School boards to collect data on race
The province’s equity plan to determine problem areas
Ontario plans to revamp Grade 9 — with an eye to end streaming in the first, “critical” year of high school — as part of its new equity plan that will also compel school boards to collect race-based data on everything from staff hires to student suspensions.
Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said that what happens now in Grade 9 — where students are streamed into the more theoretical academic or the more hands-on applied courses — is a concern because teens in applied classes are less likely to finish high school or go on to post-secondary education.
“We talk about streaming as a really key aspect of our equity action plan, taking a fresh look at Grade 9,” Hunter said.
“We know that Grade 9 is a critical year in terms of transition for students. We want to see Grade 9 as a year where students can explore their pathways and get excited about their pathways. We do not want it to be a year where students become demotivated and disengaged in school.”
While applied and academic courses began as a way to help students with different learning styles, Hunter said applied courses “have seen a disproportionate number of students ... from racialized backgrounds, special education needs and ... low-income students.
“The status quo is unacceptable.”
Hunter said Ontario is the only province that streams so early.
The province’s threeyear equity plan will, for the first time, have school boards collect data on race, ethnicity and other factors to determine if certain groups are disproportionately represented in areas such as suspensions or expulsions and work to address them. Boards will also have to ensure that staff at all levels, as well as teaching materials, are diverse.
Educators say such detailed information on staff and students is valuable for boards to determine problem areas and where to put resources.
“It expands our knowledge about the young people that we have in our communities and to build on the census data,” said York University professor Carl James, whose research has found that Black students are twice as likely to take applied classes.
Such data, he added, “should also prompt us to ask questions of the system.” If students aren’t doing well, “what is the program we are providing that is not meeting their needs?”
Annie Kidder of the research and advocacy group People for Education, which has for years sounded the alarm on streaming, said she is pleased changes are on the way.
Her group found that teens who have taken even a few applied courses and those who take applied math rarely go on to university.
“I’m really happy they are moving forward on this and that they acknowledged, very concretely, that there is a big problem here,” she said.
However, Kidder warned that “the proviso in this is that you can’t just flick a switch. In places where they’ve run pilot projects — keeping all the kids together in academic courses — they’ve ensured that other resources are in place if kids need them. That has to be looked at.”
The status quo is unacceptable. Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter