Are Ontario public schools a model for Pennsylvania?

    Listen to the complete series.

    Just a two hour drive from the city of Erie, Ontario has become internationally heralded as a leader in public education. Based, in part, on its performance on international assessments.

    Not only are Ontario’s test scores high, but there’s less of a performance gap between high and low income students compared to many other nations, including the U.S. Why? And, how? Listen to this five-part series, where we dive into these questions in comparison to Pennsylvania, and analyze a few key takeaways.

    Ontario, as a society, commits to the idea of “equity,” and puts a high premium on the good of the collective, which is reflected in its school funding and policy decisions. In Pennsylvania, our education system largely reflects a commitment to the individual’s right to maximize their own opportunities, creating large gaps between the quality of different school systems.

    In part two, diversity is championed.

    Teachers in Ontario face much more rigorous entrance requirements. And the job market there is extremely tight, meaning school boards get their pick at the best, brightest and most dedicated. In Pa., teaching seems to have become a much less attractive profession. The number of certifications given out by the state has dropped 60 percent over the past few years, and the number of students at the state’s public universities majoring in education has also plummeted.

    Ontario puts a higher premium on early childhood education. The province introduced a universal program in 2010 giving all 4 and 5-year-olds full day early learning. In Pennsylvania, it’s estimated that only 22 percent of 3 and 4-year-olds have access to publicly funded pre-K.

    In part five, we get input on these differences from advocates and parents in Pennsylvania.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.