ON Politics: polls first

Some recent political stories that caught my attention.

A story by Alison Jones, of the Canadian Press, was carried on the CBC website with the title, Ontario government polling shows improving numbers on hydro file:

…polling conducted by the Gandalf Group — headed by the man leading the Liberals’ 2018 re-election bid — found large support for the government’s plan for a $15 minimum wage, general support for carbon pricing, if not necessarily the specifics, and even improving assessments of the hydro file, over which the government has been consistently hammered.

The Gandalf Group is led by David Herle, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s campaign manager. Mr. Herle is, in my opinion, a very good policy person and astute pollster. I wrote on his work influencing policy last September (opposition Finance Critic Vic Fedeli cited my work in his Focus on Finance 4).

This isn’t meant to imply policy-by-poll is a good thing. It’s entirely possible the people polled prefer not only poor policy, but ignorance.

Within days of the first story on new government policies polling well (without noting they became policies because they polled well), the Liberal Party friendly Toronto Star published Kathleen Wynne wants you to like her policies, not her. The Premier has implemented this shtick in her canned pre-campaign appearances.

There is a saying in politics that “anger is not sustainable.” I believe that, but I’m not sure most potential voters are simply not liking, or even angry with Premier Wynne. Anger is an energy, but disgust is a sense.

The Premier joined a radio round-table discussion on August 30th. A notable exchange (starting around the 4:50 mark) occurred between the Premier and Jerry Agar on all-day kindergarten. At the 8:15 mark:

Jerry Agar: …the educational benefit they supposedly receive by grade 2 is gone by grade 3… I’ve had teachers call me and say every teacher knows this.

Premier Kathleen Wynne: They cannot know that because the program hasn’t been in place long enough. We haven’t followed kids through.

The next day reports came out that half of grade 6 students can’t do math.

Even simple math such as:

2017 (now) minus 2010 (when the province began implement full-day kindergarten) , and

Three (grade) less zero (before grade 1).


Turns out the program has been in place long enough to determine the persistence of education impacts.

Before Ontario’s introduction of “full day learning for 4- and 5-year-olds” potential impacts were already well understood. My opinion back in 2010 was that the program is positive socially, but weakly attached to traditional measures of education – like math.

The issue I have, and that I hope parents of children this age will be confident and vocal about, is the program being designed specifically for teachers. This from a recent article out of an ivory tower in Toronto:

Preliminary findings from our research at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education reveals that this unique full-day kindergarten (FDK) program has lasting benefits for children’s behaviour as well as their learning. Children in this program scored higher on reading, writing and number knowledge than those in a half-day program and remained ahead until the end of Grade 2.

Ahead for grade 2

A has-been by grade 3.

Again I’ll stress this is not the benefit I thought justified full-day kindergarten (and particularly junior kindergarten), but it does make one stated goal of full-day kindergarten absolutely ridiculous:

Full-day kindergarten will help your four- or five-year-old get ready for Grade 1.

That remains a bullshit objective – but it does win the support of teachers’ union and, heck, it may even poll well.




Seems like kids are not unique in avoiding learning.

This from Anna Stokke writing in The Globe and Mail:

After six years of advocating for better math education in Canada, I have noticed a frustrating cycle that ministries have done little to break. Expensive consultants are hired to provide teacher professional development on unproven fads. Resources are then purchased to support these ineffective methods in the classroom, which produces more struggling students who need extra support. After a round of testing shows that students are doing more poorly in math, the same people who created the problem decide that teachers need more support using the ineffective methods. More PD and resources are then purchased, and the cycle continues. Parents are often left with no other option but to hire tutors to cover the gaps and those who can’t afford tutors watch helplessly as their children get further behind.

Many rounds of testing have shown that current math programs are not working. But how can we expect a change of direction when ministries of education tend to put the very people in charge who were responsible for choosing the wrong direction in the first place and have staked careers on promoting ineffective math programs across Canada?

Ontario’s current Premier was its Minister of Education from September 2006 to January 2010.

From Ashley Csandy writing last September in the National Post:

Student performance has been steadily declining since the 2009-2010 school year — four years after a new and still controversial math curriculum took effect.

The drive to make math about culture has led to a culture that needs to be broken if math is to improve.

2 thoughts on “ON Politics: polls first

  1. I find some phrasing from a government news release on a new curriculum unsettling:
    “Communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and global citizenship are skills that will help Ontario students thrive as they grow up in a changing, interconnected world. Beginning next school year, new report cards will better track a young person’s development of these essential and transferable life skills.”
    -global citizenship is a transferable skill?

    “…measure a wider range of learning, and better reflect student well-being and equity”
    -equity? Few are equal in one particular measurable skill

    “The province’s renewed vision for education will help ensure that all students develop the knowledge, skills and characteristics…”

    We used to talk about developing character – now it’s about developing characteristics.
    Whose characteristics would they like mimicked?

    all in all it’s just another brick…


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