Clarification: The KPDSB has been selected as one of eight sample boards in the inquiry. They were not selected due to the board's EQAO scores. The story has been updated to reflect.

Ontario’s Human Rights Commission has launched a public inquiry into human rights issues that affect students with reading disabilities in Ontario’s public education system, after low EQAO test scores in the province.

Eight school boards across Ontario have been selected as sample boards, including the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board. The inquiry will involve engagement with parents, students and teachers, and will assess whether school boards use scientific, evidence-based approaches to meet the students’ right to read.

The Education Quality and Accountability assessment tests Grades 3 and 6 students in reading, writing and mathematics, Grade 9 applied and academic mathematics, as well as results for the Grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test. The results track the percentage of students at or above the provincial standard.

In Ontario, over 25 per cent of Grade 3 students and 53 per cent of Grade 3 students with special needs did not meet the provincial standard for testing. The KPDSB’s EQAO results show that students in all EQAO grade levels posted scores below the provincial average in all categories, including reading, writing and mathematics.

Grade 3 reading levels were scored at 59, where the provincial average sits at 74. Grade 6 reading levels came in at 72, below Ontario’s average of 81. The board’s scores for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test were listed as 53, below the average of 80.

However, similar results can be found within the Kenora Catholic District School Board’s results. All of the Grade 3 and Grade 6 reading, writing, and mathematics scores were slightly below provincial levels, as well as the OSSLT scores. Only the KCDSB’s Grade 9 applied and academic math scores were above provincial averages.

The ORHC says that students who can’t read will struggle in all aspects of school, and are more vulnerable to mental health disabilities, behavioural issues, bullying and dropping out of school. Life-long consequences include under-employment, homelessness, crime and suicide.

The OHRC may also request information or assistance from the Ministry of Education, the Ontario College of Teachers, as well as faculties of education. It has retained Dr. Linda Siegel to assist with the inquiry. Dr. Siegel is Professor Emeritus with the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education and an international authority in the field of reading disabilities.

“Reading is the foundation for success in school, work and life,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “Learning to read is not a privilege, it is a human right. This inquiry will assess whether school boards use evidence-based approaches to meet their human rights obligations.”

The OHRC wants to hear directly from parents, students, educators and others, and invites them to email, or call 416-314-4547 or 1-800-387-9080. A formal report on findings and recommendations is expected in 2020.

For more information:
EQAO results released for 2018-2019 school year
KPDSB schools impacted by CUPE work-to-rule