Posts tagged ‘Youth’

August 4, 2016

Migration and Resilience: International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

I was invited last fall to speak as part of a panel to the idea of migration and resiliency. If you can stand it, here is my speech, posted at the Centre for Excellence in Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS Ontario) website:

In it, I start with my own family history of settlement, than look to the many ways that resiliency is manifested on the ground among newcomers, youth, and residents of our city of Toronto. Finally I describe the implications of this frame for community programs and services.

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June 5, 2013

TDSB Census 2011 highlights student isolation

The most recent TDSB census of parents and students shows improvements where the school board has influence, such as including students’ experience, welcoming parents into schools, or creating an environment where students feel safe. This part is a good news story that shows that concentrated educational efforts can make a difference.

However, as media reports have highlighted earlier, students are also feeling more stressed. The census results also show that physical health and nutrition drop in higher grades. Similarly, students are more likely to report being tired, having headaches, or being less happy in higher grades.

One-third of students don’t want to go to school, regardless of their age.

Students are also less likely to report having at least one adult whom they “feel comfortable to go to for personal support, advice or help.”
  • 34% of Grade 7/8 and 46% of high school students said they have no adult in whom they could confide.
  • 34% of Grade 7/8 and 31% of high school students said they had one adult in whom they could confide.
  • 31% of Grade 7/8 and 23% of high school students said they had more than one adult in whom they could confide.

Students report being less comfortable participating in class, especially those in high school.

According to the census, overwhelmingly students feel safe in class, but do report feeling less safe in other parts of the school building or outside on the grounds.

These are startling initial numbers. The impulse will be to psychologize the results, to describe the deficits in TDSB students and in their families. However, I want to suggest an alternative.

The social science of sociology might shed better light on how to support students to succeed: When students feel they belong in their schools, they will thrive. Foresightedly, some Board staff and trustees are already taking some good first steps and so have struck a working group to look more closely at the issue of how school relations shape better learning.

While the comparisons have not yet been explicitly made, this committee might start with the widening demographic gap between teacher and students. Increasingly divided by age, culture and socioeconomic class, students have a pretty good reason to feel disconnected from the adults in their schools. It’s up to the adults to fix that.

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November 23, 2011

Growing class divide means some children may be denied a generational legacy

Once, as part of a group exercise to identify personal values, I had to answer the question, “For what would you be willing to die?”

“I would rush into the street to save a child!” I said. My colleague nodded his agreement and we talked a little more about how becoming a parent changes your perspective on what should be valued. So, when it came time to report back to the larger group, I described our shared generational commitment to protect those younger.

“Oh!” he interjected, “I didn’t mean I’d die for any child; I was talking about my children.”

My partner’s narrow protection of his genetic progeny shocked me — and reminded me never to ask him to babysit. However, many of us do recognize a wider common good, a place where all children and youth are protected and secured by the village that is us.

Youth are cited as one of the top concerns for residents across our city’s neighbourhoods. United Way Toronto’s environmental scan, Torontonians Speak Out, identified this in 2002, so that it became one of the community funder’s top three priorities (neighbourhoods and newcomers being the other two).

More recently, Trish Hennessy, from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), has been doing focus groups with Environics, to understand Torontonians’ voting records and public policy priorities. Among other interesting findings, she has found some deep resonance around issues of legacy. This is among voters who have voted in the current municipal administration, they too are talking about the next generation. As this boomer bulge ages, it is considering what it wants to leave behind and to whom.

The question is what shape that legacy will be, and for whom will we leave it?

Recent comments from Bowling Alone author and professor Robert Putnam cast a dreary light on the future of North America’s children. In the interview cited in Harvard’s Social Capital Blog, Putnam argued that, while Americans are seeing more

integration along religious and racial lines, there is an opposite trend when it comes to class, mainly, he believes, because of the widening gap in incomes. Americans are less likely today to marry outside their class. Children from lower classes are less likely to spend time with their peers or take part in community activities and have less confidence, while the trend for middle-class children is the opposite.

In sum, he explains, children have very different access to life opportunities dependent on who their parents are.

This growing income gap is not news to Hennessy’s colleagues at the CCPA; economists Armine Yalnizyan and Hugh Mackenzie have shown that unless we think about growing levels of inequality, many more will be further left behind on an economic level. The lack of economic opportunities has similar echos around access to education, housing, and other social determinants of health.

Mobility between classes may also be on decline in Canada, although the Conference Board of Canada ranks us 5th out of 11 peer countries.. American mobility is even worse, according an editor at Time magazine and others those who monitor such things.

Yet, youth are still hopeful. For instance, Joseph Rowntree study released this fall in the U.K. showed that youth from low-income families in the U.K. do have aspirations for higher education. Parents, too, want high achievement for their children. In the last Toronto District School Board (TDSB) student/parent census (2008), almost 9⁄10 parents said they want their kids to go to university. Among low–income families, that only fell to 8⁄10.

So, are these our children, too? Will we provide them the opportunities and encouragement they want?

I believe we will. We must.

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May 18, 2011

Toronto youth initiatives: Ground-level view of the stratosphere

After the “summer of the gun” in 2005, various funders and levels of government focused on the issues of youth and youth violence. The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence was produced. Funding appeared in the Priority Neighbourhood Areas through the Youth Challenge Fund (YCF). Laidlaw Foundation made youth a central focus of its work. United Way Toronto developed a “policy outcomes framework,” calling for coordinated action from the provincial government. Each summer since, through Focus on Youth, a provincially-funded program, the two largest public school boards have run programs providing youth employment and space for non-profits in Toronto schools.

So now, more

than five years later, some of that work is well established, and some of it, such as YCF, is near the end of its mandate. From the 30,000 foot level, things look good.

The provincial government’s youth policy framework is being developed, guided by “big brain science,” as one watcher called it. Literature reviews are done and developmental milestones are being firmed up. United Way Toronto has been hosting a multi-stakeholder Community of Practice for Youth and has developed evaluation frameworks with youth-serving agencies to develop a youth strategy. Consultations are underway for United Way’s development of a strategy. A city-wide Dialogue on youth violence working group is rolling along. A frontline youth workers crisis response guide has been developed. Laidlaw Foundation’s and United Way’s multiple reports and initiatives are well underway (see More below).

If youth of this city need strategies, guides, conferences and policy, the non-profit and government sectors are working it. But a recent conversation with a group of youth service-providers providers a more sobering reality check. While “capacity-building” and “skills-building” is being funded, program operating costs are scarce.

The south entrance of Dufferin Mall in Toronto...

Image via Wikipedia

One set of neighbourhood agencies have spent a year exploring after-school programming for local youth, but have stalled because they haven’t found a funder that focuses on this need. The Youth Challenge Fund, which focused on Priority Neighbourhood Areas, is in its last year. The City’s Welcome Policy is frozen – and this may be a seasonal occurrence. Youth settlement funding for newcomers is drying up. One youth worker explained he has no more funding to take youth to museums or other downtown excursions. His program cannot cover the tokens, never mind the admission costs of these attractions. Another worker lamented a summer of trips to the local park instead of places further afield, such as the Toronto Islands. The kids in these programs sometimes have never seen Lake Ontario. To raise funds for TTC costs, they are making arts & crafts to sell locally.

And community space for youth is still a crunch.

  • While LOFT has been able to open a youth social enterprise space, the Dufferin Mall space has closed.
  • Media centres have been or are opening in four Toronto libraries, but operating funding beyond three years is uncertain. What will happen to the city’s recreation centres is still to be determined.
  • Social Planning Toronto is working on a report to track how youth are able to access community space in Toronto. They are finding attitudes are as important a barrier as availability of space.
  • The provincially-funded Community Use of Schools program has opened 77 schools in the TDSB, but the hours are restricted to after 6 p.m. on week-days and week-ends. Because of the identified deficit, Board staff are actively discouraging bookings on week-ends because of the added overtime costs which eat into this budget.

A few sparks of hope continue to emerge, though. The Toronto District School Board, for instance, is playing with new ideas like delayed starts for the school day and more “schools of choice.” Even with the sluggishness of strategies or the scarcity of funding, people are being creative. However, in the end, all this thinking won’t be enough.  While we create more strategies, another generation of youth is moving through their teens.

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May 2, 2011

The habit of voting: start early, vote often

rick mercer makes a pursed point

Image by clang boom steam via Flickr

Rick Mercer has been suggesting youth take a date to the federal election today. His earlier rant, at the beginning of the campaign, sparked vote mobs on campuses across the country. His words carry the weight of research.

