The Divisional Court’s Decision in Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council

INTRODUCTION

In its December 2021 decision in Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council v. The Queen, the Divisional Court held that the standardized Mathematics Proficiency Test (“MPT”) the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) had developed and the Ontario government had implemented for prospective teachers was unconstitutional because it disadvantaged Black and Indigenous candidates.

As a remedy, the Court allowed all candidates who had otherwise satisfied teacher qualification requirements to enter the profession.

The Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council (“the Council”) arose after the Ontario government made the MPT mandatory. (Neither the Divisional Court nor the Council’s webpage identifies who actually formed the Council.) The Council challenged the requirement that teacher applicants pass the MPT as infringing section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The “significant disparities in success rates of standardized testing based on race, including statistical evidence of racial disparities with respect to the MPT specifically” led the Divisional Court to conclude that the MPT was discriminatory (para. 2). The Court also concluded that the government had not justified the discrimination because other alternatives to assessing competence in mathematics were less impairing and at least as effective.

BACKGROUND

A Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (“PCAP”) test in spring 2019 showed that while the scores of students in most provinces had increased statistically significantly, those in Ontario and Saskatchewan were the same as nine years ago. The PCAP test “measured students’ understanding of numbers and operations, geometry and measurement, patterns and probability”. (See “Standardized test results show most Canadian students’ math skills improving“, The Globe and Mail)

In a test of the math capabilities of grade six students in Ontario for 2017-2018, just under half of the students had met provincial standards or a B grade, down five percentage points since 2014 (“Ontario unveils details of qualifying math tests for future teachers,” The Globe and Mail). The scores of grade 3 students also declined (“Ontario vows to revamp curriculum by next fall as latest math test scores slide“, The Globe and Mail).

There had been wide media coverage of the Ontario government’s concern about students’ scores domestically and comparatively over time in Ontario, as well as their scores relative to other jurisdictions internationally. Although some commentators criticized how teachers were expected to teach mathematics and recommended changes in curriculum, others focused on teacher training. Ontario’s answer was the MPT, along with other changes, such as returning to “basics” in the curriculum. (The Divisional Court identifies other elements in the effort to increase students’ math scores at para. 39.)

Before being issued a teaching certificate of qualification prospective teachers must satisfy the requirements under section 18(1) of theOntario College of Teachers Act (“OCTA”). These include that the applicant apply for a certificate “in accordance with the regulations [under the OCTA]” and that the applicant satisfy the requirements set out in the regulations. In addition, with the advent of the MPT, the OCTA was amended to require an applicant to “successfully complete[] any prescribed examinations relating to proficiency in mathematics that are required for the issuance of the certificate”. A regulation, Proficiency in Mathematics, (O. Reg 271/19) provides the rules relating to the MPT; it also provides an exemption for applicants who have satisfied the requirements for teaching Native Languages.

As the Divisional Court explained,

In the summer of 2019, the EQAO engaged a committee of math specialists from Faculties of Education in Ontario to aid in the development of an assessment “Blueprint” for the MPT. The EQAO relied on its bank of math questions used for Grade 3, 6, and 9 assessments in both French and English and created new questions based on Ministry policy documents for the pedagogy component.

The EQAO undertook a further review of the MPT questions in response to its Literature Review. Because the math questions were sourced from the pre-existing Grades 3, 6 and 9 EQAO math assessments, these questions had already gone through a first review against a rubric that factored in identity, social justice and equity issues. The EQAO also engaged a committee of external members of the [Ontario College of Teachers (“the College”)] as well as internal EQAO staff to conduct a second review of all MPT questions for bias and sensitivity to equity issues. The test questions were reviewed to determine whether demographic indicators or knowledge of culturally specific information would predict reduced performance on questions.

Since September 2019, the EQAO has also been guided in the development of the MPT by a Governance Steering Committee (the “Steering Committee”). The Steering Committee consists of representatives from various organizations, including the College, the EQAO, the Ontario Association of Deans of Education, the Independent Ontario Deans of Education, the Council of Ontario Universities, and the Ministry of Education.

To date, the Steering Committee has aided in making substantive changes and recommendations regarding exemptions to the MPT that have been adopted by the Ministry such as amending the MPT to test up to Grade 9 math (as opposed to Grade 11 math) and creating an exemption for applicants who are entitled to become teachers of Native Languages. (Paras. 24-27)

(Some appreciation of what is meant by “equity” in math can be found through a presentation prepared for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, “Centering [sic] Equity in Mathematics Teaching and Learning”, available here.)

