03.08.2011 11:04 AM

Great news from a great paper

@TheTorontoSun: Ontario graduation rates have jumped to 81% – that’s up from 68% in 2003 when McGuinty’s government took office: http://bit.ly/fkbF4N


  1. James Bow says:

    I think McGuinty has made education a priority throughout his administration. And I think that we will be all the better for it.

  2. Brian says:

    I’d like to see a full bodyscan of that stat.

    But still, at first glance, if the grits did nothing else but run a campaign on that number alone, I’d respect that.

  3. Harith says:

    Tuition fees have also jumped…

  4. Andrew says:

    Are these the same students from the “no body fails” cohort? Track these students through post-secondary and see what the stats are on that.

    • V. Malaise says:

      I tutor foreign students at Chinook College in DT Calgary in the ESL program. All of them speak better English than other Canadian High School students. Even better their parents make sure they do homework.

      • Shaun says:

        Perhaps your Alberta Conservatives should take note of what Ontario’s Liberals are doing. Or maybe you’re just comfortable with some of the highest drop-out rates in the country.

        • paulsstuff says:

          This is one of those things where facts can lie. Warren is correct when he states the graduation rate in 2003 was 68%. He’s also correct when he repeats McGuinty’s claim that the rate is 81%. What he falied to mention is that rate is somewhat skewed, in that it includes students who take 5 years to complete a 4 year diploma. As far as I know, there is no data from 2003 that shows the graduation rate including students taking 5 years. Perhaps Warren might have that information.

          ” TORONTO ? Taking five years to complete Ontario’s four-year high school curriculum “is okay” with the province’s self-proclaimed “education premier” as long as students graduate in the end.

          Seventy-two per cent of Ontario students graduated high school after four years in 2010, up from 60 per cent when the Liberal government was first elected in 2003, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.”

          However, McGuinty didn’t announce the 72 per cent figure on his visit to George Harvey Collegiate Institute in Toronto, saying instead that the graduation rate rose to 81 per cent. He didn’t mention that includes students who take five years to finish high school.”

          • JenS says:

            I’m not entirely sure it matters how long it took to graduate. Graduating is one of those “did” or “did not” things. The data from 2003 would include, I would think, those who did graduate, whether they did a “victory lap” or not.

            I also know an awful lot of parents who are encouraging their children to do a fifth year. I don’t know the precise reason, though I suspect it has a lot to do with parents having done Grade 13 when it still existed and feeling their children are too young, after four years of high school, to leave for college or university.

          • Dave says:

            Perhaps you could have continued to read the article that you copy/pasted you quote from:

            The 81 per cent of Ontario students who graduated high school after five years is up from 68 per cent in 2003. The government’s goal is to have an 85 per cent graduation rate.


          • James Bow says:

            I took five years to graduate when I had the option of going for a four year diploma, back before they eliminated grade 13. I personally don’t see anything wrong with that.

        • Michel says:

          That’s a naive explanation. Youth unemployment rates (ages 15-24) in Ontario have actually been on the decline since 2003, exactly the year McGuinty took over. There was a spike in mid-2009 all across the country, but we all know about the recession, which Harper said in late 2008 wasn’t coming.

  5. paulsstuff says:

    It’s worth mentioning that in 2003 we still had grade 13, which was notorious for being tough to pass. Today’s rates have gone up under McGuinty, but one should take the figure with a grain of salt. Some credit is deserved, but to point to the 81% figure is a little misleading.

    • Dave says:

      You still graduated from Grade 12 though, the grade 13 (OAC) year wasn’t a graduation requirement.

    • JenS says:

      Pssssst … Even when there was a Grade 13, provided you had the right number of credits in the right subjects, you had completed Grade 12, which was prerequisite for the high school diploma. So, consideration of how one did in Grade 13 is a moot point when it’s high school graduation you’re talking about. And even if it weren’t, I think of you check the numbers, they won’t back up your assertion that people had vast difficulty completing Grade 13.

    • James Bow says:

      You’re also wrong, I believe, to say that we still had grade 13 in 2003. That was eliminated by the Harris government in the mid to late 90s. Now, to be fair, grade 13 was something of an educational appendix in Ontario, given that no other jurisdiction on the continent had anything higher than grade 12, but Harris’ actions did install a “double-cohort” which the colleges and universities watched with dread as it swept through the high schools towards them.

      On a more pedantic issue, the term “grade 13” was dropped in the late 1980s, with “grade 9” becoming “First Year”, “grade 10” becoming “Second Year” and so on. Grade 12 was “fourth year” and the grade 13 courses were known as OAC courses.

      • Chris says:

        Incorrect. 2003 was the last year of Grade 13 (the “double cohort” year where both grade 13 and 12 graduated together.)

        I work in education and I’ve never heard the grades referred to by “years” as you suggest, other than now referring to returning grads as “fifth year” students.

  6. Wannabeapiper says:

    While this is grat news, I taught at the College Level. In a class of 40, more than half were illiterate. The faculty blamed the highschools. In my class 48% failed. The failures were a combination of not attending, not participating, not being able to write an essay, failure to attend the final exam, failure to submit assignments etc. It was absolutely pathetic. Again, the College Faculty blamed the highschools and everybody blamed Harris for cut backs and then McGuinty for fast tracking students out of the high school level.

    So based on my experience, as minimal as it is, and after speaking with dozens of teachers and administrators, about the quality or more accurately the loss of quality of education, I don’t know what to make of the proclaimed results.

    I am fairly confident however, to mention, educators are laughing at the claim that graduates have jumped to 81%.

    Meanwhile the teaching profession in Ontario is so over populated, that Teaching Graduates can not find jobs in Ontario and the Universities continue to produce more and more teachers who have nowhere to go, with debilitating student loans.

    All is not well in education.

    • Cath says:

      good points Wannabeapiper. You touched on ones I was going to as well. My spouse has hired students who have no idea how to compose a letter or address an envelop because they’ve not ever been taught. Worse yet is that when it’s pointed out to the students they really don’t seem to care.

      Believe it or not, in my small town we still have a movie theatre that is not automated – in that the ticket-takers don’t have electronic cash registers. The reason my teenager got a part-time job at this place was that he could do the math in his head. Not many applicants could apparently.

      The issue of taking a 5th year to complete high school is a good one and one that parents spar about all the time. Here’s why. Some parents feel that if a student completes their high school diploma in 4 years they have been “successful” while those who opt for a 5th year have not. It has also almost come to blows when awards are handed out at graduation time. Should a student taking a 5th year be held up to the same standard or award as those who took 4 years?

    • James Bow says:

      Sad to say, this is a longstanding problem. The universities were complaining about the literacy of students coming up through high school as early as 1992. They objected to having to teach basic composition skills in addition to what they were supposed to be teaching. So this is a problem that McGuinty has failed to correct, rather than a problem that he caused.

      What caused the problem? I think it’s the fact that the high schools stopped teaching grammar during the 1980s, and possibly even earlier. Back when I went to high school (1986), an English teacher told my mother “we don’t correct the grammar on our students’ composition anymore because we don’t want to stifle their natural creativity.” My mother had to be restrained from hitting her, and I’m inclined to side with my mother. You have to know what the rules ARE before you can break them creatively.

      My school (Harbord CI) did do a lot to try and correct this oversight. My grade 11 English teacher had students play grammar games when he finished teaching what the curriculum required. The school also instituted twenty minutes of silent, personal uninterrupted reading throughout the school. Most of my grammar skills come from this policy — i know how to write by seeing how others write. But to this day I can’t deconstruct a sentence.

      • JenS says:

        I’d be willing to bet that if you go back through history, you’ll find successive generations bemoaning the education of the next. Learning differently has been regarded as not learning, and that’s ridiculous.

        My kids are in Grades 2 and 3, and their reading, writing and grammar skills are strong, as are those of many of their classmates. If anything, their skills surpass those of some of the high school students who co-oped in my office in years past. My personal view is that there’s been an improvement somewhere along the line.

  7. Bill Stewart says:

    If graduating means acquiring basic literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking and life skills then this figure is highly exaggerated and insignificant.

    If graduating means leaving high school with overcompensatory sense of inflated self-esteem, falling through the cracks of a standardized testing system where teachers often spend more time correcting puerile behaviour, teaching to the various tests, and quantifying goal oriented pedagogy than they do educating (which is what they would prefer to be doing), then this figure might even be understated.

    This education preem is also leader of the government that has kept a ballot box sealed for over two years containing the results of a union certification vote held by part-time and sessional instructors from colleges across Ontario.

    I think teachers and teachers’ unions may be re-thinking the whole education preem meme, especially given Mcguinty’s recent attacks on organized labour in ramming through, without debate, legislation that would make the TTC an essential service.