Being eighteen-years-old is about the worst time to introduce youth to voting, according to a University doctoral student I met recently at a farewell reception for the now-defunct Centre for Urban Health Initiatives. Likely to be at a more tumultuous time of their lives, living in a new community, eighteen-year-olds are less likely to vote than the former age-of-majority, twenty-one-year olds. And when we don’t vote, she explained to us gathered around, it becomes a habit.

So the call to drop the voting age to sixteen makes a lot of sense. Youth, normally still living in familiar surroundings, would make their first foray into voting on more stable ground.

In fact, our grad student’s own research focuses levels of voting among immigrants. She is finding that those without the culture and habit of voting are less likely to exercise their franchise when they come to Canada. 

“If  I were king of the world,” she said, “I would make voting at least once a pre-requisite for citizenship.” Her doctoral work, not yet complete, gives weight to calls to allow city residents, despite their citizenship status, to vote in municipal elections.

May 11, 2010

Stealing our lunch money from poor kids

I write this cautiously because it is not my preference to call people out on their actions or the values they hold. Still this is an election year, and candidates must be prepared stand on their record.

But I hope to find common ground here, as well.

This week, the Toronto public school board trustees on the Program and School Services Committee had a chance to do the right thing. They didn’t.

Asked by the Inner City Advisory Committee (ICAC) to commit more resources to the poorest students, they balked.

The motion from ICAC, a formal body of the Board, calls for a higher proportion of the provincial Learning Opportunity Grant (LOG) to be committed to the poorest students and the poorest schools in the Board.

The ask was small, compared to what is transferred from the province through the LOG. ICAC’s motion sought a commitment that 22% of the LOG (just over one out of every $5 of the grant) actually be spent on our most vulnerable students. The range of targeted programs extends for several paragraphs in the motion.

Among two of the lead objectors, Trustees Josh Matlow and Micheal Coteau asked, what would happen to all the other students, those who weren’t poor if these funds were so committed? Indeed, Trustee Chris Bolton had made similar seemingly petty objections when the Learning Opportunity Index was revised, after it turned out that schools within his own ward would not receive as many additional resources because they were no longer identified as among the neediest. It reminds me of the old snackfood ad where one hunter asks another for a potato chip. The happy muncher huffs, “If I give one to you I will have to give one to everyone,”  waving his hand over the tundra. It’s a liberal logic I struggle to understand.

To be fair, Trustee Campbell also chose to vote against the ICAC/LOG motion, citing, instead, worries about the three-year financial commitment, and even Trustee Dandy questioned how the needs of poor students in middle class schools would be addressed (but she voted for the motion after all).

And the motion failed. (While a few friends gave me a long list of reasons for the political nuances among the trustees, it’s hard not to notice that the issue split along gender lines: Cathy and Maria (and Sheila who couldn’t vote) ranged against Michael, Josh, John and Chris (who also couldn’t vote). )

But if I work it through, Trustees Matlow, Coteau, and Bolton were reacting eminently reasonably, within a ward-based election system. And, it is too easy an answer to dismiss their views as the short-sighted or parochial actions of small-time politicians.

For, in at least two previous years (2007, 2009), the full Board has voted to protect funding to students in its poorest schools. This is a fight that parents and activists have fought in every budget round since the early 1990s, alongside their trustees.

The ICAC motion was felled because, in its current state, the LOG has a terrible shortcoming. (See More below for a description of the LOG.) The LOG is “unsweatered,” that is it may be spent as the Board chooses. So, in actuality, only a small undetermined percentage of the funds reach the students for whom it is targeted. It is an exact parallel to the situation Social Planning Toronto found in its 2005 report when it looked at how ESL funds were spent (or not) on English as a second language learners. Instead, the Board uses these funding streams to cover other financial gaps, such as the rising costs of heating and teachers’ salaries.

In sum, school trustees across the province are left with the narrow choice of funding the vulnerable or balancing the budget – something they are required to do by law. Another set of TDSB trustees will face this same hard dilemma again this week when the ICAC motion is likely to be raised at the Board’s budget and AFA committee meetings.

So, agreed, there is no malfeasance in the actions of Trustees Matlow, Coteau and the others. They are striving valiantly to meet their legal obligations.

But the school board’s trustees have gotten snookered by the provincial Ministry.

The Ontario government gets a lot of mileage out of saying that is has dedicated increasing millions of dollars to poor and marginalized kids through the LOG and other poverty reduction strategies. The funds are handed over to other orders of government (municipal and schools boards) to be used for this great good. Fabulous P.R.

