Action Plan to address crisis in Black education

Dr. Gevan Fearon, Ezra “Tony” Browne, Mitzie Hunter and David Mitchell

Do  Black students, especially males, not feel welcomed at school?

Are they more encouraged to take applied rather than academic courses?

Are there stereotypes that affect how they are treated at school?

These are questions that keep cropping up when the “crisis in Black education” is discussed among parents and educators.

Some of them say the root of the problem is the “marginalization of the Black male.”

But what are Black students themselves saying?

The Peel District School Board (PDSB)  which is committed to addressing the “crisis in Black education” has conducted a series of “secondary students  focus groups ” to “delve deeper” into these issues.

In the keynote address at the Boonoonoonuos brunch at the Jamaican Canadian Centre in Toronto on Sunday to celebrate Black History Month,  Suzanne Nurse, a trustee with the PDSB, spoke of the success of the study and the steps taken to  deal with the crisis.

She recalled that  ” there were criticisms …specifically that either the students would not show up for the study, or that, if they did, they would stay mum.

” Guess what?  Students came and held nothing back in their comments.”

Nurse said their openness, along with an extensive literature review, lead to the creation of We Rise Together – The Peel District School Board Action Plan to Support Black Male Students.

Discussing the Action Plan, she said that it focuses on anti-racism and anti-bias awareness professional development, the integration of the experiences of Black Canadians into the curriculum and Black student leadership and engagement.

It will be the expectation that all staff participate in culturally responsive pedagogy training system-wide ,” she told the gathering.

Nurse noted that the  goal of this training is that “educators value and treat black males with care, respect, empathy and demonstrate a belief in the ability of black males to succeed.”

The PDSB also plans to measure the success of its Action Plan.

She said that towards   this end, it will implement a student census ” that would allow us to desegregate achievement data by race and, therefore, quantitatively measure the success of our initiatives.”.

The census is expected to be conducted before the end of 2018.

” How will we know that all our staff, especially our educators, have internalized our message of equity and inclusion and actualized it in the classroom?  Long story short. Our work continues,” she said.

Also addressing the gathering was Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, one of the recipients of a community award at the brunch hosted by the Jamaican Canadian Association.

She said that equity and inclusive education are fundamental to the Ontario government’s renewed vision for education in the province.

That vision, she pointed out, is grounded ”  in actively raising awareness, building understanding and respecting and valuing the full range of our diversity.”

” Here in Ontario we recognize that everyone in our publicly funded system – regardless of background or personal circumstances – must feel engaged and included.”

The education minister told the gathering that her government remains firmly committed to the elimination of racism.

She said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has tasked her ” with figuring out how to roll out race-based data collection in education across the province ” to determine ” where additional supports are needed to ensure students, regardless of background, are able to thrive in our schools.”

The education minister was one  of four members of the Jamaica community who were presented with awards for their outstanding achievements .

The others were Dr. Gevan Fearon, President of Brandon University, David Mitchell, Assistant Deputy Minister, MCYS and Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Ezra “Tony” Browne.