developed model for 
programming of this kind is the school/college articulation 
program, which has blossomed in recent years: high school 
students take courses that lead directly to placement in 
specific college programs. For example, Seneca College and 
the Etobicoke Board of Education have signed an articula- 
tion agreement that gives students who complete a 
secondary school course. Seniors in Society, advanced stand- 
ing in the first year of Seneca's Social Services Worker 
Gerontology Program. 

While students take Seniors in Society, they are also 
learning about and negotiating the admissions requirements 
for Seneca's program - should they decide to apply to it. 
This specific articulation agreement is another example of 
the generic model we favour, in which school and post- 
secondary institution jointly define a program that is contin- 
uous and cumulative; nonetheless, we believe that it may be 
too specific to become a general pattern. 

While some colleges are involved in very specific articula- 
tion programs, as a sector they have not joined with the 
secondary school sector to plan centrally for secondary-post- 
secondary continuity in the same way universities have. The 
opposite is true for universities: there is a single program, 
the advanced-level/OAC sequence, that clearly leads to the 
possibility of university application and admission but 
makes no distinction between subjects students intend to 

For the Love of Learning 

pursue and those they do not. The university sequence could 
be improved by being made less global and general, as well 
as more plural and interest-focused. In other words, we need 
university packages, not a university stream. The college 
sequences could be improved by being made less specific 
and more comprehensive. In other words, we need some 
college packages, not dozens or hundreds of articulation 

We believe that, just as there are now certain courses 
students must take if they aspire to university, in future there 
should be equally well-defined requirements for college 
application and admission. We are not proposing that, as is 
now the case, courses recognized by universities be totally 
distinct from all others. 

We do not propose that the university-bound student be 
obliged to take OAcCs only, or that the one planning to go to 
college take OApCs exclusively. Instead, we suggest that the 
particular combination of OAcCs and OApCs required for 
admission to various programs and major areas of study at 
colleges and universities should depend on decisions made 
by those bodies working with secondary school educators, 
and organized by and responsible to the Ministry of Educa- 
tion and Training. 

For example, a student who wants to attend a university's 
engineering faculty might be required to take a set of 
math/science/technology courses, all of which are OAcCs, 
and might take the other subjects - English, social sciences, 
arts - as OApCs. A student whose goal is the electronics 
technology program in a college might have to take some, 
but not all, math and technology courses as OAcCs, but the 
science courses, as well as those in arts and humanities 
courses, could be OApCs. A third student, interested in a 
college's program for technicians, might take all courses as 

While we are aware that this plan does not provide a 
specific set of programs tailored for students who do not go 
on to post-secondary education, we believe that, for several 
reasons, the structure is a benefit for them as well: first, there 
is growing consensus that, increasingly, students who do not 
have any post-secondary education or training will be at an 
economic disadvantage; this convinces us that it is unwise to 
create dead-end secondary programs. Second, many students 
- about half, in fact - who do not immediately go on to 
post-secondary education after secondary school do so even- 

Tho Youth Internahip 

A new electrical/electronics 
curriculum is being created 
with funds from the federal 
government and industry, 
school, and college part- 
ners. The curriculum will 
begin at the high school 
level and be completed at 
the college level. High 
school graduates of the 
program will be able to 
proceed directly into a 
college technician/technol- 
ogist diploma program, or 
enter the sector's work- 
force with generic skills. 

which will be sufficient to 
allow the worker to be 
productive while pursuing 
the diploma as a part-time 
student. A group of 
students In each of seven 
locations In five provinces 
will participate in the first 
trial of the new curnculum. 
The idea of the Youth 
Internship Program is to 
develop work-based training 
opportunities for young 
Canadians In new and 
emerging sectors where 
few entry-level training 
programs currently exist. 

tually; being prepared for a post-secondary program can 
only facilitate that later transition. Finally, a coherent, practi- 
cal, interest-focused program should make schools more 
attractive and help them retain students, irrespective of their 
future plans. 

There is litde purpose in staying in school if the program 
has no shape and no destination; if it has both, it should 
encourage more students to stay to completion and to 
continue on. 

Our idea is that all students should be treated alike when 
it comes to organizing their curriculum after the common 
core curriculum is finished at the end of Grade 9. All 
students, we think, would benefit from, and be motivated by, 
a degree of coherence that comes from greater specialization. 
We also believe that a good, common education to the end 
of Grade 9, built on strong foundation skills, on early and 
continuous career awareness, on a community-work experi- 
ence program, as well as on excellent career counselling will 
mean that t5-year-olds are ready and eager to focus on their 
interests and strengths, without having to sacrifice a good 
general education. 

We believe, as well, that this good general education can 
and should continue within the more specialized curriculum 
after Grade 9. That principle is embedded in our proposal in 
two ways: first, we are suggesting that many courses be 
offered, not as OAcCs or OApCs, but in one form only, with- 
out special designation. Such courses as family studies, phys- 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

Ecole Secondaire Publique 
Charlebois in Ottawa- 
Carleton offers a curricu- 
lum centred on student 
activities, particularly in 
math, science, and technol- 
ogy. Beginning in Grade 11, 
students can specialize in 
these subjects if they wish, 
in preparation for a trade, 
profession, or for post- 
secondary studies in these 
areas. Among the partners 

supporting the program, 
through activities and 
opportunities that include 
mentoring, visits, camps, 
training sessions, projects, 
and co-operative education, 
are Bell Canada, Bell 
Northern, La Cite Colle- 
giale, SHL Systemhouse 
Inc., Canadian Space 
Agency, and the University 
of Ottawa. 

ical education, life skills, drama, visual arts, and most busi- 
ness courses can be offered in this single, common way. The 
only courses that should take the form of OAcCs or OApCs 
are those required by universities and colleges for admission 
to particular programs. These would probably include 
Engiish/fran^ais, mathematics, science, French/anglais, histo- 
ry, as well as geography and some business and technology 
courses. But the final decision on this would be left to the 
post-secondary educators, working with secondary educa- 

We have recommended that courses in subjects important 
to university or college admission be offered in two forms - 
OAcC/OApC - and that other courses be offered in one form 
only. Although specific requirements must be worked out 
between universities, colleges, and the secondary education 
section, we believe the guiding principle should be that 
students should be required to take courses in a particular 
one of the two forms, rather than being able to choose freely 
between them, only when they are specializing in a particu- 
lar subject or career area. 

Our second mechanism for ensuring that students 
continue to acquire a general, liberal education even while 
they specialize in an area of interest is to require that all 
students take a number of mandatory courses, as is the case 
at present. 

We are particularly concerned that no student graduate 
without adult literacy skills. Therefore, we have chosen to 

* At the request of a parent or student, up to two exemptions/substitutions could 
be made, as is presently the case. 

make such literacy a requirement for the diploma. (See 
Chapter 11.) In addition, we are certain that all graduates 
should have a solid basis of knowledge of Canadian and 
world history and literature, but are concerned that not all 
do at present. 

While we are certain that decisions concerning exactly 
what courses should be required of all students must be 
based on clearly defined learner outcomes for the end of 
Grade 12, these outcomes do not yet exist. Nonetheless, we 
offer as one reasonable model the following list of 14 courses 
to be required of all students within the 21 credits (Grades 
10-12) required for the diploma:* 

3 English/communications (or fran^ais) credits 

2 math credits 

2 science credits 

1 Canadian history credit 

1 geography or social science credit 

1 arts or physical education credit 

2 language credits (French/anglais and/or one other international 

1 life skills credit, with modules in career education, community 
service, violence prevention, anti-racism, media literacy, and 
personal/financial management (These modules could also be 
offered within the English or mathematics curricula) 

1 business studies or technological studies credit 

In addition, we recommend two mandatory diploma 

requirements (credit or non-credit) for all students. 

Recommendations 20, 21 

* First, we recommend that they participate in physical exer- 
cise at least three times per week, for not less than 30 
minutes per session, either in or outside physical education 

*Second, we recommend that they take part in a minimum of 
20 hours per year (two hours per month) of community 
service, facilitated and monitored by the school, to take 
place outside or inside the school. 

(Examples of the latter include peer and cross-age tutoring.) 

For the Love of Learning 

All students, we believe, should also be given, and be 
expected to use, generous opportunities to participate in 
wrork- and career- related learning activities in and out of 
school, which will be integrated into the curriculum. Both 
the community service and the work- and career-related 
activities should be included in the student's Cumulative 
Educational Profile (CEP). 

Finally, we believe that reorganizing curriculum into 
programs that are topic- and interest-focused will have a 
healthy effect on informally reorganizing staff. Many educa- 
tors told us, and local research also suggests, that, as a result 
of the system of departmental affiliation of secondary teach- 
ers, there is a lack of communication across subject bound- 
aries - "Balkanization" - which is aggravated by the large 
size of secondary schools." This failure to integrate staff has 
sometimes been reflected in an exaggerated and artificial 
segregation of curriculum, preventing connections from 
being made that would enrich the coherence and importance 
of a student's total learning experience during a given year 
or semester. 

While smaller learning units - our schools-within- 
schools - will help to break down these walls, so will inter- 
disciplinary programs that bring subjects and, therefore, 
teachers together. If math, science, English, and art teachers 
are part of a communications academy, they will, of necessi- 
ty, find themselves working together to present a reasoned 
sequence of courses over the three years. While each teacher 
may maintain her departmental affiliation, she is very likely 
to find herself spending as much time with teachers from 
other departments. We believe this shift would be to the 
great benefit of students as well as of teachers, whose contin- 
uing education depends so much on their professional inter- 
changes with colleagues. (See the section on department 
heads in Chapter 12, for further discussion of the issue of 
staffing and staff functioning.) 


As we said earlier, we are concerned about the present inflex- 
ibility in force in almost all secondary schools: all courses are 
offered in units of equal length, and every student has exact- 
ly the same length of time as every other in which to 
complete a course - no more and no less. We have seen some 
powerfully persuasive examples of flexibility in secondary 
schools, and we want to see them become more wide-spread. 

Community Sarvic* and 



The Windsor Roman 
Catholic Separate School 
Board has developed a 
unique partnership 
between the school, 
community, and local 

Canada Mortgage and 
Housing Corporation 
(CMHC) currently operates 
a program entitled Home 
Adaptations for Seniors 
Independence (NASI), 
which provides funding to 
low-income seniors for 
adaptations to their 
homes. This will assist 
seniors in their daily living 
activities and allow them to 
remain living in their own 
home rather than an insti- 
tution. The students from 
the Windsor Roman 
Catholic Separate School 
Board's Construction Tech- 
nology program have 
become involved in this 
venture by completing the 
required work for the 
seniors at no cost for the 

labour while the materials 
are paid by CMHC, not the 
school board or senior. 
This allows the senior to 
obtain two and three times 
the amount of work 
completed on their home 
because there is no labour 
charged, thus allowing the 
grant from CMHC to be 
completely spent on 

Students design, estimate, 
schedule, fabricate, and 
install the project from 
start to finish. Projects 
have been completed in 
the City of Windsor and 
surrounding communities 
in Essex County. Local 
businesses provide the 
materials with no money 
up-front, and are paid only 
when the project is 
complete. This is an excel- 
lent example of an innova- 
tive project - the first in 
Canada - between a feder- 
al organization (CMHC). 
students, and local suppli- 
ers. What better way is 
there to learn than on the 
job site in a real-life 

One way is to design units or modules, either within courses 
of the traditional length (one semester or one year), or as 
partial credits in themselves. In either case, the idea is that 
students could progress through a sequence of modules at 
different paces, with those needing more support able to get 
it, and those capable of accelerating doing so. 

Another form of acceleration' is by prior learning assess- 
ment: to the extent that courses are broken into modules, or 
that partial credits are offered, it becomes increasingly plau- 
sible to give students the option of "testing out" through a 
challenge exam and moving to a higher level. We have no 
doubt that, for example, there are students sitting through 
much of Grade 10 math who are quite able to do Grade 11 
math or do the second half of Grade 10 math in September 
of their Grade 10 year. (Below, in the section "International 
languages," we speak of the challenge exam as applied to 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

££ ^%tudeitts from the [R.H. King] Academy 
^9 are also required to complete a mini- 
mum of 25 hours of volunteer community 
service before they graduate. Most 
students continue to serve in the commu- 
nity after their hours are completed 
because they enjoy helping others. This 
experience is valuable to the students 
because they learn commitment. Tliey 
become responsible for their community, 
and realize just how important tt is for the 

# school ami its community to have a good 
relationship." M 

Kristen Desarno and Jen Parks. R.H. King Academy 

international languages, and in Chapter 10 we address this 
issue more generally.) 

At the same time, many students fail Grade 10 math 
unnecessarily: some may need 12 or 14, not 10 months to 
complete the course, and may need extra support in one-on- 
one or small groups, with a teacher or perhaps with a senior 
student tutor. But these youngsters should not have to finish 
in 10 months or fail and invest a second 10 months in the 
same material, much of which they already know. Instead, 
they need flexibility of time to complete the work, and 
immediate remediation - a little help when they need it, not 
a lot of help when it is much too late. 

While most courses have not been developed in modular 
form, teachers need not necessarily start from scratch to 
redefine curriculum that way. One resource - not well 
known but readily available - is the long list of courses 
developed as independent learning packages by the Indepen- 
dent Learning Centre of the Ministry of Education and 
Training. Although most ILC students are adults, there are 
several thousand day-school students every year who acquire 
credits independently by completing ILC courses. In some, 
but not all cases, the students are using the ILC as a distance 
education resource. But the materials used for ILC courses 
are certainly readily available to teachers who want models 
for work that is broken into smaller units and done at the 
individual's own pace. We also expect that increased avail- 
ability of computers and interactive videos will make indi- 
vidualization of materials more attractive and more 

Summer and night schools are other possibilities for 
students who want to accelerate or to catch up. But, like day- 

school courses, those being taught at night or in the summer 
are of uniform length and occupy a pre-established number 
of classroom hours. One intriguing possibility related to the 
idea of the year-round school is to make summer an option- 
al learning extension period, for the student who wants to 
spend longer than the usual number of days and weeks to 
complete a course begun in the fall, winter, or spring. 

Another way to give students flexibility, both in what they 
learn and how they learn it, is through a study or project 
that is independent of any course. Although this can be done 
within current guidelines, it is rarely presented to students as 
an option. Students can be encouraged to discuss an idea 
with a teacher - any teacher - and work out a plan or 
contract. Any teacher, depending on interests and expertise, 
can act as a resource for a student. Students who work in 
this manner have the opportunity to further develop invalu- 
able skills related to time management and self-discipline. 

Recommendation 22 

*We recommend that the same efforts to centrally develop 
strategies and ideas for increasing flexibility and individualiza- 
tion of the pace of learning, which we called for in the 
common core curriculum, be applied to the specialization 

The other important kind of flexibility is that which 
exists between programs. If a student changes her mind 
about her interests, or about going to college or university, 
program requirements should not be so rigid as to discour- 
age her. Our recommendations make it possible to achieve 
flexibility in two ways: first, because many courses would be 
available in only one form, the issue of differences between 
programs would be minimized: if she chooses drama - 
whether she is taking courses in applied arts, communica- 
tions, or humanities, or intends to apply to university or 
college - it would be the same course. Second, by encourag- 
ing challenge exams and prior learning assessment, students 
would be able, on the basis of tests, to move beyond content 
they already have mastered and to enter that course, either in 
a class setting or on an individualized basis, at the point 
where they qualify, or, in some cases, be excused from the 
whole course or most of it. This would cover any course and 
any student, regardless of the program in which she had 
been specializing. If, for example, a student had completed 
the Grade 10 English OApC and wished to take Grade 11 


For the Love of Learning 

English OAcC, she could do so after passing the Grade 10 
English OAcC exam. 

Curriculum content 

Bask requirements 

We want to build a secondary program that rests on high 
standards, rigour, and continuity of general education and 
the opportunity for specialization. We want all students to 
be able to choose a program based on their interests and 
aptitudes, in which links are made between academics and 
applications, and between school and working-and-learning 
settings outside school. 

We have described a three-year secondary program, 
beginning after Grade 9, with 21 course credits required for 
graduation. Some of these will be offered in only one 
format; others will be available in OAcC and OApC configu- 

While all students are likely to experience a mix of acade- 
mic and applied learning, the balance between the two 
programs will differ somewhat. For example, we intend that 
the number and intensity of workplace and in-school work- 
related experiences - job-shadowing, co-operative educa- 
tion, and other worksite learning opportunities - would 
increase substantially in all courses, and that curricular 
emphasis would be on in-class practical applications of 
knowledge. But more time would be spent in these learning 
contexts in OApC than in OAcC courses; for example, while 
all students would take English/communications courses, 
which would contain components of both conventional 
literature and technical literature, the balance between those 
two would certainly differ in OAcC and OApC courses. 

The goal would be to ensure that, no matter what courses 
students took, they would be well prepared for the Grade 1 1 
literacy examination. (See Chapter 11.) 

We believe it is very important that the most advanced 
OAcC and OApC course in each subject area should have a 
common core, across all schools; it should be significant 
enough to give students some guarantee of consistency of 
both content and evaluation standards, as well as providing 
reliability in what is taught and learned in courses that have 
a major impact on admission to college or university. 

To accomplish this, we propose that an existing process, 
the Ontario Academic Credit/Teacher-Inservice-Program 
(OAC/TIP), be expanded and improved. OAC/TIP involves 

Mary Ward School in Scar- 
borough offers individual- 
ized programming to Its 
secondary students, by 
breaking down all-year 
courses into 20 units, each 
one leading to a test. 
Students progress at their 
own rate and take the end- 
of-unlt tests when they are 
ready. Teachers build 
"seminars" - opportunities 
for them to teach students 
in small groups - into each 
unit, and are also available 
to students at any time for 
Individual help. Students 
may have as many as 14 
months to complete a 
course. Teacher advisory 
groups - a teacher-advisor 
and the students who are 
advised by that teacher on 

a continuous basis over 
their years at Mary Ward - 
meet twice daily, and every 
student has an individual 
conference with the 
teacher-advisor every 
second week, and brings 
home a written report after 
each conference. This 
enables students to move 
quickly or slowly, depending 
on their grasp of a subject; 
to get help when they need 
It; and to know that their 
progress is being regularly 
monitored, with frequent 
communication with 
parents. At the same time, 
their need to be part of a 
peer group is met by the 
advisory groups twice^laily 
meeting schedule. 

secondary and university educators working together to 
evaluate the final examinations set by teachers across the 
province in each last-year academic (OAC) course, the quali- 
ty of student response, and the standard being applied, as 
reflected in teachers' evaluations and marks. Teachers from 
the two levels look at actual sets of exams, and arrive at 
agreement about standards. 

At present, this process applies only to those final-year 
academic courses; we are proposing that it expand to include 
final-year OApCs as well as OAcCs, because we believe that 
standards of excellence are equally important in both course . 
types. It would be necessary to involve college as well as 
university teachers in this process, and both groups more 
prominently than the university sector is currently involved. 
If the process were implemented and monitored seriously, 
and involved college educators for the new OApCs, with a 
now-absent emphasis on public reporting and accountabili- 
ty, consistency would be achieved" while building teacher 
capability in assessment. Chapter 1 1 includes our specific 
recommendation for expanding the examination review 
process for final-year courses, to be certain that all courses 
are included, and that the cyclical review schedule for 
subjects is accelerated, so that reviews are more frequent. 

In order to implement this curriculum, major efforts are 
required: first, new course groupings, or programs, must be 
developed by schools, colleges, and universities, working 
toward better articulation for students. Second, manv course 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

Some secondary schools use 
the Copernican Plan to short- 
en course units and, at the 
same time, mal<e the teacher- 
student group much smaller 
and more personal. Under 
this method, students take 
only two subjects at a time, 
each course lasting ten 
weeks. Thus, over one school 
year, students are expected 
to complete eight courses, 
just as in the conventional 
arrangement. However, 
because only two courses are 
taken simultaneously, 
students have only two teach- 

ers and two groups of peers. 
For their part, teachers have 
only 40 to 50 students on 
their roll at one time, allowing 
personal relationships to 
develop, and students to 
know one another and their 
teachers, and be known by 
them. L.V. Rogers High 
School, in Nelson, British 
Columbia, has experimented 
with this plan successfully 
over three years, and it has 
inspired more than a dozen 
other B.C. high schools to 
implement the plan. 

guidelines will have to be rewritten. Currently, for example, 
there is little emphasis on technical writing in any English 
class, and too little emphasis on application in most mathe- 
matics and science courses. At present, these applied but 
challenging math and English courses do not exist in most 
schools. And the common courses - the drama, family stud- 
ies, and other courses offered in only one format - must 
reflect a good balance between academic and applied skills 
and experiences, to cater to all students. 

In order to offer common courses within a variety of 
interest-based programs, it is necessary to agree on the 
intended outcomes of each course. Thus, the drama course 
may have quite different content and applicability if it is 
being offered in a communications program rather than a 
health sciences program; but there must be a common set of 
outcomes that apply to drama in both (and many other) 
programs. For example, we may expect all drama students to 
show an increased ability to understand and portray a range 
of human feelings, although the dramatic situations and 
roles in which they develop and exhibit this ability will differ 
in content. As long as curriculum guidelines are developed 
that specify what students are expected to learn and know, 
curriculum designers and teachers will be able to develop a 
variety of modules and materials that cover the require- 
ments and connect to the content theme. In so far as this 
can be done centrally, teachers will not have to develop 
materials even as they attempt to teach them. 

Finally, there must be a very significant increase, for 
students, in the school/work articulation opportunities, 
which are severely limited at present by the traditional reluc- 

tance of business and labour to become involved in appren- 
ticeship-like activities. 

While we strongly believe that all students in all 
programs need to see a greater connection between school 
and career, have more experience in work settings, and gain 
a greater sense of how their course work can be applied 
outside the classroom, we recognize that students who do 
not intend to go to university have the greatest need for this 
connection and emphasis, to give both program and student 
a sense of purpose and direction. 

Given that we have recommended much smaller school 
units, usually in the form of schools-within-schools, it 
should be possible for most if not all communities to offer 
several different kinds of focused programs to attract and 
engage students with different interests and talents, at the 
same time they are offered a high-quality core curriculum, 
regardless of specialization. We think the best way to ensure 
the latter is through a combination of learner outcomes, 
standards of performance in foundation skills areas, and 
example-illustrated curriculum guidelines for each course - 
in precisely the same way we described the elementary level 

Recommendation 23 

*We recommend that a set of graduation outcomes be 
developed for the end of Grade 12; that they be subject and 
skill oriented, as well as relatively brief; and that they cover 
common learner outcomes for all students as well as supple- 
mental learner outcomes for the OAcC and the OApC 

Thus, the curriculum guidelines for Grade 10 Geography, 
for example, would list: (1) outcomes for all learners, (2) 
supplemental outcomes for those in the Grade 10 OApC, 
and (3) supplemental outcomes for those in the Grade 10 
OAcC. The first list would be longer than either of the other 

We strongly suggest that learner outcomes. Grades 1-12, 
be understood as a continuum, and that the new statements 
of outcomes developed for the specialization years be creat- 
ed and tested by elementary, secondary, and post-secondary 
educators, working together. The Ministry of Education and 
Training must provide leadership, but should draw heavily 
on expertise from teachers' professional groups, such as 
subject councils. 

For the Love of Learning 

The foundation subjects revisited 

In our opinion, the subjects we described as the foundation 
of Grades 1 to 9 should continue to function that way 
through graduation: all students must continue to enhance 
their literacies by acquiring knowledge and sophistication in 
communications, in mathematics, in science, in information 
technology, and in group learning/life skills. The issues for 
restructuring in each of these areas are discussed briefly. 

The concern of many educators and specialists is that 
communications, mathematics, and science courses should 
have more applied emphasis in the specialization years. We 
agree that all learners would appreciate this emphasis, and 
want to see all courses connect more to students' realities; in 
particular, the OApCs we are recommending would be care- 
fully designed to meet this need. 

In English/communications, there should be more 
emphasis, for all students, on universally needed and useful 
applications, such as writing resumes and reading technical 
reports. We do not wish to see any student deprived of 
continuing exposure to the world's great literature; nor is it 
acceptable for a student to graduate without being able to 
write a gramatically correct, well-reasoned essay or well- 
researched paper. But we are equally concerned that practical 
applications, such as a high level of media and technical 
literacy, should be part of everyone's education. 

In both science and mathematics, the need for a more 
practical and useful approach to science is equally acute. 

At the secondary level, scientific literacy for all implies an entirely 
new approach to curriculum ... New courses [in math, science, and 
technology] ... would have a general focus on science and technolo- 
gy in a broad societal context and would have scientific literacy for 
all as their main focus ... Courses in biology, chemistry and physics 
would remain ... but would be taken by fewer students, those 
intending to specialize in particular sciences at the post-secondary 

We would add that the "broad societal context" focus in 
science should include an emphasis on ethics and on human 
and social applications of science. Researchers and advocates 
concerned with attracting more female students to the 
sciences often identify this kind of content as being a key to 
improving both the quality and comprehensiveness of the 
science curriculum in general, and attracting and keeping 
more female students in particular. 

Education Strategies for 
Women In Math, 
Science, and Technology 

The Waterloo Region 
Catholic School Board has 
developed a number of 
programs to encourage 
women students to pursue 
careers in these traditional- 
ly male areas. The 
programs begin in Grade 9, 
with career workshops and 
job-shadowing; by Grade 
10. gifted female students 
can spend time at the 
University of Waterloo work- 
ing with a graduate student 
or faculty member. As well, 

students have t}een placed 
at Waterloo as research 
aides to professors, earn- 
ing secondary credits In 
math, science, and 
computer studies at the 
same time they are study- 
ing a related university 
course for credit. The goal 
is to encourage female 
students to think of acade- 
mic research in these 
areas as a career possibili- 
ty, so that they continue to 
study math and science in 
university and in graduate 

While science is one avenue for applied mathematics, 
math courses themselves must be restructured so that they 
become more useful to students. Most students will not 
become mathematicians, but they need to know how to use 
math and to solve problems in the context of life and work. 
This does not imply any lack of rigor or challenge, only an 
obligation to prepare students well for what they will need 
and be able to make use of, whatever their post-secondary 

Mathematics educators tell us that 

students need to see how mathematical ideas are related. The mathe- 
matics curriculum is generally viewed as consisting of several 
discrete strands such as number or space which are often taught in 
isolation from one another. It is important that students connect 
ideas both among and within the areas of mathematics. Students 
need to broaden their perspective to view mathematics as an inte- 
grated whole and to recognize its usefulness and relevance both 
inside and outside of school." 

What educators are calling for is an emphasis on prob- 
lem-solving, application, and understanding - the hteracies. 
They emphasize that fewer "big ideas" well understood and 
well connected in the mind of the learner are far more 
important than extensive lists of facts, which will not be 

In the last years of secondary school, science and math 
remain the areas in which female students lag behind males. 
Their participation and success rates equal (or exceed) those 
of male students in elementary and secondary science and 
math - until the final year courses in physics and calculus." 
It is at this last step, and in university courses that function 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

i£ ^Phe puipose of education is to iieip 
I people individually and collectively to 
think knowledgeably and critically about 
the worid as they find it, to see the world 
in new and different ways and to be able 
to be activists in respect to their views 
... People are not only workers, but also 
family members, community activists, 
and citizens in an increasingly complex 

James Turk, Director of Education, Ontario Federation of Labour 

as gatekeepers to science and math, that women's participa- 
tion rates drop off. While there are indications that many 
female students would particularly like to see more practical 
and social applications of math and science made explicit 
throughout the program, their success in spite of the 
abstract nature of most existing advanced-level math and 
science courses equals that of their male peers. It would 
appear that the prospect of continuing in math/science in 
university is what they find unattractive or forbidding. In 
recognition of this, some schools, colleges, and universities 
have co-operated to create transitional and linking programs 
designed to make university-level science and math more 
accessible to women. 

Of the foundation subjects being revisited in this chapter, 
none must be upgraded more than information technology: 
as students come into secondary school with extensive expe- 
rience in using computers for writing and communicating 
with others, courses that do not expand the student's skill 
base - keyboarding for example - will virtually disappear 
from the curriculum. (In the same way that we do not offer 
courses in the use of the ordinary phone.) 

Students will have extensive experience with word- 
processing software long before they reach Grade 10, and we 
can expect to see computer use and skill expand as informa- 
tion is searched and synthesized in increasingly sophisticated 
ways across most subjects, as well as in specialized arts appli- 
cations. Networks of computers and the information they 
make available will also be essential in independent study 
projects, with the teacher acting as a consultant rather than 
as the organizer of the material to be learned. 

As the emphasis on workplace learning increases substan- 
tially in the secondary years, the interpersonal, group learn- 
ing, organizational, and decision-making skills that have 
been emphasized since the early years will have obviously 
broader applications. Students will need guidance and prac- 
tice in interviewing, and in understanding expectations of 
employers and fellow workers. 

The greater emphasis on applied topics will give students 
opportunities to practice such essential life skills as prepar- 
ing resumes and income tax forms, and learning to read 
technical manuals and labels critically. 

Many parents and others concerned with the broader 
interpersonal education of adolescents commented to us on 
the need for greater education in parenting. Despite the fact 
that the transition to parenting is as real, that it may be as 
imminent, and certainly is as important for high school 
graduates as the transition to work, most students in the 
public school system are not exposed to family life education 
until Grade 7, although it begins in the early grades in 
Catholic schools; and many do not opt to take family studies 
courses later, in secondary school, when they might be more 

As we become increasingly more concerned about the 
rising rate of marriage breakdown, the growth in the 
number of child abuse cases being reported, the fact that 
more teen mothers are raising babies ("children raising chil- 
dren") than ever before, and alarming rates of family and 
youth violence, there is a new sense of uigency about the 
need to offer parenting education to young people. This is 
perhaps the situation in which community partners must be 
most active in assisting schools to design and deliver the 
curriculum, and in promoting non-academic learning of 
vital interest to the community. 

Rather than insisting all students take a non-academic 
course that some of them, or their parents, do not feel is 
useful or desirable in secondary school or as part of the 
curriculum, we suggest it remain optional - that the parent- 
ing component within the family studies or life skills course 
be made well known to students, and that parenting courses 
in the community be supported by government, and made 
widely available through childbirth preparation courses, 
birthing centres, and hospital maternity wards, as well as at 
public libraries and community centres. 

For the Love of Learning 

From Grade 10 on, students can and should, for their 
benefit and that of their peers, be accepting increasing 
responsibihty for organizing and operating support systems 
in school, including conflict resolution teams, tutoring 
programs, and peer support groups. Students may need 
adult assistance in organizing and maintaining these 
services, but can carry out most operations, in a valuable 
learning opportunity that offers them a valid way to 
discharge part of their annual community service obliga- 
tions. This form of community service, whether at school or 
in the larger community, is a rich field for developing 
life skills. 

Quidance and Career 

The guidance program at 
Twin Lakes Secondary 
School, Orillla, is organized 
to give all students a devel- 
opmental and sequential 
program, using classroom 
presentations and personal 
interviews. Each student 
records career interests, 
career plans, work experi- 
ence, cooperative educa- 
tion, and volunteer work on 
a personal data form. It is 
intended that over four 

years, the student will 
become more infornned 
about her or his interests, 
skills, aptitudes, as well as 
available career and educa- 
tional opportunities. 
Students will also have 
acquired decisiorvmaking 
skills to choose careers or 
programs to match their 
interests and aptitudes, 
and joti-search skills such 
as interview skills, resume 
writing, and writing letters 
of application. 


Career education and career counselling 
The curriculum we recommend would begin building 
connections between the school and the community very 
early, starting with a focus on community and career aware- 
ness in ECE/kindergarten, and continuing with a Cumulative 
Educational Plan (CEP) starting in Grade 7. But it is in the 
specialized curriculum that actual participation in extended, 
as well as brief, work experiences occurs, and the crucial 
links to work, career, and full-time employment are made - 
whether that employment begins for the learner at age 18 or 
earlier, or later, after post-secondary education. Starting in 
Grade 10, serious attention must be given to building links 
between curriculum and work applications. 

We believe that every student should have the opportuni- 
ty to participate in co-operative education, and in many 
shorter-term work experience activities, and should be 
exposed to a variety of career models in the classroom and 
school programs. 

This clearly gives employers, unions, and post-secondary 
institutions a central role in educating high school students. 
The need for work settings in all kind of sectors, private and 
public, for-profit and non-profit, would grow enormously. 
The success of co-operative education programs, in terms of 
student, employer, parent, and teacher satisfaction, is consid- 
erable. But greater commitment from institutions outside 
the secondary system is essential if more opportunities are to 
open up for students. 

We urge the Ontario government to explore ways of 
increasing opportunities for co-operative education and 
other longer-term on-site work/education placements for 
secondary students. For example, it might be possible to use 

tax incentives to recognize investments in training, and to 
work with organized labour to guarantee that secondary 
school training programs are not, and are not perceived as, 
threats to employee security. 

Older students, many of whom are close to the transition 
to work and career, would best be served if all career coun- 
selling and information agencies in the community - 
whether local, provincial, or federal - were accessible to 
secondary students in a system connected to all sources of 
information on-site, either electronically or by locating vari- 
ous counselling services in the school. 

The Government of Ontario should work with relevant stakeholders 
to implement a province-wide ... system of career/vocational infor- 
mation and counselling services. The goal should be a "one-start" 
system that provides access to a province-wide network of 
career/vocational information and counselling services from all 
points of delivery in the infrastructure. The system should include 
the full range of existing sources of career/vocational information 
and counselling services, including schools, colleges, universities, 
public libraries, federal, provincial, and municipal offices, non- 
governmental organizations, community groups, and private coun- 
selling firms." 

International languages 

In order to encourage students while they are young to learn 
or maintain a language through the International Languages 
program or privately, we propose to provide and encourage 
the use of challenge exams in international languages begin- 
ning in Grade 10. A student could take such an exam in the 
language of her choice, receive a mark that would be equated 
to a course level (e.g., equivalent to the completion of one 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

credit in Italian, or equivalent to the completion of two 
credits in Mandarin). This would serve the student in two 
ways: first, she could, if she wished, receive the equivalent of 
up to two credits (and we suggest imposing this maximum) 
toward her diploma. This is now done in Manitoba, where 
students are offered the opportunity to earn a limited 
number of credits by exam without actually studying the 
language in school. The option is available both for 
languages taught in Manitoba schools as well as those that 
are not, and is parallel to the existing option in Ontario 
under which students earn a credit for musical achievement 
by taking examinations at an approved conservatory of 

In our opinion, more important than being able to earn 
credits is the opportunity to qualify for enrolment in a more 
advanced language course without taking prerequisites, by 
demonstrating the appropriate level of mastery on the chal- 
lenge examination. We speak throughout this report of 
wanting to increase flexibility for students, so that they can 
spend more or less time on a subject or course, depending 
on their proficiency and the speed at which they progress. 
We want the challenge exam option, or its functional equiva- 
lent, to be available for students in all subject areas. In the 
case of international languages the difference is that acceler- 
ation may not be possible before Grade 10, because the 
courses may not be offered until that point. 

We hope and expect that if, from Grade 10 on, students 
were encouraged to take challenge exams in international 
languages, enrolment in those subjects would increase 
substantially. While a particular school might not have suffi- 
cient numbers to establish a course in every language for 

which one or more students passed the exam, students could 
be accommodated, either by having courses delivered in the 
school building or elsewhere in the community, using inter- 
active video, or individually, through courses offered by the 
Independent Learning Centre (ILC), an agency of the 
Ministry of Education and Training. The ILC is also an 
important resource for developing the challenge exams, and 
for marking them. 

We want to see every effort made to provide instruction, 
individually or in groups, to those students in Grades 10 to 
12 who wish to continue their language studies. As part of 
that effort and encouragement, the Ministry of Education 
and Training should support the design and encourage the 
use of challenge exams in international languages, beginning 
in Grade 10, for students who wish to earn a limited number 
of credits in a language other than English or French, 
whether or not they receive instruction in the school system. 

Recommendation 24 

*We recommend that students have the option of receiving 
as many as two international language credits toward their 
diploma no matter where they obtained their training or 
knowledge of the language(s) if, upon examination, they 
demonstrate appropriate levels of language mastery. 

Continuity in curriculum 

At this point, it is necessary to reiterate some of the ideas 

and themes developed in Chapter 8, because they relate to 

matters at least as important in later adolesence as in earlier 


First, the necessity for students to be known by one 
teacher who has a commitment to their on-going welfare 
and progress is paramount. When a student enters Grade 9 
or 10, she will have a new teacher-advisor, who will be the 
student's advisor and advocate for as many years as the 
student is in the school. (Thus, secondary school teachers, in 
addition to their subject teaching, will have responsibility for 
a group of students in the role of advisor.) It is essential that 
at this "handing-over" point, the new advisor speedily obtain 
the student's CEP, study it, and confer with the student near 
the beginning of the term, so that students do not feel that, 
in changing schools, they have lost the opportunity for a 
meaningful relationship with a teacher who knows their 
background and has a commitment to helping them make 
their way through school. 

For the Love of Learning 


It should be evident that in small schools and in the 
schools-within-schools we have recommended, there will be 
solid opportunities for each student to know and be known 
by teachers and fellow students, lessening the sense, which 
many secondary school students told us they have, that no- 
one knows or cares whether they remain in school. 

From Grade 10 on, the results of alienation from school 
that some students experience from an early age become 
most evident. There is the high drop-out rate among some 
ethno-cultural and aboriginal groups, as well as among 
disadvantaged students - the culmination of a process that 
begins much earlier. 

While solutions to this problem are dependent on 
processes that also begin much earlier, teachers and counsel- 
lors must be particularly vigilant, in these school years, for 
signs that students are abandoning hope of graduating. 
While the Commission believes that the suggestions in this 
chapter will reduce the drop-out rate by serving all students 
better, by giving more students a reason to complete high 
school, by allowing them flexibility and providing support 
where needed, and by engaging them through curriculum 
that is of interest and relevance to them, it also recognizes 
that some students will still require specific types of help, 
including support and intervention by appropriate agencies 
and professionals. In addition to the teacher-advisor or 
home-room teacher concept we have described, it might be 
appropriate to link potential drop-outs with community 
mentors, post-secondary students, senior or more successful 
students, or even with retired teachers. 

The Commission strongly urges schools and school 
boards to identify students at risk of dropping out, and to 
design innovative programs to help them stay in school. 

The transition to work from school (and back again) 

Throughout this report, we have said that we expect our 
recommendations, beginning with solid early childhood 
education, will lead to students learning more and learning 
it better, thus reducing the number of discouraged and 
unsuccessful students who reach Grade 10, and the age at 
which they can decide to leave school. This chapter has 
focused on a Grade 10-12 curriculum which, in our opin- 
ion, will increase the number of students who graduate, and 
who go on to post-secondary education. We do not pretend, 
however, that our suggestions, even if fully implemented. 

y father was having sex with 
me. I could survive or I could go 
to school, but I couldn't do both. But 
wish I could maintain some contact 
with the school." 

A 15-year-old resident of a group home, speaking at an 
outreach session with the Commission 

, will mean that there will be no drop-outs, and that all grad- 
uates will go on to college or university. They should, 
however, be supported in moving into the workforce, just as 
drop-outs should be encouraged to drop back into school. 

A student who leaves school to go to work, whether 
before or after earning a diploma, will probably need to 
learn how to find a job, how to apply for it, and how to eval- 
uate her opportunities. At present, schools have no responsi- 
bility in this area, and do not provide the student with a link 
between school and work. Some students who leave school 
without a diploma find their way to the Youth Employment 
Service offices; most probably do not. 

As well, students who leave without the diploma, work 
for a while, and then decide to re-enter school may or may 
not be encouraged and helped to do so. If, for example, a 
student left school in mid-course, he or she is unlikely to 
receive a partial credit, and will have to repeat the course 
from the beginning. This is another situation in which we 
recommend that students have the option of a challenge 
exam, and we believe schools that really want students to 
receive their diploma will welcome the idea. 

We suggest that schools be equipped and expected to 
maintain an interest in students who leave to go to work, 
and in drop-outs who choose to re-enter. The career educa- 
tion specialists in the school must take on increasing respon- 
sibilities for career counselling older students and make clear 
that they are eager to help students who have made a deci- 
sion to go to work. They can provide counselling directly, or 
can link students, when they are still in school, to such facili- 
ties as the Youth Employment Services and other community 
counselling resources. They can encourage former students 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

Secondary schools must be 
reorganized to offer high-qual- 
ity, engaging, and useful 
education to the majority of 
students. Such a program can 
be offered in three years, 
rather than four, after Grade 
9. Many courses can be deliv- 
ered in smaller learning units, 
such as schools-within- 
schools which may be mean- 
ingfully organized around 
career or subject specialties. 

The program should allow 
students flexibility to choose 
courses, by subject, which 
are not streamed per se, but 
are either more academic in 
emphasis, more applied, or a 

balance of the two. Students' 
choices would reflect their 
interests and post-secondary 
intentions, and individual 
programs would differ accord- 
ingly, so that the need to take 
all or almost all courses at a 
particular level would disap- 

Within that framework, there 
are certain commonalities, 
because they answer the 
needs of all students, and 
help to build healthy habits 
for a lifetime; hence, physical 
fitness activities and active 
participation in community 
service are mandatory for all 

to call or visit when they need guidance. The role of the 
school, and the school's career education specialist, should 
also include responsibility for assisting students to remain in 
school while they work, as well as to re-enter after they have 
left to go into the workforce. Challenge exams and prior 
learning assessments should be available to help former 
students pick up their formal education at as advanced a 
point as possible. 

We suggest that the school take an active role in main- 
taining friendly and interested relations with the student 
who leaves school without a diploma, for at least a year or 
until she turns 18, whichever comes later. 

We further suggest that this activity and monitoring be 
linked to the welfare system, so that students who leave 
school before age 18 and do not find work are encouraged to 
participate in training programs rather than moving onto 

We would also like to see a variety of innovations, in 
addition to challenge exams and prior learning assessments, 
that make it easier for students to drop back in. For example, 
some students might be helped by formal re-entry programs 
geared to their needs. The programs might include remedia- 
tion that increased the possibility of a successful re-entry. 
The school might work with community agencies to find 
shelter for former students having problems at home. 

Depending on their needs, students might also be paired 
with mentors in the community who could provide moral 
and/or academic support. (Later, we identify necessary help 
for adult students facing difficult life situations.) 

Recommendation 25 

*V\/e recommend that the Ontario Training and Adjustment 
Board (OTAB) be given the mandate to tal<e leadership, work- 
ing In partnership with school boards, community colleges, 
and other community partners, to establish programs that 
will assist secondary school graduates and drop-outs to 
transfer successfully to the workforce, including Increasing 
opportunities for apprenticeship and for other kinds of train- 
ing as well as employment counselling. 

The Ministry, school boards, and the schools should also 
encourage and smooth the re-entry of drop-outs into the 
school system. 

We have not suggested that the compulsory school-leav- 
ing age be raised to 18, because we recognize that many 
students are impatient to leave school and move into the 
workforce; nonetheless, we want schools to feel a strong 
vested interest in, and responsibility for, former students 
under the age of 18. We believe it is healthy for the school, as 
well as for the former student, to see that its concern for the 
students extends beyond the classroom and school walls and 
into the community - not only while youngsters are enrolled 
in school, but as long as they are of secondary school age. 


Every structure or curriculum organization that can be 
proposed for the post-elementary years reflects and embod- 
ies the cultural and social strains of the society it serves and 
from which it draws support. While it is not difficult to 
achieve general agreement on a common curriculum 
through the earlier years of schooling - tradition supports it 
- the lack of social consensus about commonality versus 
specialization (which underlies the debate about streaming 
and destreaming) quickly becomes obvious in the later years 
of schooling. 

Because the Commission recognizes that this is so, and 
because we cannot invent any answer that would satisfy 
everyone, we are recommending a program that honours the 
need many students feel for greater coherence and special- 
ization; we are doing so by suggesting that each student be 
involved in a three-year program organized around a 
subject, an interdisciplinary area, or a career/professional 
area. We are aware that the idea of having students aged 1 5 
to 18 choose a subject or career focus may seem to some to 
be premature specialization. But we have chosen this strategy 

For the Love of Learning 

We are convinced that one of the most important things 
the people of Ontario can learn from our most-cited 
national competitor in educational excellence, )apan, is 
that it is mainly motivation - not inherent and unalterable 
differences in ability and intelligence - that distinguishes 
successful from unsuccessful students. 

because it is the best way we know of giving some sense of 
coherence and purpose to programming after the common 

The plan acknowledges that students differ in the degree 
to which they are motivated by academic and applied inter- 
ests in various subject areas. We are allowing students' 
programs to reflect those differences in emphasis. While we 
discussed at length the idea of extending the common 
curriculum through graduation, as for example the Radwan- 
ski report proposed (as in earlier grades, all students take the 
same courses, at the same level, and in the same sequence) - 
and while we know there are strong arguments for that plan, 
we have opted instead for a mixed model, which includes 
opportunities for specialization. 

At the same time, we have built in a very significant 
degree of commonality, within a semi-specialized program: 
courses that are not "gate-keeping" for university or college 
programs should be offered in one format only; students 
should choose OAcC or OApC courses based on the special- 
ty or major subject they want to pursue, not just on whether 
they want to go to university, college, or work. As well, we 
have pointed out the need for a more applied focus in many 
courses and the importance of making work experience a 
significant component for all students, regardless of 

Again, we are aware that, just as some people will disagree 
with the notion of earlier specialization by subject, others 
will reject the degree of commonality and the decreased 
degree of streaming in our plan, compared to current prac- 
tice. We are convinced that one of the most important things 
the people of Ontario can learn from our most-cited nation- 
al competitor in educational excellence, Japan, is that it is 
mainly motivation - not inherent and unalterable differ- 
ences in ability and intelligence - that distinguishes success- 
ful from unsuccessful students. 

We have no illusion that the program we are recommend- 
ing is perfect, or that others will not be able to improve it. 
Indeed, we depend on an informed public and on educa- 
tional leaders to do just that. We have, however, made a real 
effort to be true to the principles that informed our discus- 
sion of education for children from 3 to 15. Our vision of 
excellent education for older students depends on the same 
essentials as those on which we based our suggestions about 
the common core curriculum. 

The program will 

• facilitate learning for all students - learning defined as the 
continuing development of high levels of "literacies," disci- 
plined and rigorous thinking across and within subject areas. 
At the secondary level, curriculum integration may or may 
not move in the direction of the four strands of The 
Common Curriculum. But it must be an integration of the 
entire three-year program: all students should have a sense 
that their courses form a coherent whole which is clearly 
related to their future as post-secondary students and as 
workers. The emphasis must be on making subject-based 
learning meaningful and useful. Hence, course development 
at the Ministry level must involve colleges and universities, 
and course delivery at the local level must involve the busi- 
ness and labour community. 

• be based on very clear outcomes, and very flexible about 
strategies. The Ministry of Education and Training must 
provide leadership in clarifying the expected outcomes of 
secondary education; if, for example all students should be 
able to demonstrate mastery of certain levels in mathemat- 
ics, or a particular body of knowledge about Canadian histo- 
ry and culture, those outcomes must be clearly stated, and 
curriculum review and assessment measures developed and 
used. At the same time, strong encouragement should be 
given, and resources be developed, to support flexibility at 
the school and individual level. Smaller modules of instruc- 
tion, challenge exams, and individualized course delivery 
offer the kind of flexibility that enables students to make 
choices about the pace of learning, and encourages them to 
take responsibility for their education and to persist. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 



AA ■ n the matter of Prior Learning 
(Assessment (PLA), school boards 

have, for nearly two decades, facilitat- 
ed the return of adults for secondary 
school accreditation through the 
maturity/equivalency credit provi- 
sions of the Education Act. The entire 
area of PLA however, needs much 
in^lepth development and diversifica- 
tion if real access to education/train- 
ing is to be a reality for most of 
Ontario's residents. This is especially 
true for the immigrant population." 

Ontario Council of Adult Educators 

• build on a strong foundation for program choice, begin- 
ning in the elementary years, by providing abundant oppor- 
tunities for students to gain experience in a variety of work 
settings through community service and curriculum-inte- 
grated activities in the neighbourhood and the classroom; 
and for reflecting on one's experiences and responses to 
these situations. 

• facilitate a sense of community and supportive relation- 
ships among students and between students and teachers, 
and between the school and the larger community - all on 
behalf of student learning. Students learn best when they 
feel that their success matters to their teachers and is valued 
by their peers (as well as their parents). Such caring and 
valuing is most likely to thrive when students and teachers, 
and students and students, know each other as individuals, 
in a face-to-face community, the kind that may occur in a 
small school unit, and in a teacher-advisory program. 

• be built on a strong relationship between the school and 
community in support of learners, and thus make significant 
local resources available to students; at the same time, it 
reinforces the school's commitment to its part-time and full- 
time students, even beyond the school walls, and encourages 
an on-going relationship with them, until they are 18 years 
old, in order to to protect their opportunities to continue to 
learn and to thrive. 

Many kinds of secondary school programs can be created 
in keeping with these principles. But any school that focuses 
on building a learning community, which reaches out to 
include the diverse learners who are its clients, which is 
scaled to attend to their individual needs, and which recog- 
nizes that it is part of a larger community of learners, will 

not be structured on the basis of a timetable. Nor will it be 
organized according to an administrative or bureaucreatic 
rationale, rather than grounded in the need to enhance most 
students' opportunities to learn. 

Finally, we recognize that parents (as well as students) 
must have a clear overview of the continuity of learning 
through childhood and adolescence. 

Recommendation 26 

*\Ne recommend that the Ministry of Education and Training 
create a brief and clear document that describes for parents 
what their children are expected to learn and to know, based 
on the developmental framework of stages of learning from 
birth to school entrance, The Common Curriculum, and the 
secondary school graduation outcomes. Succinct information 
on college and university programs should be also included. 

This document would inform parents of what it is that 
children can be expected to learn, know, and be able to do as 
they develop into adult learners. 

Adult education 

Secondary schools are serving a rapidly increasing number 
and proportion of adult learners. In 1991-92, about 13 
percent of all secondary day school students were 19 years or 
older, and half of that group was 22 or older; the average age 
of the adult students was 30. 

While the adult sector of the secondary school popula- 
tion grew by 24 percent between 1990 and 1992 alone, 
school boards have no obligation to provide adult education. 
When spaces are filled, adults are turned away, in contrast to 
the legal obligation schools have to students between the 
ages of 4 and 21. Legislation and space for adult learners in 
the free public education system, until completion of the 
Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), have not kept 
pace with our social commitment to lifelong learning. 

Recommendation 27 

* We recommend that, in order to ensure that all Ontario resi- 
dents, regardless of age, have access to a secondary school 
diploma, publicly funded school boards be given the mandate 
and the funds to provide adult educational programs. 

Many adults working toward the OSSD are immigrants 
educated in other countries. In other cases, the adult learner 
was educated in Ontario, dropped out of secondary school, 
and has spent many years in the workforce. While there is a 


For the Love of Learning 



mechanism in place for assessing prior learning as a vehicle 
for granting credit equivalency for courses taken elsewhere 
or for work experience, many observers suggest that it is 
under- used, and that, as a result, many adult learners are 
required to begin or resume their secondary education at an 
earlier point than is necessary. 

We believe that a more consistent application of the prior 
learning assessment strategy is necessary, and that the PLA 
options should include an examination for a secondary 
school equivalency diploma. The Ministry of Education and 
Training should co-ordinate a major exploration of the 
General Education Diploma and other equivalency 
measures, building on work already being done in the 
college sector, in preparation for instituting an equivalency 
examination in Ontario. A similar mechanism exists in many 
other Canadian jurisdictions, and is particularly relevant in 
Ontario, which has more immigrants than any other 
province. Furthermore, we believe that the same process of 
accrediting prior learning, wherever gained, makes equally 
good sense at the college and university levels. 

Recommendations 28, 29 

*We therefore recommend that a consistent process of prior 
learning assessment be developed for adult students in 
Ontario, and that this process include an examination for a 
secondary school equivalency diploma. 

*We further recommend that the Ministry of Education and 
Training, vi/ith Its mandate which includes post-secondary 
education, require the development of challenge exams and 
other appropriate forms of prior learning assessment by 
colleges and universities, to be used up to and including the 
granting of diplomas and degrees. 

We have suggested that prior learning assessment and 
challenge exams are an appropriate and essential part of a 
flexible learning system for all learners. Adults need the same 
kind of flexibility, and probably need it more often if they 
are to succeed in the formal education system. 

Similarly, other mechanisms for increasing flexibility in 
secondary schools - for example, breaking courses into 
smaller units or modules, and greatly facilitating school re- 
entry, are hallmarks of a system that is responsive to adults 
as well as to adolescents. Moreover, expanding co-operative 
education opportunities and greatly enhancing career educa- 
tion and counselling, as we have recommended for 
secondary schools, is extremely important to adult learners. 

'Adult education is vital for 
■ children's education, because it is 

adults - parents, teachers, 
politicans, technicians, ruling 
parties, etc. - who are in charge of 
educating children at home, in 
school, and through the media, and 
deciding what, how, and why 
children need to learn. Hence, the 
usual dichotomy between children's 
education versus adult education 
(usually expressed in terms of 
allocation of resources, especially 
when these are scarce) is a 
false dichotomy." 

International Council for Adult Education, submission to the International 
Commission on Education and Learning for the Twenty-First Century 

Adult education in day schools may or may not be related 
to labour force development. W^hile many adults may wish to 
obtain the OSSD in order to make themselves more 
marketable, others may want to obtain a general education 
for their own intellectual and cultural development, apart 
from job or career considerations. This is also true of adults 
taking such non-credit courses in the publicly funded school 
system as English or French as a second language, as well as 
basic education (literacy and numeracy). While the Ontario 
government has made clear its commitment to adult educa- 
tion when that is directed at increased labour force partici- 
pation, it has not made the same assurance for general 
education for adults. 

In 1993, the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board 
(OTAB) - Conseil ontarien de la formation et de Tadapta- 
tion de la main-d'oeuvre (COFAM) - was created to co- 
ordinate labour force development programs and services. It 
is governed jointly by representatives of education, training, 
business, labour, and equity groups. Its mandate covers 
training of all sorts, for the employed and the unemployed, 
and includes apprenticeship, entry-level training and 
retraining, and literacy and youth employment services 
(counselling and generic job-search skills training). 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

London Board of 

Many individual schools in 
the London Board of 
Education have been imple- 
menting successful 
programs and services for 
the benefit of their learn- 
ers. Here is an example: 

The School of Continuing 
and Alternative Education 
is offering a co-operative 
program for the second 
year with Canadian Tire 
Association Stores. Adult 
learners participating in the 
17-week program earn 
credits that enable them to 

earn a high school gradua- 
tion certificate, while they 
also gain retail experience 
and employment skills. In 
the first year of the 
program, all students 
earned a graduation diplo- 
ma, and several were 
offered jobs with the 
company. The school also 
recently reached a contract 
with jobsOntario and Liffey 
Custom Coatings to offer 
Language training at the 
manufacturer's worksite. 
Liffey built a classroom at 
the plant for the programs. 

Although OTAB is committed to hfelong learning, that 
commitment is placed within the framework of labour force 
development. This has led to concerns about adult literacy 
learners who might not be workers or potential workers 
(seniors, for example, and others at home who are crucially 
important to their children's learning) and who wish to 
improve their literacy skills for their own personal develop- 
ment. We believe that society benefits from a citizenry that 
has a sound basic education, and we are acutely aware of the 
advantages parental literacy gives children. 

Recommenclation 30 

*We recommend that the right of adults to pursue literacy 
education must be protected, regardless of employment 
status or Intentions. 

The need for adult literacy programs not tied to work- 
force status is particularly acute in the Ontario francophone 
community, both for adults as citizens and for adults as 
parents. It is particularly difficult for children to become 
literate in French in an anglophone society when their 
parents cannot actively support their literacy development. 

Recommendation 31 

*We recommend that COFAM/OTAB immediately define and 
set aside, for short- and medium-term adult literacy 
programs, a francophone allotment that is not linked to 
participation in the workforce, In addition to the francophone 
programs linked to workforce status and intention. 

As a Commission concerned primarily with the education 
of children and youth, we are aware that increasing parents' 
and grandparents' literacy has extremely positive implica- 

tions for the educational success and life opportunities of 
their children. For this reason, and because we think educa- 
tion must be a right for all citizens, regardless of age, we 
believe that all adults have the right to a basic education, up 
to and including the OSSD, and that this right must be guar- 
anteed, irrespective of employment status or potential. 

Adult education and training are now being delivered by 
a wide variety of public and private institutions and groups, 
profit and non-profit. It seems quite likely that the number 
of adults being served will grow in future, as will the number 
of services being offered such as the training programs 
(unrelated to the secondary school diploma program) 
offered by school boards in partnership with government, 
business, and labour, and now regulated through the Local 
Training and Apprenticeship Boards (LTABs). 

The many training facilities that school boards have avail- 
able make them obvious candidates for increased delivery of 
programs on contract. While we heard arguments in favour 
of a multiplicity of delivery agents for both education and 
training of adults, and while we have no reason to doubt 
that different kinds of delivery and deliverers can appropri- 
ately meet the needs of different learners, we are concerned 
about the lack of an inventory of existing programs, either as 
a guide to learners and to educational and employment 
counsellors, or as a guide to government and non-govern- 
mental organizations concerned about planning and 
rationalizing programs. 

Adult education and training clearly are a major and 
rapidly expanding part of our learning system. We want to 
ensure that adult education is stabilized and inclusive, as 
part of a lifelong learning system and in order to make 
efficient use of scarce resources. 

We strongly suggest to the Ministry of Education and 
Training that it place restrictions on creating new adult 
educational and training programs or on discontinuing 
existing ones, until an inventory of such programs has been 
completed, and major deliverers have had an opportunity to 
rationalize existing services. 

We would hope that, in time, there would be a central 
information source on all kinds of adult training and 
upgrading programs, accessible from anywhere in the 
province through a 1-800 telephone number, and by 
modem, with the information also on CD-ROMs available at 
community information centres and libraries. 

For the Love of Learning 


Premier's Council of Ontario, People and Skills in the New 
Global Economy {Toronto, 1990), p. 32. 

Alan King, The Good School (Toronto: Ontario Secondary 
School Teachers' Federation, 1990), p. 51-55. 

A. King and M. Peart, The Numbers Game: A Study of 
Evaluation and Achievement in Ontario Schools (Toronto: 
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, 1994), p. 7. 

S. Crysdale and H. MacKay, Youth's Passage Through School to 
Work (Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishers, 1994). 

Ontario, Ministry of Education, Ontario Study of the 
Relevance of Education, and the Issue of Dropouts (Toronto, 
1987). Prepared by George Radwanski. 

Crysdale and MacKay, Youth's Passage. 

R.E. Slavin, "Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in 
Secondary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis," RevieH/ of 
Educational Research 60, no. 3 ( 1990): 471-99. 

King and Peart, The Numbers Game, p. 16. 

J. Oakes and M. Lipton, "Detracking Schools: Early Lessons 
from the Field," Phi Delta Kappan 73, no. 6 (1992): 448-54. 

10 King and Peart, The Numbers Game, p. 17-29. 

1 1 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Rights of Passage: A Review 
of Selected Research about Schooling in the Transition Years 
(Toronto, 1990). Prepared by A. Hargreaves and L. Earl. 

12 Graham Orpvi^ood, "Scientific Literacy for All," p. 27. 
Background paper for the Ontario Royal Commission on 
Learning, 1994. 

13 Ontario Association for Mathematics Education and The 
Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association, Focus on 
Renewal of Mathematics Education: Guiding Principles for the 
Early, Formative and Transition Years, A Document for 
Ontario Educators (Markham, ON, 1993). 

14 King and Peart, The Numbers Game. 

15 Premier's Council on Economic Renewal, Task Force on 
Lifelong Learning, "Improving Service to the Learner as 
Customer: Report of Working Group III" (Toronto, 1993), 
p. 17. 

Vol.11 Learning; Our Vision for Schools Ttie Learner from Age 15 to 18 

Supporis for Learning; 
Special Needs and 
Special Opportunities 

Throughout this report, we make the case for a 
learning system that is rigorous and focused, that 
communicates a sense of purpose and challenge to 
students and, at the same time, acknowledges that 
many non-academic needs of young people must be 
met at school, because that is where young 
people are. 

We also argue that the system must support 
students as individuals: it must be flexible and allow 
for different rates of learning as well as learners' 
different strengths and needs. Care and concern for 
students must be one of the essential elements of 
that system. Care and concern for individuals are 
manifested when one person is responsible for 
monitoring the student's progress; when smaller 
teaching and learning units are created; when career 
education and counselling are treated seriously. 

A system built on academic rigour, flexibility, and 
continuous student-teacher contact will meet the 
needs of most students and successfully start their 
transition to adulthood - as learners, workers, citizens, and 
parents. Others - students with disabilities, with somewhat 
severe emotional problems, or those from homes in which 
neither French nor English is spoken - will need more. So 
will students whose pace of learning in some or all areas is 
outside the usual range, either because it is exceptionally 
slow or exceptionally rapid. 

We have already suggested that people other than teach- 
ers may be able to help all kinds of students - not just those 
who require special support - leaving teachers free to focus 
on curriculum. We include as examples in this category 
outside experts in safe school programs, and conflict- 
management training. 

In addition to benefiting from these school-wide 
programs, there are students who require counselling indi- 
vidually or in small groups, whether only for a short time or 
more intensively and for the longer term. In either case, 
there must be an adult, from outside the classroom, who will 
help when help is needed, whether that adult is seen regular- 
ly or only occasionally. 

The point is that schools have students of all types. In 
this chapter, we consider the issues related to needs beyond 
those that can and should be met by well-prepared, thought- 
ful teachers. We also look at additional supports for learning, 
language facility, and for children with special physical and 
emotional needs. 

We will discuss below four kinds of special situations: 
those to do with language/culture background; those that 

derive from a disability, either physical or cognitive; the 
needs of students who learn at a substantially different 
pace from most; and those that are related to emotional 

Supports for some students 

Support for students with different language backgrounds 
and different learning needs based on language 

Many submissions we received spoke of the importance for 
students of learning languages, and of becoming fluent in 
one of Canada's official languages. Learning a language and 
learning through language - the issue of literacy and litera- 
cies in English/Fran(;ais - is basic to the entire discussion of 
curriculum: nothing is more essential to success in learning 
than having a high level of competence in the language of 
instruction. Students who enter school speaking neither of 
the official languages will likely need special help. We will 
discuss the need for programs to support these students: 
English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Skills 
Development (ESD) in English-language schools, and their 
French equivalents, Actualisation linguistique en fran(;ais 
(ALE) and Perfectionnement du fran(;ais (PDF). ALF and 
PDF are just beginning to be implemented in French- 
language school units to support both Section 23 (Charter 
rights) and francophone immigrant students. A related issue, 
the use of the student's first language as a language of 
instruction, is discussed as an alternative way to support 
students who have little or no knowledge of the language of 
instruction in English-language schools. 

The need to ensure that all students have access to the 
second official language, French or English, also underpins 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 


students who enter 

school speaking neither 

of the official languages 

will likely need special 

help; some youngsters 

whose parents hold 

rights to have their 

children educated in 

French may not be 

sufficiently fluent to 

learn in French. 

the common core curriculum. Competency is enormously 
important both practically (it broadens careers and job 
opportunities) and symbolically, because it adds to our sense 
of Canadian uniqueness. We have already recommended that 
multilingualism be supported throughout the common core 
curriculum and that in the specialization years, students 
maintain international languages, acquire additional 
languages, and increase their linguistic fluency. 

Acquisition of an official language by non-native speakers of 
English or French 

Both the French- and English-language school systems focus 
on the development of literacies in the curriculum. Hov^ever, 
there are key differences between them: in addition to the 
different social/societal context that influences first- and 
second-language programs offered in French-language 
schools, the needs of students requiring second-language 
support are different in the tv^^o systems. 

In French-language schools, some ALF/PDF students are 
immigrants, but more are likely to be children of Franco- 
Ontarian descent. These are youngsters whose parents, 
under Section 23 of the Charter, hold rights to have their 
children educated in French, but who may not have French 
as the language of the home. 

In English-language schools, by contrast, the overwhelm- 
ing majority of ESL/ESD students are immigrants, with a 
small number being native-born Canadians whose families 
generally do not speak English at home. (The latter group 
will benefit very considerably from enrolment in the ECE 
program described in Chapter 7.) 

While it is often said that Canada is a land of immigrants, 
it is also true that Ontario welcomes more immigrants than 
any other province, and that Metro Toronto attracts more of 
those immigrants than any other city in Canada. (See Chap- 
ter 2 for a more detailed demographic description.) 

School systems must educate those students and help 
most of them to learn at least one official language; as well, 
these youth must continue to be, or in some cases re- 
establish themselves as, learners, at the same time as they 
respond to all the other challenges of leaving one society 
and culture for another. 

All this is happening at a time when the increasing 
number of immigrants who speak French, or who choose 
French as their official language, are making Ontario - 
Metro Toronto and Ottawa, in particular - their destination. 
The new influx requires a new response on the part of 
Ontario's French-language schools. 

The task, then, is to improve and enrich spoken French 
while furthering the acquisition of the usual basic skills. This 
calls for special pedagogical strategies. In this context, in 
addition to the core curriculum, which sets out the desired 
outcomes of learning the language of instruction, we 
support the vision for Franco-Ontarian education presented 
in the documents prepared by the Ministry of Education 
and Training. One of the three documents published consists 
of ALF/PDF curriculum guidelines. The ALE curriculum will 
enable students having limited or no fluency in French to 
acquire basic competence in French and to follow the acade- 
mic program with success. Certain students, owing to their 
academic background, need the PDF program, because they 
either have had no schooling or must adapt to their new 
cultural setting. 

ALF/PDF clientele consists mainly of Charter rights hold- 
ers who have undergone a process of assimilation, and 
immigrant students. These students are evolving, for the 
most part, in a social environment where the act of setting 
foot in a school often means entering a new linguistic and 
cultural universe. The messages conveyed at school may 
appear to conflict with those they receive in the home and 
create in the students a certain ambivalence about their 
language, their culture, even their personal and social 

Many people told the Commission that the present struc- 
ture of support for acquiring one of the official languages 

For the Love of Learning 

Available rcscarth indicates thai while immigrant 
students may achieve oral fluency in two years, it may 
take from five to seven years to reach the full social and 
academic competence necessary for success in secondary 
school and post-secondary education. 

does not do the job. Many francophone parents said they 
support ALF/PDF programs because those help the French- 
language school face the difficult challenge of recapturing 
the linguistic heritage of some students, while enabling those 
who are already competent in French to accelerate their 
learning. In this context, the Early Childhood Education 
Program we are recommending would give children a signifi- 
cant head start in French language as well as learning skills 
to Franco-Ontarian children. 

