Student Concerns Over TDSB Task Force Decision

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Student Concerns Over TDSB Task Force Decision

Contact

Hannah Nie
Public Relations Officer / Responsable des relations publiques
Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC)
hannahn@fcss-fesc.ca
+1 (289) 408-8600

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2017


Student Concerns Over TDSB Task Force Decision

Advocating for Specialized Programmes and Diverse Learning Environments

TORONTO, ON, OCTOBER 21, 2017 - Specialized programmes and optional attendance schools which provide students with opportunities for enriched learning are at risk of being phased out from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) following recommendations from the Board’s Equity Task Force.

Although students are assigned “home schools” based on their residential address within defined catchment areas, the optional attendance system allows students to apply for enrollment in programmes hosted at other schools, specializing in various areas, including math, science, technology, and the arts. As such, students from across the region are able to access resources and learning experiences unavailable in their home schools that enrich the educational experience for all students and allow them to be immersed in their chosen field of interest.

A recent draft of a report from the TDSB’s Ensuring Equity Task Force (EETF) expressing issues in the equity of specialized programmes and schools has come to the attention of the FCSS-FESC. In the report, the EETF states concerns of increased competition and disparities between schools due to specialized schools and programmes, and inequitable access to such programmes, especially for students in marginalized communities. The EETF recommended that resources and support be “realigned so that all schools, at least every cluster of local schools, can offer a variety of specialty programmes”, and stated that once “ALL students have equitable access to enriched programming, optional attendance and specialized schools should be phased out”.

The proposal itself is vague and fails to present specific plans for implementation or objective research on the potential impacts these changes may have. A study by Kyburg, Hertberg-Davis, and Callahan (2007) found that “racial, ethnic, linguistic, and economic diversity within urban areas necessitates the creation of scholastic environments that are responsive to the varying academic and social needs of the student population” with specific emphasis on the value of both the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Programmes in responding to diverse student needs.

If specialized programmes and schools are to be eliminated, how will individual or local groups of schools be able to provide students access to the multitude of enrichment courses, materials, and opportunities currently offered at 54 unique specialized programmes and schools across Toronto, which each have various approaches, from International Baccalaureate to Advanced Placement, and cover a wide range of subjects, including design and technology, athletics, the arts, leadership, and STEM? Specialty programmes at optional attendance schools are advantageous in their ability to focus on specific aspects of education and cater to students’ interests, aspirations, or needs which may be more in-depth or niche, and cannot be offered at all schools in a practical manner.

The FCSS-FESC recognizes the presence of disparities and inequities caused by barriers to enriched education, but strongly believes that specialized programmes have great potential to be driving forces spearheading improved education for all, not inhibiting it.

Success in specialized programmes indicates a thriving educational environment which should be continued and expanded into other schools, in close collaboration with existing “host schools”. This would allow more students to access the benefits these programmes offer, while ensuring that the unique visions and intents of these programmes are preserved and can serve their students to their full potential.

Efforts should instead be made to eliminate barriers which prevent marginalized students from applying to and accessing existing specialized programmes, whether they be financial, social, academic or otherwise, through subsidies, community resources, or other forms of support.

The FCSS-FESC urges the TDSB’s Ensuring Equity Task Force to investigate alternative solutions to educational inequity which support the improvement of underprivileged students and schools without limiting opportunities for others to learn and perform to the best of their abilities.


The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our events are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, while working to improve education today.

For any sources used in this release, contact the Office for Communications and Public Information at contact@fcss-fesc.ca.

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Open Letter: Student Concerns Over TDSB Task Force Decision

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Open Letter: Student Concerns Over TDSB Task Force Decision

Open Letter: Student Concerns Over TDSB Task Force Decision

To the Chairperson, Trustees, and Director of Education of the Toronto District School Board,

It has come to the attention of the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) that the Ensuring Equity Task Force (EETF) has recommended for the phasing out of “optional attendance and specialized schools” in the TDSB, in an effort to “eliminate disparities between schools” and increase equity. We, at the FCSS-FESC, strongly oppose adoption of this recommendation, on the grounds that, while well-intentioned, it is counter-intuitive in its goal and directly contravenes the EETF’s call for increased student voice.

