Sierra Wales reads the book she wrote to her grandmother in class.
Credits: CHRISTOPHER SMITH/The Expositor/QMI Agency
TORONTO — Education Minister Laurel Broten is giving the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario an F for effort after it advised the province's public school elementary teachers to put the required minimum into fall report cards.
In the latest protest against the provincial government's forced contracts on teachers, the (ETFO) asked its members to write minimal comments on the progress reports.
"One of the frustrations is that (the reports) have become onerous,” said Phillip Mack, the union's London, ON, leader.
Broten said teachers upset over wage-freeze legislation should not use the fall progress report as a vehicle to send a message to her government.
"Ontario parents deserve to know how their children are doing at school this fall, not to have their learning progress put in the middle of a dispute that doesn't involve them," Broten said Thursday.
Broten said she has asked ETFO President Sam Hammond to rescind the "directive" to members.
"We did not reach agreement — I'll tell you that — on our call but I want to leave an opportunity to find a way forward with ETFO and I look forward to having a face-to-face conversation early next week," she said.
The minister said she invited Hammond and Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, to meet with her.
Both teacher unions are fighting Bill 115, which gives the education minister power to enforce two-year wage freezes, a reduction in sick-day benefits and, ultimately, a strike ban.
Some teachers have already begun following an ETFO recommendation they not participate in extra-curricular activities.
In a new notice to teachers, ETFO asks its members to put in a "single sentence indicating strengths/next steps for improvement in each of the two comment boxes" of the fall progress report cards for Grades 1-8.
"Contrary to the minister's statement today, ETFO provided advice, not a directive, to members about the fall progress reports. Our advice is based on, and conforms with, the Ministry of Education policy documents," Hammond said in a statement.
"We've also made it very clear in our advice to members that where students are having difficulties, teachers provide more detailed information to parents through the progress report.
"Parent-teacher interviews have always been, and will continue to be, the most effective way for teachers to communicate with parents about a student's progress."
The progress reports, launched two years ago, don't give grades, but leave room for comments from teachers.
"Teachers are supposed to use their professional judgment when filling out the reports. If you see a child is not progressing, put that down and say why," Mack said. "Where the child is doing well, the teacher can simply say, 'Progressing well in these areas.'"
More detailed report cards come out in January and in June, Mack said.
ETFO's notice also says that starting Oct. 23, "McGuinty Tuesdays" should be added to the existing "McGuinty Mondays."
On Mondays and Tuesdays, teachers should arrive at school no more than 30 minutes before classes begin, leave no later than 30 minutes after classes end and refuse to participate in school meetings.
ETFO members are also being told not to volunteer for Liberal candidates.
A notice to teachers describes its directive as "political action to resist Bill 115.
"It attacks free collective bargaining rights and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," the ETFO said.
PC Leader Tim Hudak called the ETFO directive "heartbreaking" because parents and children count on the report card information.
"The vast majority of teachers are going to ignore the union bosses on this one," Hudak said.
-- With files from Kate Dubinski