Available research indicates that while immigrant 
students may achieve oral fluency in two years, it may take 
from five to seven years to reach the full social and academic 
competence necessary for success in secondary school and 
post-secondary education.' 

Do students get full support for that period? Do they 
require such support, or does it inevitably take time and 
practice to achieve written fluency? Or, as some immigrants 
argue, is the period of five to seven years unrealistically long? 

There is no research to indicate how long it may take 
francophone students to learn both social and academic 
language when something other than French is the language 
of the majority. However, there is clear-cut research on the 
need for institutional support for French if it is to survive in 
a dominantly English world. And it explains why franco- 
phone presenters at the hearings emphasized the need for 
institutional support for French-language education from 
"the cradle to the grave." 

Many anglophone parents are concerned that there have 
been serious cuts to the ESL/ESD programs offered by many 
English-language boards, and that some current ESL/ESD 
programs are not effective. 

The Commission is concerned about the decision of some 
boards to make substantial ESL/ESD cuts, while other 
programs - some mandatory (e.g., classes for gifted children) 
or some optional (e.g., French immersion) - are spared the 
cuts. Without adequate support, the majority of immigrant 
children, particularly those in their late childhood or early 
adolescence, may be condemned to lower educational attain- 
ment and career success. 

This is not to suggest that there is or should be only one 
model of ESL/ESD. At present, the delivery of ESL/ESD is 
based largely on withdrawing the student for some part, or 
even all, of the school day; the student is given instruction in 
English while her/his classmates are learning other subjects. 

Generally, the ESL/ESD teacher does not speak the 
language(s) of the immigrant student(s), and the class itself 
is usually multilingual; students may not understand each 

Occasionally, schools will try a different structure: the 
ESL/ESD teacher works with the regular teacher in the regu- 
lar class to give support to the immigrant student. Research 
does not clearly favour one delivery model over the other, 
although it does suggest that withdrawal from the regular 
class is valuable to many students as a reception program, 
orienting and "cushioning" them at a time when many feel 
bewildered and vulnerable. However, that advantage may be 
counterbalanced by the likelihood that students are missing 
much of the regular curriculum. As far as promoting first- 
language acquisition, however, it offers no clear advantage 
(or disadvantage). 

A new and, we believe, very exciting model is being devel- 
oped in Toronto. We visited Alexander Muir/Gladstone 
Avenue Public School, where all members of the staff have 
developed knowledge of second-language acquisition 
through an ESL course. Rather than seeing the students' lack 
of English-language skills as a deficit, teachers emphasize 
adding English to the languages that students bring with 
them to school. 

Immigrant students- are provided with some curriculum 
content (such as science or history) in their first language 
within the regular classroom, using the assistance of 
"language tutors." Some of the tutors are paid (e.g., the 
school's heritage-language instructors and ESL teachers) and 
some are volunteers. The practice is supported by research 
that indicates that heritage-language instructors can effec- 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

The object of ESL/ESD and ALF/PDF is not to produce 
native-level ability. It is to bring students to the point at 
which, like others in the class, they are able to learn. 

tively support students in curricular areas.' Therefore, 
through the transitional use of their language, students learn 
their science and history along with their peers, maintaining 
and developing their literacy in their first language and 
acquiring English, which will gradually replace their heritage 
language for all of their instruction. 

Whatever the model, it is clear to us that French-language 
and English-language schools with significant immigrant 
populations (and, in the case of French-language schools. 
Charter rights holders with little or no fluency in French) 
have a challenging task requiring resources. In our opinion, 
it means that ESL/ALF programs, in whatever form, must 
become mandatory: the staffing formula used to decide the 
number of ESL/ALF teachers each school and school board 
should have must be protected, and teachers should be used 
in a way that helps students who need language-based 

While we do not make a detailed recommendation on 
what the staffing formula should include, we note again that 
available research shows that while oral fluency can be 
achieved in just two years, and while some immigrants 
acquire written fluency fairly rapidly, it may take much 
longer for many students to acquire the level of second- 
language skills needed in post-secondary education. On the 
other hand, some immigrants acquire written fluency in 
significantly less time. 

But the object of ESL/ESD and ALF/PDF is not to 
produce native-level ability. It is to bring students to the 
point at which, like others in the class, they are able to learn 
- listening to the teacher, asking and answering questions, 
reading from the board or the assigned book, and so on. The 

difference in the length of time it takes to reach this level 
may have to do with a number of factors, including school 
experience in the country of origin, and the specific original 
language and its relation to English or French. 

This suggests to us that the formula should perhaps 
provide for more intensive support in the first six months to 
one year after arrival in Canada and, after that, the student 
would slowly be integrated into regular classrooms for all or 
most of the day, with the possibility of continuing ESL 
support being delivered in the regular classroom. 

Recommendation 32 

*Therefore, the Commission recommends that the Ministry 
make it mandatory for English-language schools to provide 
ESL/ESD, and French-language school units to provide ALF/ 
PDF, to ensure that immigrant students with limited or no 
fluency in English or French, and Charter rights holders with 
limited or no fluency in French, receive the support they 
require, using locally chosen models of delivery. In its block- 
funding grants, the Ministry should include the budgetary 
supplements required to allow the schools to offer these 
programs wherever the community identifies a need for them. 

The program at Alexander Muir/Gladstone raises the 
issue of the transitional use of other languages as languages 
of instruction. A goal of all programs designed to give immi- 
grant students facility in English as the language of instruc- 
tion must be to add English to the student's language reper- 
tory. In so doing, the school is helping the learner to contin- 
ue the conceptual development already begun in the first 
language, and to build linguistic and conceptual skills in 

In a society such as Ontario's, where an official language 
minority has a separate school system to support and 
promote that language, the parallel situation does not hold. 
Charter rights students who have English as a language of 
use do not need it emphasized in their early years in a 
French-language school, because English so dominates 
everyday life. If there is going to be serious erosion of the 
minority language (as is the case in Ontario for French), 
research indicates that students should receive a minimum 
of 80 percent of their instruction in that language, so that 
they develop threshold levels of competence.^ 

For the Love of Learning 

Research provides evidence that virhen students arc given 
support in their first language, they are more likely to 
learn both the first and the second official languages. 

On the other hand, the Somali child who has just arrived 
in the French-language school may need some initial 
support in the principal language of the home, if it is not 
French. What is clear is that all students' languages must be 
valued so that they will feel accepted and be ready to learn. 

It is crucial to value the first (non-English/non-French) 
language rather than giving the impression that it and, by 
extension, the student's native culture are unimportant or 
disposable. Support for "heritage" (international) languages 
helps all students develop a stronger identity and appreciate 
the validity of all cultures and languages. 

Greater flexibility in the languages that may be used for 
instruction would support the intent of the anti-racist and 
ethno-cultural equity policy announced in 1993 by the 
Minister. One of the policy's core elements is to "affirm and 
value the students' first language."' The policy announce- 
ment goes on: 

Competence in the first language provides students with the founda- 
tion for developing proficiency in additional languages, and mainte- 
nance of the first language supports the acquisition of other 

In other words, students who are given support in their 
first language are more likely to learn English/French well if 
their first language is strong, rather than if it is weakened or 
abandoned. This is why in Australia, the State of Victoria 
provides for second-language students to "consolidate their 
knowledge and understanding of the mother tongue ... and 
use this language in a range of situations, including in the 
school community."" 

Other research provides evidence that when students are 
given support in their first language, they are more likely to 
learn both the first and the second official languages, 
compared with English-only students and to non-official- 
language students who had not achieved or maintained liter- 
acy in their heritage language.' 

The Toronto Board of Education reviewed research in 
this area and it, too, found that students given support in 
their first language are likely to do better learning English, 
that literacy in English or French (or both) is likely to be 
enhanced through the support of other languages.* 

Some researchers caution that bilingual programs may be 
only marginally successful in increasing achievement unless 
teachers, not just teaching assistants, are genuinely bilingual. 

As well, gains are likely to be quite limited if teachers do not 
use effective pedagogical strategies, if programs are reorga- 
nized too frequently, if teacher turnover is very high, or if 
students are moved out of the bilingual/transition program 
too early.' 

Providing more flexibility in using other languages to 
support the teaching of content, such as science, history, and 
geography, offers schools greater choice in how to support 
students who arrive at school not able to speak 
English/French. While the present Education Act provides 
flexibility in terms of using other languages transitionally, 
there is a potential for greater success in learning 
English/French if schools are encouraged to provide bilin- 
gual/multilingual reception centres and bilingual programs. 
(When we speak of "bilingual," we mean programs and 
centres in which languages other than English/French are 
used.) We believe this flexibility is important and should be 
utilized more often. 

We acknowledge that if they are to provide more flexibili- 
ty, teachers, school boards, and parents must be involved 
at the local level in designing programs. This is particularly 
true in the French-language schools, where students 
already face the challenge of learning French in an English 

Researchers told us that French-language schools require 
a very strong in-school French ambience if students are to 
learn French successfully. A crucial difference between the 
English- and French-language schools is that a student in the 
former is immersed in an English-language environment 
outside school, while the student in a French-language 
school is much less likelv to be immersed in French outside 

Vol. II Learning; Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

Nothing is more essential 
to student success in 
school than mastery of one 
of the official languages of 
instruction. Thus, programs 

to help students acquire 
proficiency in English, 
French, or sign language 
must be fully supported. 

school. Therefore, we recognize that French-language 
schools and the communities they serve will have to develop 
some models of language instruction that are specific to 
their needs while still valuing the heritage language the 
student brings to the school. What is crucial is that French- 
language schools maintain a supportive environment for the 
transitional languages while, at the same time, enabling 
students to learn in French. 

We are impressed by the research into the ability of 
students to learn both official languages when their mother 
tongue is recognized and supported. And we believe that 
Alexander Muir/Gladstone offers a strong model, one that 
merits further study. 

Given the linguistic diversity in Ontario, and the 
province's tight financial resources, it may seem difficult to 
imagine extending and strengthening the Alexander 
Muir/Gladstone model. But strong commitment at the 
school and community levels tends to mitigate financial 
constraints. Embracing this model and giving it life will 
require strong community support by volunteers willing to 
assist in the classroom, and in locating or developing materi- 
als. It is the kind of program that can be supported in signif- 
icant measure by people in the community who speak the 
languages of the students. It can also be used by secondary 
students as a community service option, in keeping with our 
recommendations in that area. 

We encourage schools to use other languages of instruc- 
tion for transitional purposes, and urge that the Ministry 
continue to provide for and encourage greater flexibility in 
the use of other languages of instruction, in order to meet 
the transitional needs of immigrant and other students, and 

that it actively encourage and support more school boards, 
where appropriate, to do the same. 

Additional languages of instruction (bilingual and immersion 
programs) for English-language schools 
Another way to help students develop high-level skills in a 
language is to use it for other purposes. In Ontario, we have 
the model of French immersion and extended French, in 
which students in English-language schools are taught all, 
most, or some of their subjects in French instead of being 
educated in English all day. This is permitted because, like 
English, French is an official language of instruction. Under 
existing provincial legislation, parallel programs in other 
languages - German, for example, or Russian - are not 

A number of English-language submissions suggested 
that other languages be permitted for use in instruction. For 
example, the Chinese Lingual-Cultural Centre of Canada 
said, in a written brief, "The time has come to amend the 
Education Act to replace the stipulation that only English or 
French can be used as languages of instruction." Similarly, a 
coalition of three Spanish community organizations recom- 
mended to the Commission: 

That the Education Act be amended to allow the use of the Spanish 
language as a vehicle of instruction. The use of Spanish as a 
language of instruction would ... enhance the opportunities of 
Spanish-speaking students to develop fluency in an important inter- 
national language. 

The Heritage Language Advisory Work Group also 
recommended that "the Education Act be amended to 
permit the use of instructional languages other than English 
and French."'" As the Work Group said, "Permitting school 
boards flexibility in program implementation represents an 
investment in Ontario's linguistic resources." Such programs 
already exist in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, 
and Manitoba. 

We do not recommend a change in Ontario's legislation 
with respect to languages of instruction at this time. We 
strongly support the use of other languages as a transitional 
strategy, which is already permitted, and we have already 
suggested that more flexibility be applied in this regard, to 
encourage and enhance more transitional language 
programs. We also support a learning system that places 

For the Love of Learning 

more value on languages as subjects, and we hope that many 
more students will learn third (and fourth) languages, and 
take courses in them at the secondary and post-secondary 
levels. Our discussion and recommendations in Chapters 8 
and 9 support that development. 

But we are very concerned that all students in Ontario be 
truly literate in one of the official languages. In our view, the 
school system is obliged to help students function at a high 
level in English or French, and to gain a reasonable knowl- 
edge of the other official language. We appreciate the value 
of the existing, optional International- (formerly Heritage-) 
Language program, elementary, but we are not prepared to 
go well beyond that by suggesting that students be educated 
in an immersion or bilingual program in any one of a vast 
number of non-official languages. 

The acquisition and use of sign languages by deaf students 
The Commission heard from a number of parents and 
others concerned about the language of instruction for deaf 
and hard-of-hearing students, and the role of ASL or LSQ in 
their education. 

There has been extensive work in this area over the last 
few years: in 1989 and 1990, three reports were issued, one 
dealing with deaf students in anglophone schools, one on 
students in francophone schools, and the third on deaf 
students taking post-secondary education." A series of 
recommendations was made, including enhancing the use of 
sign language. 

In our view, while a great deal has been accomplished in 
research and policy review, implementation remains the 
issue. In 1993, the Legislature approved the use of either ASL 
or LSQ as languages of instruction, a move we support. 

We believe, however, that there is a need to give full effect 
to this decision. While it is now possible for deaf persons to 
obtain an Ontario Teacher's Certificate, this can occur only 
through training in ASL in an English-language faculty of 
education. There is an urgent need to develop a program in 
a French-language faculty to support the training of LSQ 
teachers, and the development of teaching materials for the 
francophone sector. 

We also support recommendations that deal with provid- 
ing all students with the option of studying sign language 
for credit or as a "heritage language" in school. 

4^ ^pwo of my five children were born 
I with severe to profound hearing 
loss ... Currently all five of my chil- 
dren attend neighbourhood schools. 
The hearing-impaired children are in 
regular classes and are able to 
succeed in this setting because they 
receive special support. They have 
each been assigned a teacher's aide 
who makes sure they understand the 
lessons and reinforces and explains 
new concepts. They are also with- '' 
drawn three times a week for individ- 
ual instruction with a teacher of the 
hearing impaired, and in class they 
use an F1VI system which enables 
them to hear the teacher clearly. My 
children are making progress, 
although at times it seems painfully 
slow. I am encouraged, however, when 
I talk to parents of other hearing- 
impaired children who have attended 
Ottawa schools and have had remark- 
able success. I look forward to the 
time when all five of my children are 
independent, self-supporting individu- 
als - a prospect which would not exist 
without the special education they 
are currently receiving." 

Member, Home and School Association. MacNabb Park 
Elementary School. Ottawa Board of Education 


Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

Disabled Students in Ontario 
Numbers and Percentages* 

We believe that the direction already taken in support of 
ASL and LSQ is appropriate. Parents should have the option 
of having their deaf children educated using ASL or LSQ as a 
language of instruction; those who do not wish to do so 
should be able to continue to choose existing options. 

We also recognize the considerable debate that has taken 
place on this issue, when the 1989-90 reports were released, 
and again in 1992-93, when the implementation reports 
were published.'^ Because we dedect a growing consensus 
around the recommendations of those reports, which focus 
on providing realistic options, we urge the government to 
move forward in their direction. 

Support for students with disabilities, and 
for slow and fast learners 

Recent figures indicate that students with disabilities 
account for more than 6 percent of all Ontario's school- 
age children. 

Number of 

% of School 

Low Vision/Blind 






Learning Disabled 



Speech & Language 






Hard of Hearing/Deaf 









Educable Retarded 



Trainable Retarded 



Total Population Identified: 
Total School-Age Populatior 

i: 1,982,994 

*From Statistical Services Section, Policy Analysis and Research Branch, Ministry of 
Education for 1990-91. Figures include enrolments at the provincial schools. 

During the public hearings, we were often moved by the 
testimony of parents of children with disabilities. Their 
devotion to their children, and to others like them, is not 
only admirable but frequently extraordinary. When schools 
and the education system have supported the needs of their 
children, their gratitude and willingness to work hard and 
co-operatively with educators is limitless. 

They were at pains to tell us both how well the system 
can work, and how vulnerable they and their children are 
when it does not. They pointed out, for example, that 
although Ontario's legislation on behalf of disabled students 
is a model for other provinces, its implementation some- 
times falls far short of stated policy. In some areas, they told 
us, there is a lack of accountability that permits very uneven 
implementation by school boards - for example, in due 
process and special-needs funding. 

We strongly support the position that policies are of 
limited value unless they are seriously monitored and 
accounted for at the local and central levels. While we can 
and do take pride in the degree to which Ontario is on 
record as caring about, and dedicating resources to, the 
education of students with special needs, we certainly 

For the Love of Learning 



support the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario in 
its request 

that there be adequate accountability measures introduced and 
implemented to ensure that the educational system of Ontario, while 
delivering an excellent level of education to all, remains focused on 
children and their needs. 

Physical disabilities 

The public education system recognizes that it has a respon- 
sibility to provide education for all school-aged persons 
(until age 21), regardless of level of ability or of disabling 
conditions. In recent years, legislation and practice have 
moved away from separating or segregating students with 
disabilities or different abilities to integrating or "main- 
streaming" them in regular schools and classrooms. 

The major issue raised in hearings and briefs around the 
education of the differently abled was integration. It is gener- 
ally supported, but particular concerns are raised by various 
members of the public. Parents who favour integration told 
us that some integrated programs lack some of the extra 
supports that were promised or are necessary; and others, 
who favour centralized or residential programs for some 
types of students, feel that the number of such programs, or 
the distance between delivery sites, is inadequate, given the 

In some cases, parents and advocates for students with 
disabilities are concerned that integration may not be the 
best solution. For example, within the deaf community, some 
parents and teachers believe that the best educational facili- 
ties and opportunities are found in the residential schools, 
while the majority of families choose to have their children 
educated in the regular schools. 

The government has acknowledged that both kinds of 
education are appropriate, and has continued to support 
them; it plans to provide a residential facility in the northern 
part of the province. The Ministry of Education and Training 
has responded positively to the committees that advised it 
about education of the deaf anglophone students; it must 
respond as well to the needs of the young deaf francophones, 
including the request for a residential facility in the north, 
for teacher preparation, and the availability of texts and 

The Commission supports the policy of making both 
segregated and integrated facilities available where demand 

hile mainstreaming blind 
students has helped enormous- 
ly in the integration process, it has 
meant that the teaching of Braille and 
other specialized skills hasn't 
received the same priority in the 
curriculum ... Braille is imperative to 
any blind person who wishes to func- 
tion fully in society ... nothing else 
will do but to have Braille compulsori- 
ly taught to ail blind and visually 
impaired students!" j 

for both exists, and where there is reason to believe that both 
provide good learning environments. We recognize, however, 
that the cost of education in residential facilities is much 
greater, and suggest that before the increased expense can be 
justified, the particular advantages of a residential program 
must be clear to educators as well as to parents. 

In most cases, parents of children with disabilities opt for 
integrated settings because they are eager to make sure that 
their children will enjoy a normal childhood, and attendance 
at the local neighbourhood school is part of that normal 
childhood. But integration and mainstreaming have costs: 
specialized knowledge and technology are lost and are not, 
and cannot, realistically be available in every teacher, in 
every neighbourhood school, in every classroom. 

Moreover, mainstreaming means that children with 
particular learning differences or disabilities will not have 
the company of peers with whom communication may be 
easiest and most natural to them. This is probably truest for 
deaf children: in an integrated classroom, there are not likely 
to be other students with whom they can sign; and even 
where there are either human or technical supports for deaf 
and hard-of-hearing students, there are likely to be fewer of 
them. Similarly, blind children educated in integrated 
settings may have access to fewer books and materials in 
Braille than are available in classrooms or schools designed 
for the education of the blind. 

While some of these deficiencies in resources can be 
remedied through the use of itinerant specialists, distance 
education, information technology, and shared resources, it 
is unrealistic to expect that every neighbourhood school will 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

Research has begun to show that prevention and inten- 
sive early intervention - when children are learning 
about reading and are learning to read - may prevent a 
large proportion of so-called learning disabilities, many 
of which are not really distinguishable from the general 
early academic deficits that are more characteristic of 
boys than of girls, and that of more children from disad- 
vantaged than advantaged neighbourhoods. 

be as well equipped and well staffed to meet special needs as 
are schools and classrooms dedicated to that task. 

The public education system has an obligation to educate 
all educable children and youth, and it must be responsive to 
the parents and public who support it. But members of the 
public must also be aware of the varying advantages and 
possibilities, as well as the costs, of segregated or concentrat- 
ed, compared with fully integrated, classes and schools. It is 
not realistic to expect that all the advantages of one kind of 
setting can be found in the other. 

No one countenances the segregation of children in 
wheelchairs in special classes because some school buildings 
do not have wheelchair access. But making adjustments to 
entries, exits, and washrooms will still not enable youngsters 
with all types and degrees of disability to be accommodated 
in neighbourhood schools. 

Learning disabilities, learning disadvantages, and slow learners 
We have already commented on how touched we were 
throughout our public hearings by the many heart- 
wrenching submissions we received from young people with 
disabilities, from their parents or teachers. Government has a 
responsibility and has made a commitment to provide 
adequate educational facilities for learners with disabilities, 
in special facilities or in integrated mainstream schools. 

From what presenters told us, it is clear that this commit- 
ment is not yet being fully realized. It must be. Teachers in 
integrated classrooms cannot be expected to teach anyone, 
with or without disabilities, unless they have the necessary 
and proper support for doing so. Its absence undermines the 
original rationale for integration for all students. 

While physical disabilities may come to mind first when 
special needs are being discussed, by far the greatest number 
of students classified as having special needs are "learning 
disabled." They account for 59 percent of all students diag- 
nosed as disabled. 

Although learning difficulties are traditionally labelled 
and defined in ways that parallel medical problems (diagno- 
sis, prescription, and treatment), the fact is that the medical 
model does not work very well in this context. 

For some time, educators have observed that the labels 
assigned to children with learning difficulties change over 
time and location, which suggests they lack clear definition. 
There are two phenomena in this regard that suggest 

• When schools are given large budgets earmarked for the 
learning disabled, the number of children who are identified 
this way expands to absorb the available budget; 

• In experiments where all children of a particular age or 
grade have been given the "diagnostic" tests for learning 
disabilities, results indicate that a huge proportion would be 
so labelled, although most of the students involved exhibit 
no learning difficulties.'^ 

Research has begun to show that prevention and intensive 
early intervention - when children are learning about read- 
ing and are learning to read - may prevent a large propor- 
tion of so-called learning disabilities, many of which are not 
really distinguishable from the general early academic 
deficits that are more characteristic of boys than of girls, and 
of more children from disadvantaged than advantaged 

The overlap between "learning disability" and the learn- 
ing disadvantage associated with poverty is very great, and 
the distinction between special education and what is some- 
times called compensatory education is so unclear as to 
frequently make the differing "diagnoses" of dubious value.'^ 
For that matter, there is no indication that these different 
labels identify difficulties that require different, rather than 
the same, treatment.'" 

It is increasingly clear that children who have difficulty 
learning to read, for whatever reason, are likely to fall behind 
and remain behind throughout their schooling, to repeat a 
grade, and to drop out before completing secondary school. 
The evidence that many - not all - of these failures can be 

For the Love of Learning 

avoided with better early literacy education is a sound 
reason for hope. 

This issue causes great personal anxiety to many Ontario 
citizens, and it is important to be as clear as possible: the 
unhappy fact is that some children have difficulties in learn- 
ing that will not be solved either by prevention through 
good early education or by early and intensive intervention. 

At the same time, there is reason to think that a large 
proportion of those now labelled learning disabled - 
perhaps as many as half- could avoid the stigma (and 
expense) of carrying that label and, most important, could 
learn to read at the same pace and with the same success as 
their peers. 

What they may require is the advantage of early educa- 
tion and excellent instruction in language skills in the 
primary classroom, supplemented where necessary by inten- 
sive, individual tutoring by a skilled teacher during the 
primary grades. A renewed focus on excellent pre-service 
and continuing teacher education in the pedagogy of literacy 
for primary teachers, plus the literacy guarantee we 
described earlier (any child who showed signs of difficulty 
in reading by the end of Grade 1 or early Grade 2 would 
receive intensive individual assistance for weeks or months), 
is the best strategy for preventing many apparent "learning 

It would seem that many children are suffering not from 
learning disabilities but from what we might term "instruc- 
tional deficit disorder," were we to embroider on the elabo- 
rate medical terminology typical of special education, which 
too often assigns cause with no effect. 

Recommendation 33 

*We recommend that no child who shows difficulty or who 
lags behind peers in learning to read be labelled "learning 
disabled" unless and until he or she has received intensive 
individual assistance in learning to read that has not resulted 
in improved academic performance. 

We are thinking not only of children in the primary 
grades, but also of those who enter Ontario schools later, 
with a history of irregular school attendance, or with little 
facility in English or French. 

In recent years, as the term "learning disabled" has 
become more popular, the number of children to whom the 
term is applied has increased, while the number described as 

AA ^poachers and parents - and all of 
I us - need to learn more about how 
to create meaningful learning experi- 
ences for exceptional students partic- 
ipating in regular classroom activities. 
We also need to learn more about 
how parents and teachers can work 
co-operatively to make assessment 
and evaluation a positive experience 
that promotes students' academic 
growth without eroding their sense of 
seK^worth or encourages the gifted 
student to set even higher standards 
of achievement. Parent education as 
well as teacher in-service are criticsri 
factors in the successful implementa- 
tion of The Common Curriculum." 

Special Education Advisory Committee. London and Middle- 
sex County Roman Catholic School Board 

"slow learners" has decreased - especially in middle- and 
upper-income neighbourhood schools. We are not the first 
to observe that this can hardly be a coincidence - that diag- 
nosis may be more tied to fashion and to socio-economic 
perceptions and assumptions than to reality. 

As with all other human behaviour, there are variations 
in learning rates. While some children labelled as learning 
disabled may have an early academic disadvantage (which, if 
addressed appropriately, will not become a lasting problem), 
others may be slower-than-average learners. 

Some people learn some or most things faster or more 
slowly than do other people. School emphasizes certain 
kinds of learning, and rewards certain kinds of intelligence. 
Children who continue to have difficulty learning from 
print, or who continue to need to move systematically from 
the concrete to the abstract, or who need more or different 
examples or experiences to understand or internalize a 
concept may need not just a greater variety of teaching 
and learning modes, but more time to master the same 

Providing more variety pedagogically and more flexibility 
in learning time is probably simpler - and it is certainly 
more cost-effective and more easily justified - than going 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

through a lengthy process that ends in a label ("slow learner" 
or "learning disabled") that may be stigmatizing and that is 
in itself no guarantee of receiving effective help. 

While we are aware that by the time they reach 21 years 
of age, some mentally handicapped young adults will not be 
able to achieve mastery of the common or specialized 
curricula, we are not recommending, as some parents have 
suggested, that free public schooling be extended past that 
age. We are genuinely concerned - and we trust that the 
appropriate branches of government share our concern - that 
support for these young adults and their families is apparently 
inadequate: such support as day-centre programs; recreational, 
occupational, and life-skills programs; and other essentials for 
community living. We view this as a social issue, and feel 
strongly that it must be addressed; but the solution is not in 
the schools. 

Throughout this document we speak of the need for flex- 
ibility. Students must have help when they need it, not later. 
This requires flexibility in both the student's schedule and 
the curriculum. A student failing a grade often does so 
because difficulties were allowed to accumulate during the 
year, and were not addressed immediately, even when a lack 
of progress had been evident early in the school year. 

For many students who can learn at an average pace but 
have fallen behind, the best approach to a gap in learning is 
to treat it as a temporary problem that is addressed by fast- 
paced, "accelerated" instruction, based on the student's 
understanding that it is possible to catch up with classmates, 
provided that he or she is willing to work hard with targeted 
support for a limited time. 

The most promising interventions for such students 
involve work in class, after class, before class, and during the 
summer, all of which expand the amount of instructional 
and learning time available. The model, to draw on industri- 
al terminology, is a "just-in-time" strategy. While, through 
constant monitoring, skilful teachers can identify students 
who are having difficulty with a new idea or skill, and may 
be able to modify their teaching to accommodate the 
student, some students will need the additional temporary 
"catch-up" work we have described. 

Some researchers suggest that no form of extra or 
compensatory education is as likely to be as successful as in- 
class instruction provided by classroom teachers who are 
well trained to teach in heterogeneous classrooms, supported 
where necessary by para-professionals, lay assistants, and 
consulting teachers. It is true, nonetheless, that some 
students will still need on-going, long-term assistance in 
order to continue to make reasonable progress, although 
they may never "catch up" to some of their classmates. 
Among the interventions that are most helpful is cross-age 
tutoring. A student who lags behind peers tutors a younger 
child and, in the process of "talking through" a solution to a 
problem, comes to understand how to ask herself questions 
as a way of learning new material and of monitoring her 
own comprehension. 

Another useful arrangement is the multi-age classroom. 
When the range of development is broader, cross-age tutor- 
ing can occur within the classroom, and the teacher can do 
part-time homogeneous grouping for such fundamental 
skills as reading. As well, if the teacher has the same group of 
students for two or three years, it is easier to know when 
children are making regular progress, even if they are not at 
the same level as some of their peers. 

What is usually not helpful either for students who have 
temporarily fallen behind or for slower learners is to take 
them away from class, so that instruction in one subject is 
missed while another subject is being, reinforced. Exceptions 
exist, especially when the withdrawal program is brief, inten- 
sive, and focuses on accelerated instruction; but they are 
truly rare, in terms of both content and effect, and are not 
typical of withdrawal programs. 

Generally speaking, separating children who have diffi- 
culty with the curriculum into special or withdrawal classes 
has not been effective in improving their level of achieve- 

For the Love of Learning 

(ienerally speaking, separating children who have diln 
culty with the curriculum into special or withdrawal 
classes has not been effective in improving their level of 

ment." Of itself, the segregation tends to be stigmatizing and 
unproductive, in part because good peer role models are 
lacking. Most typically, the programs offered in the special 
classrooms have tended to be ineffective, in part because of a 
focus on "basic skills" at the cost of higher-level cognitive 
processing. This runs counter to the fact that these students, 
like most others, appear to learn more when basic skills are 
taught within the context of solving real problems, and 
acquiring real knowledge, rather than in isolation." 

Another significant problem of special education classes 
is that they tend not to increase overall available instruction- 
al time for students, many of whom need more time to learn 
material. Parents often support or initiate the decision to 
have their children designated as learning disabled because 
they believe that the special attention and small classes will 
be highly beneficial. While this may be true in individual 
instances, or in the case of exceptionally well-designed 
programs, it is certainly not generally supported by research 
in this area." 

In fact, a review of the most effective ways of helping 
many students who are now described as disadvantaged, as 
slow learners, and as learning disabled, yields a list that 
would be equally appropriate for students with no learning 
disadvantages at all. 

There is a rapidly growing literature that identifies programmatic 
structures, curriculum and instructional strategies that produce 
substantial increases in student performance for low achieving, 
poor, learning disabled or mildly handicapped ... interestingly, the 
strategies work successfully for all categories of students. [These 

1. early childhood education for three- and four-year-olds; 

2. extended day [full-day] kindergarten programs; 

3. extensive use of pedagogical strategies based on the effective 
teaching research; 

4. continuous progress programs in reading and mathematics; 

5. curriculum programs with the goal of developing students' 
complex thinking skills; 

6. co-operative learning across all of the ... curriculum topics; 

7. peer or volunteer tutoring; 

8. computer-assisted instruction; 

9. providing as much of the extra educational [program] in the 
regular classroom as possible, bolstered by providing a consult- 
ing teacher to work with the regular classroom teacher.™ 

A review of research into the effectiveness of special 
education for students with learning handicaps or deficits 
shows that a program of separate instruction for these 
students is not effective. 

The needs of students with handicapping conditions have led some 
parents and professionals to accept the notion of separate, if quality, 
education. We will argue that the current system has proven to be 
inadequate because it is a system that is not integrated, and that we 
must learn from our mistakes and attempt to create a new type of 
unitary system, one which incorporates quality education for ail 
students ... While special education programs ... have been successful 
in bringing unserved students into public education, and have estab- 
lished their right to education, these programs have failed ... to raake 
the separate system significant in terms of student benefits.'' 

We know that some children of normal intelligence who 
have had effective instruction in reading continue to have 
difficulty in school for reasons that appear to be primarily 
cognitive rather than emotional. And we do not doubt that 
some - though by no means all - have been helped by 
special-education programs in which a teacher works with 
students one-on-one or in very small groups. While we are 
unequivocally sympathetic to such efforts, we must report 
that we could find no research evidence to suggest that what 
happens is substantially or systematically different from 
what any well-trained teacher would do with any student 
having difficulty comprehending text, conveying informa- 
tion, or expressing opinions through speech or writing. The 
one plausible advantage of the special-education situation is 
the individualized or small-group setting. 

Vol. II Learning; Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

Through the use of teacher 
assessment, as well as of 
the challenge examination, 
■students who can demon- 
strate knowledge of a 

subject area should be 
able to progress to the 
next level at once - not 
many months later. 

