Report calls for an end to academic streaming

Carl James

Black students face “an achievement and opportunity gap” in   schools in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), according to a recently released  York University study.

The study, led by Antigua-born professor Carl James, notes that while academic streaming – grouping students based on ability- was to have officially ended in 1999, the practice ” continues to disadvantage students.”

Black students, it says, are twice as likely to be enrolled in applied instead of academic courses compared to their counterparts from other racial backgrounds. And they are more than twice as likely to have been suspended from school at least once during high school.

Eliminating streaming is one of the recommendations in the study which also calls for mandatory collection of race-based data by all school boards.

It recommends that the Ontario Ministry of Education ” require school boards to routinely collect disaggregated race-based data that allows for the examination of the experiences and outcomes of Black students, including but not limited to suspensions (by reason and days), expulsions, programs of study, graduation rates, drop-out rates, special education identification and    confirmation in post-secondary education.”

Noting that suspensions and expulsions, particularly for elementary school children, can undermine the foundation of their academic success in later years, the study  calls for the use of alternative discipline measures.

It also calls on the ministry of education ” to recognize that anti-Black racism negatively impacts Black students and develop a stated commitment to race equity and addressing anti-Black racism.”

With respect to the ” teaching workforce,” the study states that ” all children should have access to caring adults and be able to imagine their future selves through relationships with caring adults who look like them.’

It points out, however, that while Ontario is becoming increasingly diverse, the teaching workforce in the province is ” failing to reflect this diversity.”

The study is the result of a collaborative project between Professor  James, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora at York University, the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) and the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE)..

It followed consultations with 324 parents, students, educators, administrators in Toronto and surrounding Peel, York and Durham regions and used data from the Toronto District School Board.

Community consultations were organized by the ACLC and the ONABSE.

Professor James said the report should reinforce the idea that all school boards should collect data in order to be able to assess the achievements of all students.

“You cannot know how well you are doing unless you have some way of measuring your achievements,” he added.

“The  Toronto District School Board , of course, has had all this data for a while and probably  what it was  doing was not working. So we are hoping that it will do things differently in order to improve the situation of black students,” he told the Caribbean Camera.