New report shows implementation of de-streaming in Ontario hampered by lack of time and resources
For immediate release
TORONTO (November 13, 2023) – According to a new report from People for Education, only 20% of Ontario high school principals say they have enough support to implement de-streaming for their Grade 9 students, a decline from 30% the year before.
Results from People for Education’s 2022-23 Annual Ontario School Survey – based on responses from 1,044 principals from across all of Ontario’s 72 school boards – also reveal a decline since last year in the proportion of schools reporting smaller class sizes and teacher professional development to support de-streaming.
Ontario introduced de-streaming in grade 9 in 2021, after years of evidence showing that the policy systematically disadvantaged marginalized students, Black students, Indigenous students, and students from lower income families. However, findings from the 2022-23 AOSS suggest that not all the necessary planning and resources are in place to ensure the effective implementation of the policy.
Fewer schools offering smaller class sizes and teacher training to support de-streaming
While the 2022-23 survey results show increases in the proportion of schools offering resources for parents as well as supports such as educational assistants, there have been decreases since 2021-22 in the proportion of schools reporting they are able to reduce class sizes (34% in 2022-23, down from 41% the year before) and provide teacher professional development to support de-streaming (81% down from 89%).
Majority of principals say increased supports are needed for effective de-streaming
In their responses, principals reported several challenges. They said it was difficult for teachers to support struggling students without having access to smaller class sizes, and time and resources for both professional development and curriculum planning.
- 53% of principals disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “My school staff and I have received sufficient support from the Ministry and my school board to implement de-streaming” – an increase from 42% last year.
- 96% of secondary principals reported they needed an increase in learning supports, such as educational assistants and special education supports.
- 93% of secondary principals said they needed support to provide teacher training/professional development on de-streaming.
- 85% of secondary principals said they needed support to reduce class size.
Neighbourhood income influences availability of some de-streaming supports
Findings from the survey show that secondary schools in neighbourhoods with higher median family incomes were more likely to have de-streaming supports such as smaller class sizes, and teacher professional development. On the other hand, lower income neighbourhoods were more likely to have tutoring programs and increased learning supports such as educational assistants and special education supports.
Few boards de-streaming Grade 10
People for Education’s report also raises concerns about the apparent lack of a plan to de-stream Grade 10. As a result, PFE says, students finishing Grade 9 in most school boards will be faced with deciding between academic and applied courses in Grade 10, which may result in a return to the inequities that existed with streaming in Grade 9, and a return to limiting students’ choices for the rest of high school and for their post-secondary pathways.
A scan of the 70 Ontario school boards with secondary schools showed that only 12 had plans in place to de-stream Grade 10.
Funding to support de-streaming
When de-streaming was first introduced, funding to support the change was rolled into the province’s new Math Strategy and the COVID-19 Learning Recovery Fund. For the 2023-24 school year, the province announced a $103 Million Supporting Student Potential Fund to cover the costs of additional teachers in Grades 7 through 10, provide supports for Grade 8 students transitioning to a de-streamed Grade 9 program, and supports for Grade 9 students in de-streamed classes.
It is not yet clear whether the funding announced for the 2023-24 school year will address ongoing challenges including supporting more schools to provide smaller class sizes, more special education support, and more time for teachers to engage in professional development.
Delays in access to new curriculum adds to pressure
Several principals, in their responses to the survey, pointed to the late introduction of new curricula and the expectation of teachers to manage the adaptation of existing academic curricula as key challenges school staff are facing.
Ontario Student Trustees’ Association supports de-streaming calls for adequate supports
De-streaming opens up opportunities and improves outcomes for BIPOC students. With that said, it’s crucial that every student, particularly marginalized students, receives adequate supports. This includes access to specialized educators, good resources, and relevant curriculum content, to fully equip them by the time they reach the ninth grade, to choose their own path to success during their high school careers. De-streaming shouldn’t close pathways, but instead open them up, and give students the confidence to inquire, learn and improve their skills in their selected fields of interest.
JoyGold Goodluck, OSTA-AECO’s Curriculum & School Community Advocacy Chair
People for Education has three overarching recommendations to ensure the effectiveness of de-streaming in Ontario:
- Plan in consultation with students, educators, education support staff, and families.
- People for Education continues to call on the province to convene an Education Task Force to provide advice on recovery and renewal post-pandemic, and on vital policy areas such as the implementation of de-streaming.
- Provide learning supports for de-streaming that meet schools’ diverse needs.
- De-streaming is a significant structural, pedagogical, and cultural change for schools and school boards. To support the introduction of full de-streaming, the province must provide sufficient and ongoing resources to support reduced class sizes, greater opportunities for professional development, accessible information for families, and additional staff.
- Monitor and evaluate implementation as frequently as possible.
- Simply de-streaming curriculum is not enough. The province must implement a comprehensive evaluation plan to ensure successful outcomes, in particular for the students who have been disproportionately disadvantaged by streaming in the past. The evaluation plan should be aligned with the new Board Improvement and Equity Plan, which mandates the collection of disaggregated demographic data to support school boards in tracking student achievement, equity, well-being, and transitions.
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