It is very possible that there is a great deal still to be 
learned about how to help children with learning problems, 
and that future research will be more fruitful. Meanwhile, 
the most promising supports for significant numbers of chil- 
dren having learning difficulties appear to be the same as 
those that help all children: well-prepared teachers, solid 
early education, and classrooms in which children are 
supported by their teachers and by each other. In turn, their 
teachers are supported by good information and resources, 
including helpful professional colleagues, a knowledgable 
principal, consulting teachers, and professional networks. 

In Chapter 12 we emphasize the need to ensure that 
teachers' pre-service and continuing education equip them 
with an understanding of children's cognitive, emotional, 
and social development; an awareness of the wide range of 
normal behaviour; skill in identifying genuine learning 
problems and seeking appropriate assistance; and familiarity 
with, and skill in the use of, a wide range of teaching meth- 
ods. These are the essential components of preparation for 
teaching all students well, including students who might 
formerly have been seen as needing special and separate 

Able, advantaged, and fast learners 

Some children learn material more quickly than most, either 
in one subject, in several related areas, or in virtually all of 
them. At present, such students are given extra or more 
complex work to do in the regular classroom ("enrichment") 
or are placed in a part-time or full-time class for "gifted" 
students. In 1990-91, students officially designated as gifted 
accounted for more than one in five of all "exceptional 

students," and 1.75 percent of the entire school-age 

While many parents spoke to us about their satisfaction 
with the gifted programs in which their children are 
enrolled, we think that it makes sense to question whether 
students who are academically advanced or learn more 
quickly are best thought of as gifted, or whether that 
description might be better applied to a very narrow band of 
students who would be at a substantial disadvantage in any 
class not tailored to their very special individual talents. This 
might apply to the person who is very gifted in math, for 
example, or in music, and whose needs, therefore, cannot be 
met by any teacher in the school. 

We believe that parents and students should seriously 
consider an alternative for the larger group of quick or 
advanced learners, one that is rarely used in Ontario: accel- 
eration, which can mean accelerating in a particular subject 
or in all subject areas. (The latter is often called "skipping a 
grade.") In a more flexible system, it should be possible for 
some students to progress more quickly than others. 
Through the use of teacher assessment, as well as of the 
challenge examination, students who can demonstrate 
knowledge of a subject area should be able to progress to the 
next level at once - not many months later. 

But, whereas repeating a grade has been a common prac- 
tice despite a very poor track record (students who are held 
back rarely show improved longer-term progress), accelera- 
tion, despite its rare use in Ontario, has a very strong and 
positive record, based on the experience of other jurisdic- 
tions. In fact, acceleration has much more pronounced 
effects on student learning than enrichment." Many parents 
and educators fear that students who accelerate will be at 
risk socially: at a disadvantage with their peers because of 
their relative youth, they will become ill adjusted and 
unhappy. However, in spite of considerable research on the 
subject, there is very little evidence that this is the case.-^' 

Another concern is that students, however bright, cannot 
afford to miss content instruction by skipping. As we make 
clear throughout this report, we are convinced that almost 
all students could learn more, faster, and better in a system 
that supports teaching for understanding. We have recom- 
mended that there be only three specialization years after 
Grade 9, and that even after that, learning time can be 
compressed; or, alternatively, that what is learned in the 

For the Love of Learning 

same amount of time can be expanded. For fast learners 
especially, the notion of missing learning because of a lack of 
time is inappropriate. As long as we are clear about what 
students need to know, the acquisition of knowledge can be 
monitored so that no real gaps go unaddressed. Time is not 
the problem, especially for the quick. 

While we are not suggesting that enrichment and special 
gifted programs cease to exist, we question the idea that this 
is the best strategy for quick learners, and reiterate that 
acceleration is a highly effective, greatly under-used, and 
extremely cost-effective alternative for students who are fast 

Recommendation 34 

*Therefore, we recommend that in addition to gifted 
programs, acceleration, based on teaclier assessment, chal- 
lenge exams, and/or other appropriate measures, become 
widely available as an important option for students. 

Socio-emotional or behavioural disabilities 
Classroom strategies: 

Like learning difficulties, behavioural problems, including 
excessive anger and aggression, and depression and with- 
drawal, exist in a continuum, ranging from those that are 
temporary or environmentally driven and can be addressed 
by improved teacher education and pedagogy, to severe 
obstacles that require long-term supportive programming, 
and may never be fully resolved. Some teachers are more 
skilled than others at preventing disruptive behaviour, and 
their superior techniques can and should be taught to all 
teachers. There is some evidence that when these are part of 
the repertoire of primary teachers, children who would 
otherwise be labelled "behavioural" and put in special classes 
avoid such placements and the attached stigma and high 
likelihood of academic failure.-^ 

Another kind of skill that makes a significant difference 
to the aggravating or lessening of "behavioural problems" 
of the aggressive variety is that of conflict resolution, or 
negotiation. When teachers and peers respond non- 
confrontationally to a student who is angry, it is often 
possible to defuse that anger, and avoid an explosion. Situa- 
tions that might otherwise result in suspension can some- 
times be averted, and, with models for acceptable social 
behaviour, students may begin to alter negative self-expecta- 
tions and gain self-control. 

££ ^^CCBD [The Ontario Council for 
^^Children with Behavioural Disor- 
ders] believes that one of the most 
important processes for the preven- 
tion of behavioural difficulties 
involves the systematic teaching of 
appropriate behaviours to all students 
in the educational system. At the 
present time, educators are not 
responsible for the teaching of appro- 
priate behaviour. They have neither 
defined desirable sidils nor undertak- 
en the teaching of such skills ... social 
skills training is provided in the form 
of 'add-on' programs which are totally 
dependent upon the initiative of indi- 
vidual teachers ... It is time for disci- 
pline to be brought into the teach- 
ing/learning context such that contin- 
uous progress could be expected for 
all students in the learning of skills 
related to responsible conduct." 

The Ontario Council for Children with Behavioural Disorders 

With emotional as with learning problems, the first, best 
"solution" for some children is simply a well-trained and 
well-supported teacher. But, even with the advantage of well- 
prepared teachers - and class or school-wide conflict- 
resolution training - there are some students who will need 
additional short-term support, while others will require 
support throughout their years in school. This includes both 
the aggressive children and those students who are 
depressed. Depressed students, most of whom are female, 
risk not being identified and helped if they are quiet, do 
their work, and do not call teachers' attention to themselves. 

But it is the hostile or very aggressi%'e children whom 
teachers typically find most difficult in regular classrooms, 
because those students are the ones who disrupt the class 
and cause difficulty for other students. Most of these are 
males. In some cases, disruptive students may have learning 
problems - either the material is too difficult and they are 
discouraged and frustrated, or the material is too easy and 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

The most promising 
supports for significant 
numbers of children having 
learning difficulties appear 
to be the same as those 
that help all children: well- 
prepared and well-support- 

ed teachers, solid early 
education, and classrooms 
in which children are 
strongly supported by their 
teachers and by each 

they are bored. Both possibilities should be explored before 
they are ruled out as causative factors. Whether the problem 
requires remediation or acceleration, the best solution may 
be intensive tutoring or more challenge, rather than a focus 
on non-academic "behavioural" concerns. 

If, on the other hand, the problem is not mainly about 
learning difficulties, but about social and emotional factors, 
counselling is necessary. Often, counselling is not available at 
school or outside (at least without a long waiting period). 
But because the student is too disruptive to remain in class, 
he is placed in a special-education class called "behavioural," 
most often staffed by teachers with some special-education 
training, but without training or experience in counselling 
or therapy. It is hardly surprising that this "treatment" is not 
often very effective, and that the behaviour of students who 
spend years in such classes does not improve while, very 
frequently, they deteriorate academically.-' 

While educators are aware of the poor prognosis for 
students placed in behavioural classes, the classes continue 
because they do not address an individual's problem solely 
or even primarily: they serve the larger community by 
removing him as a disruptive influence from a classroom of 
20 to 35 students and one teacher. 

In the special classroom, with perhaps six students, a 
teacher and an assistant, the student's behaviour can more 
readily be contained. Those with significant emotional 
disabihties who act out or are particularly hostile present a 
real difficulty for the school, an institution in which children 
and young people learn in groups, with a fairly low adult-to- 
youth ratio. 

The special-education classroom substantially increases 
the ratio of adults to students. There are other conceivable 
alternatives, some possibly better from the viewpoint of the 
troublesome students, but unlikely to be implemented if 
they do not meet the need for a reasonable learning and 
teaching environment for the students and teacher in the 
regular classroom. 

Another, and possibly a better, alternative in many cases, 
is to increase the number of adults in the regular classroom 
in order to keep students integrated while giving them 
enough close supervision and support to enable them, 
through a mixture of prevention and quick intervention, to 
minimize their disruptive or anti-social behaviour. Many 
schools and classrooms have recently become engaged in 
such programs, which hold out the hope that students, as 
they continue to be exposed to high expectations, a normal 
peer group, and a common curriculum, will learn over time 
to model positive social and learning behaviour. Avoiding 
the isolation of the special class means escaping stigma and 
low expectations of self, while being exposed to, and having 
the opportunity to learn, the curriculum presented to the 
peer group. 

Health interventions: 

For those students who need additional, therapeutic 
support, schools must depend on health resources that are 
not readily available. If treatment could be delivered at the 
school site instead of in hospitals and clinics, students could 
spend more of their day in their normal environment, and 
parents would feel less intimidated by the idea of treatment. 
And if professional help were available over longer periods 
to those who most need it, the possibility of students 
remaining in a normal learning environment and profiting 
from it, academically as well as socially, might be vastly 

If a teacher, whose job is to help students learn a curricu- 
lum, is to be able to do so, children and youth handicapped 
by emotional problems must be helped by health profession- 
als, some of them intensively and for the long term. Whether 
depressed or angry, they cannot function effectively as 
students unless they receive very strong support. 

These young people are not typical, and they are not 
numerous; estimates vary, but it is rare for any school to 
have more than a small number. But these few are not effec- 

For the Love of Learning 

While educators are aware of the poor prognosis for 
students placed in behavioural classes, the classes 
continue because they do not address an individual's 
problem solely or even primarily: they serve the larger 
community by removing him as a disruptive influence 
from a classroom of 20 to 35 students and one teacher. 

live learners, and no education, however "special," will be 
effective for people whose basic health needs are unmet. 

The connection between the need for treatment for indi- 
vidual students and the provision of a safe and strong learn- 
ing system for all students must be recognized, and should 
become the basis for the delivery of mental-health services 
to children and youth and, where appropriate, their families, 
as early as possible. Without such support for the few, 
education for the many suffers. 

We reiterate that there are relatively few children and 
youth who need long-term, intensive professional care. And 
we remind educators again that not only disruptive and 
hostile children and youth need help; students who exhibit 
signs of serious depression are not disruptive at all, but they 
certainly need significant support from health professionals 
if they are to realize their potential as learners and as adults. 

These children must be a priority for the health system: 
by dint of their age, they are most responsive to preventive 
measures and early intervention. And they must not be 
ignored by the health system on the grounds that they will 
be looked after by the educational system, when they require 
the care of health professionals. 

The identification, placement, and progress 
of students with special needs 

While different learning rates (slower or faster than average) 
may seem categorically different from "disabilities," whether 
learning related, emotional-behavioural, or both, they are 
organizationally similar: most students who receive special 
programming - whether in the form of remediation or 
enrichment through in-class special support, or in a totally 
segregated setting based on special learning or emotional 
needs - are first identified in a process that involves assess- 
ment and diagnosis, parental consent, and then special 
designation, whose continuing applicability must be 
reviewed annually. 

The Identification, Placement, Review Committee (IPRC) 
process is very costly in professional time, typically requiring 
a significant amount of preparation and involvement by 
teachers, administrators, and such support personnel as 
psychologists, psychometrists, and sometimes social workers, 
speech therapists, and others. This time is invested not only 
in the actual study of a student's record and apparent diffi- 
culties but in the legal formalities as well. 

There is reason to question whether this costly identifica- 
tion and placement process serves students well, mostly 
because the precision of diagnosis ("learning disabled" 
versus "slow learner," for example) is not supported by equal 
precision in prescription. In other words, we are far better at 
labelling learning problems than at resolving them. 

It appears that the reasons some students have difficulty 
mastering the curriculum are not always accurately reflected 
by the available assessment tools. For example, while most 
educators and specialists agree that there are genuine learn- 
ing disabilities (such as letter reversals in reading), these 
appear to account for far fewer of the school population 
than may be identified as learning disabled. 

Similarly, the "behavioural" designation describes a class- 
room problem rather than that of an individual. The 
student's behaviour is problematic for the teacher and for 
other students, but the identification as "behavioural" does 
not clarify the student's problem, or suggest any particular 
intervention. It is a label, not a diagnosis. That why is we 
question the value of the I (Identification) in the IPRC 

Most evaluative studies suggest that a great deal of special 
education does not succeed in achieving its goal, which is to 
enable the student to make significantly greater progress 
than peers who remain in the regular program such that he 
can catch up sufficiently to be reintegrated into the class. 
The medical model of diagnosis and prescription often does 
not result in the desired "cure." Therefore, the second reason 
we question the IPRC process is the poor track record of 
special-education withdrawal programs, which has helped 
drive the move towards integrating students with learning 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 


Our discussion of the 
programming needs of chil- 
dren who are exceptional 
because of physical, cogni- 
tive, or emotional handi- 
caps or differences has 
stressed our support for 
the integration of such 
students, whenever possi- 
ble. At the same time, in 
some cases there are 
advantages to students in 

part-time or full-time place- 
ment in other settings. 
While integration should be 
the norm, school boards 
should continue to provide 
a continuum of services for 
students whose needs 
would, in the opinion of 
parents and educators, be 
best served in other 

and behavioural problems into regular classrooms. With a 
decline in special placement, and the increased emphasis on 
program rather than placement, the P in IPRC becomes 
much less salient. 

Perhaps the most important part of the IPRC acronym 
refers to the R (Review), carried out annually after the iden- 
tification and placement have occurred. Our concern is that 
this review may not take place frequently enough, may not 
be taken seriously enough, and may reflect educators' low 
expectations of the student, leaving that student in a special 
program for years, with no demonstrated evidence of 
improvement. There is little point in special placement that 
does not result in more progress than would be made in a 
regular class or program: not only is it unjustifiable, it can 
be cruel. 

In fact, in suggesting a "case manager" approach for 
students in Grades 1 to 6, and a Cumulative Educational 
Profile supervised by a teacher from Grade 7 on, we are 
recommending a system in which there is much more 
frequent review on an informal basis through regular 
teacher-student-parent consultation, independent of a 
special referral process. 

The C in IPRC - the Committee process being followed - 
is sometimes adversarial in tone. Parents are asked to attend 
the meeting at which the case will be made that their child 
should be designated as requiring special education, as well 
as any subsequent review meetings. 

If parents are uneasy, or disagree with the diagnosis, they 
may choose to be accompanied by an advocate, perhaps a 
lawyer. In other cases, parents feel they have been over- 
whelmed by a roomful of experts, and have been too intimi- 
dated to ask questions or to disagree. As well, although many 

school boards make efforts to assure that parents are invited 
to the meeting, and understand it, that does not always 
happen. In some cases, IPRC decisions are legally appealed 
by parents. We think that less adversarial, more informal and 
more responsive interchange between parents and educators 
might result in better communication and ultimately in 
better support to the learner. 

While we appreciate the need to take decisions to alter 
students' programs very seriously, especially if that involves 
removing them from the regular classroom for part or all of 
the day, and the necessity for truly informed parental 
consent to such decisions, we are not convinced that the 
costly legal process involved in the IPRC process is always 
useful. At the same time, we are very concerned that parents 
be fully informed about the school's recommendation, and 
that when they consent to it, they do so on that basis. 

Recommendations 35, 36, 37, 38 

For this reason, we recommend that: 

*when parents and educators agree on the best program- 
ming for the student, and there is a written record of a 
parent's informed agreement, no IPRC process occur; 

*when there is no agreement, and an IPRC meeting must 
take place, a mediator/facilitator be chosen, on an ad hoc 
basis, to facilitate discussion and compromise, to alleviate 
the likelihood of a legal appeal: and that the legislation be 
rewritten to provide for this pre-appeal mediation; 

*when a student has been formally identified and placed, the 
annual review be replaced by semi-annual individual assess- 
ment that will show whether and how much the student has 
progressed over a five-month period, and that decisions 
about continuation of the program will be made based on 
objective evidence as well on as the judgment of the educa- 
tors and parents in regard to the student's progress; and 

*school boards look for ways to provide assistance to those 
who need it, without tying that assistance to a formal identifi- 
cation process. 

Funding for such supports could flow to schools on a per 
capita basis, based on a formula that estimates the percent- 
age of students in a neighbourhood school who are likely to 
need extra help. (Schools that serve as centres for special 

For the Love of Learning 

education or that have other special designations, such as 
"inner city" or "special needs," could be funded accordingly.) 

Our discussion of the programming needs of children 
who are exceptional because of physical, cognitive, or 
emotional handicaps or differences has stressed our support 
for the integration of such students whenever possible. At 
the same time, we recognize and have acknowledged that in 
some cases there are advantages to students in part-time or 
full-time placement in other settings. 

Recommendation 39 

*Therefore we recommend that while integration should be 
the norm, school boards continue to provide a continuum of 
services for students whose needs would, in the opinion of 
parents and educators, be best served in other settings. 

Supports for learning for all students 

Most students can learn what they are expected to learn as 
long as they have competent and caring teachers with high 
standards for themselves as professionals and for their 
students as learners, a well-planned curriculum, adequate 
learning resources of all kinds, and family and peers who 
value them. 

Indeed, despite frequent media criticism, lack of concrete 
evidence of student achievement (as the result of scarce 
school, district, and provincial assessment data), and some 
recent, general decrease in confidence in public institutions, 
opinion polls over the years have tended to show a consider- 
able degree of satisfaction with Ontario's schools. (See 
Chapter 2.) 

But one function that came under particularly heavy crit- 
icism was that which is supposed to be carried out by guid- 
ance teacher/counsellors, both as career educators and as 
personal/social counsellors. Guidance programs are under 
more pressure to change than most others. Parents and 
students rarely complain that the way history or geography 
is taught has not changed; there is no general expectation on 
the part of the public that the content or delivery of these 
subjects would necessarily shift over time. 

But the world of work changes over time, and is radically 
altering personal experience, leading to expectations that 
schools will alter career education accordingly. However, it is 
not easy to provide satisfactory service with staff who were 
trained 20 or more years ago, are not regularly retrained. 

may have had minimal training in this area to begin with, 
and who typically do not have recent personal experience or 
systematic links with workplaces other than schools, or even 
with the college and university systems. 

In personal and social guidance, too, the demands and 
expectations have grown enormously. Teachers (including 
guidance teachers), administrators, parents, and health and 
social-service professionals told us again and again that 
schools are trying to help more and more children and fami- 
lies cope with more and more problems related to poverty, 
family breakup and dysfunction, and lack of support. Guid- 
ance counsellors - some of whom are teachers whose guid- 
ance training consists of as little as one summer course - are 
on the front line in helping young people cope with school 
as part of their often-complicated lives. 

As well, these teacher/counsellors are frequently burdened 
inappropriately with clerical tasks - sometimes by principals 
who appear not to value or want to protect the legitimate 
guidance role, and the staff who should be dedicated to it. 
These duties take much of their time away from students, 
and make it difficult for guidance teachers to deliver impor- 
tant curricula in life skills and decision-making, which 
most students need. Diverting guidance teachers firom the 
legitimate teaching role also makes it more difficult for 
them to be successful in their counselling role because they 
are prevented from having an initial, non-threatening 
contact with students who may latter seek them out for 
individual help. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that guidance counsellors 
are often described by students and their parents as being 
insufficiently trained or accessible, and as not meeting the 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 


The Halton Industry Educa- 
tion Council Career Centre, 
with support from educa- 
tion, labour, and business, 
sees more than 4,500 
Grade 8 students from the 
public and separate boards 
every year for a three-part 
career-awareness program. 
At the Centre, students 
review their interests, 
skills, and values, and 
learn how to carry out 
occupational research. 

using its extensive 
resources. Because it is 
centralized and specialized, 
the Centre is able to main- 
tain up-to-date information 
- far beyond the capacity 
of any single school - 
about occupations, trends, 
and educational programs. 
The Centre provides teach- 
ers in the students' school 
with links to the communi- 
ty, for example, by having 
businesses and service 
clubs provide speakers and 
job-shadowing experiences. 

needs of students. All these shortcomings are real, but 
certainly do not apply to all counsellors at all schools. Many 
professional associations of guidance teachers and career 
counsellors told us that there are excellent teachers and 
counsellors who are eager to be supported by the training, 
mandate, and resources needed to do an important job well. 
We trust they will find our recommendations encouraging 
and helpful. 

Career education 

For decades, surveys of the Ontario public have shown a 
discrepancy between the strong importance parents and 
older students place on career education, planning, and 
counselling, and the relatively insignificant amount of time 
guidance and other teachers actually devote to it.-*" 

Students say they need help in formulating educational 
plans and making decisions about courses and options but 
that guidance counsellors lack information, or are unavail- 
able without a prior appointment, or are unknown to them. 
We were told that guidance counsellors were often unin- 
formed about college programs, and under-informed or 
misinformed about university programs. We heard that they 
spend much more time working with university-bound 
students than with others, that they know little about the 
work world, and cannot help students who need work- 
related information and counselling. We heard, as well, that 
there is a need for much greater understanding and skill in 
working with students who are often marginalized by colour 
or culture. 

On the other hand, we also saw impressive evidence of 
what could be and is being done in innovative programs 

involving career centres and various kinds of school and 
community partnerships. "In those schools regarded as most 
effective by students, counsellors spent a great deal of time 
with students on career counselling."" 

Throughout these pages, we have envisioned a system 
that is cognizant of the importance students and parents 
place on career education and planning, and acknowledges 
the necessity to begin very early to build student awareness 
of the myriad of possible occupations, of the value of educa- 
tion to their future, and of the importance of knowing and 
developing one's abilities and interests. Such a system would 
give a central place to career education, and include trained 
and dedicated career-education personnel in every school. 

We have put a strong emphasis on career awareness, 
appropriately embedded in a community-based learning 
environment, beginning in the primary grades. (See Chapter 
8.) We believe that for this to happen, teachers must have 
assistance in gaining access to co-ordinating and connecting 
opportunities for community-based, career-awareness activi- 
ties with the curriculum, taking students outside the school, 
and bringing community workers and employers into it. 
This work depends on someone with time dedicated to it, 
and with some experience and interest in school-community 
liaison and community-based education. 

Recommendation 40 

*We recommend that all elementary school teachers have 
regular access to a "community career co-ordinator" respon- 
sible for co-ordinating the school's community-based career- 
awareness curriculum, and working with teachers and 
community members to build and support the program. 

The co-ordinator might be a person who works at a local 
career centre, a parent, teacher, or community member with 
appropriate background and/or experience. The number of 
hours per week needed will vary according to the size of the 
school and the age of the students. 

We have also created a cumulative educational plan 
(CEP), beginning in Grade 6 or 7, and monitored and regu- 
larly reviewed by teacher-advisors in consultation with 
students and parents, as well as providing co-operative 
education and career counselling during the specialization 
years, and during the transition from school to work. (See 
Chapters 8 and 9.) 

For the Love of Learning 

In order to support the CEP and the career-education- 
related curriculum beginning in Cirade 7, we believe that 
students and their teacher-advisors must have access to a 
career-education specialist who knows about education, 
training, and work opportunities, about secondary and post- 
secondary educational programs, and who is able to provide 
students with assessment and counselling as well as job and 
career information. We want schools, beginning no later 
than Grade 7, to have career-education personnel who are 
professionally trained to organize, co-ordinate, and deliver 
educational and career information, planning, and coun- 
selling, with differing emphases according to the age and 
needs of the student. 

The career-education specialist's job would include direct 
contact with students individually and in groups, with 
parents, and as a consultant helping teachers and teacher- 
advisors to become aware of the range of education, train- 
ing, and work options available to students after high school. 

In addition to advising, counselling, and consulting, the 
job would include periodic monitoring of students' CEPs. 
The career-education specialist would continue to assist 
students, not only those who stay in secondary school, but 
those who leave before they are 18 years old, advising them, 
referring them to other sources of help, and helping those 
who wish to re-enter school to do so. Currently, career 
education is primarily the job of guidance counsellors who 
may have little specific training in the area, and who typical- 
ly do not or cannot give it the time and attention it needs. 
We are convinced that in future, this service must be deliv- 
ered by people trained for it, and dedicated to it. 

Teacher training is not the essential component; training 
as a career educator/counsellor is. To the extent that the 
function will continue to be carried out by existing staff for 
some time, they must be retrained; people entering the field 
must also be trained, whether or not they are teachers; the 
result may be a mixture of teachers and non-teachers doing 
this work. 

Recommendation 41 

*We recommend that beginning in Grade 6 or 7 and continu- 
ing through Grade 12, all schools have appropriately trained 
and certified career-education specialists to carry out career 
counselling functions. 

Community-Based Career 

In a recent project operat- 
ed from the Toronto Centre 
for Career Action, which is 
sponsored by the City of 
Toronto and the Toronto 
Board of Education, Grade 
8 and 9 students from 
three schools were linked 
with businesses and insti- 
tutions in their communi- 

Community partners, 
including a major bank, city 
government services, a 
candy factory, the zoo, 
local business, and the 
Board of Education were 
involved in providing a 
workplace experience for 
students. In-class prepara- 
tion was an important 
feature of the project: 
classes explored students' 
interests and career 
values, and introduced the 
language, terminology, and 
practices they would 
observe during their work- 
place visits. They prepared 
for those visits by brain- 
storming in a search for 
questions to ask their 
workplace hosts. 

Employer partners were 
offered assistance in 
preparing to meet the 
students: packages of 
suggestions for activities, 
general profiles of the 
student group, and tips for 
creating a dynamic, hands- 
on experience were made 
available. Teachers worked 
with the project co-ordina- 
tor, who was able to coach 
and support them and the 
community partners and 
provide the critically impor- 
tant link with the business 

Evaluation of this pilot 
program revealed that 
compared with students in 
the same schools and 
grades not involved in 
these activities, students 
who participated were 
more likely to maintain or 
develop a positive attitude 
to school over the year, 
less likely to consider the 
possibility of dropping out 
of school, and were more 
likely to develop more 
differentiated and realistic 
ideas about post-secondary 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 


A system that recognizes central place to career 

the importance students 
and parents place on 
career education and 
planning will give a 

education, and include 
trained and dedicated 
career educators in every 

The career-education specialist would continue to advise 
and refer students who leave school before they are 18 years 
old, and would help them re-enter school if they wished to 
do so. 

We suggest that the role and function of the career- 
education specialist be clarified by: 

• defining the skills and training required to provide these 
services, including skills in communicating with a diverse 

• creating and implementing a plan for educating and re- 
educating people who are now, or should now be, delivering 
these services to students; and 

• ensuring that career-education services are delivered by 
those who, afer a date to be specified, have the agreed-on 

The redefinition of the career-education role and func- 
tion should be done in co-operation with other ministries, 
such as Industry and Trade, Citizenship, and the Ontario 
Women's Directorate, as well as with the Ontario School 
Counsellors' Association, the Association of Career Centres 
in Educational Settings, and with representatives of colleges 
and universities, and the training should be accessible from 
several routes, not only teacher education. 

Any person can call him/her self a career counsellor with absolutely 
no qualifications. There is a need for a comprehensive training 
initiative that is developed with extensive field consultation to 
ensure that the training is relevant and accessible to practising career 

The Government of Ontario should work with relevant stakeholder 
groups to establish career/vocational counselling as a recognized 
field of professional research and practice in Ontario, comparable to 
its status in other jurisdictions.-' 

Career information constantly changes and grows. No 
career educator, however well prepared, can function well 
without having an excellent and current information base. 
Responsibility for developing and updating such a base must 
be centralized and be equally accessible to all schools and all 

We suggest that the Ministry support the development, 
or updating and implementing, of a provincial, career- 
information system accessible to staff and students. Respon- 
sibility for developing and updating such a database must be 
centralized, and the information must be equally accessible 
to all schools and all learners, to teachers, career-education 
specialists, students (including those with disabilities), and 
adult learners. We suggest that as one way of establishing a 
provincial system, the Ministry investigate the role of infor- 
mation technology, in connecting sources and networks of 
career information and counselling, and explore the feasibil- 
ity of increasing resource availability through electronic 

Another type of invaluable information for schools is the 
careful description of exemplary programs and the condi- 
tions necessary for their implementation and maintenance. 
The Ministry of Education and Training has recently under- 
taken initiatives, such as the Education-Work Connection 
(EWC), that expand and improve the information base and 
the educational opportunities available to learners and to 
career-education personnel in schools. This kind of project, 
which builds capacity at the local level by building informa- 
tion and expertise centrally, is extremely helpful. 

In order to meet students' needs for career and educa- 
tional planning and counselling, there must be a clear state- 
ment about what students have to know about post- 
secondary opportunities, best expressed as learner outcomes 
for career awareness and education. Some of these state- 
ments are embedded in The Common Curriculum; others, 
especially for Grades 10 to 12, do not exist. 

For the Love of Learning 



Recommendation 42 

*We recommend that f/ie Ministry, in co-operation witt} 
professional career-education groups, the Ontario School 
Counsellors ' Association, and the Association of Career 
Centres in Educational Settings, and with representation from 
colleges, universities, and business and labour, develop a 
continuum of appropriate learner outcomes in career 
awareness and career education for Grades 1 to 12. 

These outcomes should place a continuing emphasis on 
linking the school's curriculum to the community and its 
work settings, and should be understood to include commu- 
nity service. 

Because career education has traditionally been delivered 
by teachers with training in guidance, and because we are 
recommending that the career-educator function in schools 
be expanded (to begin no later than Grade 7) and differenti- 
ated from the teaching function, it is necessary that the 
Ministry of Education and Training, in collaboration with 
professional career counselling and school guidance groups, 
and with business, labour, and colleges, examine and clarify 
the role of guidance counsellors in career education, and 
develop models of effective and exemplary staffing, training, 
strategies, and practices. 

Finally, while we are confident that greater clarity about 
learner outcomes in career education, and a strong push for 
more intensive and appropriate training for those who 
provide it, are the keys to better career education and coun- 
selling for students, we are aware that well-planned 
programs and well-trained staff are genuinely effective only 
when they are supported by an environment - in this case a 
school and a school board - that recognizes the importance 
of career education, and facilitates the job of career educa- 

It is our hope that all schools and school administrators 
will find in these pages the voices of the parents and 
students who spoke to us, and take seriously the responsibil- 
ity for supporting dedicated staff who can carry out their 
duties in career education and guidance. 

Social and personal guidance teaching and counselling 

We also heard concerns about the personal and social (as 
opposed to the educational and career-planning) function of 
guidance. Guidance teacher/counsellors are often seen as 

e need] an overall provincial 
strategy which outlines the 
expectations for Career Education; 
[and] a structure in every Board of 
Education to support the development 
and implementation of a career- 
education program for ail 

remote and too unfamiliar for students to approach; in fact, 
research supports the finding that students are more likely to 
go to subject teachers for help that would be more appropri- 
ately provided by trained counsellors, in part because the 
guidance teacher is simply not well known and accessible to 

At some point in their school careers, many, if not most, 
students will be concerned about an issue that may or may 
not be educational in nature, but that could interfere with 
their ability to concentrate on their work. They would 
welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns in confi- 
dence with an adult other than a parent, another relative, or 
a friend of the family. 

Because most children and young people know only one 
other class of adults - teachers - they may turn to one of 
them for personal help or advice. Some students, when 
asked, acknowledge that they would like to be able to speak 
to a counselling adult at their school, but have not done so 
for a variety of reasons. 

Teachers, especially when they are acting in an advisory 
capacity, should be prepared to listen to students in a friend- 
ly, non-judgmental and confidential way, to offer support 
and advice as appropriate. As well, they must be able to 
recognize when a student needs more help than they can 
appropriately offer, and to help that person gain access to a 
counsellor or health professional. In elementary schools, 
there is often no guidance counsellor, and referral is usually 
through a school team to a health professional. 

In addition to personal counselling, guidance may involve 
individual students or groups of students organized around 
interests and issues such as decision-making, leadership, or 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

Counselling in many 
schools tends to be individ- 
ual and reactive; neither is 
efficient, and both severely 
limit counsellors' efficacy 
for the student population 
as a whole. 

It is not essential that 
counsellors be certificated 
teachers, or that teachers 
be trained as counsellors. 

What is essential is that 
people with appropriate 
training and expertise for 
preventive and short-term 
counselling are available 
and are well known to all 
students, so that it is not 
difficult or stressful for 
students to gain access to 
them when they wish to 
make individual contact. 

social support; or problems, including substance abuse or 
family violence. In addition, guidance counsellors, who are 
certificated teachers, have a role inside the classroom and 
the school, as teachers of life skills and related curricula. 
Besides delivering a specific curriculum, such as life skills, 
guidance teachers may organize, supervise, and support such 
school-wide programs as peer tutors, peacemakers, or the 
student council. 


There are apparently several problems that prevent many 
guidance teacher/counsellors from carrying out their 
responsibilities successfully. First, a variety of roles, but espe- 
cially those of teacher and counsellor, have traditionally been 
subsumed under one title. It is possible that separation and 
specialization between them would serve schools and 
students better, and that more differentiated staffing would 
result in higher-quality and more user-friendly guidance 
teaching and counselling. 

Related to this is the clear fact that for a variety of 
reasons, guidance staff are not always properly prepared for 
their work and not always appropriately assigned. For exam- 
ple, part-time counsellors are often teachers of other 
subjects, with very little training in counselling. 

Moreover, because counsellors do not have full-time 
classroom assignments and are therefore "available," admin- 
istrators often make demands on their time for work more 
efficiently done by others: prime examples are clerical duties 
involving registration, record-keeping, and the like. Finally, 
too many counsellors see their offices as the appropriate 
place for working, and they stay there, waiting for students 

to find them, and serving only the minority that does so, 
rather than allocating their time in a planned way to groups 
of students who could benefit from their service. Coun- 
selling in many schools tends to be individual and reactive; 
neither is efficient, and both severely limit counsellors' effi- 
cacy for the student population as a whole. 

The essence of the personal counselling function in 
schools is to connect with students and help them cope in 
school so that they can be academically successful in spite of 
difficulties or distractions of various degrees of seriousness, 
many of which are commonplaces of daily life, especially for 

The appropriate strategy for meeting much of this need is 
prevention: offering group counselling and group 
learning/life skills programs in such areas as decision- 
making, study skills, stress management, and so on. As well, 
intervention programs for groups of students with definable 
short-term needs - such as students at risk of failing, or of 
being suspended because of poor attendance or inappropri- 
ate behaviour - can be assisted by a combination of group 
and peer counselling, with guidance counsellors providing 
the orientation, training, and monitoring of the peer tutors. 

It is not essential that counsellors be certificated teachers, 
or that teachers be trained as counsellors. What is essential is 
that people with appropriate training and expertise for 
preventive and short-term counselling are available and are 
well known to all students, so that it is not difficult or stress- 
ful for students to gain access to them when they wish to 
make individual contact. 

There are ways counsellors can make themselves known 
and accessible to most students. These include offering a 
combination of such programs as student council advisor; 
facilitator of training in study skills, in peer tutoring, and in 
conflict mediation; and advisor-facilitator of group 
programs for women students, recent immigrants, teen 
parents, and others. 

If counsellors do not take an active role in the life of the 
school, their time and services are absorbed by a small 
minority of students, and they are perceived as not useful. 

It is clear that the majority of students do not see the guidance 
office as a place to go for help with their personal problems. If guid- 
ance counsellors feel this latter service is an important responsibili- 
ty, they have a great deal to do to make themselves appear not only 
accessible, but as people who can meet this need.'" 

For the Love of Learning 

When, on the other hand, they make themselves well 
known and accessible, through classroom contacts and 
programs delivered to the entire school, they make a positive 

When students need long-term or intensive help, a 
teacher, counsellor, or team of teachers and administrators 
who review teacher referrals must refer these students to a 
health professional, such as a physician, a psychologist, a 
social worker, or another therapist. Whether these health 
professionals are directly employed by the school or school 
board, or by hospitals, clinics, or community agencies, or 
are self-employed, their availability as a back-up system is 

Schools are not staffed with a high enough ratio of coun- 
sellors to students to allow them to give more than brief 
counselling on an individual basis, and extended mental- 
health intervention is not what they are or should be doing. 
When students have problems and concerns that are not 
readily dealt with, they must have access to qualified health 
professionals at school or nearby, people who can give them 
appropriate time and attention, whether individually or in 
small groups. This is one of several examples of the need for 
links between the health system and local schools in a way 
that makes help available to young people where and when 
they need it. 


Guidance curricula of the kind we described earlier as group 
learning and life skills, can be delivered by guidance teachers 
who spend a set number of hours in classrooms. In cases 
where there is no guidance counsellor (typically before 
Grade 9), the existing "guidance" curriculum (decision- 
making and interpersonal skills) has been delivered by a 
classroom teacher or by an administrator who may have 
some guidance training. 

It is common for elementary schools to lack guidance 
teachers/counsellors. This report emphasizes, from begin- 
ning to end, that in addition to providing a well-planned, 
challenging learning program, schools must look to people 
outside to offer children other kinds of learning experiences 
- many of which are in what we think of as the life skills 

Rather than expecting a busy school principal or a class- 
room teacher, already responsible for teaching a myriad of 

£i ^^ tudents have no relationship 
%^with their guidance counsellors - 
a comfort level is never really 
established with these people in 
secondary school." 

Ontario Secondary School Students Associ;i'i"n 

.academic subjects, to present a curriculum on the preven- 
tion of sexually transmitted diseases, or to help students 
learn how to operate a students' council, schools must be 
able to draw on community personnel outside their walls for 
the skill and expertise that are certainly present in a variety 
of publicly supported agencies with mandates that certainly 
include the children and families served by the school. 

In the curriculum from Grade 10 on, we have suggested 
that life skills instruction, in areas like parenting education, 
for example, have an important place. Currently, guidance 
teachers may be delivering such programs, as may family 
studies teachers. Whether teachers or non-teachers are 
involved, students need access to this information, as well as 
to opportunities to discuss their concerns and questions 
about health- and lifestyle-related choices. 

We suggest that there are a variety of possible deliverers 
of a group learning/life skills curriculum, and of training in 
such skills as peer tutoring and other kinds of leadership and 
service to students of any age or grade level. This includes 
subject teachers, who may integrate a study skills or a small- 
group learning focus into their program; as well, it may 
include administrators, guidance teachers, or non-teachers, 
such as public health workers, community workers, and 

Thus, teachers with guidance training are one of several 
possible resources for delivering this curriculum. The appro- 
priate training for delivering group learning, life skills, and 
interpersonal and intrapersonal development could be the 
core of a revised program for guidance teachers, in which 
the teaching role is emphasized. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

The appropriate training for 
delivering group learning, 
life skills, and inter- 
personal and Intrapersonal 
development could be the 

core of a revised program 
for guidance teachers, in 
which the teaching role is 

Recommendations 43, 44, 45 

We recommend that in order to meet the needs of students 

for guidance and personal counselling: 

*first, the Ministry of Education and Training tal<e the lead in 
working with the Ministry of Health to develop a definition of 
essential mental-health promotion programs and services 
that should be available in the school setting; the profession- 
al training necessary to provide them; the services that 
should be offered to students outside the schools and by 
whom; and the way responsibility for providing these services 
is shared across ministries. 

*second, the Ministry of Education and Training clarify the 
nature and function of personal and social guidance coun- 
selling in schools by: 

a) redefining the appropriate training required for a guidance 
or personal counsellor, and creating and implementing a plan 
for educating and re-educating those people who are now, or 
should now be, delivering these services to students; this 
redefinition should be done in co-operation with the Ontario 
School Counsellors' Association and representatives of 
colleges and universities; such training should also be acces- 
sible through avenues other than teacher education; 

b) ensuhng that delivery of these services be implemented by 
personnel who, after a date to be specified, have received the 
agreed-on training. 

*third, the Ministry of Education and Training develop a new 
guideline for social/personal guidance to replace Guidance, 
Intermediate and Senior Divisions, 1984 including a descrip- 

tion of the kind of differentiated staffing needed to deliver 
guidance and counselling services in schools, both elemen- 
tary and secondary. 

In the case of students with serious mental-heahh needs, 
we strongly support the principle that the institution that 
has primary responsibility for the child or youth should take 
the lead in defining the supports needed, and other institu- 
tions should co-operate to meet the defined need. (For 
further discussion of this principle, see Chapter 14.) 

While we believe that it is important for policy makers to 
consider career education, personal and social education, 
and counselling as functionally distinct - and to ensure that 
preparation for, and execution of, each of, these roles in 
schools is well supported - we are aware of several schools in 
which career education, life skills, and group and individual 
guidance and counselling are integrated. These programs are 
of high quality, are accessible, and are well respected by 
students, teachers, and parents. 

We are encouraged by such exemplary initiatives because 
they can serve as excellent models for the development of 
new guidelines for training and program delivery. 

For the Love of Learning 


|im Cummins, "The Role of Language Maintenance and 
Literacy Development in Promoting Academic Achievement 
in a Multicultural Society," p. 7-8. Paper written for the 
Ontario Royal Commission on Learning, 1994. 

In the text, we have referred consistently to "immigrant 
students." While it is true that there may be a very small 
number of students born in Canada but living in a home in 
which English is not spoken and who might benefit from 
ESL support, we want to emphasize the very small number 
who should be in segregated or withdrawal ESL classes. This 
is not, however, the case in French-language schools, where 
the need for ALF is as relevant for Canadian-born students 
as for students born outside Canada. 

M. Danesi, Studies in Heritage Language Learning and Teach- 
ing (Toronto: Centro Canadese Scuola e Culturale Italiana, 
1988), p. 45-51. 

Cummins, "Bilingualism and Second Language Learning," an 
appendix to "The Role of Language Maintenance." The 
appendix may also be found in the Annual Review of Applied 
Linguistics 13 (1993): 51-70. 

Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, "Antiracism 
and Ethnocultural Equity," in School Boards: Guidelines for 
Policy Development and Implementation (Toronto, 1993), 
p. 14-15. 

David Corson, "Towards a Comprehensive Language Policy 
for Ontario: The Language of the School as a Second 
Language," p. 3. Paper prepared for the Ontario Royal 
Commission on Learning, 1994. 

Cummins, "The Role of Language Maintenance." 

Maisy Cheng and A. Soudack, Anti-Racist Education: A 
Literature Review, report 206 (Toronto Board of Education 
Research Services, 1994), p. 47-49. 

A.R. Odden, "Thinking about Program Quality," in Education 
Policy Implementation (Albany: State University of New York 
Press, 1991), p. 125-42. 

Ontario, Heritage Language Advisory Work Group, "Report 
of the Heritage Language Advisory Work Group to the 
Honourable David Cooke, Minister of Education and Train- 
ing" (Toronto, 1993), p. 6. 

Ontario, Ministry of Education, Program Implementation 
and Review Branch, Review of Ontario Education Programs 
for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students (Toronto, 1989); and 
Ontario, Ministry of Colleges and Universities, Review of 
Ontario Post-Secondary Education for Deaf and Hard-of- 
Hearing Students (Toronto, 1989). 

Minister's Advisory Committee on Deaf Education (anglo- 
phone), "Francophone Priorities in Deaf Education." Report 
to the Minister of Education and Training, 1993; first report " 
of the Comite consultatif ministeriel sur I'education des 
sourds francophones, 1992. 

K. Weber, Special Education in Ontario Schools (Thornhill, 
ON: Highland Press, 1993), p. 14. Adapted with permission. 

I.E. Ysseldyke and others, "Similarities and Differences 
between Low Achievers and Students Classified Learning 
Disabled," Journal of Special Education 16, no. 1 (1982): 


J.R. Jenkins, "Similarities in the Achievement Levels of 
Learning Disabled and Remedial Students," Counterpoint 7, 
no. 3 (1987): 16. 

I.R. Jenkins, C.G. Pious, and D.L. Peterson, "Categorical 
Programs for Remedial and Handicapped Students: Issues of 
Validity," Exceptional Children 55, no. 2 (1988): 147-58. 

Odden, "Thinking about Program Quality." 

P. Peterson, "Alternatives to Student Retention: New Images 
of the Learner, the Teacher, and Classroom-Learning," in 
Flunking Grades: Research and Policies on Retention, ed. L.A. 
Shepard and M.L. Smith (Philadelphia: The Falmer Press, 

1989), p. 174-201. 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools Supports for Learning 

19 Odden, "Thinking about Program Quality," p. 125-42. 

20 Odden, "Thinking about Program Quality," p. 135-38. 

21 A. Gartner and D.K. Lipsky, "Beyond Special Education: 
Toward a Quality System for All Students," Harvard Educa- 
tional Review 57, no. 4 (1987): 368. 

22 J.A. Kulik and C-L.C. Kulik, "Meta-Analytic Findings on 
Grouping Programs," Gifted Child Quarterly 36, no. 2 

(1992): 73-77. 

23 D.G. Cornell and others, "Affective Development in Acceler- 
ated Students," in The Academic Acceleration of Gifted Chil- 
dren, ed. W.T. Southern and E.D. Jones (New York: Teachers 
College Press, 1991), p. 74-101. 

24 C. Winder, "Preventing the Development and Escalation of 
Behaviour Problems in Primary Grade Classrooms" (master's 
thesis. University of Toronto, 1991). 

25 Toronto Board of Education, "Beyond Behaviour: Under- 
standing Today ... for Tomorrow." Report of the Behavioural 
Program Workgroup (1993), p. 1, 18, and 21. 

26 See, for example, M. Levi and S. Ziegler, Making Connections: 
Guidance and Career Education in the Middle Years (Toronto: 
Ontario Ministry of Education, 1991). 

27 Alan King, The Adolescent Experience (Toronto: Ontario 
Secondary School Teachers' Federation Research Committee, 
1986), p. 134. 

28 D.S. Conger, B. Hiebert, and E. Hong-Farrell, "Career 
andEmployment Counselling in Canada." Report to the 
Canadian Labour Force Development Board, 1993. 

29 Premier's Council on Economic Renewal, Task Force on Life- 
long Learning, "Improving Service to the Learner as 
Customer" (Toronto, 1993). 

30 King, The Adolescent Experience, p. 120. 


For the Love of Learning 



It would seem self-evident that, no matter how 
carefully designed the curriculum, or how thoroughly 
prepared the teachers, we cannot know how well 
students are learning without measuring and 
describing - assessing and evaluating - their level 
of achievement and their progress. However, until 
recently, such information has been scanty and 
unclear in Ontario. 


Assessment, especially when it is used for decision-making 
purposes, exerts powerful influences on curriculum and 
instruction ... If assessment exerts these influences it 
should be carefully shaped to send signals that are consistent with 
the kinds of learning desired and the approaches to curriculum and 
instruction that will support such learning.' 

While recognizing that, as pubUc institutions, schools are 
obliged to report to the public on how well they have 
fulfilled their mandate, educators point to many obstacles to 
doing so - about assessing and evaluating effectively, effi- 
ciently, and constructively. Professionals who specialize in 
the complex and technical area of assessment of student 
achievement acknowledge that it is easier to carry out poorly 
than well, easier to mislead than to inform with statistics, 
and easier to spend a great deal of money in assessing what 
students know than to improve teaching or learning effec- 
tively. (We are referring here to professional educators, not 
to those who have tried - and, in many places, succeeded - 
in creating profitable businesses built on mass testing that is 
saleable rather than genuinely useful.) 

As the discussion of curriculum emphasized, learning 
does not proceed in neat steps, each one exactly equal, nor 
in an unvarying sequence; therefore, tests cannot be applied 
to students as simply as quality control can be applied to 
objects coming off a conveyor belt. Tests will not fix 
students' problems or improve teaching; they will not guar- 
antee that students will find successful jobs or careers. At 
best, they can tell parents something (but never everything) 
about what their children know, and give teachers useful 

information about what material they have taught success- 
fully, and what they need to approach differently. 

We know that the schools, the boards, and the province 
have an obligation to ensure that student learning is assessed 
fairly and clearly, and that it is reported in a readily under- 
standable way. At the same time, we caution that, no matter 
how simple it may appear to be to undertake, assessment is 
complex and costly. It must be done, and done well, but 
without losing sight of the fact that assessment is a means to 
an end, not an end in itself. Not only must it enable us to 
describe what students know and what they have been 
taught, it must show where improvement is possible and 
desirable. And, although there is abundant evidence that 
assessment can cause educators, however unwittingly, to 
narrow the curriculum and limit students' and teachers' 
horizons, it must not do so. In Ontario, we need more and 
better information on what students are learning; we do not 
need a large-scale testing industry or an educational system 
that is driven - and limited - by the need to teach only what 
is easily measured, or to measure only what is easily taught. 

This chapter considers issues inherent in monitoring and 
reporting student achievement, and in ensuring quality and 
consistency in evaluating students' work. We describe good 
assessment practices, and identify' ways in which those 
responsible for education in Ontario can be more account- 
able to the public; as well, we chart directions that will lead 
to the continuous improvement that is characteristic ot a 
healthy learning organization. System accountability, as 
differentiated from student assessment, is discussed in 
Chapter 19. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 


Assessment is a means to 
an end, not an end in 
itself. Not only must it 
enable us to describe what 
students know and what 
they have been taught, it 
must show where improve- 
ment is possible and 

Parents want information: 
to be told, fully, honestly, in 
a language they can under- 
stand, and In a timely way, 

how well their children are 
progressing in school, and 
what teachers will do if 
students are not making 
satisfactory progress. 

Students want teachers to 
tell them clearly and 
promptly what they need to 
do in order to improve; and 
they are concerned about 
common standards for 

Student assessment: What people told us 

We heard a great deal of concern, mostly from parents and 
students, but from others as well, about measuring a 
student's learning. 

Parents want information: to be told, fully, honestly, in a 
language they can understand, and in a timely way, how well 
their children are progressing in school, and what teachers 
will do if students are not making satisfactory progress. 
Parents want standards in order to know how well their chil- 
dren are doing, compared to others of their age, or accord- 
ing to some accepted and consistent criterion of what chil- 
dren their age should know. 

The word "standard" is confusing, because it has a general 
and a specific meaning, and both are used in conversations 
about learning and assessment. The general meaning is the 
one implied in a remark such as, "We need high standards." 
In this general sense, standards is often synonymous with 

•The popularity of norm-referenced te.sts is due to their seeming simpHcity of 
interpretation - but it is a very deceptive simplicity. Every decade or so, a norm- 
referenced test is "re-normed" - that is, it is extensively field-tested to see how 
students actually score. If students are scoring higher than the students of 10 or 20 
years ago, then the "norm" or average score is adjusted higher, in order that the 
proportion of students scoring at, above, and below the average will remain 
constant, and the famous "bell-shaped curve" will continue to sort students along 
the same continuum. This is exactly what has happened over the last 50 years: 
students, on average, have scored higher on many standardized, norm-referenced 
tests, with the result that norms have been raised. Thus, it is easy - but wrong - to 
assume that standards have not risen, because scores remain the same. This applies 
not only to achievement tests, but also to the most deceptively stable of all tests, 
the intelligence test. Thus, while the "average" I.Q. is always, by definition, 100, the 
ten-year-old who scores 100 today has had to exhibit more knowledge than the 
ten-year-old who achieved that score in 1930. 

goal or expectation, and refers to an ideal; it connotes a 
passion for excellence and habitual attention to quality. 

"Standards are objective, exemplary ideals that serve as 
worthy and tangible goals for everyone, even if some cannot 
(yet) reach them."- 

In its more specific meaning, often used by the parents 
we heard from, standards are a reference point against which 
performance is measured. Educators compare a student's 
achievements to a number of different reference points. 
Performance is compared to that of other students in the 
same class, the school system, or the province (norm-refer- 
enced); or it is compared to some pre-determined, expected 
level of performance (criterion or outcomes- referenced). 
Standard in this sense is similar to yardstick, and refers to a 
typical, rather than to an ideal, state. Both norm-referenced 
and criterion-referenced assessments allow us to describe the 
individual student as performing below, at, or above the 
standard, whether the standard is other students' perfor- 
mances, or mastery of content. When people call for "stan- 
dardized testing," they can mean either a norm-referenced 
test or a criterion-referenced test, although those outside the 
system tend to be most familiar with the norm-referenced 
variety.* Examples include the Canadian Test of Basic Skills 
and the Gates-McGinnity Reading Test. The old Grade 13 
departmental exams were examples of criterion-referenced 
standardized tests. 

Students, post-secondary educators, employers, and the 
general public - like parents - are concerned about stan- 
dards, each group from a particular vantage point and 

Students told us they are concerned about information: 
they want teachers to tell them clearly and promptly what 
they need to do in order to improve; they want fairness: they 
believe (as do many adults) that some teachers and some 
schools mark "harder" than others, putting students at a 
disadvantage when making application to college or univer- 
sity. (Or, conversely, marking too easily, and putting students 
at a disadvantage because they are ill-prepared for the next 
grade, or for college or university.) Thus they, too, are 
concerned about common standards for assessment. 

Representatives of various sectors of the public - post- 
secondary institutions, the business community, some 
professional groups - expressed concern about the lack of 
information about what students know and the existing 

For the Love of Learning 



e want to declare our commit- 
ment to excellence, and the 

need to set high standards for Ontario 


Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario 

information that indicates to them that students are not 
learning well enough. They were often among those calling 
for an increase in standardized testing, as a way of obtaining 
more information, and demanding higher expectations 
(standards) in learning and teaching. 

While many parents and community members recom- 
mended some kind of standardized testing program as a 
vehicle for increased consistency and clarity about actual 
student achievement, some parent groups were concerned 
about the effects of standardized testing. They noted it might 
have a particularly harmful impact on minority, low-income, 
and special-needs students, whose real achievement level 
might not be reflected because of language differences or 
difficulties with the test's form, rather than its content; some 
teacher groups expressed fears that the results of such tests 
might be misinterpreted. 

The recent history of student assessment 
in Ontario 

In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on assess- 
ment, as well as an increasing concern about the nature of the most 
widely used forms of student assessment and uses that are made of 
the results.' 

The fact that many people are asking, with some impatience 
and a sense of urgency, for more information about student 
achievement across Ontario, reflects the lack of such data 
over the last several decades, compared to earlier times and 
other jurisdictions, and the current crise de confiance about 
education, an anxiety which is certainly fed by lack of 
concrete information. 

Ontario has had very little tradition of standardized test- 
ing. Throughout the '50s and '60s, standardized exit exams 
in Grade 13 (departmental exams) were given in all subject 
areas, and formed the sole basis for entry to university. In the 
mid-1960s that changed: results fi-om the exams were 
coupled with teacher's marks. In the late '60s, the exams 
were discontinued and teachers' marks became the only basis 
for university entrance. That change was made in part 
because it was learned that teachers' marks predicted univer- 
sity achievement as well as the exams. This should not be a 
surprise: one would expect that a teacher who has known a 
student for a year, and judged his or her performance on a 
variety of formal and informal criteria, would be a better 

A4 ^% tandards should be set by input 
^9from parents, teachers, 
students, and school boards. 

student Council Prime Ministers, 

London and Middlesex County Roman Catholic SchooM 

kk ^"ach school has different stan- 
Eidards. K's no secret in this town 
that some schools mark easiei- than 
others. Senior students transfer in 
order to raise their OAC averages." 

R. Bergeron, a Kingston parent 

predictor of potential success than any single test. Tradition- 
al tests, of the Grade 13 variety, tended to reflect ability to 
memorize and regurgitate, and to bear up under stress - 
useful abilities, certainly, but not the kind of serious think- 
ing and knowledge acquisition our schools should foster, 
and not the kind of shallow goals that should shape the 

Teachers have had considerable autonomy in designing 
their own assessments, and in making judgments about the 
quality of a student's work. Teachers' marks have been 
viewed as an acceptable and adequate method of deciding 
whether students should be promoted, where they should be 
placed, and what programs they should undertake.* 

In the 1970s and early '80s, when other provinces and 
many American states were expanding their assessment 
programs, Ontario was leaving assessment in the hands ot 
educators. A program called the Ontario Assessment Instru- 
ment Pool (OAIP), for example, created banks of test and 
assessment items from which teachers of various subiects at 
different grade levels could choose. The OAIP had potential 
for bringing greater consistency to student assessment, but 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

AA J^ n analysis of student achieve- 

Lment both provincially and inte^ 
nationally is an essential indicator of 
the direction needed to ensure that 
our students are desirable candidates 
in the global economy." 

its implementation was left largely to chance and individual 
initiative, and its potential was never realized. 

This policy of leaving assessment to the discretion of 
individual teachers was clearly stated in the OSIS policy 
document (1984) for Grades 7-12/OAC: 

For the most part, it is recognized that the most effective form of 
evaluation is the apphcation of the teacher's professional judgment 
to a wide range of information gathered through observation and 
assessment. In order to help teachers evaluate student achievement, 
curriculum guidelines will describe appropriate evaluation tech- 

Thus, evaluation techniques were described, but stan- 
dards against which to evaluate were not specified. 

The first of Ontario's recent large-scale assessments 
directed at evaluating the school system's performance were 
in science and mathematics. During the 1980s, the province 
participated in several of them. The results were reported by 
the media as generally indicating that Ontario students 
scored mid-way, with about half the other jurisdictions 
(which usually included a few other provinces as well as 
many other countries) scoring higher, and half lower. While 
this "middle-of-the-pack" score was an accurate reflection of 
Ontario's performance for some tests, it was not for others. 
In fact, this kind of reporting ignored the size and meaning 
of differences; in some cases, these were so small as to be 
insignificant and unreliable. What looked like higher or 
lower scores in a ranking table were often actually ties, 
because the spread in points was minuscule. For example, in 
the Second International Mathematics Study, while Ontario 
was reported as being in the middle of the table in most 

areas, in fact only Japan scored higher in algebra; Ontario 
and British Columbia were tied with two other countries; 
and the rest had lower scores. The same was true in geome- 
try: Japan at the top; Ontario, British Columbia, and five 
others tied below it, and the rest below them. But in typical 
"league-table" reporting, the results seemed far worse. 

Having said that, however, it is true that the performance 
of Ontario's students on the math and science tests overall 
indicated adequate but not outstanding performance; they 
tended to be stronger on the basic skills components than on 
higher-level problem-solving. 

We think that the more impressive distinction between 
Ontario and some higher-scoring jurisdictions (these 
differed from one test to another and, in addition to Japan, 
included Hungary, Korea, Taiwan, Alberta, British Columbia, 
and Quebec) is not how well our students learned, but how 
much they were taught. The results of comparing what is 
asked on a test to what the curriculum in a particular juris- 
diction is supposed to cover are calculated as the "opportu- 
nity to learn" (OTL). What is found, when this comparison 
is made, is that students in Ontario are simply being taught 
less - fewer concepts and topics - in mathematics and 
science than students in some other countries and provinces. 
Thus, the problem is not achievement - our students show 
similar mastery of what they have been taught. It is a prob- 
lem of input, not outcome. While it is possible that our 
students might be taught some things which were not 
included on the tests, it is clear that they are not being 
taught many things which students in other countries are 
given the opportunity to learn. 

In many ways, the OTL data are more compelling than the achieve- 
ment results ... the cause of [different OTL results] is that some 
countries teach a lot more mathematics or science than others ... it 
does raise the issue of whether we ought to be teaching more mathe- 
matics and science ... a topic agreed upon for inclusion [in an inter- 
national test] is not necessarily more important than material not 
included. However, when one country gives high OTL to twice as 
many items as another country, it certainly must raise the question 
of whether that second country is teaching enough ... the question 
of whether we want to teach more material is settled by examination 
of subject matter content and societal needs, and not the achieve- 
ment results. The comparative OTL data point to the problem, and 
curricular analysis answers it.'' 

For the Love of Learning 

(In 1995, the Third International Mathematics and 
Science Study will involve Ontario students in Grades 3, 4, 7, 
and 8, as well as secondary school students, and will include 
mathematics, science, and physics.) 

Recently, the Council of Ministers of Education of Cana- 
da (CMEC) embarked on national assessments in its School 
Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP), which samples 
students in each of the participating provinces. The first test, 
in 1993, was in mathematics and included a sample of 13- 
and 16-year-old anglophone and francophone students from 
across Ontario. Results indicated that the two groups were 
similar to the national average in their knowledge of content 
(number and operations, algebra, measurement, geometry, 
statistics, etc.) and problem-solving; like other Canadian 
students, and as international tests have also shown, their 
problem-solving skills lagged behind their knowledge of 
content; and relatively few students were working at the 
highest levels of achievement. There was considerable inter- 
provincial variation, with students from Quebec (both fran- 
cophone and anglophone) tending to score higher than 
those from other provinces. (Future SAIP testing is sched- 
uled to include reading and writing in 1994 and 1998, 
science in 1996 and 1999, and mathematics in 1997 and 

In addition, the Ministry has undertaken provincial 
reviews of senior geography (1987), senior chemistry and 
physics (1988), mathematics and reading in Grade 6 (1989), 
mathematics in Grade 8, 10 (general) and 12 (advanced) 
(1990), and writing in Grade 12 (1992). These are assess- 
ments of curriculum effectiveness based on testing a repre- 
sentative sample of students, plus data based on interviews 
and observations. (In some cases, school boards extended 
testing to all students.) Although the provincial reviews were 
not based on explicit learner outcomes, they have been a 
good source of information about how well students are 
learning. The Grade 12 writing review, for example, demon- 
strated that, while the majority of students were able to 
write at a "satisfactory" level, very few reached the "superior" 

All these international, national, and provincial studies 
have used student samples, which is a much more economi- 
cal way to assess general student achievement, although it 
obviously does not permit reporting on the individual 
student or school. For example, we are advised by the 

a tk II students from Grades 1 to 9 
#^should take a test of basic skills 
every year, with parents and students 
receiving the individual results, while 
school and provincial results are 
made public." 

Organization for Quality Education 

Ministry of Education and Training that the cost of a 
provincial review is about one quarter the cost of a test given 
to every student in Ontario. Thus, the Grade 12 reading/ 
writing review cost about $750,000, while the Grade 9 read- 
ing/writing test cost about $3,000,000. 

The results of these studies have contributed to public 
discussion and concern about education in Ontario, and led 
to increased interest in routine student assessment. In 1993, 
the government responded by modifying a planned Grade 9 
reading/writing review (which would have used a random 
sample of Grade 9 students across the province) to become a 
test taken by all 140,000 Grade 9 students in Ontario. (A 
second Grade 9 reading/writing test is planned for 1994/95, 
and it, too, will be given to all students.) The 1993 review 
was based on a two-week curriculum on the theme of food 
(anglophone) and media literacy (francophone) and includ- 
ed an extensive written portion; test scores counted for 20 
percent of a student's final mark. The majority of students 
performed at or above the level deemed "adequate." Some of 
the media, however, questioned the validity of the terms 
"adequate," "competent," and "proficient," based on examples 
of students' writing graded in those terms. Clearly, there is 
no pre-determined standard for what constitutes a given 
level of writing or problem-solving. 

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 referred to the development of learn- 
er outcomes against which progress can be measured; these 
have been defined for Grades 1 to 9, and we have recom- 
mended that they be expanded to the other grades and 
levels, and that they be improved. As well, we made reference 
to the standards being developed in language and mathe- 
matics, and we recommended that thev be established in 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

Lack of information creates 
uncertainty and anxiety; 
this is certainly true in the 
case of the lack of student 
assessment data in recent 
decades in Ontario. 

Once we have a useful set 
of outcomes that describe 
what students should know 
and be able to do, for 

example, in mathematics 
by the end of Grade 3, we 
can assess their perfor- 
mance and compare it to 
the standards that have 
been established. 

Frequent and cumulative 
assessment has the poten- 
tial to increase and 
enhance learning. 

Other foundation areas. These standards could and should 
play a key role in future student assessment. 

Developing standards depends both on examining actual 
performance of different groups and trying to develop 
consensus among educators and the public. 

Standards may exist at many levels of sophistication and 
excellence. They can be set very high (Elvis Stojko's skating, 
Margaret Atwood's writing, or John Polanyi's work in chem- 
istry), or they can describe realistic expectations and worthy 
and appropriate goals by which to judge student perfor- 
mance. It is important to note that there is no one way to 
define a standard: there must be a variety of concrete exam- 
ples, known to all concerned, that make expectations clear. 

One of the most difficult and challenging tasks in educa- 
tion today is establishing these standards, based on informed 
consensus. Once we have a useful set of outcomes that 
describe what students should know and be able to do, for 
example in mathematics by the end of Grade 3, we can 
assess their performance and compare it to the standards 
that have been established. 

The Ministry of Education and Training has begun to 
develop standards in language/literacy and mathematics/ 
numeracy. These are based on the learner outcomes for The 
Common Curriculum for language and mathematics and 
suggest different levels of performance such as "limited," 
"adequate," and "proficient" for students at the end of 
Grades 3, 6, and 9. A student's performance can fall into one 
category or another in each subject, and within each subject 
in several areas. The math standards, for example, are built 
on areas within math that are specified in The Common 
Curriculum as "measurement," "problem-solving," "algebra 

and patterning," etc. These standards are intended to provide 
descriptions of expected levels of achievement by which 
students' learning can be assessed, and to provide a clear 
basis for board-wide and provincial assessments of student 
achievement. As we said earlier, learner outcomes and stan- 
dards must be very clear for all foundation subjects: 
language, mathematics, science, computer literacy, and 
group learning/interpersonal skills. As these standards are 
developed and refined, they will become the yardstick 
against which teachers and the public can measure student 
performance. In fact, the Ministry of Education and Train- 
ing has already indicated that it plans to use the standards as 
a basis for assessment at the end of the three grades, 
although it has not been specific about how it intends to 
carry that out. 

We are convinced that the Ontario government, and 
educators' professional associations and bodies, must make a 
serious, long-term commitment to assessment, both for 
improvement and for public reporting and accounting. 
While public discussion of the issue often focuses on large- 
scale assessment as an indicator of how the system is work- 
ing, it is also a tool for improvement. As a commission on 
learning, we are very concerned about the quality of assess- 
ment, formal and informal, that occurs daily in the class- 
room, and that informs, or should inform, students, teach- 
ers, and parents about improving performance. Much more 
than large-scale assessment for public accounting, this level 
of frequent and cumulative assessment has the potential to 
increase and enhance learning. 

Assessing individual students 

This section covers four issues. The first, and most impor- 
tant, is assessment for improvement; second is reporting 
clearly, accurately, and fairly what has been learned. In our 
opinion, fairness means that individual student assessment is 
consistent - that a 75 percent at one school is not a 65 or an 
85 percent in another; moreover, parents must be accurately 
informed about what their children have achieved in relation 
to explicit and universally applied standards. 

Third is the role of information technology, which has a 
significant contribution to make to improving assessment 
practice. Finally, there are issues of bias in assessment - 
evaluating students fairly across gender, social, and cultural 


For the Love of Learning 

A£ ^Poo much emphasis in high school 
I on grades/mart(s, not enough on 

Ontario Secondary Students Association, 
Central Metro West Region 

Assessing for individual improvement: 
The most important reason 

The most important use of assessment is as a way of fmding 
out how well students are doing in order to help them learn 
better, more, and faster. Assessing what students know - and 
what they don't - enables teachers to capitalize on students' 
knowledge, and focus on gaps in it. Furthermore, by exam- 
ining student performance, teachers have the opportunity to 
assess the success of their own methods and efforts. Evaluat- 
ing students regularly enables teachers to monitor learning, 
and make changes when learning is not occurring, not 
occurring fast enough, or not occurring in sufficient depth. 
Regular evaluations, with frequent and detailed feedback 
from teachers, assure students that they understand what is 
being taught and can move onto the next task, thus advanc- 
ing student learning. We call this formative evaluation, 
because it helps form the learning and teaching needed to 
achieve success. 

Large-scale assessments, used to monitor the school, 
school board, or province as a whole, and individual assess- 
ments (such as final exams) used for marks and accountabil- 
ity, are not very useful to individual students. First, students, 
who need immediate feedback, typically do not find out how 
well they did on these tests for some time. Second, the 
results may be just a letter or a number, rather than an 
analysis of strengths and weaknesses. Third, large-scale tests 
usually ask questions that are easy to mark, but do not 
measure problem-solving, analytic ability, or understanding." 
While marking of surface features like capitalization and 
punctuation may be carried out by computer, such assess- 
ment methods cannot adequately cover content, style, and 
other elements; nor can they distinguish between a wrong 
answer which reflects real misunderstanding or ignorance, 
and a wrong answer which reflects simply a mechanical 

Teachers and students alike show disrespect for learning 
and teaching that emphasize "just the facts," are not 
applied to "real" problems, are "low level," or require 
"regurgitation." In spite of these espoused beliefs, 
much teaching and learning is shallow, and there is 
legitimate concern that this is the result of evaluation 
practices and perceptions of them.' 

££ ^^SSTF believes firmly in account- 
\^ability and is prepared to support 
the development of meaningful stan- 
dards for education achievement in 


It is essential that assessment be a regular part of learn- 
ing. In Ontario, classroom assessment has been the typical 
vehicle for assessing individual student learning. It is part of 
the daily experience of educators and students, an integral 
part of classroom activity, and occurs frequently. It may be 
formal or informal and is often indistinguishable from 
instruction; it may take place with an individual or in a 
group. Classroom assessment includes oral questions, 
teacher-created tests, quizzes, essays, assignments, examina- 
tions, projects, as well as observations of performance, and 
any other products or samples of work that might provide 
information about performance. Because it is frequent and 
varied, classroom assessment can tell far more about what a 
student knows and has learned than any single test. Teachers 
have opportunities to observe whether or not students are 
learning to think critically, to make connections between 
prior and new learning, and whether they take pleasure in 
learning. "Using one assessment procedure is like using a 
hammer to do everything from brain surgery to pile 

If a test is to give accurate data on a student's full knowl- 
edge and understanding of a single concept, it must 
comprise a number of questions. Telling, reliably, what a 10- 
year-old knows about math requires a lengthy test. A test 
that would give reliable information on what that 10-year- 
old knows about math, language, science, and computers 
would have to be administered over several sessions, would 
probably take on a significance in the minds of teachers and 
students that exceeded its value, and still could not provide 
the accurate and meaningful evaluation of continuous class- 
room assessment. 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

In the classroom, students can work on projects that 
resuh in a useful product, or in a real discovery about how 
things operate. They can write - on paper or on a computer 
screen - for a real audience, whether a student in another 
school, near or far, or for the newspaper of the school or the 

A lot of intelligences really can't be tested for, in the sense that we 
usually use the word "test." What we need to do is to create school 
environments where you can observe a lot about what kids are good 
at, what interests them, and where they show substantial grow1:h.' 

While professional preparation and continuing profes- 
sional education may expose teachers to all kinds of assess- 
ments, good assessment for improvement requires much 
more attention than it has traditionally received, more than 
can be delivered in a one- or two-year pre-service program. 
Designing and marking tests and other assignments (papers, 
presentations, projects) should be a priority in professional 
development, as should the systematic use and interpreta- 
tion of information based on observing and meeting with 
students. Such training cannot stop when a credential is 
awarded: it must continue in schools. 

Although it is common for educators to point out that 
the danger of large-scale testing is that it tends to measure 
what is most easily measurable, it is equally true that 
accurately evaluating more complex thinking skills in the 
classroom demands careful training, extensive supervised 
practice, and the development of skills that are seriously 
neglected in teacher education. 

For example, when students are asked to summarize a 
story, their product - the summary - can be at the simple 

level of listing all the ideas in the story or text, in which case 
the writer shows immaturity in carrying out the assignment. 
(This may be quite appropriate for a young learner, but it is 
unsatisfactory later on.) A more adequate summary shows 
some judgment: the reader selects the main ideas, and links 
them together sequentially. But this kind of summary still 
attempts to pay equal attention to each section or episode of 
the text, to summarize the plot, and usually goes on at 
length. A summary which shows real comprehension and 
proficiency (beyond listing and linking main ideas) exam- 
ines underlying themes, pays more attention to some main 
ideas than others, or even constructs new ideas, by building 
on the significant themes of the text - the famous "reading 
between the lines." Reading and assessing students' work for 
higher levels of literacy, what some call depth of processing 
in learning,'" is not something that all teachers know how to 
do, or how to describe to students and parents. But it is the 
kind of analysis and assessment that is necessary, if we are to 
teach and to assess for understanding. 

Based on what we learned in the hearings and from the 
research, teachers must provide more and better feedback to 
students and parents, which pinpoints strengths and weak- 
nesses, results in teachers and students and parents doing 
things differently, and is timely enough that it contributes to 
what the student is learning now, and what the teacher is 
teaching now, rather that to what was taught but not learned 
weeks or months ago. 

In essence, this is like coaching: for example, a teacher 
observes a student making an oral presentation on the use of 
the computers in graphic design and finds that he or she 
speaks too quickly and does not frame the presentation in a 
manner that allows the listener to follow easily. Rather than 
waiting until the term report and noting that the student is 
weak in presentation skills, the teacher needs to tell the 
student as soon as possible that speed and organization need 
improvement, help map out a possible reorganization, 
discuss techniques for slowing speech, and offer an opportu- 
nity to try the presentation again. 

Our belief is that the first report card of the year, whether 
at the end of October or in December/January, should not 
contain surprises for parents. It should not, for example, 
indicate that the youngster is reading below grade expecta- 
tions, when the parent has not previously been made aware 
of the problem. We know (because we heard about it and 

For the Love of Learning 

because some of us have experienced it) that it does happen, 
and that it should not. The report card may not always bear 
good news, but the contact between parents and teachers 
should be frequent and consistent, whether or not students 
are performing according to expectations. 

Parents need to see the results of routine classroom tests 
and the evaluations of regular classroom assignments 
throughout the year, starting in September, as well as portfo- 
lios of students' work, with indications of progress made 
from earlier to later efforts. Teachers need to inform parents 
about what has been covered in recent weeks and what is 
coming up; they should tell parents how, at home, they can 
support their children in gaining specific skills or knowledge. 

Our strategy for enhancing individual student assessment 
for improvement, including helpful feedback, involves giving 
teachers the information and skills to link better assessment 
to student learning. Programs that build the capacity to reli- 
ably and consistently evaluate writing, problem-solving, 
understanding, and analysis in all subject areas - in other 
words, to assess the achievement of the higher-order litera- 
cies that we want our graduates to have - are an investment 
in the ability to measure what matters most. They are a 
commitment to teach, re-teach, and teach better. Such 
programs demand considerable time, and thus can be expen- 
sive, as is most high-quality, professional training. But, to the 
extent that we can teach teachers to evaluate complex think- 
ing skills well and consistently, we build the capacity to 
measure well what matters most. 

Consistency is tied to fairness - a subject about which 
students said a great deal. Right now, the only training teach- 
ers get on consistency in assessing critical thinking and 
communicating skills is in relation to provincial subject 
reviews and OAC examinations (given in the final year of 
high school for students preparing to enter university); these 
do not affect most teachers. But all teachers need to be better 
educated in assessing, whether that is being done through 
written tests, essays, presentations, or projects. 

Because we are care above all about learning, our first 
concern with assessment centres on teachers' ability to assess 
student work accurately and consistently, and to communi- 
cate effectively to students (and to parents) how they can 
improve. We are convinced that assessing for purposes of 
improvement always depends on the teacher's ability in both 
assessment itself and on response to the results. That is why 

£i ^^arents are interested in perfor- 
■ mance, clear standards of 
achievement, clear sequential 
programs. They want measurable 
outcomes that show whether a 
student knows a core body of knowl- 
edge and skills. We want to know 
what our children are learning, how 
they are going to learn it, and how 
parents know their chiM has 
learned it." 

Maureen Somers-Beebe. Peterborough 

' the first recommendation we make about assessment is that 
efforts in this area be the subject of teacher education at 
every level: in faculties of education, school boards, schools, 
and continuing professional education at such post-graduate 
institutions as the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 

Assessing understanding, critical thinking, and the ability 
to generalize, synthesize, and apply knowledge ft^om one 
situation to another is very complicated and requires consid- 
erable experience and practice. Reporting the results of such 
assessment takes time - to think, to write, and, often, to 
discuss results with the student and/or parent. The necessary- 
skills are built throughout the teacher's career. We believe 
that a great deal of the practice and training should take 
place in the school, with teachers working systematically in 
teams to mark papers and presentations, and to discuss 
their ratings, guided by consultants who have expertise in 

Recommendation 46 

*We recommend that significantly more time in pre-service 
and continuing professional development be devoted to train- 
ing teachers to assess student learning in a way that will 
help students improve their performance, and we recommend 
supervised practice and guidance as the principal 
teaching/learning mechanism for doing so. 

We hasten to point out that we are not suggesting that 
teachers test or assess more or mark more papers, but that 
they bring a higher level of professional training and exper- 
tise to the process of assessing and reporting on what 
students have achieved. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

Accounting for student assessment: Reporting what is 

Accountability begins, then, with something more humble than 
large-scale testing: it begins with ... teachers monitoring and adjust- 
ing the daily homework and classwork of students rigorously and 
consistently. It begins with not accepting work that is shoddy ... It 
begins with a policy that says schools will send reports home more 
than twice a year. In short, if you want to stop the kind of minimal 
compliance and perfunctory work that can sink a school, you'll need 
an effective and timely grading system, reporting mechanisms, and 
promotion standards." 

Thus far, we have discussed the importance of assessing 
students for improvement, giving all students a fair opportu- 
nity to demonstrate what they know, and offering feedback 
to students and parents to keep them apprised of the 
students' progress through frequent and consistent commu- 

The final report for the term or year/semester is particu- 
larly important: it tells student and parent what level of 
learning has been achieved in the required knowledge and 
skills for that course or year. The evaluation summary that 
appears on the year-end report is permanent: it goes into the 
Ontario Student Record and may be used by other teachers 
for planning, or as a way of diagnosing student perfor- 
mance. The report may also be a factor in decisions about 
course or class placement, streaming, and planning for post- 
secondary education. Hence, the quality of that assessment 
has long-term significance. Schools and teachers are 
accountable to parents for its accuracy and reliability. 

We heard from parents and others that report cards are 
not very helpful: they are unclear or lack sufficient informa- 
tion on how much the student has learned and where the 
focus for improvement should be. While some parents want 
marks in letters or numbers, others want more detail and a 
better sense of how their children are doing. Many parents 
brought report cards to our public hearings, or sent them, 
pointing out inconsistencies and "edu-babble." These exam- 
ples did not reflect well on the teachers, principals, schools, 
or school boards involved. 

While parents who are in regular and friendly communi- 
cation with a child's teacher are likely to be well informed 
about the child's progress, that level of communication isn't 
always maintained: a parent may not be able or willing to 
articulate concerns or misgivings, or may not always under- 
stand or agree with the teacher's analysis. More frequent and 
more candid communication would do more to correct this 
problem than any increase in assessments or testing. 

Teachers have an obligation to be sensitive to parents who 
don't understand, don't agree, or who have difficulty articu- 
lating their concerns. They have to reassure parents who are 
afraid to voice misgivings, lest their children suffer some 
form of retaliation. The fact is that no report card, no matter 
how precise, makes good communication between teacher 
and parent obsolete or less vital to the student's well-being. 

Parents also want to know how their children are 
progressing in terms of acceptable and universal standards 
which, until recently, had not been established. Now that 
they have begun to be established, standardized assessment 
is possible - as long as teachers are equipped to carry it out. 

As already noted, the recent development of learner 
outcomes and standards is helping to create a clearer and 
more provincially consistent basis for curriculum and stan- 
dards on which assessment will be built. That is a crucial 
step. We have urged the Ministry of Education and Training 
to develop "curriculum guidelines based on the learner 
outcomes that will give teachers and parents a clear idea of 
the basic structure of each curriculum area each year." (See 
recommendations in Chapter 8.) We have recommended 
that, at the beginning of each school year or semester, 
schools give parents and students information on course 
content, based on clear learner outcomes. We have also 
suggested that the learner outcomes in the common curricu- 
lum courses be made more readily understandable, and that 

For the Love of Learning 



outcomes statements are needed for all grades and subjects, 
including the specialized curriculum in Grades 10 to 12. 

Clearly written learner outcomes, even without descrip- 
tions of different levels or standards of achievement, would 
make it considerably easier for parents to know what their 
children are expected to learn and what they have learned. 
The standards (which have been developed for language/ 
literacy and mathematics/numeracy, and which we have 
recommended be developed for science, computer literacy, 
and group learning skills) give parents information they 
need if they are to better understand and informally assess 
their children's progress. We believe that reporting to parents 
should be based on the same learner outcomes and stan- 
dards as the curriculum. Thus, in a parent-teacher-student 
conference, parents should be shown examples of work of 
different standards, so that they can fully understand their 
own child's level and mark. Report cards should reflect the 
student's level of attainment of major outcomes, measured 
by adherence to clear and universal standards. 

Goals are made clear if, at the beginning of the school 
year, parents and students are provided with a written 
description of expected outcomes, and then get feedback on 
students' learning throughout the term or session; report 
cards must be consistent with this information. The impor- 
tance of evaluating students according to uniform and 
explicit standards also pertains to issues of fairness and 

An individual student or parent says, "It isn't fair that 
teacher X (and/or school Y) gives much easier marks than 
my teacher (school). It gives those students the advantage of 
a higher average and means they get a place in university 
that is denied to me, even though my 80 percent is worth as 
much as their 90 percent." Beyond the individual's 
complaint, universities and colleges worry about screening 
applicants to get students who are most likely to be success- 
ful. Employers worry about the meaning and value of a tran- 
script or diploma. Society worries about whether its best and 
brightest have opportunities for higher education so that 
they can become pillars of a productive and competitive 

Because teachers have been held responsible for using 
uniform, consistent standards that did not exist, they have 
used their own. The supposed objectivity of numbers, 
percentages, and letter grades obscures the fact that stan- 

e recommend that a system of 
regularly administered stan- 
dardized tests be adopted. The 
results of these tests must be 
analyzed and compared to similar 
regional, national, and international 

dards differ; a provincial standard should mean that, while 
differences in teachers' marks will never completely disap- 
pear, they will be fewer, smaller, and less significant. 

It is of course true that we can never eliminate all subjec- 
tivity in assessment, and cannot pretend that there is or ever 
will be a fool-proof objective test of everything we want 
students to know. We can, however, take steps to modify and 
decrease, albeit not eliminate, inconsistency among teachers 
in marking. 

We have spoken earlier of the necessity to improve teach- 
ers' ability to assess students' work accurately and consistent- 
ly, and of our belief that this professional education must 
begin early and continue through the teaching career. In 
order for that training and practice to be most efficient and 
effective, it is highly desirable that its content be determined 
by the learner outcomes and standards which teachers will 
be assessing students on. In order to offer this support, it 
will be essential to create resource materials and manuals 
keyed to the curriculum, to guide teachers both at the train- 
ing and application stages. Such materials must give multiple 
examples of how the achievement of specific outcomes at 
various levels (or standards) can "be consistently measured. 
"There is no reason why we have to be assessed in the same 
way ... If I understand a mathematical principle and I can 
show you it one way, it's not really important that I show it 
to you in another way." '■ 

Recommendation 47 

We recommend that the Ministry of Education and Training 
begin immediately to develop resource materials that help 
teachers learn to assess student work accurately and consis- 

Learnlng: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 



There is a betrayal of educational 
standards to the point where 
school reports are meaningless, 
couched in educational jargon, and 
designed more to hide and confuse 
than to communicate." 

Newmarket parent B. Heydorn 

tently, on the specific learner outcomes upon which standard- 
ized assessment and reporting will be based. 

One valuable resource has already been developed, but 
needs to be updated and refined: the Ontario Assessment 
Indicators Program (OAIP), referred to earlier, which 
contains assessment items and ideas for many grade levels 
and subjects. 

The next step, we suggest, is creation of a provincial 
report card, an Ontario Student Achievement Report 
(OSAR) based on the outcomes and standards expected in 
each grade and each subject. In addition to a global mark for 
each subject or interdisciplinary area (e.g., math or arts), 
students should be rated on a set of specific outcomes, 
derived from the common curriculum and provincial stan- 
dards documents. In the first and second terms, the report 
should indicate the extent to which the student is (or is not) 
making good progress toward the achievement of each of the 
several outcomes related to the particular subject and, at the 
end of the school year, has or has not achieved that outcome 
at a satisfactory level. 

In the term (and possibly the final) reports, the teacher 
should include practical and specific suggestions for 
students and parents for progress and how it can be 
achieved. The teacher who works at being a capable assessor 
of foundation skills will give parents the information they 
want: a clear indication of where their children stand as 
measured by provincial standards. In other words, we believe 
the accountability so many parents are asking for is based on 
clear standards, and on able teacher-assessors making unam- 
biguous reports, the core of which (the key learner outcomes 
reflected in the report) will be the same for all teachers of 

the same grade or course. We also believe that teacher 
comments are a very important part of any report card, and 
should refer to significant, authentic demonstrations of 
knowledge and skills, or to indications of genuine 

We also suggest that, after Grade 9, when students follow 
different programs each semester or year, it is desirable to 
have the same kind of standard reporting format. We have 
recommended the development of learner outcomes for the 
courses that follow the common curriculum of Grades 1 to 
9; once they exist, the OSAR is equally appropriate after 
Grade 9. Each subject teacher would indicate the extent to 
which the student is achieving the expected outcomes, give 
the student a global mark in the subject, and include helpful 
comments to the parent. In keeping with current practice, 
subject teachers' reports would be combined into a single 
report, possibly with comments from the home-room 
teacher or advisor-teacher who examined the student's 
progress across subjects. All of this could be greatly facilitat- 
ed through the use of standard forms and computer 
programs developed centrally by the Ministry of Education 
and Training. 

We do not want to remove the flexibility of teachers and 
schools in reporting to parents in a way that reflects local 
needs and preferences. We suggest that the Ministry prepare 
a common report card based on the expected outcomes in 
each grade within the common curriculum (and each course 
within the specialized curriculum) and that it provide an 
electronic copy to every board; boards could seek permission 
from the Ministry to make additions, but not deletions, and 
any substantial changes in content or format would require 
the approval of the Ministry. Of course, boards could add 
other documents, as long as the Ontario Student Achieve- 
ment Report was the main vehicle of communication. There 
should be ample room for teacher comments as well as the 
check-offs on achievement levels. Translations should be 
provided by the Ministry for parents who do not read 
French or English, and a Braille version could also be devel- 

The Ontario Student Achievement Report should be 
designed by a team of educators and assessment experts, 
with significant input from the community, (through the 
Ontario Parent Council, for example) and, at least at the 
secondary level, from the three student federations or the 

For the Love of Learning 

Ontario Student Council (see Chapter 17). The OSAR 
should be field-tested initially and reviewed regularly to 
ensure that it meets the needs of teachers, parents, and 

We are not suggesting that the OSAR for Grade 1 be the 
same as for Grade 7, even with differences in outcomes. We 
believe that professional educators, students, and parents are 
in the best position to decide how reports should be struc- 
tured, given the differences from one age to another. The key 
criteria are clarity, a direct link to learner outcomes in the 
curriculum, and input from the users. 

Recommendation 48 

*Therefore, we recommend that the Ministry of Education 
and Training, in conjunction with professional educators, 
assessment experts, parents, students, and members of the 
general public, design a common report card appropriate for 
each grade. To be known as the Ontario Student Achievement 
Report, it would relate directly to the outcomes and stan- 
dards of the given year or course and, in all years, would be 
used as the main vehicle for communicating, to parents and 
students, information about the students ' achievements. 
While school boards would not be permitted to delete any 
part of the OSAR, they could seek permission from the 
Ministry to add to it. 

We come now to the matter of setting a standard for 
communication, one that recognizes the importance of 
assessment and the right and need of parents to have infor- 
mation on their children's progress, if they are to support 
learning and the school. 

We believe that, in each school year, all teachers should 
have a minimum of two conversations, in person or by 
phone, with the parents or guardians of each student for 
whom they carry prime responsibility. 

These conversations (and we see two as a minimum), 
which are in addition to the formal conference at report- 
card time, should focus on student achievement, improve- 
ment, and concrete suggestions about what parents can do 
to support their children's learning. From kindergarten to 
Grades 5/6, this would include all the students in the "main" 
class, while students in a rotary system would be the respon- 
sibility of a home-room teacher or a teacher-advisor, as 
recommended in Chapters 8 and 9. 

sachers are concerned about the 
way information dealing with 
student achievement can be misused 
or misrepresented, or as is more 
frequently the case, student achieve- 
ment tests are not discussed within 
the complete educational context." 

Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario 

We suggest that the first conversation take place prior to 
the first report if, as often occurs, that is scheduled as late as 
December; beginning in Grade 7, the discussion would 
probably make reference to the development of a Cumula- 
tive Educational Plan (CEP). (See Chapter 8.) 

We are convinced that the key to assessment for account- 
ability to parents is teacher-based standardized assessment 
which indicates how much progress students make over a year 
toward the achievement of critical learning outcomes. We 
think that the government would be wise to invest the 
considerable monies necessary for good assessment where 
there is the biggest payoff for students: in extensive, high- 
quality teacher education for extensive, high-quality, stan- 
dardized, classroom-based assessment. 

The uses of information technology in 
improving student assessment 

In our opinion, information technologies, and in particular micro- 
computers, can help implement educational practices in accordance 
with the principles of formative assessment. First, they enable data 
to be collected and analyzed coherently, and second, they help to 
improve teaching and student learning." 

We agree that the computer has an important place in 
individual student assessment, particularly in its potential 
for giving students quick feedback on how much and how 
well they have learned. 

Eric Dempster, head of the Business Department at Sir 
Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, e-mailed 
a submission to the Royal Commission, giving an example of 
the way technology can be used in testing, in order to 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

££ ^\w fear is that standardized test- 
\^ing may be based on a mythical 
student profile to which all students 
will be compared ... Teachers are 
opposed to standardized testing for 
the purpose of comparison of 
students, schools, teachers, and 
systems. Such testing undermines the 
partnership concept, and produces 
fear, isolation and negative results." 

Waterloo County Women Teachers' Association 

improve student learning. Mr. Dempster says he first used 
computers for assessment six years ago and allowed 
students, including those who would have failed but had 
never been given the opportunity to do better, to take tests 
more than once. Mr. Dempster averaged the test marks, 
which provided an incentive to do well the first time, but 
also showed students they could improve. "The overall result 
[was] that the poor students felt empowered and realized 
quickly that they could improve." 

His present testing software randomly generates ques- 
tions, prevents students from restarting a test, and includes 

The students in Mr. Dempster's class are learning more 
than just the subjects he teaches: they are discovering that 
they can improve, and that self-assessment is an important 
part of the process. Many employers told us that, if they are 
to stay competitive, future workers will have to be experi- 
enced in self-assessment. And, because it involves the 
student guiding his or her own learning with the support of 
technology, self-assessment also has the potential to increase 
the teacher's role as coach and mentor. 

Mr. Dempster's experiences have been replicated in class- 
rooms where Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) is being 
used: the computer chooses a question on the basis of the 
answer to the previous one.'* A correct response results in a 
harder question, while an incorrect one elicits an easier 
question. This quickly clarifies the level at which a student is 
working, and uses few questions to do so; it also pinpoints 
for students the areas in which they need more help and/or 
more practice, and makes them responsible for their own 

Immediate feedback can be used to motivate students 
who might otherwise have very little interest in school. This 
was one finding of a pilot project in New York City '^ that 
involved a group of inner-city students considered most at- 
risk of dropping out. They visited the computer lab once a 
week and took computer-generated "adaptive" math tests. 
The computer provided students and the teacher with 
immediate feedback, "rewarded" students who reached 100 
percent in each topic with a graphic of a hamburger, and 
generated practice sheets for the rest of the week. 

Contrary to common expectations of them, many at-risk 
students in the experimental group sought to do well in the 
computer tests. Sometimes they argued with the teacher that 
a response marked by the computer as incorrect was, in fact, 
right, thus indicating that the assessment mattered to them. 
An unexpected result of the pilot project was student-gener- 
ated competition for the hamburger. Over time, the students 
did better in math, as the result of the "friendly competi- 
tion," the immediate feedback, and the work of the class- 
room teacher; moreover, they were less often found to be 
"off task," doing something other than the work at hand. 

It is also interesting to note that, contrary to other 
research findings, the female students were more comfort- 
able with the computer than were the males. 

For some time, technology has been used in assessment, 
to collect and sometimes analyze achievement data. Teachers 
are already keeping track of how well students do in assign- 
ments and tests, and there is software that enables teachers 
to graph or otherwise display and analyze the data. 

We are certain that, with more and better data, teachers 
will be in a better position to decide on the best types of 
programs and interventions for their students. Better infor- 
mation and new ways of displaying it will mean improved 
reporting to parents. As well, computer-based assessment 
and diagnosis will reduce marking time for teachers, elimi- 
nate errors in marking, and offer opportunities for different 
test formats and for tests in other languages." 

However, good assessment software (of which there is an 
inadequate supply) should do more, moving students from 
simply accumulating facts to organizing, analyzing, and 
transforming data. It should measure the quality, rather than 
simply the quantity, of the student's understanding. And it 
should be capable of making assessments using portfolios 
and "real-life" performances based on provincially set 

For the Love of Learning 

standards, with fewer multiple-choice (sometimes called 
"multiple-guess") tests to compare one student with others 
in the class, school, or province. Software that requires 
students to solve problems, that includes high-quality three- 
dimensional graphics, and that requires students to present 
their answers and solutions in a variety of formats, will chal- 
lenge students to show they understand rather than just 

There is a long way to go before Mr. Dempster's on-line 
assessment is the norm in Ontario's schools. Change of this 
nature requires professional development, adequate hard- 
ware, and the right kinds of software, screened for bias. 
(And, as we make clear in the next section, equal access to 
computers is a necessary element in eliminating assessment 

We believe that the potential of information technology 
to improve assessment is substantial, and suggest that infor- 
mation technology play a prominent role in teacher develop- 
ment in assessment, and that the Ministry of Education and 
Training, in making high-quality software available to 
Ontario schools, place emphasis on the potential that soft- 
ware offers for improving assessment. 

Avoiding bias in assessment: Respecting 
differences, recognizing diversity 

The notion that a student, because of colour, race, or handicap 
might be streamed to an educational program which is not consis- 
tent with the attributes and abiHties of that individual is 

We have discussed the importance of frequent and accurate 
assessment of student learning and literacies, and recognized 
the link between timely feedback and effective student learn- 
ing, as well as the need to report to parents and the larger 
public. However, the Commission is very aware that assess- 
ment, when not carried out well, can have serious negative 
repercussions on individuals and on groups of students. The 
challenge to be effective, helpful, and fair means ensuring 
that assessment is done well, not that it is avoided. 

Assessment must be as bias- free as possible, so that 
gender, social class, race, culture, and disability are not treat- 
ed as negative factors. The results of assessment, even of 
routine classroom assessment, are likely to have an impor- 
tant effect on the confidence and motivation of students. 

which, in turn, affects performance. Assessment may also 
have an impact on the student's academic career, and has the 
potential to cause life-long damage to the person who is 
assessed below his or her real ability and streamed into lower 
groups (the "lambs" rather than the "lions" reading group), 
special education classes or non-university high school 

A growing number of parents and educators are raising questions 
about the over-representation of minority students in special educa- 
tion, vocational, and basic-level programs. The essential concern 
focuses upon the perceived use of inappropriate testing materials, 
assessment practices, placement strategies, and restrictive learning 
opportunities in some jurisdictions." 

Many groups are concerned about bias." Various forms of 
assessment have shown that those who are poor, members of 
some minority groups, or who are female perform less weU 
than their knowledge or skills would warrant. Some commu- 
nities complain that their students have been negatively 
streamed because of biased assessments. For example, more 
than a decade ago, a York University symposium on racial 
and ethnic relations in city school boards was told bv 
Marcela Duran that 

we were able to institute an experimental program, in co-operation 
with the Jamaican-Canadian Association, in which 100 West Indian 
children who had been placed in vocational schools were re- 
assessed, using different testing instruments. According to this 
process, 90 of these students were found to have been wrongly 

Learning; Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 


^£ mi any standardized measures of 
I Wlassessment traditionally used are 
racially, culturally, and linguistically 
biased; assessments which rely heavily 
on the results of such tests contribute 
to an accumulation of information 
about minority children that is often 
invalid and prejudicial ... and have seri- 
ous implications for students' long-term 
career aspirations." 

Anti-racist Multicultural Educators' Network of Ontario 

We agree that there is ample evidence that students from 
some groups are more hkely to be placed in lower "ability" 
classes and streams than others,-' and that assessment meth- 
ods may figure in those decisions. But we are convinced that 
improvement depends on more than just modifying assess- 
ment procedures: changes are needed in curriculum, teach- 
ing methods, and other areas (including, as we make clear 
elsewhere in this report, a fundamental reduction in 

Given the importance of assessment, it must not only 
avoid bias on the basis of gender, social class, or cultural 
background, it must reflect diverse skills and knowledge, 
valuing what students know and can do, even if they express 
it unconventionally or do it in different ways. 

In Ontario, as in other Canadian jurisdictions, in the 
United States and in England, a great deal of attention has 
been paid to the way assessment bias affects minorities and 
immigrants. This is because some minorities and immigrant 
groups, as well as students from poor families or communi- 
ties, are over-represented in special education classes and 
non-university streams." 

Test bias exists in many different contexts: for example, 
despite our support for computer-based assessment, we 
recognize that bias can be found and perhaps even made 
worse by the use of information technology. We know that 
students from different socio-economic backgrounds have 
different levels of access to computers and, therefore, that 
some will be more at ease than others and that comfort 
levels undoubtedly affect results. 

Four potential causes of bias have been identified in 
assessing students who are members of ethnic or racial 

minorities or who are immigrants: bias in the test's content 
and form; in the way the test is given; as a result of factors in 
the student's environment, in or outside school; and in the 
ways results are interpreted and reported." Many of these are 
related to the inadequacy of teacher education in assess- 
ment, and lead to inappropriate student placements. 

Educators must also be careful, when assessing students of 
ethnic/racial minority backgrounds for placement in special educa- 
tion programs, to ensure that due consideration has been given to 
linguistic and/or cultural factors that can preclude fair and accurate 

Assessments of many second-language students do not 
adequately differentiate between language-related difficulties 
and the actual level of knowledge or skill the students 
possess. The person who thoroughly understands all the 
material at hand will not be able to answer even the simplest 
question, if he or she does not comprehend the language in 
which it is being asked. There is the related problem of 
confusing linguistic deficits with deficits in ability. Students 
who have emigrated to Ontario may need time to learn the 
language, but that does not necessarily mean they need 
remedial or special education. 

There is also the issue of measuring students in terms of 
what they have learned or are capable of learning, in 
contrast to assessments that have more to do with the learn- 
ing environment than with any inherent characteristic of the 
learner.'- Is the "learning-disabled" student genuinely 
disabled, or is the problem a lack of instruction in reading, 
in disguise? 

Before decisions are made to place students in special 
education classes or in non-university streams, there should 
be evidence that they cannot achieve progress by changing 
curricular material or being assigned to a different teacher, 
and that modified regular-classroom teaching strategies that 
are being used successfully with other youngsters from a 
variety of ethnic, linguistic, and socio-economic groups are 
not working. 

Stereotypes develop as we attempt to organize people into categories 
and to make sense of our world. That in itself is not the problem. 
However we are in real trouble when these categories are so closed 
that they prevent us from seeing people's full potential.-' 

For the Love of Learning 

Assessment must r,' • ,f , 
avoid bias on the b-i . . /. 
gender, social class, and 
cultural background, it 
must reflect diverse skills 
and knowledge. 

There is also evidence that, on multiple-choice tests, girls 
and women do not do as well as boys and men. According to 
a joint study by the College Board and the Educational Test- 
ing Service in the United States," "the gender gap is substan- 
tially larger for multiple-choice items than for other types of 
questions." The study found that the gender gap narrowed or 
disappeared when students had to write their answers, as in 
essays or word problems. The study concludes that a mix of 
assessment instruments is necessary to ensure equity in 
high-stakes standardized testing. 

Another form of gender bias is found in tests that include 
questions or examples related to activities more frequently 
of interest to males than to females - certain sports, for 
example. Obviously, assessment tools must treat male and 
female students equally, and must meet the needs of our 
diverse school populations.-* 

In trying to remove bias from tests, efforts have tended to 
focus more on the material than on training teachers to 
construct bias-free tests or to use fair testing techniques. 
This is baffling, given that most forms of assessment - tests, 
assignments, projects, oral discussions, etc. - are part of the 
daily interaction between the teacher and students. Clearly, 
more attention must be paid to teacher education and to on- 
going professional development. 

More frequent and more varied classroom assessment is 
another way of minimizing bias, but it presupposes that the 
teacher is familiar with a variety of techniques. When testing 
or examining students, giving them a choice in the way a 
question is answered also helps. 

A fair assessment also takes the individual student's envi- 
ronment into account. For example, assessing for placement 
purposes may be inappropriate for a recent refugee or for a 
student who has just moved from French immersion to an 
English-language program. Assessment in the student's first 
language has been shown to isolate problems related to 
acquiring a second language, rather than to gaps in knowl- 
edge or skill, and it should be used where suitable and 

Teachers must have a sense of whether or not students 
and parents believe that an assessment is fair; if they see it as 
unfair, there is, at the very least, a problem of communica- 
tion and there may also be one of equity. When it is impossi- 
ble to test a student in a first language or to delay assessment 
of a refugee student, it is vital that the student not suffer as 

the result of our lack of resources or time. That means, for 
example, not placing the refugee student with younger chil- 
dren when a test might reveal that what is needed is a 
specially planned program with specific kinds of support. 

Bias in assessment will become increasingly important as 
Ontario participates more regularly in assessments that 
encompass other provinces and other nations. This is partic- 
ularly true in a province that is geographically and socially 
diverse, and that will become even more culturally and 
linguistically varied. Fair assessment is vital if the system is 
to more fully reflect the needs of all students. 

As a tool for tracking students into different courses, levels, and 
kinds of instructional programs, testing has been a primary means 
of limiting or expanding students' life choices and their avenues for 
demonstrating competence ... [T|he goals ... of assessment are being 
transformed from deciding who will be permitted to become well- 
educated to helping ensure that everyone will learn successfully. •"' 

In our view, the Ministry must take the lead role in 
ensuring that its own assessment instruments treat all 
students equitably and that the materials used in schools are 
appropriate and fair. It can do this by evaluating the 
substance and procedures used in assessment and by moni- 
toring the placement of various groups by stream (or track). 
The Ministry's new anti-racism, equity, and access division 
can lead the effort to ensure fairness in assessment. It should 
also be responsible for monitoring implementation of 
recommendations made by the Consultative Committee on 
Assessment and Program Placement of Minority Students 
for Educational Equity.'" 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

Recommendation 49 

*\Ne recommend that the Ministry monitor its own assess- 
ment instruments for possible bias, and work with boards 
and professional bodies to monitor other assessment 
instruments: that teachers be offered more knowledge and 
training in detecting and eradicating bias in all aspects of 
assessment; and that the Ministry monitor the effects of 
assessment on various groups. 

Large-scale assessment of student achievement 
and the effectiveness of school programs 

Large-scale assessment of student achievement 

Having said that assessments should be based on agreed-on 
standards, and that teachers should be trained to use them 
skillfully and fairly and to communicate their results clearly, 
we turn now to the matter of external tests, given simultane- 
ously to all students in a grade or course. Some people 
believe that these are a more objective and therefore fairer 
and more accurate measure of what students have learned. 
We believe that some system-wide testing should be built in, 
as a check on student learning at a few critical transition 
points, and as a vehicle for assuring people that, at those 
points, all students are being assessed according to the same 

However, it is important to emphasize that large-scale 
testing has limitations; otherwise, people reach what we are 
convinced is the mistaken conclusion that these few tests are 
the most important in the student's school career, or that 
many such tests would be ideal. In our opinion, large-scale 
testing is unlikely to be a more fair and accurate representa- 
tion of student learning than the best judgment of the well- 

trained teacher-assessor. Moreover, such testing is easily 
misused. The following are the three basic problems of using 
large-scale testing as the major form of student assessment. 

First, any external testing is, of necessity, much briefer 
than classroom-based assessment: a single test cannot reflect 
everything students are expected to learn over a year. For 
example, to get a true reading of what a Grade 6 student has 
learned in math, a number of tests would be necessary, each 
quite lengthy, to overcome such irrelevancies as the student's 
level of well-being (hours of sleep, nutrition) that day, or the 
use of an unfamiliar word in a problem (which might lead 
to the erroneous conclusion that the student didn't under- 
stand the question or the mathematical operation), etc. The 
reason we are urging that the major source of data on 
student achievement be that which is collected by the class- 
room teacher over the year is precisely because that is what 
offers the greatest potential for reflecting, cumulatively and 
in summary, what has been learned. A simple achievement 
test, such as the Canadian Test of Basic Skills, or others of 
that kind, is not designed to reflect what children know in 
any depth. Its purpose is to arrange students along a contin- 
uum, from those who know most to who know least, in 
order to make placement decisions. Such tests are not 
measures of how well teaching and learning have occurred. 

Let's say, for example ... that you get a certain score on a standard- 
ized test. Can I assume then that you understand something? You 
might say, "Sure, because those tests test for understanding. But ... 
research indicates that most students in most schools ... do not really 
understand ... When you ask students who get very high grades ... to 
explain a physical phenomenon, not only can they not explain it but 
they actually give the same sort of explanations that four- and five- 
year-olds give ... We can only really determine vi^hether a student 
understands something when we give the student something new, 
and they can draw upon what they have learned to help answer a 
question, illuminate a problem, or explain a phenomenon to some- 
one else." 

Testing is no panacea for an education system under stress. After all, 
a mechanic can inspect a car without making the necessary repairs. 
The long-term educational improvement lies with a comprehensive 
restructuring of the enterprise, not in resorting to the proverbial 
"quick fix" of a standardized test. The public needs to be informed 
about the growing array of assessment tools, but also about how 

For the Love of Learning 


they should be interpreted to improve student, school, and system- 
wide performance in education. For that reason, testing is only one 
part of a more comprehensive education restructuring package.'' 

Second, because of their necessary brevity and because 
thousands of tests must be marked quickly, external tests 
usually tend toward short-answer and multiple-choice ques- 
tions, with all their severe limitations on measuring under- 
standing and learning skills. They are the classic case of 
measuring what is easiest to measure, not what is most 
important. We are not suggesting that such tests can't 
measure certain important abilities we expect all students to 
have, only that they cannot and do not measure all, or any 
representative sample, of them. They are biased toward 
certain kinds of learning, and there is ample evidence that 
such bias distorts the curriculum in ways that are unhealthy 
in an educational system that is serious about learning." 

Third, any single test used for large-scale assessment and 
reporting assumes a distorted importance, and can - and 
often does - have long-term, frequently negative conse- 
quences for students and for the learning system, because of 
the inappropriate ways the information is used. Tests meant 
to measure whether most children have learned the year's 
material should not be used to make decisions about 
students' capacity for learning, or their long-term ability to 
succeed in school or in the regular program. The problem is 
that, typically, test scores end up being put to such inappro- 
priate uses. Placement decisions should not be made on the 
basis of any single test given on a single day in a student's 
year; however, that is precisely how they are frequently used. 

As early as the late 1970s, evidence began to accumulate showing 
that high-stakes standardized testing policies were highly corrupt- 
ible, creating greater incentives for cheating than for actually 
improving instruction, and that the use of standardized tests for 
accountability had actually narrowed curricula and driven instruc- 
tion increasingly towards pedagogues, based on memorization and 
basic skills rather than improving educational quality." 

The 1993-94 Ontario Grade 9 testing for language and 
literacy (with a similar test being given in 1994-95) can be 
used as an illustration of these points. It is, in fact, a very 
good test: first, it took place over more than six hours, 
spread over a two-week interval, thus giving students an 
opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and under- 
standing in a way that would be impossible in a typical one- 

The Ministry should engage in 
annual, province-wide testing of 
all children of the curriculum 
content... and the test results should 
be clearly communicated to teachers, 
parents, and students." 

Evelyn Dodds, Thunder Bay 

hour "test of basic skills" or the like. Second, the test did not 
just ask short-answer questions, but was a genuine assess- 
ment of performance. 

Nonetheless, by itself, the test would tell us less about 
what students learned about reading and writing in nine (or 
fewer) years of schooling than would teacher reports based 
on clear and consistent standards. Moreover, it did not 
differentiate among students schooled in Ontario for one, 
two, or nine years prior to the testing. But it did give us 
valuable data on how well Ontario's Grade 9 students under- 
stand what they read and whether they can write clearly, 
expressively, and to the point. We do not know yet whether 
the test will lead to improved teaching and learning, but it 
was a much better accountability mechanism than most tests 
- and, of course, at about two million dollars to administer 
each year, much more expensive. (As we have already point- 
ed out, however, good assessment ;5 very expensive.) 

We applaud the Ministry's attempt at large-scale testing 
in order to measure learning authentically. Despite its 
strengths, however, a test's ability to withstand inappropriate 
or damaging misuse is much more problematic. The Minis- 
ter made it clear to educators that the test was to count for 
20 percent of the course mark, but was not to be used for 
making major decisions about student achievement. It was 
not to affect whether the grade was passed or failed, or 
whether the students were to attend summer school or be 
placed in different programs or "streams" in Grade 10. 
Nonetheless, informally and unofficially, there are indica- 
tions that, in some instances, it has been used in exactly 
those ways. 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

There is a public need for some measure of basic student 
achievement that is apphed in the same way to every 
student at a few critical times. 

Whether these reports are accurate, and irrespective of 
the number of cases to which they might apply, we see such 
uses as the natural outcome of large-scale external testing. It 
becomes "high stakes" testing, even when it is not intended 
to be. 

While we want to be very clear about our lack of enthusi- 
asm for extensive, expensive, universal testing, as opposed to 
sample-based assessment, we recognize the public's need for 
some measure of basic student achievement that is applied 
in the same way to every student at a few points in time. 
That is why we are recommending two province-wide assess- 
ments to be given to all students relatively early in their 
schooling, with the understanding that educators (most 
especially school principals) will make it clear that the 
results of such assessment are to be used by teachers, indi- 
vidually and collectively, for purposes of diagnosing and 
remediating the individual student's difficulties or gaps in 
learning. In addition, the tests are to enhance reporting to 
parents and for examining the content and delivery of 
curriculum. Test results are, most emphatically, not to be 
used to place or sort students for any reason. They will serve 
as a central check on how effectively the curriculum is serv- 
ing the learning needs of the students, and can be an aid in 
revising or refining curriculum content or teaching 

We are also recommending that a test, to be given much 
later in a student's school career, make the secondary school 
diploma a literacy guarantee. 

Assessment for early acquisition of literacy and numeracy: 
getting it right from the start 

We have built a learning system on a strong, early founda- 
tion. (See Chapter 7.) We have urged that all children be 
helped to become literate and numerate by the end of Grade 
3. By that time, we expect that almost all children should be 
able to read and understand materials appropriate to their 
age, and to write on an assigned topic, or a topic of their 
choice, showing reasonable understanding of conventional 
rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well as an 
ability to bring organization and a "voice" to their writing. 
As well, we expect them to be able to use the four arithmetic 
operations, and to understand when to apply them. We see 
the value of a check on the success of the system in deliver- 
ing a program that brings all or nearly all children to a 
point, by about age 9, that enables them to build on depend- 
able foundation skills so that they can acquire more sophis- 
ticated knowledge and understanding. We think that parents 
will also welcome conversations with their child's teacher 
that include the results of this universal assessment, and a 
discussion of the child's future progress. 

Recommendation 50 

*Therefore we recommend that ail students be given two 
uniform assessments at the end of Grade 3, one in literacy 
and one In numeracy, based on specific learner outcomes 
and standards that are well known to teachers, parents, and 
to students themselves. 

And, in order that these tests have high credibility in the 
eyes of the public: 

Recommendation 51 

*We recommend that their construction, administration, scor- 
ing, and reporting be the responsibility of a small agency 
independent of the Ministry of Education and Training, and 
operating at a very senior level, to be called the Office of 
Learning Assessment and Accountability. 

This agency will consult with provincial leaders in literacy 
and numeracy education who can provide leadership in 
creating assessment instruments that are as valid and reli- 
able, as authentic and comprehensive, as possible. We recog- 
nize that principals and teachers will need support and assis- 
tance in interpreting and reporting the information gained 
from these instruments, and would expect both the agency 

For the Love of Learning 

{through the written material it prepares) and the Ministry 
to act as sources of expertise for school boards. 

The results of these tests should be reported promptly 
and in clear language to parents individually, to every 
teacher whose students have been tested, to the local 
community at the school level, and to the general public at 
the board and provincial levels. 

Assessment for graduation: the diploma as a literacy guarantee 
The value of assessment at an early stage, such as the end of 
Grade 3, is that it gives a clear indication of a child's 
strengths and weaknesses, and shows where school and 
home efforts must be focused and monitored. There is also 
value of a different kind in assessment for accountability 
near the end of the student's secondary schooling: as a 
fundamental guarantee, the education system must assure 
the public that a high school diploma signals adult literacy; 
that no high school graduate is incapable of reading and 
writing well enough to communicate in a post-secondary 
classroom, on the job, or in order to meet the demands of 
everyday life as a citizen and voter. 

Recommendation 52 

*We recommend that a literacy test be given to students, 

whicli tiiey must pass before receiving ttieir secondary sctiool 


The test would be given in Grade 11, the year before 
graduation. Students who did not pass the first time would 
be able to retake the test until they did, but graduation 
would be dependent on passing. 

Some students who took the test the first time might find 
that they needed help in order to pass, and they would have 
an opportunity to find that help, and prepare again for the 
exam. The test would be inappropriate for some students in 
specially modified programs (such as those in schools for the 
severely developmentally handicapped) that do not now 
generally lead to a diploma. However, we believe that it is 
reasonable to award a diploma only to those who pass the 
literacy test. 

We propose that other large-scale assessments be applied, 
not to individual students, but to representative samples of 
students. These would be used to judge how well the 
curriculum was being learned, as now occurs in the case of 

provincial, national, and international assessments in mathe- 
matics, science, and other subjects. 

The effectiveness of school programs: 
program and examination review 
As we have seen, individual students are assessed by their 
teachers, with the addition of occasional large-scale assess- 
ments, and students' progress and achievement must be 
reported very regularly to parents. 

Furthermore, those who are responsible for the overall 
quality of the system - the provincial government and local 
boards - must not only ensure that individual students are 
progressing, but that the curriculum is being delivered effec- 
tively and that, on the whole, students in each grade and 
subject are learning what they are expected to learn. 

This is system-level monitoring of achievement. It does 
not involve testing or assessing every student or every class- 
room but depends on monitoring student achievement and 
teacher practices by testing representative samples drawn 
from across the province; in addition, these samples must be 
of sufficient size to provide reliable data at the individual 
school board level. 

In Ontario, two processes are used to accomplish those 
goals and both are extremely sound approaches to system 
monitoring. The first of these is the process known as the 
provincial reviews of curriculum, and the second is the 
examination review process at the senior level, known as the 
OAC/TIP program. Both have applications well beyond their 
present restricted use and reporting. At present, both suffer 
because they are applied sporadically, rather than systemati- 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

Monitoring of achievement 
of learning need not involve 
testing or assessing every 
student in every class- 
room. Representative 
samples can tell us just as 
much about how our 
students and our system 
are doing, at a much lower 
cost. This is the methodol- 
ogy of international, nation- 

al, and most provincial- 
level assessment. Frequent 
monitoring of student 
achievement through regu- 
lar, sample-based assess- 
ment at different grades 
and subject areas Is an 
important responsibility of 
the Minister of Education 
and Training. 

cally, across the curriculum, and because the resuUs are 

Provincial reviews of curriculum 
From time to time, provincial reviews of a variety of 
elementary and secondary courses are undertaken. In each 
case, the review includes testing of a representative sample of 
students on the content of the course (for example. Grade 6 
reading or senior-level geography), as well as an inspection 
of curriculum materials, interviews with teachers and 
students, and other information that helps describe what is 
taught and learned. 

As a result of a provincial review, the Ministry and all 
school boards have concrete information about the parts of 
the reading or geography curriculum that are being success- 
fully delivered to students and the parts that are not, based 
on student performance. As well, they can identify the kinds 
of resource materials that may be lacking, and the areas in 
which further teacher education should be offered. These 
reviews are useful, for both large-scale assessment purposes 
and for teacher and curriculum development. But they are 
scheduled sporadically and unpredictably and are publicly 
under-reported. Moreover, because clear and consensual 
standards are not established in advance, the results of such 
assessments are sometimes questioned. 

In order to build a good program for educators and make 
it an effective monitoring mechanism as well, the Ministry 
of Education and Training should commit to a regular 
review cycle in all subjects that are part of the common 
curriculum, with more frequent review in the foundation 
areas. Subjects should be reviewed at points within the 

common and specialized curriculum; for example, a history 
or a geography review might occur every five years and 
include Grades 6, 9 and 10/11. 

Some school boards have used the provincial review to 
include all students, with no individual identification 
attached to the test. We applaud this concern for account- 
ability at the local level, and consider it very appropriate 
because it does not confuse individual scores with evaluating 
the performance of the staff and students of an institution. 

There are, of course, serious concerns about invidious 
comparisons that ignore many factors over which the indi- 
vidual school has no control. However, the provincial review 
data have been, and should continue to be, used by schools 
and school boards to improve teaching and learning at the 
local level. We believe that review results should be shared 
with the professional staff and school governance commit- 
tees of schools that participate, as well, of course, as school 
board administrators responsible for monitoring and 
supporting schools. That, after all, is the level at which 
the data are useful for making improvements to a school. 
(See the following section for a more extended discussion 
of this issue.) 

The provincial curriculum reviews have also involved 
teachers as markers, a process exactly like that we described 
earlier as the ideal professional training for classroom assess- 
ment. Working in groups, with the support of experienced 
markers, teachers reach agreement on what makes one para- 
graph or paper more or less satisfactory than another, and 
they establish criteria for judging performance consistently. 
Thus, the teacher development "spin-off" of the monitoring 
process is, itself, an investment in better assessment in the 

The examination monitoring process 

In the 1980s the Ministry of Education began monitoring 
examinations used in the Ontario Academic Courses 
(OACs). This process, which is officially called the OAC/TIP 
(for "teacher in-service program") was designed to ensure 
consistency in the quality and coverage of the exam and the 
marking standards set by each teacher in every course which 
helps to qualify students for university. The process involves 
collecting and scrutinizing examinations teachers set and the 
marks they award to the students' examination papers. All 
publicly supported secondary schools, as well as inspected 

For the Love of Learning 

private schools that offer university-preparatory courses in 
the final year (OAC), must participate in this examination 
review process. At this point, the process, which has been 
virtually invisible and unreported publicly, has not been 
extended to any other courses. 

After surveying practices under the OAC/TIP, the 
Ministry of Education and Training develops a handbook on 
designing and marking examinations in a particular subject 
area. Teachers in-service programs inform them about the 
contents of the handbooks, and schools submit copies of 
their final examinations and scoring keys, as well as a range 
of test papers representing high, average, and low scores. 

An analysis of the examinations and their consistency 
with expected standards enables the Ministry to judge the 
impact of standards; schools that vary from them are 
required to take corrective action and report to the Ministry 
on the steps they are taking. 

University teachers are also part of this process, although 
their participation has tended to be based on individual 
expertise, rather than encompassing any responsibility to 
represent and report to the larger university community. We 
suggest that, in future, universities and colleges see their role 
in the process as an opportunity to present their needs and 
requirements as part of the formation of standards, rather 
than remaining outside of that conversation. 

We further suggest that professors and instructors who 
teach undergraduates in a discipline, rather than those at the 
professional (faculty of education) level, take part in the 
process. People who will be teaching English, geography, or 
other courses to first-year university and college students are 
better placed to participate in decisions about acceptable 
levels of performance in Grade 12, and to work with 
secondary educators to help students make the transition 
from high school to college or university. 

To date, the OAC examination review has been conducted 
in several subject areas (English language and literature, 
visual arts, calculus, economics, accounting, physics, chem- 
istry, and Fran(;ais) and is currently scheduled to add one 
subject per year through 1996. While it is expected that 
schools or teachers will take action when a review indicates 
that there are areas that require attention, implementation 
has not been systematically monitored, and results have not 
been publicly reported. 

This process, like the provincial curriculum review, is 
especially worthwhile because it involves many teachers in 
the marking exercise, and, thereby, expands their profession- 
al capacity for assessment. Teachers must become more 
skilled at making professional judgments on the quality of 
responses to questions that are not simple, multiple-choice 
or otherwise close-ended. Building this kind of skill and 
expertise educates teachers in consistent assessment of high- 
level learning. 

The OAC/TIP examination process has all the elements of 
good assessment and teacher development, but needs better 
quality control, much more public visibility, and very 
considerable expansion. As a monitoring program, it can 
help ensure that a teacher's application of assessment stan- 
dards is accurate and consistent; this will give increased 
credibility to a system that depends fundamentally (as any 
school system must, and any honest school system will read- 
ily admit) on teacher education and expertise. 

The examination review process, in combination with 
provincial reviews, gives a reasonably complete picture of 
what is being learned, and how fairly and consistently that is 
being assessed. It can and should be taken to the next step, 
implementing changes in programs, teacher training, and 
marking procedures, based on what is learned. Furthermore, 
implementation should be monitored. 

The examination review procedure should be expanded 
to include the full range of Grade 12 courses. Because the 
process has significant potential for helping to achieve 
consistency, and because we believe the process should be 
transparent, it should be extended, and all results should be 
reported to the public. 

Vol.11 Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

• requires each board to participate in a board-wide assess- 
ment, so that the content and process are consistent 
throughout the province, and the results comparable from 
one jurisdiction to another. 

Without doubt, considerably expanding program and 
examination reviews will involve educators in Ontario in 
more program evaluation than they are accustomed to 
doing, and will necessitate diverting more funds to assess- 
ment. We believe that such efforts and investments are 
essential; we are convinced that they will be supported by 
the public, as long as they are carefully designed and imple- 
mented, and as long as results are clearly, promptly, and 
publicly communicated. We see curriculum and examination 
reviews (what have been called program reviews and the 
OAC/TIP model of examination review) as an important 
and ongoing responsibility of the Ministry, in the develop- 
ment of curriculum outcomes, standards, and assessment 
measures or strategies; and the administration, scoring, and 
reporting of results. 

We envision a cyclic large-scale and province-wide assess- 
ment program that: 

• identifies the one or two areas (skill, subject, cross-curric- 
ular) to be assessed for each of the next three years, with a 
commitment to extend this schedule by announcing another 
program each year; 

• is centred on established outcomes and standards for 
assessment that will form the basis for judgments about 
students' levels of attainment, to be shared with educators 
and the public for discussion; 

• is based on a statistically reliable sample at the provincial 

• will be planned and conducted by teachers and experts in 
assessment, working together; 

Recommendations 53, 54, 55 

We recommend that: 

*the Ministry continue to be involved in and to support 

national and international assessments, and work to improve 

their calibre; 

*the Ministry develop detailed, multi-year plans for large- 
scale assessments (program reviev\/s, examination monitor- 
ing), which establish the data to be collected and the way 
implementation will be monitored, and report the results 
publicly, and provide for the interpretation and use of results 
to educators and to the public: 

*initially, and for a five- to seven-year period, until the 
process is well-established in the school system and in the 
public consciousness, an independent accountability agency 
be charged with implementing and reporting the Grades 3 
and 11 universal student assessments. The reports and 
recommendations of the Office of Learning Assessment and 
Accountability would go directly to the Minister, the College of 
Teachers, and the public. 

The other responsibilities of the Office of Learning 
Assessment and Accountability are detailed in Chapter 19. 

Reporting the results of large-scale assessments 

While large-scale assessments are complex and expensive, 
the results they produce, and the wealth of information they 
contain, must be reported in ways that can be easily under- 
stood without being trivialized. The results achieved by 
Ontario students in international and national assessments 
have raised public awareness and concern, particularly 
because they identified some areas that need concerted 
attention. As we have pointed out, however, the results have 
sometimes been used - and misused - to rank Ontario in 
terms of other jurisdictions, but without thoughtful consid- 
eration and interpretation of the studies themselves. While 
not a simple task (it is a major challenge for the future), 
reporting results understandably and usefully is vital. This is 
an area in which the media also have serious responsibilities, 
to inform, not thoughtlessly arouse, the public. 

For the Love of Learning 

Although the provincial government's main interest is in 
the overall state of education in Ontario, information about 
large-scale assessments is more useful to parents and educa- 
tors when it is available for their particular school and 
school system; educators are concerned that any potential 
usefulness is offset by the possible misuse of the informa- 

Their concerns are not unique: there have been vigorous 
debates in other jurisdictions, especially where school results 
are reported as rankings or "league tables," and have been 
used as simple indicators of the relative quality of schools. 
Even a cursory look shows that these kinds of comparisons 
are totally inappropriate and ignore such crucial influences 
on student achievement as socio-economic family status, 
parental literacy, facility in the language of use, etc. Merely 
ranking schools may identify the area in which the most 
privileged students live, but it does not indicate the degree to 
which any school has helped its students develop. The fact 
that a school is apparently successful may be the result of 
non-school factors, just as the schools in which achieve- 
ments seem modest may, in fact, be serving students who 
enter with low performance levels and improve greatly. 

The issue of the value added by schools has become very 
heated, engendering both political and technical problems. 
Particularly in Britain, where the process has been in place 
for a while, teachers rightly point out that achievement 
results are inadequate measures of a school's contribution to 
student learning, and some have even refused to participate 
in the national testing program. 

The British experience shows clearly that when the 
purpose of the study is to establish the effectiveness of the 
school, it must include information about contextual condi- 
tions, such as the readiness of students to learn, the nature 
of instruction, and the resources available. A statistician who 
has considered this problem in Britain says that: 

I It] is not technically possible with any reasonable certainty to give 
an unequivocal ranking of schools ... it is important to avoid the 
trap of supposing that the provision of some information about 
schools is better than no information. The problem is that such 
information will be biased and misleading." 

The overall complexity of adjusting scores and the overly 
simplistic approach of publishing raw scores, brings into 

££ "VFo ensure that more students grad- 
I uate, we encourage the use of 
aKernative testing methods to acconv 
modate different learning styles." 

Student Council Prime Ministers, London and Middlesex 
Roman Catholic Secondary Schools 

question the usefulness of ranking schools. Britain's National 
Commission on Education concluded that a single statistic 
was not an adequate summary of a school's effect on the 
progress of students. 

This is not intended to suggest that information should 
not be provided about how schools are doing. But it does 
highlight the problems of making valid school comparisons 
on the basis of simple scores and the importance of schools 
and school boards giving results that include comprehensive 
information about themselves. 

The most appropriate and constructive use of school 
results for comparative purposes is to look at results in the 
same school over time. Barring very major changes in neigh- 
bourhood demographics (which usually occur only over 
numbers of decades) the population of a given school is 
more comparable to itself over time than to that of another 

For example, checking a student assessment in 1997 with 
the results of the same assessment at the same school in 
1995, offers teachers and the principal an important indica- 
tor of progress and quality. When such comparisons are 
anticipated and planned for, staff have a real incentive to 
develop targeted school improvement plans, and to compare 
the next set of results to those plans. Making schools 
accountable for improving, as opposed to making them 
accountable for factors beyond their control, gives the 
promise of really adding value and quality to existing school 

To assess value added - and to gain valid insights into whether your 
schools are effective - you have to compare tests or other results 
over a period of tiine, with the same group of students." 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

The population of a given 
school is more comparable 
to itself over time than to 
that of another school. 

Because they represent the 
visible products of schools, 
student assessments and 
program reviews are key 
elements in the process of 
education reform. 

Another difficulty related to reporting is that of obtaining 
results of large-scale assessments broken down according to 
such sub-groups as gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, 
and geographic region. Although this kind of analysis is 
technically possible if the information is available, detailed 
demographic data on students is not collected by most 
school boards. As well, as in the case of reporting results for 
individual schools, it would be almost impossible to explain 
differences that might be found among the population 
groups, unless a great deal of contextual information was 
added. Without these breakdowns of results, however, 
educators cannot fulfill their responsibility to monitor 
equity of outcomes. 

Policy makers must accept responsibility for actively 
communicating with the public about large-scale assessment 
results, and must work with technical specialists who know 
the study and can help them interpret the results accurately 
to the public in many forms and forums. The major chal- 
lenge is to provide as much information as possible, accu- 
rately and succinctly, without oversimplifying the message. 

Large-scale assessment rarely provides unequivocal 
answers, but it does create a context within which different 
interests - policy makers, professional educators, and 
parents, among others - can find a basis for informed 
dialogue. It can provide the foundation for debates about 
public policy, and identify the general direction for making 
changes in emphasis or focus. More than anything, policy 
makers must create a range of action plans for responding 
directly to the results of the assessments. 

We urge that school boards and schools be provided with 
direction and training (initially by the independent account- 

ability agency) to ensure they are able to report results of 
provincially directed assessments accurately and clearly, to 
their respective communities, and that, when they wish to do 
their own assessments, they be helped to do so, using high- 
quality tools. 

Recommendation 56 

*\Ne recommend that the Ministry of Education and Training, 
in consultation with community members and researchers, 
develop a specific procedure for collecting and reporting 
province-wide data on student achievement (marks, and 
Grade 3 and Grade 11 literacy test results) for groups identi- 
fied according to gender, race, ethno-cultural background, 
and socio-economic status. 


Because they represent the visible products of schools, 
student assessments and program reviews are key elements 
in the process of education reform. The Commissioners are 
very conscious of the impact our recommendations will have 
on curricula, instruction, teachers, administrators, and, most 
of all, students. As the focus of education moves towards 
raising the levels of literacies for all our students, we can no 
longer rely on simply sorting and comparing students. The 
Commission is saying that, instead, we want clear descrip- 
tions of whether students are achieving the complex learning 
outcomes they will need if they are to succeed in the 21st 


For the Love of Learning 


1 L. Darling-Hammond, "Performance-Based Assessment and 
Educational Equity," Harvard Educational Review 64, no. 1 
(1994): 5-30. 

2 G. Wiggins, "Standards, Not Standardization: Evoking Quali- 
ty Student Work," Educational Leadership 48, no. 5 ( 1991 ): 

3 R.L. Linn, E.L. Baker, and S.B. Dunbar, "Complex, Perfor- 
mance-Based Assessment: Epectations and Validation Crite- 
ria," £rfucafio«fl/ Reseorc/ier 20, no. 8 (1991): 15-21. 

4 H. Russell, C. Wolfe, and R. Traub, "Interface: Some Cold 
Facts on a Hot Argument," E+M Newsletter, OISE, no. 27 

5 Philip Nagy, "National and International Comparisons of 
Student Achievement: Implications for Ontario." Report 
written for the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning, 

6 For example, a study in the United States of both standard- 
ized science and math texts - and the tests included with the 
textbook series - found that they contain almost entirely 
(close to 95 percent) items which test memorization and 
quick recall, and omit, almost entirely, items which test the 
higher-order functions involved in genuine problem-solving. 
See C. Holden, "Study Flunks Science and Math Tests," 
Science 258 (October 1992): 541. 

7 J.R. Kirby and R.A. Woodhouse, "Measuring and Predicting 
Depth of Processing in Learning," Alberta Journal of Educa- 
tional Research 40, no. 2 (1994): 148. 

8 W. Haney, "We Must Take Care: Fitting Assessments to Func- 
tion," in Expanding Student Assessment, ed. V. Perrone 
(Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curricu- 
lum Development, 1991), p. 142-66. 

9 Howard Gardner, quoted in E.D. Steinberger, "Howard Gard- 
ner on Learning for Understanding," School Administrator 51, 
no. 1 (1994): 28. 

10 Kirby and Woodhouse, "Measuring and Predicting Depth of 

1 1 G. Wiggins, "None of the Above," Executive Educator 16, 
no. 7 (1994): 16-17. 

12 Howard Gardner, quoted in Steinberger, "Howard Gardner," 
p. 28. 

13 Clement Dassa, Jesus Vazquez-Abad, and Djavid Ajar, 
"Formative Assessment in a Classroom Setting: From Prac- 
tice to Computer Innovation," Alberta Journal of Educational 
Research 39, no. 1 ( 1993): 118. 

14 Vicki Hancock and Frank Betts, "From the Lagging to the 
Leading Edge," Educational Leadership 5\, no. 7 (1994): 26. 

15 Barbara R. Signer, "CAl and At-Risk Minority Urban High 
School Students," Journal of Research on Computing in 
Education 24, no. 2 ( 1991 ): 189-203. 

16 Lauren H. Sandals, "An Overview of the Uses of Computer- 
Based Assessment and Diagnosis," Canadian Journal of 
Educational Communication 21, no. 1 (1992): 71. This article 
lists a variety of other benefits. 

17 Raymond T. Chodzinski, "Teacher Strategies for Non-Biased 
Student Evaluation and Program Delivery: A Multicultural 
Perspective," Canadian Modern Language Review 45, no. 1 
(1988): 65-75. 

1 8 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Consultative Committee on 
Assessment and Program Placement of Minority Students 
for Educational Equity, Equal Educational Opportunity: 
Student Assessment and Placement (Toronto, 1987), p. 2. 

19 Child, Youth and Family Policy Research Centre, "Visible 
Minority Youth Project," p. 44. Report prepared by J. 
Cummins for the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, 1989; and 
C. Tator and F. Henry, Multicultural Education: Translating 
Policy into Practice (Ottawa: Ministry of Multiculturalism 
and Citizenship, 1991), p. 20. 

20 M. Duran, speech given at Words-into-Action, a symposium 
on race-ethnic relations in large urban school boards, York 
University, Toronto, 1983, p. 67. 

21 See, for example, M. Cheng and A. Soudack, Anti-Racist 
Education: A Literature Review, report 206 (Toronto Board of 
Education Research Services, 1994), p. 39. 

22 See, for example, Ontario, Ministry of Education, Consulta- 
tive Committee on Assessment and Program Placement of 
Minority Students for Educational Equity, Equal Educational 
Opportunity, Samuel Messick, "Assessment in Context: 
Appraising Student Performance in Relation to Instructional 
Quality," Educational Researcher 13, no. 3 (1984): 3-8; and 
Ronald Samuda, New Approaches to Assessment and Place- 
ment of Minority Students: A Review for Educators (Toronto: 
Ontario Ministry of Education, 1990). 

23 Chodzinski, "Teacher Strategies for Non-Biased Student 
Evaluation," p. 69. The list is based on work by Ronald 

24 Ontario, Ministry of Education and Training, Changing 
Perspectives (Toronto, 1992), p. 20. 

25 Messick, "Assessment in Context," p. 3-8. 

Learning: Our Vision for Schools Evaluating Achievement 

26 Enid Lee, Letters to Marcia (Toronto: Cross Cultural 
Communication Centre, 1985), p. 60. 

27 Quoted in FairTest Examiner, National Center for Fair and 
Open Testing, vol. 7, no. 4 (1993-94): 14. 

28 In 1980, a study by R. Maclntyre, A. Keeton, and R. Agard 
found that certain diagnostic tests, such as the Bender Visual 
Perception, the Wepman Auditory Discrimination Test, and 
the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, were not 
adequate to identify learning disabilities among minority 
children. Quoted in Samuda, New Approaches to Assessment 
and Placement, p. 7. 

29 Darling-Hammond, "Performance-Based Assessment and 
Educational Equity," p. 8-9. 

30 Ontario, Ministry of Education, Consultative Committee on 
Assessment and Program Placement of Minority Students 
for Educational Equity, Equal Educational Opportunity. 

31 Howard Gardner, quoted in Steinberger, "Howard Gardner," 
p. 26-27. 

32 J. Lewington and G. Orpwood, Overdue Assignment: Taking 
Responsibility for Canada's Schools (Rexdale, ON: John Wiley, 

33 For an extended discussion of this evidence, see T. Toch, In 
the Name of Excellence (New York: Oxford University Press, 

34 S. Reardon, K. Scott, and J. Verre, "Equity in Educational 
Assessment: Introduction," Harvard Educational Review 64, 
no. 1 (1994): 1-4. 

35 H. Goldstein, "Assessment and Accountability." Brief to 
United Kingdom Parliament, 1993. 

36 Wiggins, "Standards, Not Standardization," p. 17. 

For the Love of Leamin 







X^\ I 

onciusioii: What We 
Have Said about the 
Learning System 

Our vision of curriculum is very broad: it begins with 
tine traditional - and we think very proper - concern 
that children acquire essential foundation skills; 
these have always meant literacy and numeracy, 
have long included scientific thinking, and now, 
we strongly believe, also include computer literacy 
and the skills needed to work and learn with and 
from others. 

From the beginning, however, we have talked about 
more than the traditional curriculum; in fact, we have 
talked about more than the program of schools. Our 
discussion and recommendations are directed at under- 
standing and improving the learning system, as an integrated 
whole, one that stretches beyond school walls, not merely 
beyond classroom walls. 

Traditionally, discussions of curriculum begin with the 
curriculum of Grade 1; sometimes they include kinder- 
garten. But we look at the learning system as beginning at 
birth and with children's first teachers: their parents. We 
hope that throughout these pages, with their many issues 
and recommendations, people see clearly that we have not 
deviated from our conviction that parents are the first and 
most important teachers, and that the influence of parents 
and schools on learners is intertwined and inextricable. 

Many of our recommendations stress the need to increase 
knowledge and communication in both directions, and to 
share more information and authority between the two. 
There are two reasons we want parents to know what chil- 
dren can and should be expected to learn at every age and 
stage in their development: first, so parents can be effective 
as educators in their own right; and second, so they can be 
effective as emissaries and advocates for their children at 

It is in the child's interest as a learner that parents be very 
well informed and very powerful. That is why we speak of 
the need for parents to be told and be aware of what the 
curriculum is, what the expected learning outcomes are, and 
what standards of achievement are considered acceptable in 
foundation subjects. 

Our recommendations on building assessment expertise 
in teachers are also designed to improve both teaching and 
learning, and to make more information available to parents 
and the public about what is being taught and learned. The 
same is true of our recommendations concerning system- 
wide curriculum reviews, and of our recommendation that a 
standardized and informative report card (the Ontario 
Student Achievement Report) be sent to all parents. 

We have said that learning begins at birth, so our discus- 
sion of the school curriculum begins for children at age 3. 
We have recommended that full-time schooling be available 
across Ontario for children of that age. While this would be 
routine in some countries, it certainly is not in Canada: we 
are well aware that some people may look on our recom- 
mendation for universal early childhood education as an 
unnecessary or unaffordable luxury - too expensive to 
provide universally, if at all. 

Having reviewed the evidence of the effectiveness of such 
programs, we are convinced, however, that Ontario cannot 
afford not to have them. Our children are in school longer 
than most others; we spend significant sums of money on 
remedial and special education programs. Yet, in spite of 
these programs and expenditures, the overall achievment 
level of our students is not outstanding. And while many, 
many children receive an excellent public education in 
Ontario, there are still some hard truths to be faced: only a 
minority achieve what can be called high-level literacy'; a 
large minority don't make it through high school; and, 
within some disadvantaged groups, that minority comes 
perilously close to, or even reaches, majority status. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Conclusion 

We want what we believe most people in Ontario want: 
more children to be better educated, and the irreplacable 
asset of an excellent education to be owned equally by all 
our children. Excellent early childhood education is one big 
step toward achieving those goals. There are any number of 
reasons why that is so, but a central one is that, from infan- 
cy, children are acquiring ideas about cause and effect, about 
comparison and contrast, about quantity - in short, about 
the most fundamental building blocks of thinking and learn- 
ing; by the time they are three years old, knowledgeable, 
skilled, and caring teachers can make a real difference for 

Beginning school earlier gives children advantages. But 
those can be lost if the emphasis on teaching and monitor- 
ing the acquisition of foundation skills, especially language 
skills, is not maintained throughout elementary and 
secondary education - and most especially during the first 
three years of compulsory schooling. 

We have taken the position that almost all children 
should have mastered the basic literacy skills before the end 
of Grade 3, and we have recommended a universal literacy 
test (as well as a numeracy test) at that point, on the under- 
standing that significant steps will have been taken one or 
two years earlier to help children who are having problems. 

While we know that many children will continue to need 
support throughout the common curriculum years, and that 
some individual learning difficulties require on-going special 
attention, we have no doubt that early education and early 
help will prevent an enormous amount of frustration and 
suffering. It is the first essential step the system can take 
toward creating a better-educated populace. 

We stress continuity. Children pass through teacher after 
teacher, class after class, and school after school, from their 
early years until they leave secondary school. Yes, interests 
and aptitudes grow and change, but the singularity and 
consistency of the person is always apparent. 

It is very difficult for teachers or schools to have such a 
comprehensive view of a student, but we argue that unless 
schools can do better than they do now, students' education 
will remain too fragmented and too discontinuous, with 
consequences for the individual and the system - at the least, 
very wasteful of talent and fulfillment, and, at worst, truly 

To improve continuity for students, we have recommend- 
ed that beginning at the start of their compulsory schooling 
in Grade 1, there be one person at the child's school who is 
responsible for knowing the child and the child's record, so 
that as year succeeds year, and teacher succeeds teacher, there 
is someone who is aware of whether that child is progressing 
at a normal rate, who makes certain that the new teacher has 
a good idea of what the child's strengths and needs are, and 
who can speak to the parents as an informed and concerned 
representative of the school. And, at the point where schools 
become more specialized and children have several different 
subject teachers, and teachers have far more students than 
they can know well individually, we have recommended that 
this case-management function become much more person- 
al and hands-on, and that all students have a teacher-advisor 
or the like, someone who not only remains aware of their 
overall progress, but who actually meets with them often, 
and with their parents at least twice annually, and who 
assists them with educational and career planning in an 
informed but informal way. 

The tool that we recommend as both a facilitator and a 
record of this process is the Cumulative Educational Plan 
(CEP), which is a comprehensive planning tool for the 
student. We say comprehensive because, as we stated earlier, 
we do not believe that it is helpful for schools to ignore what 
students are learning and developing an interest in outside 
of school. We have made much of the importance of what 
we call community-based career awareness, by which we 
mean that the whole community is a child's school, and that 
schools must act accordingly. The curriculum must take 
students out of the classroom, by foot and by computer; and 
the school must insist that the resources of the community 

For the Love of Learnin 

As soon as one considers the curriculum to be niou 
than what is taught in classrooms, one begins to appre- 
ciate the advantages, as well as the necessity, of greater 
flexibility in the learning system. 

become the resources of the learning system for students. 
Thus we build in a community career co-ordinator for the 
younger grades, and a career education specialist for the 
older ones, and put considerable emphasis on the continuity 
of career education from beginning to end. 

And we expect the CEP to include information on what 
the student is learning in the community that has implica- 
tions for her school program and for her future. A concrete 
example is international languages, where community 
resources often exceed school resources: many children 
develop fluency and literacy in international languages 
outside of school. We strongly suggest that such knowledge 
become part of their record, and that they be encouraged to 
put their knowledge to a test, when they reach Grade 10, and 
receive both advanced placement and credits toward their 
diploma for that knowledge. We see this kind of encourage- 
ment of learning, wherever it happens, as enriching the 
community as well as the individual. 

As soon as one considers the curriculum to be more than 
what is taught in classrooms, one begins to appreciate the 
advantages, as well as the necessity, of greater flexibility in 
the learning system. At the school level, we suggest that 10 
percent of the curriculum be available for local definition; 
that the common curriculum occupy at least 90 percent of 
the learning agenda from Grades 1 though 9. Depending on 
the physical environment and geography of the school and 
community, and/or on its social environment and human 
geography, a school (its teachers, its parents, its community 
helpers) may decide to put a special focus on an environ- 
mental study project, on a social history project, or on some 
other worthwhile endeavour that can enhance students' 
knowledge and skills, and perhaps also benefit the larger 

At the individual level, flexibility in what is learned, and 
at what pace, has always been necessary, just as individual 
variation has always been inevitable. But it has been difficult 
for schools to provide the necessary flexibility, for many 
reasons. It will continue to be so: any system that tries to 
provide for everyone will have difficulty in providing for 
those who are farthest from the average. However, we firmly 
believe it is possible to do better, and extremely important to 
try. Hence we draw attention to a few schools that have made 
real efforts to diminish the lock-step nature of learning by 
allowing students to use the whole 12-month calendar or 

more, or much less, rather than insisting that learning comes 
in packages of 10 months only. And we have recommended 
more use of all the techniques that make it easier for 
students to learn at the pace right for them: acceleration for 
students who can move faster, individual learning assess- 
ment (challenge exams and prior learning assessment), and 
intensive, accelerated, and immediate catch-up courses for 
students from the elementary years through adulthood. We 
know this is an area that requires greater skill and will from 
educators, and we have urged the Minister of Education and 
Training to provide leadership and support for those who 
are willing to work at developing models and strategies to 
increase flexibility for learners. 

There is another kind of flexibility we are committed to 
as well, and we hope our readers are aware of it, though it is 
perhaps written between our lines as much as within them. 
That is the flexibility we believe is the best way to encourage 
responsibility and creativity. Our recommendations stress 
clarity about ends, not means. Thus, we think teachers and 
parents must have clarity about intended learning outcomes 
and standards; and about the essential components of a 
course, whether it is Grade 7 math or Grade 1 1 geography. 

As well, we think the principles we have emphasized - 
continuity, stewardship, flexibility for learners, learning 
without walls - are tremendously important everywhere. But 
we also believe there are as many ways of teaching an excel- 
lent Grade 7 math or Grade 1 1 art course as there are excel- 
lent math and art teachers; and as many ways of building 
strong relationships between students, teachers, parents, and 
the community on behalf of learning as there are caring and 
committed professionals and parents. We do believe that 

Vol. II Learning; Our Vision for Schools Conclusion 

much good can be achieved by offering people - teachers, 
parents, volunteers - training, and the opportunity to work 
together to come up with their own strategies for supporting 
those principles, in ways that will work in their schools and 
their communties. 

The same principles that we have developed and 
discussed in talking about younger learners apply to older 
ones as well. Older students also need well-informed parents 
who are on comfortable terms with their teachers; students 
continue to need a teacher who knows them and acts on 
their behalf; and they continue to need flexibility in learning 
time. But, in addition, as our children pass beyond the age of 
the common curriculum, when all of them are meant to be 
acquiring that bank of knowledge and essential thinking and 
learning skills that every one of them needs, they must be 
given opportunities for making choices based on what they 
have learned about themselves and the world. By the time a 
young person reaches Grade 10 in the learning system we 
have envisioned, she is ready to make some decisions - not 
irreversible, by any means, but very important nonetheless - 
about what direction she wants to take, not only in 
secondary school, but afterward. This has traditionally been 
the case; secondary education has always meant the point at 
which options increase and alternative paths open up. 

But an abiding concern, in the last 50 years at least, has 
been how to increase options and open up paths in a way 
that is inclusive, and doesn't leave out those students who 
come to school with fewer advantages, less "social capital" in 
the form of parents with higher education, more money, and 
the like. In our opinion, differences in interest and aptitude, 
which is what program options should accommodate, have 

become confused with differences in social class and social 
rewards. Hence, we have a secondary system organized by 
"levels," which come to be thought of as reflecting the inher- 
ent and unalterable ability levels of individual students, but 
which in fact reflect best such other factors as parents' occu- 
pations, education, and income levels, and sometimes also 
race or home language or national origin. 

Our concern in making recommendations to reform and 
improve education beyond the years of the common 
curriculum is to continue to strengthen core knowledge and 
skill areas for all students, while at the same time making 
alternative paths as clear and as open to everyone as is possi- 
ble. So, for example, we redefine the courses that are offered 
as falling into three kinds, which do not in our mind speak 
of greater or lesser ability, but of different degrees of empha- 
sis along a continuum between applied and academic. We 
make the point that it is courses, not students, that fall into 
one or another of these three categories. Thus, in Grade 10, a 
student might choose a science course that emphasizes prac- 
tical applications (an Ontario Applied Course, or OApC); a 
history course that puts more emphasis on a traditional 
academic approach (an Ontario Academic Course, or 
OAcC); and a music course that attempts to maintain an 
even balance between applied and academic emphasis (a 
common course). Such a student may be one who thinks of 
going on to a technical course at a college but who has a 
strong avocational interest in history, or one who wants to 
study social sciences at a university and also wants to have 
an intelligent layperson's understanding of basic science. 

While we are aware that no plan, however flexible, can 
overcome social preferences, prejudices, and rewards that 
favour academic over applied skills, and university over 
college education, we do believe that it is plausible that a 
system such as we suggest could increase students' options, 
and result in a better match between interest and talent on 
the one hand and useful post-secondary education on the 

For this to happen, colleges and universities must co- 
operate with secondary educators to redefine entrance 
requirements. The object would be to define these in both a 
clearer and a more differentiated way than at present. Now, 
universities, for the most part, look at students' marks in 
their last year only, and insist on prerequisite courses defined 
as pre-university in all those six final OACs. While this is 

For the Love of Learning 

We call for a universal literacy test to be given first in 
Grade 1 1, and to be passed eventually before a student 
can receive a diploma. 

clear enough, it is very undifferentiated; a student who 
wants to study history must take the same science course as 
a peer who wants to be a chemist, or else take no science 
course at all. Colleges, for their part, have no such blanket 
rule; but while they show greater flexibility, the paths to 
college are very confused and unclear for students, except in 
cases where individual colleges and secondary schools have 
worked out specific articulation programs. 

We have recommended that schools, colleges, and univer- 
sities define "packages" of courses that lead to particular 
college and university programs, and that these packages 
include the appropriate OApCs, OAcCs, and common 
courses for each post-secondary program. 

We have also recommended that schools organize them- 
selves into relatively small units, and that these units (which 
will most often be small schools within large buildings, shar- 
ing administrators and some facilities and courses) might 
have a subject or career focus, such as is now available in a 
few cities in schools that have an arts academy or a science 
academy. In such "academies," students who are interested in 
a career in art history or arts administration, in engineering 
or in electronics, can find a curriculum that has a clear rela- 
tionship to their interests and - if course packages have been 
defined collaboratively as we suggest - to their future. 

As much as we want adolescents and young adults to feel 
the connection between their formal education and their 
future - and we strongly endorse such out-of-school learn- 
ing experiences as co-operative education and community 
service, both as emphases within courses and as experiences 
in themselves - we are also concerned that there are 
commonalities in education and learning that must not be 
lost sight of All students want to understand the practical 
applications of what they are learning; similarly, all students 
need a high level of literacy no matter what career interest 
they may pursue. 

Our recommendations concerning the common needs of 
secondary students speak of the necessity for certain 
outcomes as prerequisite to graduation. Thus, we suggest 
that there must be specified learner outcomes at the end of 
Grade 12, just as there are for the lower grades; and that 
these outcomes must include a majority that are common to 
all learners, as well as some that are specific to courses 
offered as OApCs or OAcCs. And we recommend an increase 
in the amount of province-wide curriculum and examina- 

tion review at this level, as well as earlier, so that educators 
and the public can know how successfully the curriculum is 
being learned, and so that some consistency is guaranteed 
across teachers and schools. 

We also call for a more efficient system at this level, one 
that does not encourage students to extend their stay in 
secondary school by a year or two beyond what is necessary 
to take the required number of courses and graduate. While 
we make it clear that we continue to support flexibility in 
learning time, and have no intention of making matters 
more difficult for students who need longer to complete 
their course of study for legitimate reasons connected to 
how they learn, or to other circumstances in their life, we do 
not wish to see the majority of students take longer than 
three years, beginning in Grade 10, to complete their diplo- 
ma. No other province keeps most of its students in 
secondary school so long, and there is no clear advantage to 
doing so, but considerable expenditure that we believe is 
better spent early than late. Hence we make recommenda- 
tions designed to limit the number of credits students may 
accumulate before they graduate. 

As well, we call for a universal literacy test to be given 
first in Grade 1 1, and to be passed eventually before a 
student can receive a diploma. The emphasis that we have 
put on literacy, beginning at age 3, culminates here in a liter- 
acy guarantee: what we believe should be a promise to the 
public that any high school graduate in Ontario can read 
and understand, and can write and convey information and 
feeling, as an educated adult should be able to do. 

Consistent with our emphasis on continuity of concern 
for students' progress, we suggest that secondary schools 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Conclusion 

Just as we began our discussion of the formal learning 
system before age 6, we do not end it at age 18. 

maintain contact with and support for students until they 
are 18 years old, whether or not they remain in school to 
finish their diploma. Students need help with the transition 
to work, not only to post-secondary education, and until 
they are 18, school should be there for them, just as it is for 
their peers who are going on with their education. 

And just as we began our discussion of the formal learn- 
ing system before age 6, we do not end it at age 18. The 
increasing number of adults wanting to complete their 
secondary education deserve the same opportunity as 
younger learners, and we recommend that space be guaran- 
teed them in the public system. As well, we strongly recom- 
mend that the literacy guarantee that we want our school 
system to make be also a literacy promise for adults who, for 
whatever reasons, wish to become fluent and literate in 
either of the official languages. Those adults include, after 
all, parents and future parents, grandparents and future 
grandparents, whose literacy is perhaps the most significant 
part of the learning legacy they pass on to their children 
and grandchildren. 

For the Love of Learning 



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Volume II 

These are the collected recommendations of 
Volume II. The recommendations of the entire 
report are given in Volume IV. 

Chapter 7: The Learner from Birth to Age 6 

The Commission recommends; 

1. That Early Childhood Education (ECE) be provided by all 
school boards to all children from three to five years of age 
whose parents/guardians choose to enrol them. ECE would 
gradually replace existing junior and senior kindergarten 
programs, and become a part of the public education system; 

2. That the ECE program be phased in as space becomes 

3. That, in the implementation of ECE, the provincial govern- 
ment give priority funding to French-language school units; 

4. That the Ministry of Education and Training develop a 
guide, suitable for parents, teachers, and other caregivers, 
outlining stages of learning (and desirable and expectable 
learner outcomes) from birth onwards, and that it link to the 
common core curriculum, beginning in Grade 1. This guide, 
which would include specific learner outcomes at age 6, 
would be used in developing the curriculum for the Early 
Childhood Education program. 

Chapter 8: The Learner from Age 6 to 15 

The Commission recommends: 

5. That learner outcomes in language, mathematics, science, 
computer literacy, and group learning/interpersonal skills 
and values be clearly described by the Ministry of Education 
and Training from pre-Grade 1 through the completion of 
secondary school, and that these be linked with the work of 
the College Standards and Accreditation Council, as well as 

universities; and that clearly written standards, similar in 
intent to those available in mathematics and language 
(numeracy and literacy), also be developed in the other 
three areas; 

6. That the acquisition of a third language become an intrin- 
sic part of the common curriculum from a young age up to 
Grade 9 inclusively, with the understanding that the choice 
of language(s) taught or acquired will be determined locally, 
and that the acquisition of such a third language outside 
schools will be recognized as equivalent by an examination 
process, similar to what we term challenge exams within the 
secondary school credit system; 

7. That all elementary schools integrate a daily period of 
regular physical exercise of no less than 30 minutes of 
continuous activity as an essential part of a healthy school 
environment. Schools that have problems scheduling daily 
periods should, as a minimum, require three exercise periods 
per week; 

8. That, at the Grade 1-5/6 level, an educator monitor a 
student's progress during the years the student is at the 
school, and be assigned responsibility for maintaining that 
student's record; 

9. That the Ministry of Education and Training and the local 
boards of education provide incentives to large middle (and 
secondary) schools to create smaller learning units, such as 
schools-within-schools or houses; 

10. That, beginning in Grade 7, every student have a Cumu- 
lative Education Plan, which includes the student's academic 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Recommendations 

and other learning experiences, is understood to be the 
major planning tool for the student's secondary and post- 
secondary education, and is reviewed semi-annually by the 
student, parents, and by the teacher who has a continuing 
relationship with and responsibility for that student as long 
as she or he remains in the school; 

11. That curriculum guidelines be developed in each subject 
taught within the common curriculum, to assist teachers in 
designing programs that will help students achieve the learn- 
ing outcomes in The Common Curriculum. These guidelines 
should include concrete suggestions on how teachers can 
share with parents ways to help their children at home; 

12. That the Minister of Education and Training amend the 
regulations to enable school boards to extend the length of 
the school day and/or school year; 

13. That the Ministry of Education and Training work with 
curriculum and learning specialists to develop strategies 
(based on sound theory and practice and enriched with 
detailed examples) for providing more flexibility in the 
amount of time available to students for mastering curricu- 

14. That local schools and boards be allowed to develop and 
offer programs in addition to those in The Common Curricu- 
lum, as long as those options meet provincially developed 
criteria, and as long as at least 90 percent of instructional 
time is devoted to the common curriculum for Grades 1 

to 9. 

Chapter 9: The Learner from Age 15 to 18 

The Commission recommends: 

15. That the Ministry of Education and Training review 
community college education - its mandate, funding, coher- 
ence, and how it fits into the system of education in Ontario, 
including clarification of access routes from secondary 
school to college, and with special attention being paid to 
students who are not university-bound; 

16. That secondary school be defined as a three-year 
program, beginning after Grade 9, and that students be 
permitted to take a maximum of three courses beyond the 
required 21, for a total of not more than 24 credits. We 
further recommend that all courses in which the student has 

enrolled - whether completed or incomplete, passed or 
failed - be recorded on that student's transcript; 

17. That only two, not three, differentiated types of courses 
should exist; 

18. That some courses, (to be called Ontario Academic 
Courses, or OAcCs) be offered with an academic emphasis; 
that others (to be called Ontario Applied Courses, or OApCs) 
be offered, with an emphasis on application; and that still 
others be presented as common courses, blending academic 
and applied approaches, and with no special designation; 

19. That large secondary schools be reorganized into 
"schools-within-schools" or "houses," in which students have 
a core of teachers and peers with whom they interact for a 
substantial part of their program.Such units may be topic-, 
discipline-, or interest-focused; 

20. That as a mandatory diploma requirement all students 
participate each year in physical exercise at least three times 
per week, for not less than 30 minutes per session, either in 
or outside physical education classes; 

21. That as a mandatory diploma requirement all students 
take part in a minimum of 20 hours per year (two hours per 
month) of community service, facilitated and monitored by 
the school, to take place outside or inside the school; 

22. That the same efforts to centrally develop strategies and 
ideas for increasing flexibility and individualization of the 
pace of learning, which we called for in the common core 
curriculum, be applied to the specialization years; 

23. That a set of graduation outcomes be developed for the 
end of Grade 12; that they be subject and skill oriented, as 
well as relatively brief; and that they cover common learner 
outcomes for all students as well as supplemental learner 
outcomes for the OAcC and the OApC programs; 

24. That students have the option of receiving as many as 
two international language credits toward their diploma no 
matter where they obtained their training or knowledge of 
the language(s) if, upon examination, they demonstrate 
appropriate levels of language mastery; 

For the Love of Learning 

25. That the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board 
(OTAB) be given the mandate to take leadership, working in 
partnership with school boards, community colleges, and 
other community partners, to establish programs that will 
assist secondary school graduates and drop-outs to transfer 
successfully to the workforce, including increasing opportu- 
nities for apprenticeship and for other kinds of training as 
well as employment counselling; 

26. That the Ministry of Education and Training create a 
brief and clear document that describes for parents what 
their children are expected to learn and to know, based on 
the developmental framework of stages of learning from 
birth to school entrance, The Common Curriculum, and the 
secondary school graduation outcomes. Succinct information 
on college and university programs should be also included; 

27. That, in order to ensure that all Ontario residents, 
regardless of age, have access to a secondary school diploma, 
publicly funded school boards be given the mandate and the 
funds to provide adult educational programs; 

28. That a consistent process of prior learning assessment be 
developed for adult students in Ontario, and that this process 
include an examination for a secondary school equivalency 

29. That the Ministry of Education and Training, with its 
mandate which includes post-secondary education, require 
the development of challenge exams and other appropriate 
forms of prior learning assessment by colleges and universi- 
ties, to be used up to and including the granting of diplomas 
and degrees; 

30. That the right of adults to pursue literacy education must 
be protected, regardless of employment status or intentions; 

31. That COFAM/OTAB immediately define and set aside, 
for short- and medium-term adult literacy programs, a fran- 
cophone allotment that is not linked to participation in the 
workforce, in addition to the francophone programs linked 
to workforce status and intention. 

Chapter 10: Supports for Learning: Special 
Needs and Special Opportunities 

The Commission recommends: 

32. That the Ministry make it mandatory for English- 
language school units to provide ESL/ESD, and French- 
language school units to provide ALF/PDF, to ensure that 
immigrant students with limited or no fluency in English or 
French, and Charter rights holders with limited or no fluen- 
cy in French, receive the support they require, using locally 
chosen models of delivery. In its block-funding grants, the 
Ministry should include the budgetary supplements required 
to allow the schools to offer these programs wherever the 
community identifies a need for them. 

33. That no child who shows difficulty or who lags behind 
peers in learning to read be labelled "learning disabled" 
unless and until he or she has received intensive individual 
assistance in learning to read, which has not resulted in 
improved academic performance; 

34. That in addition to gifted programs, acceleration, based 
on teacher assessment, challenge exams, and/or other appro- 
priate measures, become widely available as an important 
option for students; 

35. That when parents and educators agree on the best 
programming for the student, and there is a written record 
of a parent's informed agreement, no Identification, Place- 
ment, and Review Committee (IPRC) process occur; 

36. That when there is no agreement, and an IPRC meeting 
must take place, a mediator/facilitator be chosen, on an ad 
hoc basis, to facilitate discussion and compromise, to allevi- 
ate the likelihood of a legal appeal; and that the legislation 
be rewritten to provide for this pre-appeal mediation; 

37. That when a student has been formally identified and 
placed, the annual review be replaced by semi-annual indi- 
vidual assessment that will show whether and how much the 
student has progressed over a five-month period, and deci- 
sions about continuation of the program be made based on 
objective evidence as well on as the judgment ot the educa- 
tors and parents in regard to the student's progress; 

Vol. II Learning; Our Vision for Schools Recommendations 

38. That school boards look for ways to provide assistance to 
those who need it, without tying that assistance to a formal 
identification process. 

39. That, while integration should be the norm, school 
boards continue to provide a continuum of services for 
students whose needs would, in the opinion of parents and 
educators, be best served in other settings; 

40. That all elementary school teachers have regular access to 
a "community career co-ordinator" responsible for co-ordi- 
nating the school's community-based, career-awareness 
curriculum, and working with teachers and community 
members to build and support the program; 

41. That, beginning in Grade 6 or 7 and continuing through 
Grade 12, all schools have appropriately trained and certified 
career-education specialists to carry out career counselling 

42. That the Ministry, in co-operation with professional 
career-education groups, the Ontario School Counsellors' 
Association, and the Association of Career Centres in Educa- 
tional Settings, and with representation from colleges, 
universities, and business and labour, develop a continuum 
of appropriate learner outcomes in career awareness and 
career education for Grades 1-12; 

43. That the Ministry of Education and Training take the 
lead in working with the Ministry of Health to develop a 
definition of essential mental-health promotion programs 
and services that should be available in the school setting; 
the professional training necessary to provide them; the 
services that should be offered to students outside the 
schools and by whom; and the way responsibility for provid- 
ing these services is shared across ministries; 

44. That the Ministry of Education and Training clarify the 
nature and function of personal and social guidance coun- 
selling in schools by: 

a) redefining the appropriate training required for a 
guidance or personal counsellor, and creating and 
implementing a plan for educating and re-educating 
those people who are now, or should now be, deliver- 
ing these services to students; this redefinition should 
be done in co-operation with the Ontario School 
Counsellors' Association and representatives of 

colleges and universities; such training should also be 
accessible through avenues other than teacher educa- 
b) ensuring that delivery of these services be implement- 
ed by personnel who, after a date to be specified, have 
received the agreed-on training; 

45. That the Ministry of Education and Training develop a 
new guideline for social/personal guidance to replace Guid- 
ance, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, 1984, including a 
description of the kind of differentiated staffing needed to 
deliver guidance and counselling services in schools, both 
elementary and secondary. 

Chapter 11: Evaluating Achievement 

The Commission recommends: 

46. That significantly more time in pre-service and continu- 
ing professional development be devoted to training teachers 
to assess student learning in a way that will help students 
improve their performance, and we recommend supervised 
practice and guidance as the principal teaching/learning 
mechanism for doing so; 

47. That the Ministry of Education and Training begin 
immediately to develop resource materials that help teachers 
learn to assess student work accurately and consistently, on 
the specific learner outcomes upon which standardized 
assessment and reporting will be based; 

48. That the Ministry of Education and Training, in 
conjunction with professional educators, assessment experts, 
parents, students, and members of the general public, design 
a common report card appropriate for each grade. To be 
known as the Ontario Student Achievement Report, it would 
relate directly to the outcomes and standards of the given 
year or course and, in all years, would be used as the main 
vehicle for communicating, to parents and students, informa- 
tion about the student's achievements. While school boards 
would not be permitted to delete any part of the OSAR, they 
could seek permission from the Ministry to add to it; 

49. That the Ministry monitor its own assessment instru- 
ments for possible bias, and work with boards and profes- 
sional bodies to monitor other assessment instruments; that 
teachers be offered more knowledge and training in detect- 

For the Love of Learning 

ing and eradicating bias in ail aspects of assessment; and that 
the Ministry monitor the effects of assessment on various 

50. That all students be given two uniform assessments at 
the end of Grade 3, one in literacy and one in numeracy, 
based on specific learner outcomes and standards that are 
well known to teachers, parents, and to students themselves; 

51. That the construction, administration, scoring, and 
reporting of the two assessments be the responsibility of a 
small agency, independent of the Ministry of Education and 
Training, and operating at a very senior level, to be called the 
Office of Learning Assessment and Accountability; 

52. That a literacy test be given to students, which they must 
pass before receiving their secondary school diploma; 

53. That the Ministry continue to be involved in and to 
support national and international assessments, and work to 
improve their calibre; 

54. That the Ministry develop detailed, multi-year plans for 
large-scale assessments (program reviews, examination 
monitoring), which establish the data to be collected and the 
way implementation will be monitored, and report the 
results publicly, and provide for the interpretation and use of 
results to educators and to the public; 

55. That, initially, and for a five- to seven-year period, until 
the process is well established in the school system and in 
the public consciousness, an independent accountability 
agency be charged with implementing and reporting the 
Grades 3 and 1 1 universal student assessments. The reports 
and recommendations of the Office of Learning Assessment 
and Accountability would go directly to the Minister and the 

56. That the Ministry of Education and Training, in consul- 
tation with community members and researchers, develop a 
specific procedure for collecting and reporting province- 
wide data on student achievement (marks, and Grade 3 and 
Grade 1 1 literacy test results) for groups identified according 
to gender, race, ethno-cultural background, and socio- 
economic status. 

Vol. II Learning: Our Vision for Schools Recommendations