Recognizing that there exists a problem of inequity in the TDSB, we would agree with the EETF’s assessment that programmes should be implemented to alleviate this issue, specifically on inequity between schools. However, the complete elimination of specialized schools and optional attendance would work against this goal, ultimately. Although this may seem initially beneficial to solving this problem, it should be acknowledged that in refusing to offer specialized programmes, demand will likely go elsewhere. The implications of this include a possible shift of affluent students to private schools or neighbouring school boards which still offer the specialized programmes. On the issue of optional attendance, well-to-do parents may have more incentive to relocate to catchment areas of historically successful public schools, leading to more explicit socioeconomic segregation in this regard. This would also exacerbate school fundraising problems, and inequity between schools in that. These may seem extreme, but they remain distinct possibilities. Even in the case where students stay in their geographically determined schools, by the removal of specialized programmes, people will have to look outside of school for pursuit of a subject in depth. Here, richer families will be able to afford the extension material; poorer families will not. In any case, inequity is likely to rise, not fall, through this proposal.

For the credit of the EETF, they do try to address some of the concerns posed above; for example, they indicate that there should be a realignment of resources so that specialized programmes can be offered at each and every school. However, this is unrealistic at best. A large advantage of specializing schools in certain subjects or offerings is efficiency. The bigger programme at a certain school will always cost less than many small programmes at other schools, while also being able to give students more depth in their specialized area. On the same token, while small specialty courses at every school may seem to provide greater access and breadth compared to the our current system, this may not be the case given how courses need sufficient enrollment to take place. A niche art course will not run if only three people are interested in it, and through that, students will still have close to no access to this material through school. In fact, pseudo-specialization could arise from this, if the demographics of one area allow for specialty science courses to run whilst the demographics of another leads to specialty music courses. This then creates a geographic advantage/disadvantage, as well as a favouring of large schools, that will have more people to justify running those enriched courses. If school clusters are implemented and students are given the right to attend those institutions provided they live in a specific catchment area, this problem may be alleviated. However, then the distinction between the new and old system will be negligible, as most people who attend enrichment programmes do so with one near home. This leaves the main change as one of more bureaucratic oversight, which is decidedly not worth the expenses and planning involved. In all of this, the EETF’s plan of action finds problems in more than one area, which should be just cause for reconsideration.

Moreover, we feel that in this proposal, the voice of the student is often diminished. By its very nature, in disallowing specialized programmes, it prohibits the self-actualization of students through their school, making it less likely that they will see themselves to leadership and empowerment, both of which were set forth as goals in the EETF report. Additionally, a large number of students in these specialized programmes feel as if their voice and concerns are not being heard. One person who attends a specialized programme asserts that “being surrounded by like-minded students is sometimes the sheer reason that some of us attend school.” To not consider this aspect would be to ignore the concerns of those within the programmes themselves. Many students in regular stream programmes also take issue with this, with the argument that those “schools should be willing to accommodate their students' needs and aspirations and give them the opportunity to be the best that they can be,” with the use of “their own personalized learning experience.” Those who are in those specialized programmes are simply those who feel that such a programme better fits their learning experience. As well, the elimination of the optional attendance clause can have some serious implications on student life. In the case that a student is being harshly bullied/faces a hostile environment at a school, for example, they will not be afforded the opportunity to transfer to a place where they can get a fresh start. This can leave them with difficulty in receiving a good education at the school they attend, and it leaves them without an increased sense of empowerment.

The FCSS-FESC, in spite of our disagreements with the report, applauds the EETF for tackling this difficult topic and encourages further discussion on methods of solving issues of inequity in the TDSB. Nevertheless, with everything in consideration, we would implore the TDSB to reject the EETF recommendation, unless the proposal comes with more nuance and study, and instead recommend the exploration of alternative solutions. Student voice and empowerment, as key pillars of the FCSS-FESC purpose, stand as significant issues in this process. To alleviate this, we also call on a higher level of cooperation between the EETF and student interest groups for collection and analysis of students’ opinions, to forge an equitable and universally beneficial path forward. From our Organisation, we will continue to study and work to ensure that any proposed solution is one that works for all students in the TDSB.