The Ontario government wants every student to have a quality education. Some students need additional help from their school in order to do their best.

The Learning Opportunities Grant provides funding to school boards to help students who may be at greater risk of not achieving their educational goals.

And so, then, school board and trustees are left to do the dirty work, to pinch the money from wherever they can, to make up for provincial funding shortfalls.

As Mel Hurtig’s book described the dilemma of poverty, should the Board “pay the rent or feed the children?” Should the Board run programs for poor kids or keep the lights on in the building?

But this is a discussion about some who have and some who don’t. It’s time we stopped stealing our lunch money from poor kids.

The evidence, the economics and the politics all line up behind the value of investing in poor kids. As I argued in earlier posts on the Learning Opportunity Index, doing so brings greater returns even than in students from middle or high-income families. And where there is concentrated poverty, a greater investment is required and greater learnings emerge.

A large body of research supports this. At the local level, TDSB’s recent evaluation of its own Inner City Model Schools show students’ being streamed out of special education classes and academic grades rising a full grade point, at even the worst school. The additional funds TDSB trustees provided proved the power of investing in kids.

So, yes, spending the LOG on the use for which it is given may well hurt other kids and the broader school system. Salaries do have to be paid, buildings heated. And, yes, higher income parents may pick up and move out their children of a divested public school system. These are real dangers that the trustees must consider.

But that is a vision with little faith in the Canadian ideal of fair play. I believe we are better than that, that we will agree to share the pain, to instead make other hard choices, to agree to do the right thing.

I believe we can demand a school system that doesn’t require we poach off the poorest among us. In this, our values must trump our accounting.

Declaration of conflicts of interest:

1) I am a former co-chair of the Inner City Advisory Committee from which the motion came.

2) I have agreed to act as Chief Finance Officer for the incumbent trustee in my ward, Cathy Dandy.

I based this post partly on my remarks to the Program and School Services Committee on the evening of Wednesday May, 2010.

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March 1, 2010

TDSB Achievement Gap Task Force

Update June 1, 2010: The Achievement Gap Task Force has released its draft report for review and consultation. Comments will be received until Oct. 31, 2010.

Dr. Chris Spence, the Director of of the Toronto District School Board, has a vision, a Vision of Hope. It’s hit a few bumps, knocked for proposing of a boys-only school and skewered by a trustee, in the media, for doing teacher P.D. in a sports arena.

Still Spence has set some hard targets.

An important part of the Director’s vision around student achievement focuses on building effective schools, as described by Ron Edmunds 30 years ago. Edmunds, Lezotte and others laid out a framework containing the following elements:

  • Clear and Focused School Mission
  • Safe and Orderly Environment
  • High Expectations
  • Opportunity to Learn and Time on Task
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
  • Positive Home-School Relations

But as the saying goes, coming up with the idea is the easy part. The hard part is the administration of it.

So, working on a tight timeline, Spence has set Lloyd McKell, the Executive Officer of Student and Community Equity, to work with an internal staff team to look specifically at the underachievement of racialized and marginalized students.

The taskforce will report to the Board, through the Director, in April. The workload is daunting, including a literature review, a survey of current school programs and public hearings. The hearings are set for March 6. (See More below, for further details.)

A cynic would wonder why they are doing it. Do we really need another study?

As a student of Edmonds, Spence must understand that the first challenge is creating the political will. In Some schools work and more can, Social Policy (1979), Edmonds wrote:

Whether or not we will ever effectively teach the children of the poor is probably far more a matter of politics than of social science, and that is as it should be. It seems to me, therefore, that what is left of this discussion are three declarative statements:

(a) We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling

is of interest to us;

(b) We already know more than we need to do that; and

(c) Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.

So what remedies might we begin to consider? Our ideas must move beyond platitudes and be specific.

Speaking recently at OISE, Linda Nathan, a principal from an innovative arts school in Boston’s inner city, provided some insights into producing a strong urban education. She explains the problem is not one of an achievement gap, but of opportunity.

