School boards to col­lect data on race

The prov­ince’s eq­uity plan to de­ter­mine prob­lem ar­eas

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - NEWS -

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

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