Every Child Program: Individual Attention For Better Student Learning
Publicly funded schools in Ontario are in the second year of a four-year plan to boost student learning through a coordinated effort between the provincial government and local school boards.
The Every Child program, an expansion of the Education Foundations program, is built on several premises -- the most important of which is that every child in the province should be able to read, write, do math and comprehend at a high level by the age of 12 as the necessary foundation for later educational and social choices.
The Every Child program includes:
- Smaller class sizes for all primary grades (JK to Grade 3) working to a real cap of 20 in 2007-08 for 565,000 students
- Teacher training for four lead literacy/numeracy teachers in all elementary schools (16,000 total)
- Training resources for teachers of 1.1 million primary and junior students
- Training and professional development for principals and vice-principals and team building to raise performance capacity in 3,700 JK to Grade 6 schools
- Helping Ontario's children be well prepared for learning through Best Start
- A clear target of 75 per cent of 12-year-old students achieving the provincial standard on provincewide tests in reading, writing and math by 2008
- Provincially funded local innovations and sharing of over 160 successful programs across school systems to improve students' reading, writing and math skills
- 2,000 new specialist teachers in key areas such as literacy and numeracy, music, the arts and physical education (approximately 600 teachers will be in place for this school year)
- New textbooks, library books and other learning resources for elementary students
FOUNDATIONS FOR A BETTER FUTURE
The early years of a child's education are the most important. Teachers need to be able to recognize children's special strengths and weaknesses at the earliest age possible.
Reducing class sizes in the primary grades is critical to improving literacy and numeracy skills in Ontario's youngest students. More than reading, writing and math skills, the program seeks to help students become capable of understanding and develop a high level of comprehension.
Before the program began, about 54 per cent of 12-year-olds met the provincial standard for reading, writing and math. As a result of initiatives by the McGuinty government, student performance on provincewide reading, writing and math tests has improved. Last year, provincewide elementary scores increased by seven per cent. The province has set a clear target that 75 per cent of 12-year-olds are able to meet the provincial standard on provincewide reading, writing and math tests by 2008.
MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT'S ACTION PLAN
To help meet the 75 per cent target, the government is putting a second phase of funding to work this year to continue reducing class sizes in the primary grades. This year's $126 million investment will allow school boards to hire approximately 1,300 more teachers. It builds on the success of last year's phase-one investment of $90 million, which resulted in more than 1,100 additional primary teachers being hired, reducing class sizes in approximately 1,300 elementary schools. In addition, the government is making class size information submitted by school boards available quickly and easily to the public.
The second phase of funding is part of the government's $8.3 billion four-year investment in Ontario's publicly funded schools.
Starting this fall, parents will be able to participate in the government's Every Child program by tracking how class sizes are shrinking in their child's school. The Ministry of Education will be launching an on-line class size tracking tool that will allow the public to access information about the progress school boards have made, school by school, in implementing the government's class size reduction plan.
To track progress and ensure that the government remains on target, school boards were asked to report back to the ministry by August 31 on their progress. Information on the ministry's website will be updated. Boards are also required to submit a final report in December that demonstrates the actual number of teachers hired and the size of all primary classes.
The ministry will continue to audit primary class sizes to provide the public with up-to-date information and ensure that funds are producing the desired results. Boards have also been asked to make their plans available to the public by posting them on their websites.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS:
"... new studies point increasingly to higher performance, greater parental satisfaction, and stronger teacher effectiveness in smaller classes ... "
Council of the Great City Schools (October 2000) Reducing Class Size: A Smart Way To Improve America's Urban Schools. Washington, D.C.
WHAT TEACHERS SAY:
"Smaller class sizes make a big difference, especially for my Grade 1 students. The more time you can spend assessing a student's strengths and weaknesses, the more likely you will be in helping them succeed."
Rosa Santaluce, Grade 1 teacher, St. Pius X Catholic School, Toronto.
REAL CLASS SIZE CAP OF 20, NOT "BOARD-WIDE AVERAGE"
Under the previous government, board-wide averages were used to measure class size. This meant that boards simply divided the total number of students by the total number of classes. That average of 24 meant thousands of students were in classes over 30 and some in classes as high as 38. While the average may have been met, students were not benefiting.
The McGuinty government is implementing a real cap of 20 students. This includes a minimum amount of flexibility. By 2007-08, at any given time, the numbers of students in primary classes will be 20 students, nine times out of 10. Exceptions will only be allowed in the remaining 10 per cent of classes. Up to three additional students will be allowed as a result of enrolment changes to minimize the number of split grades and avoid unnecessary transportation of students.