Grade 13 could be returning for a limited time

KITCHENER, Ont.—Grade 13 may be making a comeback, for a limited time.

Students feeling the need to catch up after missing months of classroom learning during the pandemic could opt for an extra senior year of high school under a $295 million plan unveiled Friday by Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca on June 2nd. election campaign.

The proposal is aimed at students who don’t feel ready for higher education and is intended to be more than the “victory lap” some teenagers take to improve their grades or earn extra credits, Del Duca said Friday.

“A lot of our kids have fallen backwards,” he told reporters at a skateboard park next to a West End high school.

“For those kids who need time, and who need extra instruction and extra attention before they go to college or university, start a trade or their future career, I want to make sure they have the opportunity to get support. in a structured way.

The additional qualification, with a broader course selection yet to be decided, would be offered for four years and then re-evaluated to determine whether it should continue, said Del Duca, who trails Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford in the surveys.

According to The Signal, the Star’s provincial election forecasting tool based on various polls, the PCs have 36.5 percent support, followed by the Liberals at 27.6, New Democrats at 24.5 percent. and the green ones with 5.7 percent.

The liberal promise comes after Ontario students endured the longest periods of online-only classes in North America due to strict public health measures here.

In fact, the teens who will be finishing 11th grade across the province next month have yet to have had an uninterrupted year of high school.

A ninth-grade student who saw Del Duca’s ad while out for a run gave it a thumbs up after her own experience with repeated home learning periods over the last three academic years.

“I feel like 13th grade would be like the lockdown for me to get four full, normal years,” said Tessa Jagiellowicz of Resurrection High School, crossing her fingers.

After many years of debate, Ontario ended a fifth year of high school in 2003 because it was the only jurisdiction in North America to offer one.

Ford, a 13th-grade graduate, did not address Del Duca’s proposal directly when asked about it at a campaign stop in Bowmanville, but he did criticize the previous Liberal government.

“When I took office, 50 percent of the students were failing math. They were failing students, closing 600 schools and tripling the amount of backlogs,” Ford added. “We are building schools.”

In Burlington, New Democrats leader Andrea Horwath wrongly blamed the Liberals for eliminating the 13th Degree after they took power in 2003.

It was the previous PC governments of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves from 1995 to 2003 that made and followed through on the decision, which had been recommended to the previous NDP government of Bob Rae by the Royal Commission on Apprenticeship.

“It’s interesting that the Liberals are trying to fix something that they broke in the first place,” Horwath said.

The royal commission report of January 1995 found “no evidence” that Grade 13 provided “superior performance at university compared to students spending just four years in secondary school”.

Several studies have pointed to the phenomenon of “learning loss” in the pandemic, with the Toronto District School Board, for example, finding sharp drops in reading levels. In February, Education Minister Stephen Lecce earmarked an additional $35 million for student support.

Del Duca addressed the challenges facing his two daughters, one in elementary school and the other now in high school, since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“I have watched with pain as our daughters struggled with remote learning and the lockdowns that set them back both academically and socially,” she said.

The return to grade 13 would mark one of the biggest changes to the school system in two decades and is one of several new boards on the liberal education platform launched on Friday.

Includes hiring an additional 1,000 mental health professionals for students and staff, hiring an additional 5,000 special education workers to reduce wait times for students with autism, expanding the student nutrition program to provide free breakfast “Grown in Ontario” to Children in Need and Replacing EQAO Tests with a New Assessment Strategy.

“We will work with parents, teachers and education experts to develop it,” a liberal source told the Star.

Del Duca has already proposed building 200 new schools and repairing or upgrading another 4,500, and a firm cap of 20 students per class in all grades, a move that would require hiring 10,000 more teachers, but he has raised concerns about more divided classes. in degrees. and whether enough educators can be found in the current shortage.

He said the $10 billion saved by scrapping Ford’s plan to build Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass on Highway 400 would go toward improving public education.

Under the Grade 13 proposal, school boards would get full funding for each student and the province would “stop” the current policy of reducing funding for students who take a “victory lap” after earning the 34 credits they now are required for graduation.

New courses for grade 13 would include personal finance, civics, mental health, and wellness. Del Duca said others would be developed in consultation with educators and admitted it would be “a little difficult” to get the extra year in time for school next September.

Concerns about learning loss in the pandemic are widespread among educators, who worry about students who didn’t regularly log in for remote learning, didn’t have reliable internet, a quiet place to study, or a parent at home to help. .

The end of the fifth year of high school created a surge in college and university enrollment, a phenomenon known as the “double cohort” that forced post-secondary schools to increase their capacity, as students in grades 12 and 13 arrived at the campuses at the same time. weather.

With files from Kristin Rushowy and Robert Benzie

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