This paper is about the two million students in Ontario’s publicly funded school system.
In our first mandate (2003-2007) the government inherited a crisis in education. We responded by making education our first priority, set bold targets, and invested in the improvement of schools in partnership with local educators and communities. Together we were successful— test scores are up, the graduating rate from high school has increased, teacher morale has improved, and overall, people are satisfied with the direction of the reform.
But this is not nearly enough as we begin a second mandate. There are two kinds of dangers. One that we merely continue down the linear path of incremental improvements, or two that we enlarge the agenda so much that it becomes unwieldy and diffuse. We have struck a middle ground in this paper that involves substantially extending and building on our first platform.
It is common for second term governments to lose the fresh momentum they had created in their first term. England obtained substantial improvements in literacy and numeracy in its first term under Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997-2001. Then performance plateaued as the government lost focus in its second term (2002-2006) even though it had received a decisive majority from the electorate. Recently, Sir Michael Barber, the chief architect of England’s literacy and numeracy strategy was asked what he wished they had done differently in their second term. He responded by saying, “I wish we had: