Tuesday, May 01, 2007

ESL/ESD funding in Ontario schools

The 2005 Report of the Auditor General of Ontario's had a section dealing with ESL/ELD (English Literacy Development) in our public schools. The summary is reproduced below.
We found that while the Ministry provides school
boards with approximately $225 million a year of
English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and English-
Literacy-Development (ELD) grants, it had no infor-
mation about whether students whose first lan-
guage is not English were achieving appropriate
proficiency in English. In addition, the Ministry had
no information on how much school boards were
actually spending on ESL/ELD programs. Infor-
mation we received from one board indicated that
more than half of its ESL/ELD funding was spent on
other areas.
This lack of oversight of ESL/ELD program
delivery resulted in some concerns similar to those
raised in our 1993 audit report on Curriculum
Development. Specifically, the considerable discre-
tion that school boards and in some cases individ-
ual schools have with respect to ESL/ELD programs
increases the risks of students with similar needs
being provided with different levels of assistance
depending on which school or board is delivering
the program. In addition, the lack of a centrally co-
ordinated process to develop ongoing training pro-
grams for teachers and various instructional aids
results in under-investment in these areas and may
lead to some duplication of effort by school boards.
In particular, we found that:
• The Ministry had not established a measurable
English-proficiency standard that ESL/ELD stu-
dents should attain before ESL/ELD services are
discontinued. Some teachers we interviewed
were concerned that services to ESL/ELD stu-
dents were discontinued prematurely due to
budget considerations.
• There was a lack of tools to help teachers to
properly assess the starting point and progress
of students in achieving English proficiency and
to determine whether additional assistance was
• Although the Ministry has recommended that
teachers modify the standard curriculum expect-
ations for, and provide accommodations (for
example, extra time on tests) to, ESL/ELD stu-
dents, it did not provide much guidance on
how to adapt the standard curriculum expecta-
tions for students who are learning English. The
lack of guidance has resulted in inconsistent
• Neither report cards nor student records had
sufficient information about modifications to
standard expectations or accommodations pro-
vided to ESL/ELD students. As a result, parents,
principals, and school boards were not in a posi-
tion to evaluate the appropriateness of the modi-
fications and accommodations or their impact
Note the reference to the 1993 report. Anyhow, this time around all would be fixed, according to Dalton McGuinty. In December, 2005, responding to a question from Frank Klees, McGuinty said,
"the Minister of Education did meet with the Auditor General and asked if he might receive specific advice on how we can better track those dollars. We have, moving forward, sweatered (sic) all new ESL funding so that it must be spent on ESL. But we want to make sure now that we are in fact doing the kind of independent tracking that absolutely assures all of us, but especially the parents of children affected, that this money is going to benefit them." (I assume that sweatered is a transcription error and that McGuinty meant something like earmarked.)
Yes, well, in 2006, a report from People for Education (echoing their 2002 report) went like this:
  • "The number of schools with ESL programs has declined from 58% in 1997/98 to 36% in 2005/06.
  • The number of schools with ESL teachers has declined from 41% in 1998/99 to 27% in 2005/06.
  • In schools with ESL students, 51% report this year that they have no ESL teachers, compared to 33% in 1999/00.

The results are even more dramatic in schools in the Greater Toronto Area.

  • 71% of all Ontario’s ESL students are in the GTA.
  • Only 51% of GTA schools have ESL teachers, a decline from 55% last year, and 68% in 1999/00.
  • The percentage of GTA schools with ESL students but no ESL teachers has more than doubled over the last five years—from 16% in 1999/00 to 42% in 2005/06.
  • Despite recent increases in funding for ESL, the number of GTA schools reporting ESL students but no ESL teacher increased from 32% in 2004/05 to 42% in 2005/06.
The report says that school boards are forced to use their ESL funding to cover overall costs for things like teachers’ salaries, school principals and secretaries, and heat and light for their school buildings. It cites figures published on the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) website showing that the TDSB received over $80 million in funding for ESL in 2005/06. Of that, only approximately $35 million actually was spent on ESL programs."
But that was only a few months after the Auditor General's report. No time to actually implement those changes. Surely by they next year though...

So, can you guess the contents of a report released today? I won't even bother posting a summary.

Coincidentally, CBC reported on April 18th that the Ontario government is planning to do something about this issue.

"According to the draft policy obtained by CBC News, ESL funding from the Ministry of Education will be for the "direct benefit" of English language learners.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne has confirmed the government is developing a new policy for ESL, but wouldn't say whether boards will be forced to allocate ESL grants to those programs. The policy will be put into place in time for the new school year in September."

I wonder if this is the same policy that in 2005 ensured that "all new ESL funding... be spent on ESL". I hope not.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Brett.

Can't say I'm surprised. In fact, I remember reading that regular classroom taechers are basically required to meet the needs of ESL students within the context of an integrated class. I read this on OISE's site - sorry didn't bookmark it.

Although I must admit that I'm in Japan because I like it here, I'm also in Japan because there are more opportunities for EL teachers here.

I wonder if you think this situation has affected the readiness of some students entering Humber and other tertiary institutions in Ontario?

All I can say is, I might consider going home if things change.

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