    • Chris says:

      I am a teacher, and the McGuinty years have been good years for education (and for teachers).

      Any Ontario teacher who doesn’t vote Liberal in the upcoming election is either a masochist or willfully ignorant.

      • JenS says:

        Word, Chris. And I’m not a teacher.

      • Bill Stewart says:

        Chris, nice use of Liberal talking points, but buying off teachers’ unions in exchange for labour “peace” is not the panacea you seem to think it is.

        McGuinty’s record on reversing the damage caused by the Harris/Eves governments on education is as deceptive as his promises to reverse the damage on organized labour perpetrated by Harris, his promise to improve the plight of the poor and working poor in this province.

        To be clear, I think our teachers are overworked, underresourced, and underappreciated and so I harbour nothing but respect for them. However, as someone who receives the students at the tail end of their educational journey, I can only say that the situation is worsening each and every year.

        Standardized testing, modular learning, focus on achievement has served not only to kill the inquisitiveness and spontaneity of a true desire to learn, but also has inculcated in students some very nasty habits: there is a greater proclivity to cheat, to plagiarize, to manipulate the system because the ends justify the means. Students are taught that grades are the most important aspect of learning and thus focus on maximizing their grades.

        Not only is cheating and plagiarism rampant in post secondary education, but also there are more subtle ways manipulating the system. Students generally only focus on what they perceive to be testable, they are more interested in finding short cuts to doing well than in actually learning the material. They prime you for inside imformation and appeal every single grade, usually going over your head because education has become a customer service industry and deans just want to appease their “customers”.

        While standardized testing might have been a clever way for McGuinty to quantify an “improvement” in education, graduation rates, albeit look good in headlines don’t tell the story whatsoever.

        The students I’m getting tend to be very likeable and compliant but they are also cowed, resigned, uncritical, and apathetic. Worse they often lack the most rudimentary skills (basic numeracy, basic English, media literacy, a sense of history/context, critical thinking skills, basic vocabulary and conceptual knowledge etc). Worse yet, they often display a sense of learned helplessness at a time in their lives when they should be eager, curious, fiercely idealistic, and shamelessly critical.

        • Chris says:

          If these students are as bad as you say they are, why are they sitting in university/college classrooms? Could it be that the universities are reluctant to maintain strict standards that could have a negative impact on enrolment (and tuition income/subsidies)?

          The majority of the 13% jump in graduates are for the most part kids who would have dropped out/fallen through the cracks long before they had any contact with the post-secondary system.

          School to 18 had a big impact on this. Schools are now responsible to go to great lengths to provide some type of programming for every student until they’re 18. For problem students there is no more “wait till they’re 16 and boot them out”.

          There are also many more options for granting credits. Co-op placements are a boon for students who have difficulty in the traditional classroom. There are students that are earning four credits per semester while working full time.

          • Bill Stewart says:

            Don’t get me started on the systemic problems in our post-secondary institutions. I agree with you that administrators are very cognizant of potential impacts to their bottom line. After all, their double digit raises don’t pay themselves.

            re: “The majority of the 13% jump in graduates are for the most part kids who would have dropped out/fallen through the cracks long before they had any contact with the post-secondary system.”

            Could it be that all that’s happened is the cracks have been widened and when these 13% “graduate” they simply fall through a larger hole with a piece of paper in their hand? From what I can see, we (all of us, all of our social & political institutions) are failing too look after far too many children.

            There’s little to celebrate here with this 81% and certainly less with which to make political hay. In fact, given this government’s track record for not stalling the attack on organized labour, I don’t see how teachers can give this preem any better grade than they did Harris. Especially when the teachers’ unions, which heavily sponsored organizations like Working Families Ontario, were instrumental in bringing McGuinty to power.

    • Michel says:

      Bill, Obviously you have no idea what the Harris Conservatives did to teachers and the education system in Ontario during the 90s.

  8. warren t says:

    Th improvement is because McGuinty lowered the class sizes

    • Bill Stewart says:

      Indeed I do. I was on strike -part of one of the longest labour disruptions in Canadian history- against that regime. When the McGuinty Liberals were elected, I thought they couldn’t but improve the dire situation left by the Conservatives. This is why my indictment of McGuinty’s tenure is so serious. Students, organized labour, the poor, the middle class, the marginalized are very regrettably worse off under McGuinty than under the Conservative regimes.