 

Thank you,

The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des éleves du secondaire au Canada


The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our events are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, while working to improve education today.

After consulting with over 100 students across Canada, this letter was penned on their behalf.

For any sources used in this release, contact the Office for Communications and Public Information at contact@fcss-fesc.ca.

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Backpacks Banned in Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board

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Backpacks Banned in Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board

Contact

Hannah Nie
Public Relations Officer
Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC)
hannahn@fcss-fesc.ca
+1 (289) 408-8600

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 2, 2017


Backpacks Banned in Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board

TORONTO, ON, OCTOBER 4, 2017 - The banning of backpacks in schools in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board has caused a series of obstacles which impede its students from a suitable learning environment, and is a serious concern in the views of the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC). Without backpacks, students must carry any supplies required in class, including books, binders, pencil cases, laptops, and even medication.

As a result, bringing essential supplies to school has become a struggle for many students. Students are more likely to drop their belongings: a severe issue considering the fact that many students use electronic devices, such as laptops or tablets, which could be easily damaged. Reportedly, the halls have also become more crowded and hectic, with students rushing to lockers to store or retrieve learning materials and often arriving late to class simply because of the inconveniences caused by the ban.

In opposition to the backpack ban at their school, students at Cardinal Ledger Secondary have started an online petition, which will be sent to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board upon reaching 1000 signatories. Describing her experience with the ban, a grade 10 student from Cardinal Ledger says, “It’s a lot of stuff to carry and I often have to go up flights of stairs ... I have tried but I can’t hold on to the railing and opening doors is a struggle, so I have to wait for someone to open it for me. I dropped all my stuff two times. I’m scared of the day I drop my binder and everything falls out.”

The ban on backpacks was introduced to reduce clutter and minimize possible tripping hazards in small classrooms. Other reasons for the ban included the back, shoulder, and neck pain which backpacks can cause, their increasing susceptibility to thievery, and misuse from students who use them to store clothing and avoid wearing school uniforms. While these concerns are valid, backpacks are essential tools which allow students to carry the supplies they need with efficiency and ease.

The FCSS-FESC believes that banning backpacks in school is not only unreasonable, but ultimately detrimental to education. Educational supplies and the means to carry them at school should be readily and easily accessible to students. Having the necessary supplies to be prepared for and successful in class should not be a daily struggle for students.

The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our events are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, while working to improve education today.

For any sources used in this release, contact the Office for Communications and Public Information at contact@fcss-fesc.ca.

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Well-being programmes in Ontario schools

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Well-being programmes in Ontario schools

Contact

Hannah Nie
Public Relations Officer
Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC)
hannahn@fcss-fesc.ca
+1 (289) 408-8600

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2017


Well-being programmes in Ontario schools

TORONTO, ONTARIO, SEPTEMBER 10, 2017 — A new multi-year plan from Ontario’s Ministry of Education aims to improve the well-being of students, educators, and staff in Ontario’s schools, starting in September 2017. Student well-being and equity are essential components of education that the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) has strived to promote and improve. As such, this development is a welcome change that the Federation believes will benefit students across Ontario.

In the 2016-2017 school year, the ministry gathered input from thousands of students, parents, educators, partners, and community members on student well-being in schools. The feedback collectively emphasized the importance of well-being in the forms of positive relationships, a sense of community, student engagement, safety and inclusivity, mental and physical health, as well as positive sense of self. From this, a plan to promote well-being was formed, and will be executed throughout the next three years. The plan includes the allocation of $49 million to fund system-wide changes integrating well-being in all areas of education. As well, the ministry will provide increased support for initiatives targeting the broad range of factors which affect well-being in schools, whether they are physical, mental, emotional, or social.

