In September 2017, Ontario’s Ministry of Education unveiled its Education Equity Action plan. According to the ministry, the plan is designed to help racialized and low-income student’s, who overwhelmingly enroll in applied streams as opposed to academic streams.
According to their statistics, 26 percent of applied students fail to graduate from high school, as opposed to their 5 per cent academic counterparts.
EQAO testing is often the centre of debate, but it currently serves as Ontario’s best measure in terms of where children are at in their knowledge of math.
“If we look at some of the EQAO testing, we can start to recognize a startling pattern in children’s learning,” said Peter Cowley of the Fraser Institute.
“16 per cent of academic student’s aren’t meeting the provinces standards, while an alarming 52 per cent of applied students are failing the test,” said Cowley.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom for some schools.
“37 schools across Ontario have shown some improvement in academic testing, while 47 have done the same in applied programming,” he said.
At the London District Catholic School Board, they have taken to a multitude of techniques to helping their students from lower income families.
“We recognize their struggles, but also feel that anyone can learn effectively,” said Superintendent Kelly Holbrough.
“One of the method’s our math teachers have adopted is cross panel teaching,” she said.
The idea of cross panel teaching is for high school teachers to swap with higher level grade school teachers, such as grade eight.
“This allows our teachers to really understand what the student is learning, and where they need to be. It helps our students build up a relationship with our teachers, to where they really feel comfortable enough to excel in an academic or applied environment,” said Holbrough.
As for ending streaming, that’s not something the board is ready to commit to as of this time.
In fact, the only school board that has taken the Ministry’s guide lines to heart is the Toronto District School Board. They chose to eliminate streaming and remove police officers from their schools to create a more equitable learning environment for racialized students.
But according to Peter Cowley’s research, the TDSB only has one school where applied students have improved in meeting the provinces math standards.
“When it all boils down to it, where are these schools who are doing well,” said Cowley.
“The ministry has made guide lines, our boards are attempting to change their systems, but the real leaders are those who are achieving great success,” he said.
Cowley believes there is no harm that could come from speaking with those schools.
“But the key is, those schools that aren’t successful, why aren’t they picking up the phone and making a call to these schools. Are they willing to listen?”