  9. JenS says:

    @E – your logic escapes me. You’re saying that the education system is currently failing students, and that you see these students now, and yet these are the students who have come up through Ontario’s standardized testing system over the past decade. And the standardized tests have shown the vast majority of students are or exceeding the standard. So, how is it, exactly, that these tests have improved matters?

    In fact, I would argue that teachers teaching to the test – and I’m watching it happen right now with my son’s Grade 3 class – are contributing to any problems that may exist, because instead of dealing with issues they may see, they’re dealing only with ensuring students know how to answer on the test. This bent on teaching to the test takes away from time better spent on having teachers assess students, to ensure specific needs are dealt with.

    I also don’t buy Gord’s crap fostering competition amongst schools. This type of blind reliance on test data is sophomoric. It doesn’t take into account a vast array of variables, including parental demographics, which has shown to be a key factor is test results. The EQAO data backs that up.

  10. Ontario Teacher says:

    As an Ontario teacher, I think I’m qualified to speak to a lot of the comments posted here. Is education in Ontario perfect? Nope. Is it better than it was during the Harris years? Considerably. Do standardized tests work? I don’t think so, but many in education are okay with them, and governments love them because there’s data that can be used. Ontario high schools (like most institutions in our society) are data-generators. At the end of the semester we get to see breakdowns of all sorts of things. All that really matters though is, are students learning? The answer to that is undoubtedly, yes. Unfortunately, there are those who manage to get through high school and into post-secondary institutions with some areas of weakness, but illiterate? Surely you jest? They passed the literacy test that Conservatives seem to think is the only way to keep teachers accountable. Is the test broken? Do some teachers teach to the test? Of course. When there’s pressure to reach a target, people teach to the test. In the end though, as an English teacher, I can tell you just about everyone who is at risk of failing the test. Instead of spending millions of dollars on a test that’s used to ‘keep teachers accountable,’ why don’t you spend the money on after-school programs that will help these kids out? Admittedly, some of these programs exist, but they are a minor part of the system, and they’re generally used to teach to the test.

    I think the biggest problem with education in our society is the notion that because everyone attended school they are somehow an expert on education. Well, I’ve been a witness in a courtroom, but I’m no lawyer. Another serious problem is the weight placed on grades. That’s not coming from the teachers (at least not most of them). The grades issue is a societal issue. Top programs are highly competitive, and our society tells kids that unless they study engineering at Waterloo or business at Queen’s they won’t be successful in life. If you were seventeen and heard that, would you really care about learning? Teachers in Ontario (for the most part) care about their students, but education only comes up when someone is looking for a punching bag. If instead of blaming teachers or students, we started focusing on what societal values are being placed on education, maybe we could make improvements that would satisfy everyone.

    That’s not realistic though, because many people see teachers as overpaid babysitters who get a summer vacation and a March Break. If you don’t believe that, just look for some of the comments that were made about Toronto teachers (thankfully, I don’t teach in the TDSB, despite living in Toronto) when schools were closed in early February. People argued that teachers should work near their schools so that they could easily get there. I mean, really? These are the same people that shout about individual freedoms.

    But I digress. In the past three years I’ve taught nearly 750 grade twelve English students. I teach them grammar. I teach them media literacy. I teach them oral communication skills, and I also teach them about literature and writing essays. Not all of them love it. Not all of them get great marks. Not all of them go to university or college. Those that do seem to be fairly successful there, and it’s a slap in the face to all of us when you say that teachers are gaming the system and graduating a bunch of illiterates that are a drag on the economy. Almost all teachers went to university. We all got reasonably good grades in order to get accepted to teacher’s college. We managed to get jobs in a highly competitive field (and the earlier poster who spoke of far too many teachers is right). Treat us like professionals, do some research, and try to talk about education in a way that doesn’t make you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about, and maybe then we can actually make some major progress. For now, I’m much happier with the guy in charge than I was with the last guy, or the potential next guy.

  11. Chris says:

    Well said. I am also a teacher, and you’ll likely agree that you could predict with reasonable accuracy the students who were going to have trouble with the OSSLT in mid to early elementary school. Most of those that pass in grade 10 would likely be able to pass at the end of grade 8

    I think that this province really needs to focus on family and early literacy programs. The all day kindergarten will help, I’m sure – we’ll see the results in our literacy test results in about a decade.

    The difference between students whose parents are involved and those that are not is stark.

    Enjoy March break!

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