TDSB ARCs may push out the poor

Recommendations from the Toronto District School Board’s ten Area Review Committees (ARCs) are beginning to emerge, and some communities are looking at school closures.

When the TDSB set out to evaluate “which locations should be closed, consolidated or upgraded,” some wondered how equitably this would all play out in the course of these difficult conversations.

Were the schools in poor areas being singled out first?

Parents in some Toronto communities said so. Reporters poked at the story. Some trustees grumbled.

And, it turns out, they were right.

Twice as many schools under review are in the bottom half (the poorer half) of the school board’s Learning Opportunity Index (LOI) as compared to those in the top half. And, of the 16 schools being reviewed in the top half of the LOI, they are all less vulnerable to closure because they have higher enrollment and utilization rates.

The numbers don’t change much however you slice them, by quartiles or quintiles.

But, of course, it’s more complex than that.

The schools under review are grouped with others from across the range of need.

While four of the ARCs contain schools from only the bottom end of the LOI, five other ARCs have poor schools grouped with richer schools. (Only one ARC (at Yonge and Davisville) is reviewing schools from only the top half of the LOI. Perhaps, not surprisingly, because they had higher enrollments, they have recommended no closures.)

Schools which are able to mobilize their parents to attend numerous evening meetings have actively participated in the process, printing buttons and flyers. Other schools, where parents may work additional jobs or evening hours or not be able to afford child care, have not been not in the room, to describe their vision for the future.

By reports, the dynamics at many of the ARCs have not been not great.

What started as a democratic and inclusive process has turned into a long, drawn-out, and divisive process. Staff at one community agency reported to a recent Toronto Neighbourhood Centres meeting how committee members were told they could not speak at a public meeting. Trustees complain openly about each other where ARCs cross ward boundaries. Blogs have been set up. One ARC has moved from outright hostility to a sullen withdrawal from the process.

So, poorer schools have faced a double jeopardy: more poor schools are under review, and they are also far less likely to be participating in a process which requires a strong and active participant voice.

Before the ARC recommendations come up for adoption in May, someone should review the decisions, with an equity lens, to ensure that those with the fewest resources aren’t being cut again.

December 2010 post-script: Schools which were announced to be closed from this round of ARCs are:

  • Brooks Road Public School
  • Heron Park Junior Public School
  • Peter Secor Junior Public School
  • McCowan Road Junior Public School
  • Pringdale Gardens Junior Public School
  • Silverthorn Junior Public School
  • Arlington Middle School
  • Kent Senior Public School-Alpha II

No schools in the Top quintile were closed; two in the Upper income quintile, one a middle school and one an alternative school; one school in the middle-income group; three in the lower-income quintile; and three in the Bottom (closing in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood have been postponed pending further review).



Overview


School Name (Those closed listed in Red) LOI Rank Quintile Enrolment Capacity
Shoreham 4 Bottom 298 52
Driftwood 9 Av. Cap 67.6 % 419 84
Gosford 11 Ave # St: 299 244 68
Brookview 14 547 111
Eastview 17 295 67
CE Webster 27 331 61
Keelesdale Jr. 37 179 68
Sheppard/Meadowvale 54 270.5 44
Highland Heights Jr. 55 229 49
Knob Hill 58 416 74
Blacksmith 59 249.5 88
Silverthorn Jr. 63 270.5 45
Pringdale Gardens 69 330 72
Peter Secor 71 195 73
Kane MS 72
287 58
Fairbank MS/West Prep 85 16/95 schools 226 68
John McCrae 104 Lower 260 46
McCowan Rd 105 61.5 % 270 68
Heron Park 131 273 238.5 78
Charles Gordon Sr. 136 456 97
Pauline Jr. 139 204 63
Brock Jr. 145 160 49
William G Miller 146 354 77
Cedarbrook 150 284.5 56
Rawlinson 162 378 42
Joseph Brant Sr. 165 317 75
Briar Hill 167 152 57
JR Wilcox 171
248.5 49
Kent Sr. 177 13/95 schools 230 42
Dovercourt Jr. 210 Middle 216 50
Lynnwood Heights 211 65.2% 116.5 59
Davisville Jr. 238 233 192 50
Brooks Rd 239
336 81
John Diefenbaker 265 5/95 schools 305.5 86
Highcastle 297 Upper 424.5 143
Timberbank Jr. 300 80.5% 208.5 59
Alpha II (alternative) 330 309 230 42
Arlington Middle School 335 297 60
Chief Dan George 356
310.5 100
Eglinton Jr. 377 6/95 schools 384.5 79
West Prep/Fairbank 385 Top 379.5 75
Humewood 386 85.3% 329 55
Meadowvale/Sheppard Site 395 333 290.5 112
Hodgson Sr. 435 287 101
Cedarvale 449 188 56
Spectrum Alt. Sr. 451
384.5 79
Maurice Cody Jr. 462 7/95 schools 473 119


