Class Size Does Matter, Ontario Teachers Say

Class size does matter, say Ontario teachers in sharp contrast to a recent national think-tank report.

Nine out of 10 respondents to an Ontario College of Teachers survey believe that reducing class sizes will have the greatest impact on student achievement.

However, a quarter of those polled saw an increase in their class sizes last year and more than half saw no change at all. In an August report, the CD Howe Institute said many provinces are spending millions of dollars to reduce class sizes without solid proof that doing so raises student achievement.

The College of Teachers, Canada’s largest professional regulatory body, released its third annual State of the Teaching Profession report today. The results reflect the opinions of 1,000 Ontario teachers/educators in a July telephone poll.

“Ontario’s teachers care deeply about helping students achieve,” says College Registrar Doug Wilson. “And what they’re telling us is that the greatest gains in student performance will come from smaller classes.”

Concern about large classes is especially high among younger and less experienced teachers. Given the increasing number of new teachers in the system, this suggests that it will continue to be an issue for some time. Forty-three per cent of teachers under 35 years of age feel that class size is the biggest problem facing schools in Ontario today.

The survey also reveals that 71 per cent of Ontario teachers think new, multi-year collective agreements will help to restore peace and stability to public education.

“Long-term contracts and faith in an education-friendly government among teachers creates a positive environment for educators and students,” Wilson says.

The 2005 survey also found that teachers show a remarkable lack of interest in becoming school or system administrators, increasing sector concerns about developing new school leaders as large numbers of principals reach retirement age.

“We know that there are many teachers who are qualified to become vice-principals and principals who are not applying for jobs,” says Council Chair Marilyn Laframboise. “This year’s survey suggests that it’s a systemic problem and one the education system is going to have to address.”

Sixty-four per cent of teachers do not favour becoming a vice-principal or principal because of job politics, middle-management stress and dealing with worried parents, students in crisis and disciplinary issues.

As with previous surveys, teachers were dead set against standardized testing. Seventy one per cent say that standardized testing is the least helpful education initiative. No other issue came close.

Teachers also answered questions about new government initiatives, including providing classroom support for special needs students, more physical education, music and art instruction, mentoring for new teachers, literacy and numeracy teachers in elementary schools, healthy foods in vending machines and safe schools action teams. They strongly disapproved of the continuing practice of allowing uncertified individuals to teacher in Ontario classrooms under permits issued by the Minister of Education.

COMPAS, Inc., a public opinion and market research firm, conducted the survey. Statistically, the sample is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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