A website describes the MPT in great detail. It states, “The MPT is composed of multiple-choice type questions consisting of the following two components: mathematics content component (non-calculator and calculator-enabled items) [70%] [and] pedagogy component [30%]”. Applicants could also complete a voluntary questionaire with “identity-based questions”. The MPT could be written in English or French.

The questions were derived from those given to students in grades 3 to 9 and the website directed applicants the relevant curricula. There were practice tests on the website. The results provided to students included recommendations for how to improve weaker areas. Passing required 70% successful responses.

The MPT was administered twice, first as a “test” of the test (“the Field Test”) in February to March 2020 and second its actual First Administration in May to June 2021.

(The Divisional Court also described the MPT, including changes made after the Field Test at paras. 28-31.)

However, students would not reach this point in the process until they had acquired a three or four year undergraduate degree and, usually, completed a two year B.Ed (otherwise known as initial teacher education (“ITE”)). (Not all B.Ed programs are two years, though: see here, for example.) The extent to which students would have taken math courses during this period would vary with individual students. As the Divisional Court noted, “There are core program requirements for ITE programs but no common math education curriculum is required to be taught. Some faculties require their candidates to demonstrate math proficiency in order to complete their initial teacher education program, while others do not” (para. 12).

Union representatives criticized the MPT, not necessarily on the basis the Divisional Court declared it unconstitutional, but on other grounds. For example, as the National Post reported in “Ontario teachers will have to score at least 70 per cent on math tests“,

“Expecting a kindergarten teacher to have a firm grasp of calculus makes no sense,” Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said in a statement.

“The proposed teacher candidate test will not increase math outcomes. Testing doesn’t grow confidence, competency or proficiency.”

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said this kind of across-the-board testing of all teachers, when a majority of them will never teach math, won’t impact students’ math outcomes.

“In Ontario’s high school system teachers teach in their areas of qualification,” he said. “So what we have here is the potential to have an excellent, let’s say, art or geography or history teacher, not qualified to teach because they don’t pass a math test, a course that they would never teach.”

However, until grade 6, any teacher could be required to teach math. Anyone teaching math beyond that is required to have particular qualifications in math; nevertheless, despite this, if the teacher and principal agree and a supervisory officer approves it, a teacher without the qualifications may teach math beyond grade 6 (para. 13).

Ironically, the EQAO, responsible for developing the MPT, stated that standardized tests don’t necessarily improve student performance:

“Current research demonstrates that standardized teacher tests is not linked with a level of performance consistency that justifies their widespread implementation at this time. The use of caution with these tests is advised by many researchers on the basis that these tests are not consistently associated with the positive benefits that are often claimed.” (Quoted in “Standardized tests for teachers don’t necessarily improve student scores: report” [“Standardized tests”],National Post)

Furthermore,

The EQAO report also said that there are potential negative impacts of such tests for teachers, including a bias against marginalized groups. Multiple studies have found that the pass rate on standardized teacher competency tests is significantly lower for people of colour, the report said. (“Standardized tests”)

(On the research showing that racialized applicants do less well than White applicants on standardized tests, see para. 99.)

The solution to resolving the “math problem” is more complicated than giving prospective teachers a standardized test (although that might indicate which future teachers might benefit from courses or from not being assigned math to teach, the latter not in tune with Ontario’s view that teachers should be able to teach almost anything). In “For the sake of kids, embrace math”, in The Conversation, republished in the National Post, Andy Hargreaves and Pasi Sahlberg explain that Ontario students’ literacy levels increased significantly when the government dedicated much energy and effort to that objective. They also suggest teachers were more likely to have been readers, while they had been less likely to take to math. They point out,

In Ontario, for example, 80 per cent of elementary teachers have no university qualification in math. However, in Finland, one of the world’s leading performers in mathematics, around half of elementary teachers have studied math or science and how to teach them effectively during their university degrees.

In Singapore, when they begin teaching, elementary teachers are paid the same as engineers: “This means students who are good at math choose teaching based on their mission and purpose in life, not on salary differentials. Perhaps Canada and Australia need to think harder about how to attract more people with math and science backgrounds into elementary teaching.” (Hargreaves and Sahlberg)

In short, there appeared to be a need to improve student scores in math (or arithmetic) and the solution the Ontario government chose, the MPT, had been subject to criticism on several grounds when the government announced it, not least of which was that members of racialized communities tended to score lower on standardized tests and that it would not be effective in improving student outcomes.