One such initiative is School Mental Health ASSIST, a provincial support team that supports, leads, and provides resources for the promotion of student mental health and well-being across Ontario. Funding for this programme will be increased from $1 million to $6 million by the end of the three years. Dr. Kathy Short, director of School Mental Health ASSIST, says this is a “welcome investment in the well-being of all Ontario students”, and will “enhance mental health promotion and prevention efforts in schools across the province.”

Funding will also be provided to support active school transportation — for example, walking school buses and bike to school programmes, which promote physical activity. Well-being programmes in schools, such as breakfast programmes, peer mentoring programmes, and bullying prevention programmes, currently receive $6 million in funding — which is set to be doubled by the 2018-19 school year. Not only is student well-being considered, but staff well-being as well. Efforts will be made to expand and develop programmes supporting staff well-being and violence prevention in school environments. Furthermore, the plan puts a focus on improving the well-being and academic achievement of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students, through the Indigenous Education Strategy.

“As we begin this new school year, these new investments and initiatives will strengthen the well-being of all students in our schools,” said Mitzie Hunter, Ontario’s Minister of Education. She went on to explain that “students are better able to learn when they feel safe and welcome at school, and have the tools to lead their lives with confidence and resiliency.”

The FCSS-FESC firmly believes that student well-being is central to academic success and future development. In past years, the Federation’s committee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) has worked tirelessly towards improving student well-being, with a focus on mental health during the 2016-2017 school year. The FCSS-FESC commends the integration of education with mental and physical health, and will continue to actively promote healthy, positive learning environments for all Canadian students.

The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our events are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, while working to improve education today.

For any sources used in this release, contact the Office for Communications and Public Information at contact@fcss-fesc.ca.

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Self-Governed Education for Anishinabek Nation to Support Student Success

Contact

Hannah Nie
Public Relations Officer
Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada
hannahn@fcss-fesc.ca
+1 (289) 408-8600

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 17, 2017


Self-Governed Education for Anishinabek Nation to Support Student Success

TORONTO, ONTARIO, AUGUST 17, 2017 - A recent agreement between the federal government and the Anishinabek Nation of Ontario will allow 23 Anishinabek reserves to self-govern their education system. As an advocate for student empowerment, success, and equity, the FCSS-FESC is in full support of this decision.

According to the agreement, the Anishinabek communities involved will be able to control the education of students in kindergarten to grade 12 on reserves. This will allow for the creation of a curriculum that incorporates the instruction of Anishinabek culture, history, and language. Ultimately, the agreement seeks to improve the academic success of Anishinabek students and reduce dropout rates. Regarding the agreement, Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee emphasized the importance of education to the First Nations people, stating “the impacts of colonialism [with regards to] Indigenous people kept us uneducated and in poverty”. He went on to explain that “education is the key to our future, where we build capacity and we take over and run our own lives”.

According to Tracey O’Donnell, the Anishinabek Nation’s education negotiator, about 8 percent of Anishinabek students attend on-reserve schools. However, the majority of Anishinabek students attend provincial schools due to a lack of facilities on reserve, or because their families live off-reserve. Thus, the agreement will also include collaboration between Anishinabek communities and the provincial government to develop programmes supporting Anishinabek students off-reserve. For example, this could consist of changes in Ontario’s curriculum to include Anishinabek history and culture. “What we’re trying to do is create a new reality so our students achieve the same level or even higher level of success than other Ontario students,” O’Donnell said.

The agreement will affect about 25 000 Anishinabek people, and is the largest self-governing agreement to be signed in Canadian history. All 40 of the Anishinabek Nation’s member First Nations communities are allowed to join the agreement.

The Anishinabek Nation’s self-governed education system is in line with the FCSS-FESC’s goal to empower all Canadian students with the opportunities and resources needed to succeed in school and beyond. Anishinabek students will be able to receive a well-rounded education that does not diminish the importance of their unique cultural identity and heritage. The FCSS-FESC believes that this agreement will help provide Ontario’s Anishinabek students with opportunities and resources, and is an important development with regards to the Federation’s own mission of ensuring equitable education for students across Canada.

The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our events are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, while working to improve education today.

For any sources used in this release, contact the Office for Communications and Public Information at contact@fcss-fesc.ca.

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