Greater Essex Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

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Ontario legislature votes to scrap teacher testing

December 15, 2004
From Canadian Press

The controversial testing program for teachers introduced three years ago by the previous Conservative government has been effectively scrapped by the Ontario legislature.

Members of the legislature voted 67-18 today in favour of Liberal legislation introduced by Education Minister Gerard Kennedy to do away with the program, a hallmark of the acrimonious relationship between teachers and the Conservatives during their eight years in power.

The New Democrats voted with the Liberals, leaving only the Conservatives, who were in power under former premier Mike Harris when teacher testing was brought in in 2001, to vote against the bill.

The testing had cost the Ontario College of Teachers more than $10 million since its inception and fewer than 20 per cent of teachers had participated in the program when Kennedy announced plans to scrap it in May.

"This bill does one simple but necessary thing - it eliminates a hugely flawed, punitive approach of the previous government towards the teaching profession in the form of its Professional Learning Program," Kennedy said at the time.

He called it part of the previous government's "divisive approach" to dealing with public school teachers.

The program, which many teachers said showed a lack of respect for their professionalism, would have required experienced teachers to get recertified every five years by completing 14 courses, starting in 2006.

Instead, the Liberals plan to introduce a new program to foster teaching excellence, Kennedy said, starting with a discussion paper that will consider ideas like mentoring programs, enhanced summer programs and funding for teacher development.

Studies have suggested heightened levels of depression in Ontario teachers and long-term disability rates that have doubled since 1993.

Many teachers had simply refused to take part in the program, which was introduced by the Tories in 2001 when relations between teachers and the government were at a new low.

When it sent out warnings to teachers reminding them of the requirements, the Ontario College of Teachers was swamped with thousands of complaints from irate teachers, many of who refused to respond.