Schools by Area Reviews/

Geographies

Grouping (arbitrarily labeled) School LOI Rank Quartile
A Shoreham 4 Bottom
A (Jane-Finch) Driftwood 9 Bottom
A Gosford 11 Bottom
A Brookview 14 Bottom
A Blacksmith 59 Bottom
B (Bloor-Dufferin) Pauline Jr. 139 Lower
B (Bloor-Dufferin) Brock Jr. 145 Lower
B (Bloor-Dufferin) Kent Sr. 177 Lower
B (Bloor-Dufferin) Dovercourt Jr. 210 Middle
B (Bloor-Dufferin) Alpha II 330 Upper
C Sheppard/Meadowvale 54 Bottom
C (Morningside-Highland Creek) Brooks Rd 239 Middle
C John Diefenbaker 265 Middle
C Highcastle 297 Upper
C Chief Dan George 356 Upper
C Meadowvale/Sheppard Site 395 Top
D (Davisville-Yonge) Davisville Jr. 238 Middle
D (Davisville-Yonge) Eglinton Jr. 377 Upper
D (Davisville-Yonge) Hodgson Sr. 435 Top
D (Davisville-Yonge) Spectrum Alt. Sr. 451 Top
D (Davisville-Yonge) Maurice Cody Jr. 462 Top
E (Duff/Bathurst-Eglinton) Fairbank MS/West Prep 85 Bottom
E (Duff-Eglinton) Briar Hill 167 Lower
E (Duff-Eglinton) West Prep/Fairbank 385 Top
F (West Hill) Eastview 17 Bottom
F Peter Secor 71 Bottom
F Heron Park 131 Lower
F William G Miller 146 Lower
F Joseph Brant Sr. 165 Lower
G (L’Amoreaux) Highland Heights Jr. 55 Bottom
G Lynnwood Heights 211 Middle
G Timberbank Jr. 300 Upper
H _Oakwood Vaughan Rawlinson 162 Lower
H JR Wilcox 171 Lower
H Arlinton MS 335 Upper
H Humewood 386 Top
H Cedarvale 449 Top
I (Keele-Eglinton) CE Webster 27 Bottom
I (Keele-Eglinton) Keelesdale Jr. 37 Bottom
I (Keele-Eglinton) Silverthorn Jr. 63 Bottom
I (Keele-Eglinton) Kane MS 72 Bottom
J (Kennedy Park) Knob Hill 58 Bottom
J Pringdale Gardens 69 Bottom
J John McCrae 104 Lower
J McCowan Rd 105 Lower
J Charles Gordon Sr. 136 Lower
J Cedarbrook 150 Lower
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5 Responses to “TDSB ARCs may push out the poor”

  1. Thank you for this. I have been trying to point out the inequity of the school closing rampage on my blog saveschools.wordpress.com

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  2. Thank you Diane for an interesting look at the ARC process in Toronto, you bring up some interesting albeit misleading points.

    The Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) or Program Area Review Team (PART) process as you know, is intended to support the development of appropriate accommodation options for students at the TDSB. It is an open process whereby all families, students and individuals in the community are entitled to present their options, opinions and recommendations to the board and trustees.

    You seem to point out a select group of schools that fit your argument, rather than providing a complete picture – this I find is disingenuous.