In her book The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test (Howard Gardner of Multiple Intelligences writes the jacket blurb), Nathan prescribes school administrators:

  • Develop a clear strategy, for students, parents, and teachers, of active engagement and ownership of the educational process.
  • Investigate the possibilities of incorporating, for example, an arts-based, science-based, or technology-based curriculum
  • Require a rigorous Senior Project that successfully reflects academic and non-academic learning as well as addressing a community need, recognized and documented by the student.
  • Build an assessment system that doesn’t determine student achievement and knowledge exclusively through the results of standardized tests.
  • Mandate paid time for teachers to talk about their practice and their students, and struggle with difficult questions.
  • Advocate for our public schools to equalize educational facilities, expand curricular opportunities, and reduce class size to match our best schools, this providing every child with the necessary education and skills to participate productively in our democratic. This necessarily costs more money!

Within a few months, we’ll see how the TDSB and Torontonians respond to the challenge of providing a good education to all its children.

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May 31, 2009

Key factors associated with youth delinquency

A Statistics Canada analysis this spring looked at factors associated with delinquent activity among immigrant youth in Canada. Ostensibly, the report was comparing newcomer and Canadian-born youth, but what it found was more about the importance of family and friends.

The report on property-related and violent activities relied on self-reports from the 2006 International Youth Survey.

Youth were asked if they had participated in a series of risky behaviours in the previous 12 months:

  • Property delinquency was measured as youth who had damaged something on purpose (including bus shelter, window or seat), stolen a bicycle or vehicle, stolen from a store, burglary and arson
  • Violent delinquency was measured whether a youth had snatched a purse or bag, carried a weapon, threatened someone with harm, participated in a fight intentionally.

Here’s what the report found:

Rates of both property and violent delinquency vary by generational status within Canada. Native-born youth reported the highest rates of property-related delinquency, while youth who had immigrated to Canada after the age of 5 reported the lowest rates. However, factors other than generational status were found to account for differences across generational groups in rates of property-related and violent delinquency.

Having delinquent peers has the strongest effect on all youth in terms of explaining rates of self-reported delinquency. The odds of reporting property delinquency were more than three and a half times higher for youth who had delinquent peers than for those who did not. Youth who reported having peers involved in delinquent activities were almost three times more likely, as those without, to report violent delinquency.

Relationships with family also play an important role. Youth who reported a good relationship with their mother were less likely to report violent delinquency.

Youth who spent the majority of their time with friends were also more likely to report property  and/or violent delinquency. Youth who were isolated from family or friends reported higher levels of property delinquency.

If youth reporting being a victim, they also were more likely to be involved in delinquent behaviour. Those who had experienced a theft were more likely to report property-related delinquency. They were also more likely, along with those who reported having been hit violently, to report violent delinquent acts.

Finally, schools play a role as well. Youth who aspired to university were less likely to report either type of property or violent activities while youth who skipped school were more likely to do so. Youth who felt that their school was ‘unsafe’ were also more likely to report having committed acts of violent delinquency.

In sum, protective factors for youth included aspirations for university and spending time with family and/or close relationship with mothers. (Recent immigrants were most likely to enjoy these conditions, and therefore were least likely to be involved in delinquent behaviours. Stereotypes, be damned!)

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March 2, 2009

School board releases new Learning Opportunity Index

UPDATE: The 2011 LOI has now been released. 

The voting is done. After delayed consideration and hold-out votes from a few trustees, the Toronto District School Board’s new Learning Opportunity Index (LOI) was adopted a few weeks ago. TDSB staff set to number crunching with the new variables, and today released the 2009 elementary and secondary school LOI index.

This measure of student need across the system drives some resource allocation to those highest on the Index, and so was the subject of some discomfort amongst trustees who worried “their” school would be losing resources with the re-calculation. But, as explained in another post, this index is stronger, much stronger.

The school board’s own student census of high school students and parent census of elementary students demonstrated growing income inequality. So a tool like the LOI is a remedial effort to even the odds for students. Poor students who attend poor schools do poorly because they have less. Even when the local community pulls together, bake sales and other fundraisers raise less money than one in a school with richer families. The LOI is a necessary system response to this inequality.

The strongest variable in the new LOI is the one which measures the numbers of families on social assistance. Why this is so is just speculation, at this point, but early suggestions include the variable acting as a proxy for long-term and generational poverty or for deep poverty (those on Social Assistance are well below the Low Income Measure).

The neediest school in the city lies in the junction between the 401 and Black Creek Drive, surrounded by industrial lands. Students walk through the neighbourhood bungalows from the nearby residential towers. The other most needy schools are found where we expected them, around traditional low-income areas such as Regent Park and the Jane-Finch/Black Creek neighbourhoods. Others are in or near some of the City’s Priority Neighbourhood Areas, in Scarborough, along Kingston Road or near the Lawrence Heights community. And schools which are near large Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) projects or areas with poorer housing are also popping up in the new LOI. The elementary schools with the least challenge sit, north of Rosedale, in Moore Park and Lawrence Park.

