Student Success/Learning to 18

Ontario Students Meeting High Standards

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the government certain that schools are not lowering expectations for students to help more of them graduate?

Yes. We have made significant improvements in our education system to support struggling students which has resulted in the graduation rate climbing from 68 to 77 per cent over the past four years. Our improvements include asking student success teachers and teams to track, monitor and assist high school students who are at risk of dropping out. We are also helping students refocus on their studies by providing new learning options that continue to uphold our high standards of achievement.

There is no pressure coming from us for educators to make unwarranted adjustments to student marks. We will not compromise the high-quality education provided to Ontario students. We are confident that further improvements to the education system — grounded in ministry curriculum and assessment policies, procedures and standards — will allow us to achieve our graduation target of 85 per cent.

Can teachers fail students?

Yes. Ontario does not graduate every student. The province's graduation rate is increasing, but there are still thousands of students leaving school without a diploma every year. Among the students who do graduate, well over 30 per cent fail or withdraw from at least one course during their high school years.

We are determined to help more students pass their courses and graduate by providing them with the support and encouragement they need. This means offering them courses that interest them, having a student success teacher on staff to help students when they struggle, and providing alternative ways to complete a course if they miss or have difficulties with certain parts. All students must still complete each course's requirements to receive a credit.

Research in psychology as well as education shows that failing students simply does not cause students to try harder the next time. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect. Success and honest, timely feedback, on the other hand, breeds success. There is significant evidence that with the right motivation and support, most students are capable of doing much more than they or others thought possible.

Can a teacher give a student zero on an assignment?

Yes. This is one of many options for teachers when grading assignments. However, we recommend that teachers take other steps first to get the student to do the work expected and use a grade of zero only as a last resort. Teachers can set up peer tutoring, provide the student with another opportunity to complete the assignment, hold a parent conference or take other appropriate measures.

These decisions should be made by teachers and principals who know the student and can help him or her overcome obstacles to successfully completing course work. We respect the professionalism of our educators and are confident that they will make decisions that will help students learn to take responsibility for the work.

What happens when students submit their assignments late or not at all?

Teachers have a variety of options to deal with late or missed assignments. We respect the professionalism of our educators and want them to select an approach that fits their situation and builds their students' confidence, responsibility and time management skills. These options include setting up peer tutoring, holding parent conferences, preparing a full year calendar for major assignments, setting up student contracts and having major assignments due in stages.

Deducting marks — and even assigning a grade of zero — can also be done, but it should be a last resort.

What is the province's position on cheating and plagiarism?

The government does not have a policy on plagiarism and cheating. It is the decision of each school board and its schools on how to handle these issues. We provide a general policy for student achievement and assessment that ensures all students receive a quality education. We do not condone cheating and plagiarism and nothing in any ministry policy should be interpreted that we do. We respect the professionalism of our educators and expect them to make decisions that will help students understand their mistakes and motivate them to do better in school.

Why is the government trying so hard to prevent students from failing?

The consequences of failure in school can be very high, so we do not take this issue lightly. We believe in giving students multiple chances to get themselves on the right track for a promising future.

A high school diploma opens so many doors. In contrast, a student who does not graduate faces a lifetime of barriers and challenges, according to a recent Canadian Council on Learning report. They can expect to make $100,000 less in income and enjoy fewer years at a reasonable quality of life. There is also a significant impact on society. They are overrepresented in the prison population and cost the social assistance and health care system an additional $12,000 each year.

What is a credit recovery program? And how does it help students?

A student who fails a course works with a teacher to retake the units where he or she did not initially meet expectations. This provides the student with another chance to demonstrate his or her understanding of specific topics, rather than retaking the entire course. To enrol in the credit recovery program, a student must have the approval of his or her School Credit Recovery Team which includes the principal, student success teacher and guidance head.

The student's final grade in the program is individually determined based upon achieved expectations in the high school curriculum. Students only get credits if they earn them. Ontario's schools are not giving away diplomas; they are helping more students rise to the challenge.

What other support is available to struggling students in high schools?

We have added a student success teacher to every high school fully focused on helping struggling students. This specialized teacher is supported by a student success team that includes the school's principal, guidance counsellor and other teachers. Together, they ensure that students get the attention they need to succeed and no one is allowed to slip through the cracks.

Students also have greater opportunities to match their skills and interests with more learning options available through the Student Success Program. This includes Specialist High Skills Majors in construction, agriculture, transportation and 11 other career fields. Co-operative education has also been expanded; students can now count two co-op credits towards their compulsory graduation requirements.