(The Field Test also showed that candidates indicating they had a cognitive disability had a failure rate twice that of candidates without a disability (para. 33).

I note that there did not seem to be concern about women’s math scores on the MPT, whether that is because the women did not have lower scores than men; if they did, they did not raise it; or because no one compared the scores. However, there continues to be concern about whether women are confident in taking math courses: see, for example, “Confidence in math has become a major problem for girls in school“, Global News).

Against this background, the Divisional Court issued its decision.

THE DECISION

    The Section 15 Analysis

Fundamental to the decision in Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council, is recognition of the historical and current disadvantages experienced by Black and Indigenous students (paras. 64-65) and the difficulty internationally trained students have in acquiring Canadian credentials (para. 66). Furthermore, the proportion of racialized teachers does not reflect the proportion of racialized students in the system:

…[T]he evidence demonstrates a “diversity gap” in the teaching profession in Ontario. Twenty-six percent of Ontario students are racialized. However, only thirteen percent of teachers are racialized. Social science evidence shows that racialized students, in particular, Black and Indigenous students, benefit and perform better when they have racialized teachers. A lack of role models in the education system creates a vicious cycle – because students do not see themselves represented, they do not aspire to become teachers.

The experience of racialized students is relevant because it is those students, or a portion of them, who go on to attend university and teacher’s college, and then form the pool of teacher candidates who are now required to take the MPT in order to be licensed. There is thus a significant amount of social science evidence that shows that the claimant group experiences disadvantage associated with their race at all stages of their education. This is especially pronounced in respect of Black and Indigenous teacher candidates. (Paras. 67 & 69)

The Court also refers to American studies showing the disadvantages Black students experience compared to White students (para. 68), although it does not explain how the American school system experience is relevant to the Canadian experience.

The EQAO Literature Review (“the Review”) and the report by Dr. Mary Reid, “a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education whose doctoral thesis was on mathematics teacher efficacy and pedagogy”, provided the basis of the Court’s comments about the impact of standardized tests. Dr. Reid’s report centred on two points: whether the MPT is “likely to result in fewer minorities and people of colour being certified as teachers” and whether the test is “likely to accomplish its stated goal of improving student math scores”. (Para. 41)

The Review “found evidence that mandatory teacher competency testing impacts the teacher workforce pipeline, workforce, teacher training and the diversity of the teacher population”. However, the Review was not able to provide explanations for these results. The Review also found that the standardized tests did not have the results claimed for them. It is important to note that the Review stated, “the potential negative impacts of these programs, including bias against marginalized groups and the decrease in the availability of qualified teachers, are more consistent impacts of these test[s] [sic]”. (Paras. 71-73)

The Court noted that “the proportion of racialized teachers has not only failed to increase with the proportion of racialized Canadians, but decreased from 2001 to 2006, relative to the proportion of visible minority citizens” (para. 97). The lack of diversity is a disadvantage not only to racialized students who do not see themselves in the classroom or whose teachers may not understand their experiences, but also non-racialized students who can learn from a more diverse teacher population.

As for the MPT itself,

… the results of the Field Test and First Administration of the MPT show significant disparities in success rates and correspond to the social science research. On the Field Test, Black teacher candidates had a significantly lower pass rate than White teacher candidates. The pass rate for teacher candidates who self-identified as “African” was 58 percent. The pass rate of teacher candidates who self-identified as “Caribbean” was 71 percent. In comparison, the pass rate of teacher candidates who self-identified as “White” was 87 percent.

The results of the First Administration of the MPT showed similar results. The pass rate of Black teacher candidates was 70.3 percent, as compared to the pass rate of White teacher candidates of 90.5 percent. The pass rate of Indigenous teacher candidates was 71.43 percent. Put more starkly, the failure rate of Black or Indigenous teacher candidates to White teacher candidates was three to one. It is also worth noting that test-takers were disproportionately White, at 62.8 percent, as compared to 5.9 percent of test-takers who were Black. There were more than 10 times as many White test-takers as Black. Less than 0.5 percent of test-takers were Indigenous. (Paras. 75-76)

(In the Field Test, 87% of Asian and 84% of unspecified European test takers were successful; the percentages for other groups were as follows: 72% Latino, 74% Middle East and 76% “Multiple”. The figures for these groups on the First Administration test were as follows: 92.39% East/South-east Asian, 76.47 “Latinx”, 83.33% Middle Eastern, 84.89% South Asian, 78.38% “Another [unidentified] Race Category, 91.21% [unspecified] “Mix”. [Decision, Appendices A and B])

The government argued that these results are not necessarily helpful because applicants can take the test as many times as they want and pass rates after second and third attempts were far higher (Appendix B). Applicants were able to retake it once without cost, but there was a fee (unknown at the time) for additional attempts. Significantly, a large proportion of candidates did not take the test again and although there is no evidence about how that broke down, the Court surmised that “it is likely that a non-negligible proportion of the Black and Indigenous candidates are among the 259 who did not retake the test” (para. 83).

Not only is there a financial cost to retaking the test more than once, there are other costs:

…while test results are available in ten days, a teacher candidate who did not pass the MPT may not be prepared to retake it during the same test cycle. In addition, the delay of waiting until the next test cycle could result in hardship, depending on a candidate’s circumstances, as they might be unable to earn an income in the interim. Further, a delay of even a few months might cause a teacher candidate to miss out on employment opportunities. For example, the second testing cycle in 2021 was after the academic year had already started.(Para. 100)

The Court was not impressed by the argument that candidates could retake the test because having to take the test again imposes an additional burden on the disadvantaged test takers. In addition, there was insufficient evidence relating to the demographic backgrounds of those who took the test again, but what evidence there is indicates that racialized test takers were less likely to pass on the third attempt than were White candidates. The government’s own expert reinforced this view (para. 84).

The government argued the court should permit additional administrations of the test to obtain more data. However, the paucity of data beyond the Field and first administration of the test did not particularly concern the Court: “The fact that a greater adverse impact could be demonstrated over time does not mean that there is no adverse impact now. While evidence is necessary, it cannot be that a claimant group must wait years before it is in a position to challenge a regulation that it alleges is discriminatory.” Regardless, the available data “represent ‘clear and consistent statistical disparities in how a law affects a claimant group’” (para. 85; citation omitted).

The Court relied heavily on the experience of one individual, Richard Nyelade, whose education (“master’s degrees from Cameroon and Norway and [the beginning of] a Ph.D. program in China”) had taken place outside Canada. He is Black and his first language is French, although he is multilingual. When he came to Canada, he decided to become a teacher and completed the B.Ed program at the University of Ottawa, Toronto campus. By the time he had finished the program, the MPT was in place. He took the test three times and “scored well above 70 percent on the math component all three times. However, he was only able to pass the pedagogy component on his third attempt.” Somewhat ironically, given his results on the MPT, the only course in the University of Ottawa program was in pedagogy, not content. (Paras. 87-88) (The Divisional Court stated this was the case when the government first announced the MPT; it is not clear what the situation was when Mr. Nyelade was in his second year – we know the MPT requirement did not exist when he started the program.)

The focus of Mr. Nyelade’s concern was people like himself “who are newcomers to Ontario and learned math in other countries”. He also wasn’t familiar with using a computer or calculator for math and applicants take the MPT on a computer. He was also disadvantaged because the only math course in his B.Ed program was (perhaps not surprisingly?) based on the Ontario curriculum and there were initially no study materials available.

However, the Court believed that it would be a loss to students if someone like Mr. Nyelade were not able to enter the system:

A teacher candidate like Mr. Nyelade, however, would have much to offer students in Ontario and the Ontario education system as a whole. The Ontario French curriculum includes learning about French cultures beyond Canada. Having studied on three continents, Mr. Nyelade is multilingual with an upbringing in the French language and African culture, Mr. Nyelade is uniquely qualified to broaden students’ awareness and understanding of Franco-African culture and cross-cultural world views. (Para. 91)

Mr. Nyelade was the only person not doing well on any portion of the MPT whose actual experience was before the Court. While admitting it would have been desirable to have heard from others, the Court explained the lack of others this way: “the fact that there is only one such affiant may reflect the stigma of disclosing in a public forum that they did not pass the MPT on their first or second attempt” (para. 93).

Although the MPT requirement has prompted BEd programs to introduce math courses, the Court considers this a “so what?” defence, since this doesn’t “lessen the burdens imposed by the test itself” and in any case, the province could have taken this approach instead of the MPT (para. 103).

The MPT requirement constitutes a burden on Black and Indigenous applicants and perpetuates the disadvantages they have already experienced in the education system. Although they can retake the test, “the attendant financial burden, time, stress and stigma remain”. There will be fewer Black and Indigenous teachers in the system. The lack of racialized teachers is also a disadvantage for both racialized students who will not benefit from seeing themselves in the classroom and non-racialized students who can benefit from exposure to greater diversity in the classroom. These factors underlie the Court’s finding of a contravention of section 15.

    The Section 1 Analysis

In its section 1 analysis, the Court concluded that improving the educational system satisfied a “pressing and substantial purpose” (paras. 108-114). It also accepted that having to take the MPT, by prompting prospective teachers to take math courses, among other reasons, will improve teacher competency and it is reasonable to conclude that will improve student performance, thus satisfying the requirement that the MPT must be rationally connected to improving students’ math scores (paras. 115-120). The Court emphasizes that these two steps, whether there is a pressing and substantial objective and whether there is a rational connection between the measure and the objective (the first part of the proportionality test) have low thresholds to meet.

The problem for the government arises at the minimal impairment stage, the second step of the proportionality analysis. The test here is as follows: “’whether there is an alternative, less drastic means of achieving the objective in a real and substantial manner’” (para. 123, citation omitted). Given the nature of the issue, the Court assumed a deferential approach:

Where the legislature is mediating between the competing claims of different groups in society, the choice of means will often involve assessing conflicting scientific or social science evidence and differing demands on scarce resources which cannot be evaluated by the courts with the same degree of certainty: … In these circumstances, the question is “whether the government had a reasonable basis, on the evidence tendered” for concluding that its chosen means impaired the right as little as possible given the government’s pressing and substantial objective: …. (Para. 125, citations omitted; also see para. 132.)

The Court accepted that there was a problem with declining math scores and needed a response. The government made some effort to address the negative effects of the MPT (“such as screening questions for bias and allowing unlimited rewrites”), and was “alive to equity issues” (para. 135), but these efforts

fail to address the Applicants’ argument that there are less impairing means that do not adversely impact racialized teacher candidates. The Respondent cannot discharge its burden by imposing an option which breaches equality rights, and then make some effort to mitigate the negative effects, if options are available that would not breach equality rights in the first place. (Para. 136)

Mandatory math courses during the B.Ed program would be less impairing and more directly address the issue than the indirect impact of students taking math courses in order to pass the MPT, as the government suggested. The Court explained, “there is no evidence to suggest that these negative diversity impacts would exist in the context of a mandatory math course (i.e. that racialized teacher candidates might disproportionately fail these math courses), and we do not think such an inference can be made on the basis of logic or common sense” (para. 142).

And just as the government argued B.Ed programs would provide support for preparing to write the MPT, there could be assistance for math courses during undergraduate and B.Ed programs that would accomplish the government’s objective directly (para. 143). The Court blithely dismissed the government’s concern that requiring math courses would interfere with Faculties of Education’s autonomy: doing so was less important than ensuring the math education in the programs.

The Court found that there were less impairing alternatives to the MPT and thus the government had failed to sustain a section 1 justification.

Nevertheless, the Court did consider the last step in the section 1 analysis: whether the benefits of the MPT outweighed its deleterious effects.

A positive effect of the MPT is that prospective (to use the Court’s term, “math avoidance”) teachers are more likely to sign up for math courses “to improve their confidence in math” and Faculties of Education are more likely to offer them (para. 150).

However, these benefits do not outweigh the deleterious effects: lack of “racial diversity in the teaching pool”; the (possible) exclusion of “racialized teacher candidates and exacerbat[ion of] the trend of de-diversification that has been occurring in Ontario schools”; and increased costs for students who retake the test more than once (paras. 151-155).

In conclusion, the MPT’s deleterious effect of the breach of equality rights outweighs the salutary effect of encouraging teacher candidates and Faculties of Education to focus more on math skills. The objective could be achieved directly by introducing math course requirements for admissions to B.Ed programs or in B.Ed programs themselves. This would be significantly less impairing of equality rights and at least as efficacious in furthering the objective of improving student achievement in math. (Para. 156)

It is not clear whether the government asked for a suspension of the declaration of invalidity, although since the Court does not refer to this option, presumably it did not. Accordingly, the Court declared section 18(1)(c) of the OCTA and O. Reg 271/19 of no force or effect.

