Changes coming to support more equitable results in schools
This fall, the province released its Equity Action Plan. Among other things, it includes plans to collect identity-based student data; address problems with students’ choices in grade 9, and enhance Ontario’s curriculum.
Changes to grade 9 and 10 in the works for TDSB
This week, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) outlined a multi-year strategy to “ensure that each and every student has the tools, resources, supports and opportunities they need to thrive.” The strategy includes proposals to:
- Introduce a three-year phased-in plan to support the majority of students in academic level programming in grades 9 and 10. The approach would include things such as smaller class sizes in grades 9 and 10, professional learning teams with staff from grades 7 to 10, and a focus on the role of guidance counsellors and student success teachers in elementary and secondary school.
- Continue to support speciality schools and programs, but revise the admission criteria, policies, and practices to ensure that all students have equitable access to them.
- Provide professional learning for all staff in equity, anti-oppression, anti-racism, human rights, Indigenous education, and global competencies.
- Make changes in special education to things such as Individual Education Plans (IEPs), the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) process, and some congregated classes for students with special needs.
- The development of a strategy to provide a targeted approach to support Black student achievement
- Examine how to ensure resources are allocated more equitably among schools, and ways to address inequities in school funding connected to their ability to fundraise.
Specialized schools and programs to be maintained
TDSB research has shown that higher socioeconomic status students are more likely to be in specialized programs such as French Immersion, Gifted, and International Baccalaureate, while students from historically marginalized populations are disproportionately represented in special education programs. According to the report, the board will continue to offer specialized programs, but will examine admission criteria, policies, and practices to ensure that all families have equitable access to them.
De-streaming begins in the Early Years
The type of courses students take in grades 9 and 10 (academic or applied) can limit their options for post-secondary education, and can lead to inequitable outcomes. Research over the past few years, including People for Education’s 2015 report on course choices, shows that streaming particularly disadvantages students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The TDSB Director’s report proposes a process to support the majority of students in academic level programming in grades 9 and 10, while recognizing that an essential part of this process begins in Kindergarten. The report says that by closing any achievement gaps in the early years, providing appropriate resources and supports, and having high expectations of all students, more students will be prepared to take academic level courses in grade 9.
Equity and global competencies
The report acknowledges the importance of incorporating global competencies such as creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and citizenship into teaching and learning. This aligns with the findings from People for Education’s Measuring What Matters initiative. In order to be successful in school and beyond, students need competencies in creativity, social-emotional learning, citizenship, and health. Research has shown a ‘competency gap’ between students from high- and low socio-economic status backgrounds when they start school. One of the key messages in our equity insight is that teaching and learning these competencies in school can improve long-term outcomes for all students.