Posted on January 13, 2022

Ontario Math Test Ruling Is Where We End Up When Race Becomes More Important Than Competence

Randall Denley, National Post, December 30, 2021

Race trumps knowledge when it comes to training new teachers, an Ontario court has determined. It’s a decision that defies common sense and places teachers’ rights ahead of students’ needs.

As part of a 2019 plan to improve Ontario students’ dismal scores on standardized math tests, the provincial government instituted a mandatory math proficiency test for new teaching graduates. The test didn’t require teachers to be serious mathematicians, but they did need to get 70 per cent on the test, which measured math knowledge and teaching strategies and covered Grade 3 to Grade 9 math.

Something similar is required in countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, several states in the United States, Japan, Singapore and China.

Requiring a basic knowledge of one of the most important subjects of instruction didn’t seem entirely unreasonable, except to teaching students who were worried that they would fail the test. The students formed a group called the Ontario Teachers’ Candidate Council and took the matter to court.

They found an oblique, and ultimately successful, way to overturn the test. Instead of attacking the concept directly, the teachers’ lawyer argued that the test violated the Charter rights of “racialized” students because they didn’t pass at as high a rate as white students. Black and Indigenous students were particularly affected, the Divisional Court was told.

Earlier in December, the court ruled in favour of the student teachers, saying “Racialized teacher candidates have gone through an education system in which they have suffered discrimination and disadvantage.”

Perhaps so, but the teacher candidates in question have all been able to acquire a bachelor’s degree and successfully complete a two-year teacher training course. Apparently the discrimination and disadvantages only manifests itself in the understanding of math, and even then only for some.

The results of the first math test show that 70.3 per cent of Black teacher candidates and 71.4 per cent of Indigenous candidates passed. The pass rate for white candidates was 90.5 per cent.

The ruling also stated “racialized students benefit from being taught by racialized teachers.” The three-judge panel concluded that this advantage was so great that it outweighed the benefits of teachers having to prove they have a reasonable familiarity with math and how to teach it.

As a result of the decision, not only do non-white students no longer have to pass the math test, no one does. {snip}


The Ontario math test decision is where we end up when race becomes more important than demonstrated competence. Not only does it undermine merit, it’s insulting to non-white people. In effect, the judges are saying that racialized people, even those with a university education, don’t have the intellectual capacity to pass a math test.