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Confidence in public education rising, survey says

September 07 2004

College poll reveals similarities, contrasts in teacher and parent opinions 

Sept. 7, 2004 (Toronto) Ontarians say students are better prepared now than they were a generation ago. Teachers say their biggest challenge is lack of time not enough of it to prepare lessons, teach the expected curriculum and mark.

The Ontario College of Teachers’ second annual State of the Teaching Profession survey shows that teacher confidence in public education in Ontario is on the rise.

Public support for teachers is strong perhaps stronger than teachers themselves may believe, says Marilyn Laframboise, Chair of the College, the licensing and regulatory body for Ontario's 193,000 certified educators.

However, teachers and the public remain sharply divided on student testing. Teachers vehemently oppose the use of standardized tests as a means to evaluate staff or schools or to decide how money is allocated to schools or school boards. The public disagrees. For example, 79 per cent of teachers oppose using provincial tests to evaluate their performance. Twenty-eight per cent of the public also oppose it, but 45 per cent say the test results should be used for teacher evaluation.

The back-to-school telephone survey of more than 1,000 teachers and 500 members of the public explored teacher roles in inspiring and preparing students for the future, where teachers find satisfaction in their jobs, the effectiveness of schools in the community and opinions about testing and evaluating students, teachers and schools.

The College's survey on the State of the Teaching Profession in Ontario found that:

  • Ontarians say students are better prepared in computers and technology (87 per cent), science (49 per cent) and math (41 per cent) now than a generation ago

  • teachers (80 per cent) and parents (54 per cent) believe that schools are delivering the expected curriculum

  • approximately 60 per cent thought teachers inspired students to work hard at school, pursue post-secondary studies and succeed in life

  • 64 per cent of teachers say they are confident in the education system compared to less than half last year

  • teachers feel that the profession (79 per cent), their schools (80 per cent) and they themselves (89 per cent) are doing a good job

  • 80 per cent of teachers say they get the most satisfaction from helping students learn and grow, but an equal amount feel that more is expected of them each year.

Public opinion and customer research firm COMPAS Inc. conducted the surveys on the College's behalf. The sample results are accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20 for surveys of 1,000 or more and 4.4 percentage points 19 times out of 20 for groups of 500.

Both teachers and the public believe that professional skills (literacy, work ethic, math and social and interpersonal skills) are more important to a student's future success than personal skills (the arts, athleticism, civic mindedness or generosity of spirit). Both groups list literacy as a top priority in skill development. The public, however, doesn’t think students have made any appreciable gains in literary knowledge over the past generation.

The public tells us that teachers do a good job, that the quality of education is improving and that teachers inspire children to excel. They share teachers’ concern for students’ success, but they want assurances and accountability, says Laframboise.

College Registrar Doug Wilson says the survey data distills deeply held thoughts and feelings about public education in the province and can be used to stimulate further discussion and needed change.

The good work and high standards of professionalism among Ontario's teachers is being noticed and applauded, says Wilson. This survey is another tool we can use to help teachers and the public communicate.

Few organizations have the courage to survey their members and the public. It's a credit to the teaching profession that it has, says COMPAS Inc. President Conrad Winn. The teaching profession can only benefit from an honest assessment of how its members and those they serve feel about education today.

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The Ontario College of Teachers licenses, governs and regulates the profession of teaching in the public interest. It sets standards of practice and ethical standards, conducts disciplinary hearings and accredits teacher education programs affecting its 193,000 members in publicly funded schools and institutions across Ontario. The College is the largest self-regulatory body in Canada. Visit the College's web site at www.oct.ca to see the survey and the results.

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Brian Jamieson
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Toll-free 1-888-534-2222, ext. 255

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