By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith
I hear from parents often about how their children are struggling to master the basics of math and literacy. As a parent myself, I’ve seen firsthand how Ontario’s curriculum gradually drifted away from focusing on the fundamentals of reading, writing and math. Our teachers are doing everything they can to ensure their students develop fundamental skills, but if the focus of the curriculum or even the local school board lies somewhere else, it can be a very difficult goal to accomplish.
While approaches to education are complex and certainly best left to the experts, parents and teachers from across Parry Sound-Muskoka, and Ontario, have rightfully identified the need for governments to refocus their efforts on ensuring students understand the basics.
Data from the EQAO (Education Quality & Accountability Office) supports what moms and dads know: the status quo is not working. Provincewide, test scores indicate a need for a new approach.
This is why the provincial government has redoubled its efforts to ensure our students master the basics of reading, writing and math. In 2019, our government announced a 4-year, $200M math strategy. This plan provided more funding to school boards to hire math leads, invest in math training and coaching, expand online tutoring and deliver summer learning programs. On April 16, we announced another $180M to boost literacy and math skills training across Ontario.
These new funds will go towards supporting over 380 specialized math educators, double the number of school math coaches, introduce one math lead per board, expand teacher-led virtual math tutoring and cover the cost of providing teachers with professional development to upskill in math fluency and competency.
We are also investing $109M in 2023-24 to boost literacy rates. This is the largest investment in Canada dedicated to supporting literacy development. It includes the largest reading-screening initiative in the country, which will assess students, in SK to grade 2, to identify challenges early.
We are also investing in intervention for kids that screening identifies by supporting nearly 700 educators to focus on literacy.
I’m extremely proud of our government’s focus on identifying kids in need of additional support at a young age. Early intervention is critical in addressing any challenges a child may face when learning. I’m thrilled to know that moving forward, more kids who need help will receive it early and consistently throughout their elementary school years.
This targeted funding is a major step forward in making sure our kids get what they need in math and literacy. We all know that achieving sustainable success requires a change in the system.
This is why our government has taken action to address the feedback we’ve heard directly from parents regarding local school boards. Many parents feel left out of their child’s education, and as if their voices are being ignored. We’ve heard concerns about a lack of transparency and accountability in setting academic priorities and making key decisions, such as funding for new schools.
I also want to mention the discrepancies across Ontario’s 72 school boards. Each board sets its own priorities, creating inconsistent student outcomes across the system. For example, some school boards underperform academically without a clear plan to improve, there are long delays in building new schools and long certification processes for educators.
The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, if passed, will set standards and expectations for every school board. It will provide consistent approaches to student learning and well-being, including mental health, and put in place a clear process for building and renovating schools faster. Our government wants to ensure every school board is focused on what matters most: developing lifelong skills in math, reading and writing. We must refocus the system.
There’s no one size fits all solution here. But, I’m confident these changes will result in better math and literacy outcomes for my kids and for kids across Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!