The neediest high schools are located near Jane-Finch and in Weston-Mt. Dennis, others are schools with specialized support programs or located along subway lines for easy access. The richest are near situated in or near the Lawrence Park and Leaside neighbourhoods.

Frequently Asked Questions have been attached to the new Index, further explaining its structure and use.

Staff are now turning to the harder question left to them by trustees: How do students race and ethnocultural identities affect their educational opportunities?

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February 4, 2009

The TDSB's Learning Opportunity Index

Tonight the trustees of the Toronto District School Board will be looking at revisions (and here) to the Learning Opportunity Index, a measure which ranks schools according to the needs of their students and then focuses resources on the most needy ones. (The final rankings are available here.)

I had the pleasure over the past eighteen months in helping to revise and improve it, so I have two arguments to make:  first, why the LOI is an important, and essentially Canadian, educational tool, and second, why this new version is an improvement.

The purpose of the Index is to support students who are falling behind in school because of challenges they face outside of school. This new Index will allow scarce school resources to be driven to those most in need, those who are facing some of the greatest barriers to academic achievement and who are, by our measures, doing poorly in school.

The LOI deserves continued support because:

  • Our Canadian ideal of public education is to allow every student a fair chance to participate in our broader society. To do this, we have to make sure every child has a good start. Because the effects of poverty are cumulative, building exponentially, poor kids in poor schools face the largest learning barriers.
  • This is a best investment of educational dollars. Investments in poor kids make a bigger improvement than investments in kids in other income brackets – they just have more room to grow.
  • The LOI is and has always been one of the most cutting-edge educational measures in North America, mimicked in other jurisdictions, because of its statistical validity and reliability. It does the job it’s supposed to do: leveling the playing field.

The proposal going forward to the school board tonight should be supported because it shows an even stronger relationship between external challenges and academic achievement. The revisions should be supported because they:

  1. strengthen measures of poverty
    The current LOI measures income, looking at average and median incomes in the neighbourhoods where students live. These measure the middle of the pack. However educational research shows that low income is one of the main drivers of poor academic performance.

    • The proposed LOI keeps median income, for stability and consistency, but strengthens the measure of low income, adding
    • the percentage of Families who fall below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure (those living with incomes that are less than half the median Canadian income, i.e. those who are in the bottom quarter of income earners), and
    • includes, for the first time, a measure of families receiving social assistance.
  2. eliminate variables which confuse the issue
    Variables with a weaker correlation to academic performance were dropped; the new LOI is better able to predict how students would perform academically.

In recent years, housing type has become a poor variable because of problems of under-reporting and because no distinction is made by Statistics Canada between high-rise rental apartments and condominiums. Housing type no longer shows a strong correlation to academic performance.

Immigration is also a poor predictor of how students will perform. For instance, students from some areas of the world outperform students from other parts of the world, including students who are Canadian born. So, immigration status alone does not accurately predict academic problems.

The removal of immigration and housing type will mean that school located in areas with high immigration and multiple story dwellings may not be as high on the LOI if those income levels are not comparable to other parts of the city. However, when we looked at the academic performance of these same schools, we found they were performing more closely to the level predicted by the revised LOI. In actuality, the LOI is now a more accurate predictor of those students’ academic potential.

Some critics have also raised the issue of race as one variable that is missing from the proposed LOI. Educational research shows this can also be a factor in academic achievement because it is a substitute measure for racism. (i.e. one’s race does not predict one’s academic potential, but it does predict the barriers to academic achievement). Even though I chaired the school board’s equity advisory committee for a number of years, I feel comfortable with leaving the variable of Race aside for the moment for two reasons. First, the Board is being asked to make a public commitment to look at the variable of race when Toronto data is available, and I believe this should and will be done. Second, and sadly, because visible minority status and low income are so closely correlated in Toronto, that by strengthening the poverty measures, the proposed LOI captures many of the same students that a race variable would. In effect, race is currently a fair proxy for poverty, and so the strengthened poverty measures capture many of these same populations.

In another post, I will explain the mechanics of the LOI that make it work so well.

(Update on the TDSB’s LOI, after its release: Belonging Community: School board releases new Learning Opportunity Index)

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