ETFO's Perspective on the Role of Lead Teachers for Literacy and Numeracy

ETFO Voice

Last April Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the government's intent to provide an intensive focus on the development of literacy and numeracy skills for Ontario students. This focus called for the appointment of specially trained lead teachers in literacy and numeracy in the primary and junior divisions of every school in Ontario.

It also included:

  • Reducing primary class sizes
  • Amending the curriculum to put a clear focus on reading, writing and math
  • Dedicated literacy and math instruction each day to provide for the necessary learning intensity

This initiative was a follow-up to the recommendations contained in reports of the Reading and Math Expert Panels formed by the Ministry of Education in the fall of 2002. Their purpose was to examine what core knowledge and skills teachers need to teach effectively and support the objectives of the Ontario Early Reading and Early Math Strategies. Their final reports, released in February 2003, provided advice on the best ways of teaching reading and math, as well as the best methods to assess the needs of students.

Beginning in the fall of 2003, initial steps were taken to implement the recommendations of the expert panels, including the training of primary lead teachers in reading and mathematics.

In the spring of 2004 the Ministry formed Junior Expert Panels to look at best practices for literacy and numeracy instruction at the junior level. These panels were to issue their reports this fall.

ETFO welcomes the current focus on appropriate teaching strategies and resources for effective reading and math instruction. We know that early investment in a student's education reaps huge rewards in later years.

The stated goal of Ontario's literacy and numeracy strategies is to raise the level of student achievement as measured by the grade 3 and 6 province-wide reading and math assessments. ETFO does not agree that EQAO test scores are an accurate indicator of a student's capacity in reading and mathematics nor of an individual school's capacity to provide instruction in those areas; it suggests that the government develop other indicators to effectively evaluate the success of these initiatives.

The role of lead teachers, if implemented appropriately, has the potential to have a significant impact on students and teachers by:

  • Helping teachers enhance instructional practice;
  • Improving student success;
  • Providing on-going pedagogical support for teachers;
  • Assisting in developing teacher expertise;
  • Providing for teacher renewal; and
  • Providiung for non-administrative leadership opportunities.

ETFO beliefs:

  1. Literacy and numeracy initiatives will be a shared responsibility of the entire school community. Therefore the lead teacher will not bear sole responsibility for the success of these initiatives.
  2. The success of these literacy and numeracy initiatives will not be judged solely by EQAO results.
  3. The decision to accept the role of lead teacher will be voluntary.
  4. The role of lead teacher will vary from board to board, reflecting the context and culture of the local area.
  5. The ETFO local will partner with the school board in the development of the role description of literacy and numeracy lead teachers.
  6. The lead teacher role description will reflect the responsibilities of the position and not exceed what is reasonable given the additional compensation, time, and support provided by the board.
  7. The role of lead teacher is a position of added responsibility within the bargaining unit. As with other positions of added responsibility, there will be a modified teaching schedule, additional compensation provided, and such other resources as are deemed necessary in order for the lead teacher to fulfill the responsibilities of the role.
  8. Lead teachers will retain all the rights and privileges accorded to them under the collective agreement.
  9. The position of lead teacher will not infringe upon the right to transfer between schools.
  10. The position of lead teacher will not take priority over seniority provisions.
  11. The selection process for the role of lead teacher will honour the collective agreement.
  12. The ETFO local will partner with the school board in establishing the selection criteria for the position.
  13. The role of lead teacher will not include any administrative duties such as:
  14. Formal or informal evaluation of the teaching practices of colleagues;
    • The setting of improvement targets and benchmarks; or
    • Timetabling of instructional time.
    • The training for lead teachers will be provided during the instructional day and be based on the principles of effective professional development. The training will be job-embedded; occur over a sustained period of time; permit time for reflection, practice, and revision; and respect teacher knowledge and expertise-
  15. The necessary training for lead teachers includes content, pedagogy, and facilitation skills.
  16. Related training for classroom teachers will occur during the instructional day; be job-embedded; occur over a sustained period of time; permit time for reflection, practice, and revision; and respect teachers' knowledge and expertise.