Provinces releases new education initiatives on a Friday at the end of Spring Break when a lot of parents are away.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

March 18th, 21019



The province announced major changes in the way education is going to be delivered to elementary and high school students in the province.

They want to take the cell phones out of the hands of students.

They want to get ‘Back-to-Basics’ Math Curriculum, Renewed Focus on Skilled Trades and STEM – Science,Technology Engineering and Mathematics curriculum.

The Halton District School Board HDSB is more than a couple of steps ahead of the province. In September they will open the first part of the iStem program at Aldershot High School.  A total of 124 students have registered in a program that has taken two years to create.

Terri Blackwell, Superintendent of Education said “after extensive consultation with parents, staff, post secondary partners, industry leaders and students in the 2017-2018 year lead to the Innovation – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (iStem) Program at Aldershot. This past year we have been working closely with an outstanding Advisory Group consisting of post secondary partners, community organizations and industry leaders.

“The Engineer’s Toolkit in grade 9, the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit in grade 10 and the Global Innovator’s Toolkit in the senior years was developed in partnership with our ever growing Advisory Group. With a focus on Innovation (the “I” in iStem), students will contribute and thrive in our technologically intensive world through interdisciplinary learning opportunities connecting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Learning in the classroom will be paired with experiential learning and mentorship with the community and workplace.”

Blackwell and Miller at itsem Nov 2018

Halton District School Board Superintendent Terri Blackwell and Director of Education Stuart Miller at the first parent night announcing the program.

Blackwell added: “As part of the application process students were asked to respond to a number of questions: “What is one problem you would like to solve or big question you would like to explore as part of your learning in the iStem program?”.

“We were inspired by the responses from students and will continue to build learning opportunities with input from them.”

Director of Education Stuart Miller said: The Minister of Education has spoken previously about the need for more opportunities for students to pursue an iStem curriculum.

We are very proud at the HDSB that we have gotten out in front of the province’s direction. Almost two years ago we began the process of enhancing the program at Aldershot High School by focusing on iStem (i being for innovation) commencing in September 2019. Through the work of many staff, but in particular Superintendent Terri Blackwell we have forged relationships with post secondary institutions and some private companies in helping us develop it. We have had tremendous interest from not just the community, but also beyond and as a result we will see a large increase in the number of students attending Aldershot in September enrolled in iStem.

“More importantly we will be preparing these students to pursue many opportunities beyond High school related to all things iStem.”

The provincial media release on changes coming to education covered much more than iStem.

All the buzz words that the PR types the government has hired are in the province’s Media Release. “We will make sure our students are leaving school with the skills they need to build good lives, families and careers right here in Ontario, while ensuring the system is both fiscally sustainable and respectful of parents.”

lisa Thomson with sign

Minister of Education Lisa Thomson

“The new vision will modernize Ontario’s classrooms and provide students with more learning opportunities to prepare them for success in post-secondary education, apprenticeship and training, and the workforce. The plan would include:

Modernizing classrooms by expanding broadband, developing a new policy that will ban the use of cellphones during class except for educational purposes and modernizing the approach to assessment and evaluation with a renewed focus on equity across the province.

Introducing changes to education funding that keep resources focused on students in the classroom.

Supporting teacher mobility, greater transparency, fairness, consistency and accountability to school board hiring practices of teachers.

Maintaining class sizes for Kindergarten to Grade 3, establishing a consistent approach to class sizes for grades 4 to 8 and aligning secondary class sizes more closely with other Canadian jurisdictions, while introducing a new approach to e-learning and reducing pressure on school boards to put students in portables and split classes.
Undertaking curriculum reform that will include:

A new math curriculum that will focus on math fundamentals for all grades;

A renewed focus on STEM, skilled trades and financial literacy; and

A modern and age-appropriate Health and Physical Education curriculum that will keep students safe.

“There will be clear provisions for parents who wish to exempt their child or children from sexual health education, and online modules will be available for parents who want to discuss sexual health topics at home whenever they feel their child is ready.

“The government is committed to discussing the key elements of the proposed plan, including hiring practices and class sizes, through a consultation process that allows partners to provide the benefit of their expertise, experience and ideas.

Lisa Thomson

Minister Lisa Thomson

“We welcome conversation with any education stakeholder who is prepared to work with us in good faith to ensure our plan continues to serve the best interests of Ontario’s students in a way that works for families and school boards and is fair to our educators.” said Thompson.

Look carefully at some of the phrasing:

“…prepared to work with us in good faith to ensure our plan continues to serve the best interests of students…”

They don’t say they are going to listen.

“…establishing a consistent approach to class sizes for grades 4 to 8 and aligning secondary class sizes more closely with other Canadian jurisdictions.”

An increase in the number of students in classrooms.

“Supporting teacher mobility, greater transparency, fairness, consistency and accountability to school board hiring practices of teachers.”

Teachers aren’t interested in the kind of mobility the government is talking about. Transparency is a two way street.

The document was released on a Friday at the end of the Spring Break when what parents are about most concerned about is knowing that they are going to be able to get on a flight that gets them back so they can have the kids ready for school on Monday.

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