A Canadian province is reportedly considering a measure that would require teachers to pass an annual math test even if math is not the primary subject they teach as part of an initiative to boost student performance in the subject.
Senior government officials in Ontario said primary and second school teachers who instruct all subjects would need to pass the test in order to continue to teach in the province, The Canadian Press reported. The Progressive Conservative government passed a new law Wednesday that will require all aspiring educators to pass the exam in order to receive their teaching license.
"I have an idea: Why don't we test all the teachers, rather than just new ones, on learning how to deliver math?" Premier Doug Ford reportedly asked Thursday during a question and answer forum.
The Education Quality and Accountability Office, the agency that administers standardized testing in Ontario, reported in August that math test scores among public elementary students have been declining over the past five years.
The office also claimed efforts by the former Liberal government failed to bolster test scores in the province.
The president of the union for Ontario secondary school teachers, Harvey Bischof, told The Canadian Press that annual mandatory math testing for teachers would be “nonsensical” and potentially put some teachers out of work.
"High school teachers in Ontario are subject specialists. If you're not qualified to teach math, essentially, you don't,” Bischof said in a phone interview, adding “if you are qualified, you don't need a test."
According to the education agency report, 49 percent of sixth graders met the provincial math standard in 2018, down from 54 percent between 2013 and 2014. Sixty-one percent of third graders met the provincial standard from 2017 to 2018, down from 67 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Forty-five percent of ninth grade students enrolled in applied math courses, which focus on practical uses for math concepts, met Ontario’s standard. Eighty-four percent of ninth graders met the standard in academic math courses, which focus on abstract applications for math concepts.
The former Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the results of the report were "unacceptable." Unnamed government officials told The Canadian Press that the current government will consult with parents before passing a new measure.
"How can we expect our students to do the math when our teachers can't?" a government source asked.