A declaration will issue that the Ontario College of Teachers shall grant certification to teacher candidates who have not passed the Mathematics Proficiency Test (or shall grant full certification in the case of teacher candidates whose certification is conditional on passing the Mathematics Proficiency Test) but have otherwise met all other certification requirements. (Para. 162)

CONCLUSION

There is no question that the scores for too many members of certain demographic groups are of concern. The main reason the Court gives for this is that the MPT is a standardized test and is therefore by definition suspect (as many experts agree).

But what is a “standardized” test? It is a test that consists of the same questions for all test-takers scored the same way under the same conditions (this latter characteristic is not necessarily the case during the pandemic, since applicants may take the test at home and this may be the case in the future).

When many people hear the term “standardized test”, they think of tests such as the Law School Admission Test or the tests the province used to administer across schools in grade 12. People may think of standardized tests in the United States that effect funding or could result in closure for the lowest scoring schools.

However, any test that fits the characteristics is a “standardized test”. A test which all students in a classroom take in English, math, science or any other subject is a standardized test if all students answer the same questions and all students’ tests are scored in the same way. Likely one could call the “assessments” of school students, using questions that appeared on the MPT, “standardized” tests.

Standardized tests have been considered “fair” because they do ask the same questions of all candidates; however, this very characteristic may be the source of unfairness if the test does not take into account factors such as “cultural bias”. That is, they may not be neutral assessments of capacity or knowledge, possibly because of the underlying assumptions of at least some of the questions which reflect very different life experiences that some — or many — people from different demographic groups bring to the test.

The Divisional Court’s decision does not identify specifically how the MPT is biased. It assumes it is. It refers to research about standardized tests generally and concludes the MPT is biased because racialized students have lower rates of success on the test. Yet efforts to integrate equity into the test started with the work done with the questions when they were given to the students in grades 3 to 9. (A reminder that the Court described this process at paragraphs 24 to 26.) Nor do we know from the information in the decision whether the MPT results were unevenly low or whether, like Mr. Nyelade, candidates who failed did well on one part and not on another.

Although studies of the experience of Black students in the school system show, as the Court explains, that too many Black students are disadvantaged by the system or, at least, in the system (disadvantaged by factors external to the school and the curriculum that impact their performance), the Court slides over the reality that the students taking the MPT will have succeeded in undergraduate and B.Ed programs. And in the course of doing so, they will probably have written many ordinary tests that fit the characteristics of “standardized” tests.

The decision provides statistics about how well the members of different demographic groups have done on the MPT. But we do not know how many applicants experienced their education in Canada and specifically in Ontario. The MPT is based on the Ontario math curriculum (possibly the curriculum has changed since at least some of these applicants were in grades 3 to 9), which candidates are able to review. Having reviewed the curricula myself, I observe that for those who studied math in Ontario, the curricula may serve to refresh memories if they have forgotten what they learned. If they do not know it, though, the documents are extremely detailed and are unlikely to help someone learn what they did not know.

It would have been helpful to know how applicants who had taken a math course or courses during undergraduate or in their B.Ed program had scored compared to those who had not and how those statistics broke down on the basis of race. One assumes this information is not available.

It is somewhat troubling that the Court seems to have based its decision on research that is not linked to the applicants and on a single applicant who did not receive his education in Ontario other than his B.Ed program. And Mr. Nyelade was able to score well on the actual math part of the MPT. It was the “pedagogy” part that gave him trouble.

I do not doubt the Court’s confidence that Mr. Nyelade will bring a great deal to the students’ education beyond math. It remains, however, that he is hardly typical of most students who would take the MPT, but rather represents a subset, those who have brought their expereiences from elsewhere to bear. The Court placed a heavy burden on his shoulders in treating him as more representative (although it was a burden worth carrying given the outcome).

I assume (I have not seen it) the pedagogy part of the test reflected the somewhat different way math has been taught in Ontario schools; interestingly, though, “that way” very much emphasizes how the need to understand the students and to take their “socio-affective characteristics” into account. Again, that portion of the test was based on Ontario policy documents and “Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessmentand Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12“, which I believe was available to applicants. (I base this on its presence on the MPT website and on the somewhat ambiguous way the Court discusses the availability of study materials.)

There seems little reason not to think that the Court’s analysis might not apply to other contexts where so-called standardized methods are used (test situations or employment interviews, for example). After all, the historical experience for racialized groups does not occur only in the school system — indeed, it is brought into the educational system. And statistics might well reveal similar patterns of success and lack of success.

For now, however, it seems that it would be highly desirable if more students had access to math courses before facing a math test that will determine future employment.

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