Ontario announces plan to hire 1,000 new teachers for math and literacy

The NDP says funding announced on Sunday for the math and literacy programs amounts to less than 50 cents per student

By Allison Jones in Toronto

Ontario is hiring nearly 1,000 teachers for specialized math and literacy programs, the province’s education minister announced Sunday, but critics say that won’t provide enough help for students in the vast majority of schools.

Stephen Lecce said more than $71 million will go toward supporting about 300 teachers, consisting of one math lead per school board to direct curriculum implementation and training and math coaches to provide support in classrooms. There are currently about 140 math coaches and the funding will see that number doubled.

Lecce also said $109 million will go toward funding 700 teachers for reading intervention programs to support literacy development, as well as setting up early reading screening tools for students from senior kindergarten to Grade 2. An overhauled language curriculum will be in place for this coming September, he said.

The government will also send so-called math action teams — made up of trained math educators — to school boards to recommend ways to improve student math performance, Lecce said.

“In every stage of life, mastering mathematics and reading is critical,” he said. 

“In this province, and frankly, around the entire industrialized world, too many children are falling behind and the (standardized testing) data confirms this. We have schools that have consistently underperformed in these fundamental skills.”

The plan will focus on the lowest-achieving 20 per cent of schools according to standardized testing data from the Education Quality and Accountability Office, Lecce said. 

Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said it’s a start, but focusing only on 20 per cent of schools will leave a lot of kids out.

Littlewood, who said her organization was not consulted or informed about the announcement, said she is left with more questions than answers.

“The bigger question, both for the math and for the language, is how are we going to hire these people?” she said in an interview. “How are they going to get training? And then how is the training going to be delivered to the teacher in the classroom?”

NDP education critic Chandra Pasma said the funding announced Sunday for the math and literacy programs amounts to less than 50 cents per student.

“There’s no disagreeing that Ontario’s students deserve more support to help develop their math, reading and writing skills, but today’s announcement is a day late and a dollar short,” she wrote in a statement.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said the government’s decision to overhaul the language curriculum without consultations “shows how little they understand the public education system and value educators.”

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2023.