Research staff at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are producing a series of fact sheets to give an early peek at some of their drop-out data, and, as elsewhere, it’s good news: Student graduation rates are up.
Of the more than sixteen thousand students who started grade nine five years ago, 79% had graduated, up 10% from a comparator group seven years earlier. Those doing a “victory lap” held pretty well steady at 7%, so the decrease was in the number of students dropping out, down to 14% of the group in this study from a high of 23% in the earlier cohort.
However, while the groups examined are all showing an increase, not all groups of students are performing as well as each other. These research snapshots show some the differences among student performance within the system.
Board staff were also, for the first time, able to link these students profiles to the student census data.
Further analysis and more reports will be produced over the coming months, looking at issues like special education, race and ethnicity, and sex. This first brush looked at a wide range of variables: academic level, gender, age in grade nine, sexual orientation, racial background, language, and region of birth.
The numbers are more confirming than surprising. Eighty-eight percent of academic stream students graduated on time, compared to 59% of applied-level students. Girls had higher graduation rates than boys (83% vs. 75%).
Straight students had an on-time graduation rate of 82% compared to self-identified LGBTQ2S students of 69%.
Students who spoke English as a first language had a below-average graduation rate. Students who speak Chinese, Hindi, Serbian, and Bengali had the highest on-time graduation rates. Those who speak Spanish or Somali had the lowest rates.
The racial categories showed similar variation, but are less reliable because factors such as poverty or parental level of education were not controlled for. However, the numbers confirm that schools are not graduating Black or Latin American students in the same proportion as other racial groups.
The third fact sheet shows similar patterns when looking at the students choices around post-secondary education. 2005 and 2006 were the first years that a majority of TDSB students applied to post-secondary education on-time (the researchers measured rates of application from 17-year-olds).
The most interesting findings in this third fact sheet confirm how parental occupation and education levels seem to be major drivers in students going to university. 65% of students with parents in professional occupations confirmed an Ontario university after graduation, while only 46% of those with parents in “skilled clerical” occupations and 38% of those in unskilled occupations. These numbers are almost mirrored when looking at parental levels of education.
Similarly, while one out of eight (14%) of students from professional families chose not to apply to university, one-third of students from unskilled/clerical families chose not to.The pattern for college applications did not show such stark contrasts.
TDSB staff plan to continue to release these early glimpses into the student and parent census over the course of the next school year.
Next up for release is a report on Special Education and how socio-economic demographics interplay with those identifications. Subsequent reports will look at student engagement; LGBTQ students; Aboriginal students; the Black student diaspora (with York’s Professor Carl James); and at continuing education (52% of the current cohort have taken at least one summer school or night school class).