    In 2009-10 the following schools where involved in ARCs:
    – Blacksmith, Gosford, Driftwood, Shoreham, Brookview
    – Alpha 2, Brock Jr, Dovercourt, Kent, Pauline
    – Chief Dan George PS, Brooks, Meadowvale, John Diefenbaker, Highcastle
    – Davisville, Eglinton, Hodgson, Maurice Cody, Spectrum
    – Briar Hill, Fairbank, West Prep
    – Heron Park, Eastview, Joseph, Pector Secor, William G. Miller
    – Highland Heights, Lynnwood, Timerbank
    – JR Willcox, Cedervale, Arlington, Rawlinson, Humewood
    – Keelesdale, Silverthorn, Kane, CE Webster,
    – McCowan, Cedarbrook, Knob Hill, John McCrea, Pringdale Gardens, Charles Gordon
    http://www.tdsb.on.ca/_site/ViewItem.asp?siteid=10118&menuid=24527&pageid=21235

    Interestingly, you fail to mention several of the other ARCs or/and or their outcomes. For example, in the case of Blacksmith, Gosford, Driftwood, Shoreham and Brookview the board and the community determined that “all five schools in the Accommodation Review are an essential part of the community and should all remain open and that increased capacity of the school facilities would be necessary to ensure space for additional students within their communities” (NW2_Ward_4_Accommodation_Review_Final_Report). All five of these schools are represented in the bottom LOI quintile and they did not close. Instead, all five school have increased their capacity and improved access to programming.

    Let’s look at another case, as a result of the Davisville, Eglinton, Hodgson Maurice Cody and Spectrum ARC “Spectrum Alternative Senior School was relocated to Davisville Junior Public School/Metropolitan Toronto School” (Davisville_Yonge_Arc_Decision_Lt_Oct4_2010). Number two in the top quintile.

    Given the above examples, it would seem that your theory that “twice as many schools under review are in the bottom half (the poorer half) of the school board’s Learning Opportunity Index (LOI) as compared to those in the top half. And, of the 16 schools being reviewed in the top half of the LOI, they are all less vulnerable to closure because they have higher enrolment and utilization rates”, is rather one sided.

    ARCs are meant to promote school consolidation in order to improve educational facilities, programs and most importantly student outcomes. That said, closing a school is never easy, but decisions are not based on low-performance, but rather the ability of school to provide an adequate learning environment.

    If a number of schools in a given geographic region are under-utilized, then they cannot sustain adequate programming. For example, if a specialized high-skills major program has only three kids in attendance, then the cost of supporting the program with a teacher is not viable, whereas schools with higher utilization can provide greater access to programs.

    It would be nice to keep every community school open in the province, but this is just not feasible, nor practical in light of declining enrolment. Instead, ARCs provide direction to the ongoing and sustained need for a new school, with new programs often within the community undergoing the ARC.

    It’s article like this that tend to incite peoples passions in the wrong direction. They imply that the board, communities and the government have some sort motive to close school if they underperform – this is simply not true. I caution all who read this to consider for themselves the future of public education in Ontario, and think about what they want for their children.

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    • I appreciate your careful and considered comments, and I don’t think we are that far apart. Each of the schools you list are part of my analysis of what schools were selected for review in the 2009-2010 round. We even link to the same webpage.

      Where you point out the schools in the lowest quintile of the LOI, around the Jane Finch community, escaped closure as evidence of the weakness of my argument, my point was broader – that they were selected for review versus some schools in the downtown core (where schools are emptier, but parents richer). The Jane-Finch ARC was unique because parents organized, and the decision to postpone the review only occurred after the Board of Trustees
      “saw protests, angry parent rallies, board meetings that dragged past midnight, and one committee meeting derailed by angry community members who accused the TDSB of institutional racism.” (Globe and Mail, November 9, 2010)
      While the ARC committee has recommended leaving the schools open, this decision has yet to be confirmed by a vote at the Board-level.

      However, the point I hoped to make in this blog post last spring (and was convinced to update recently) is not whether school closings are merited or regrettable (I think they are, but that’s another post or two!)

      Rather, I hoped to point out that those with less societal privilege are more likely to do poorly through any review process. I think the list shows that is so. Where richer schools were under review, the closure option was not on the table because the schools selected for review were not the high-LOI ones which are under-enrolled. (Another post I did on pool closings shows the same troubling pattern, in fact.) Classism is a strong, and often unseen, force in our education system.

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