Teaching Reflections · Teaching Topics/Activities · Topics for Parents and Students

The Fallacy of De-Streaming as a Bandaid for Education in Ontario

 

THIS BLOG WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FEBRUARY 2018. IT HAS BEEN REPUBLISHED IN LIGHT OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT BY EDUCATION MINISTER LECCE TO END STREAMING OF GRADE 9 IN ONTARIO (JULY 2020) – CBC.CA ARTICLE

Care enough about this topic to sign a petition? If you do, please visit: https://www.change.org/p/stephen-lecce-stop-de-streaming-grade-9-in-ontario

Why is it that when questions of the efficacy of education, curriculum, student achievement, etc. arise in Ontario teachers are the last to be consulted (if at all)?

One would think that perhaps, as sole providers of daily education to students we may (long shot) have some kind of idea about what is going on with our students.

But……no…….ask the professionals – the politicians, trustees, EQAO spokespeople, union officials, students, parents, etc………anybody but teachers.

Is there not something wrong with this picture?

The New ‘Problem’ in Ontario Secondary Education: Streaming

I first got wind of the current ‘de-streaming grade 9’ education conversation at a meeting  in the downtown office of my school board this fall. This prompted me to ‘hey Google’ and found a slue of articles on the topic, mostly coming out of Toronto that supported the rumour.

Apparently, de-streaming grade 9 is the new brainchild of all those who don’t teach(you know – the people who like to make all the rules, but don’t play the game) that will solve the problem of ‘inequity’ in our Ontario education system.

According to the honourable Misty Hunter (not a teacher), the education system in Ontario is unfairly marginalizing low-income and racial minorities by suggesting they follow the Applied instead of Academic pathways once they reach secondary school.

Moreover, the The Toronto Sun added input from EQAO (not teachers) and the lobbying group, People for Education (not teachers) who are also supporting de-streaming as according to them, “the global evidence shows that streaming students puts them at a disadvantage, making them less likely to achieve standardized testing goals, graduate from high school or move on to post-secondary education.”

The ‘professionals’ believe the issue with streaming is that the ‘self-esteem’ of students is destroyed by taking Applied courses, and that these courses have higher failure rates due to the fact that these students receive ‘a second rate education’, which inhibits their chance at social mobility. This is detailed in the cbc.ca news article that focuses on the comments and experiences of students (not teachers) and of course another social activist group (not teachers).

Although it’s not directly stated, many articles heavily imply that low-income and racial minorities are herded (assuming by teachers – hey at least we get a mention) into Applied courses to allow for the supremacy of status quo to reign.

Since all the non-teachers are so certain that their plan will be a success, they haven’t bothered to ask teachers what they think, or even look to the recent past (i.e. 1999 attempt at de-streaming which was a colossal failure). The OSSTF did release a statement fearing that the province is jumping the gun on this idea and that there is no research to support the claims that de-streaming has any effect on student success. But wait…….they’re kind of teachers – so of course nobody picked up the story and it can only be found on the OSSTF website.

What’s REALLY GOING ON (from a lowly teacher’s perspective)

I’m going to warn you before I start this section: I’m a teacher. According to news stories about education, our opinions are pretty much rubbish, so take it as you will.

This section is going to be surprisingly brief because, in reality, the issue is simple.

Wait for it……….the difference between Applied and Academic students can be summed up in one word: LITERACY.

Yep, really  – that’s it.

No news articles about de-streaming mention literacy, because they’re too preoccupied with persecuting the education system’s supposed inequities. But the issue at hand isn’t marginalization, racism or classism, it’s that Applied students have significantly lower literacy skills than their Academic counterparts, as demonstrated by the fact that nearly all Academic students pass the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test and most Applied student’s don’t (see EQAO Ontario Secondary School Literacy Results).

Multiple research studies have concluded that the vocabulary (literacy) gap is essentially the learning gap between students who achieve and those who fall behind. Take a peek at some of the research selections below:

  • “Many research studies show that vocabulary is the best single indicator of intellectual ability and an accurate predictor of success in school.” (Elley, W. B. 1988)
  • “Ryder and Graves (1984) contend that a lack of vocabulary is one of the reasons for failure in school. In addition to this, Stahl and Fairbanks (1986) report that students who have a wide vocabulary knowledge, get higher grades than students who have a lack vocabulary.
  • There is a strong and positive correlation between the volume and depth of a student’s working academic vocabulary and later success in school and eventual educational attainment; there is a strong and positive correlation between an adult’s educational attainment and their annual income potential. (Seyfer, “Words Determine a Child’s Future”)

How are literacy skills acquired? Well, via parents (whose education and influence played a major role in vocabulary acquisition). Also, via reading (which requires modelling at home as well as accessible reading materials).

Students from low-income households and racial minorities tend to be effected by a general lack of education and poverty; they are at the greatest risk of having low vocabularies as they enter school, as well as developing poor or nonexistent reading habits as they progress in education.

Therefore, the issue isn’t purposeful discrimination or restricting opportunities for students; it’s the fact that most Applied and Essential students can’t read or understand grade level vocabulary required for Academic courses.

Compounding Issues: REAL PROBLEMS with Education in Ontario

Over the past 15 years, I’ve taught both Academic and Applied students in a very important core subject: English. I’ve also been around enough to notice how changes made by the Ministry of Education in the name of ‘student success’ have in fact completely destroyed ‘student success’.

‘Ministry policies’ designed to improve ‘student success’ have essentially backfired or created smoke and mirrors statistics that don’t adequately reflect what is actually going on in classrooms regarding student achievement.

These policies have impacted Applied students the most and also contribute to their lack of success in the classroom.

Problem #1: absenteeism 

This is a good one. Did you know that students can miss as many days as they want in a secondary course and still earn their credit? Yep – that’s a ‘student success’ policy. Sounds a bit backwards, doesn’t it? Don’t come to school, learn from the teacher, complete daily assignments and……still get a credit?

In theory, this idea was supposed to support students in serious circumstances (death in the family, illness) who missed more than 14 days (previous absenteeism limit) to earn their credits.

In practice, though, it’s a completely different story. Since absenteeism is no longer connected to achievement, students have no reason not to cut class. General student absenteeism has sky rocketed (ahem….especially in Applied classrooms where absenteeism rates usually double that of Academic classrooms).

For Applied students, this is a terrible policy that essentially allows students to fall through the cracks.

Why are students from Applied classrooms more likely to be absent? Once again, yes it does point to the fact that many come from low-income or marginalized households where there may not be two parents, regular discipline or appropriate modelling of responsibilities.

Since students aren’t punished for absenteeism or limited by a certain number of days, their lack of attendance ends up translating to a lack of course knowledge and work completion, which results in failing grades.

Problem #2: elementary no fail policy (despite illiteracy and innumeracy

Another ‘student success’ initiative in the past decade has seen the end of students failing a grade in elementary school to ensure that their ’emotional well-being’ is intact as they enter high school.

Again, great in theory, but terrible in practice – especially for Applied students.

The result of this policy involves students entering secondary school with grade 3-6 literacy and numeracy skills due to the fact that they never got the chance to refine them in elementary school.

What happens to these students? Well, until now they were streamed into classes where teachers could support them at a remedial level to try their absolute best to catch them up with their classmates.

Applied (and Essential students) are often the result of the failings of an elementary system that refuses to allow students an extra year (or two) to catch up and refine essential literacy and numeracy skills before entering secondary school.

Problem #3: no late policy

To compliment students not coming to school and/or being allowed to fail, the Ministry has also enacted a document titled ‘Student Success’ whereby it is proclaimed that students can submit work whenever they like (despite set due dates or teachers returning marked work), as well as re-submit work for secondary grading after it’s been graded by their teachers.

Once again, this policy is a disaster for Applied students who usually do not have the parental support  or executive functioning skills of their Academic counterparts – yes, again usually due to the fact that they are socially disadvantaged.

Whereas Academic students often have parents engaged in their education, and ensure that they submit work in a timely manner, many Applied students often do not have this support at home, and as a result of this policy end up getting behind in class work thinking they will submit everything…….one day. The result is that day never comes, and their credit is lost.

Problem #4: top down approach of education

In addition to the top 3 ‘problems’ with education in Ontario is the method in which it is delivered in this province.

It is a ‘top down’ approach, where all the decisions regarding curriculum, school policies, student success, etc. etc. are decided by Ministry of Education officials (not teachers), downloaded to School Board Administrators and Trustees (not teachers), then essentially declared ‘law’ for teachers to follow.

There is a major disconnect between theory (ministry policies) and reality (classroom experiences) that no one seems to get.

In a nutshell, those who don’t teach (and in many cases have no training or experience in teaching) are deciding what teachers should teach and how they should do it, grade it,and even the language that should be used to report it.

In Ontario, as demonstrated by the publicity about de-streaming, teachers opinions are ignored, devalued and marginalized.

The top-down approach ignores what teachers know and have proven to be best practices, and instead focuses on ‘theories’ and ‘political agendas’.

The Final Word

While discussing the de-streaming issue in the staff room one day, a wise colleague introduced me to his analysis of the social atmosphere in Ontario as ‘the tyranny of political correctness‘.

A tyranny refers to a governing rule that is abusive in its use of power and silences all other opinions but its own. He tied it to political correctness by stating that, as Canadians, we’ve been so consumed by the notion of being ‘politically correct’ that we can’t tell the truth if it somehow offends a certain group of people (especially a minority group).

In terms of de-streaming, I can’t help but make this connection. The truth about the difference in achievement as Ontario students reach secondary school is that most low-income and racially marginalized students in Ontario enter our buildings with much lower vocabulary and literacy levels, which continue as they move through the education system. That’s it. The research and statistics conclusively prove this.

But due to the fact that this identifies an issue that pertains to race and class, we have to make it into something more………something malicious that is stopping the marginalized from succeeding in our classrooms, universities and eventual work force.

If only the Ministry could identify this issue without the veil of ‘political correctness’, they could perhaps do something about the core issue: early literacy.

Why not identify elementary schools with low-income and marginalized youth and overfund them with books, literacy resources and teachers to do out-reach work with families, teaching them how to model literacy skills. They could even go one step further and provide free education and child care to low-income/racially marginalized mothers who are often the purveyors of education to their children.

Getting rid of streaming is simply a band-aid approach forced by the ‘tyranny of political correctness’. It will not solve the core issue of early literacy, which if dealt with appropriately could actually produce significant gains for these students.

Simply throwing struggling students into the deep end as teenagers won’t solve anything but serve as a great photo opportunity for politicians ‘trying to erradicate racism and classism’.

In the end, de-streaming will fail, as the first attempt did in 1999. At best, what will end up occurring in every classroom across Ontario, will be a ‘mini-streaming’, in class, organized as student ‘work groups’ that all learn different things under the same teacher in the same classroom. Sad, but true.

What do you think of the Ministry of Education’s plan to de-stream grade 9? Add to the conversation below!

52 thoughts on “The Fallacy of De-Streaming as a Bandaid for Education in Ontario

  1. Much thanks for your blog – I completely agree regarding de-streaming! I would add another issue in the education system right now: the way we have de-valued the applied or college stream. As an educator for more than twenty years, I am dismayed by how this stream is perceived. Students best suited to the workforce or who are planning to enter directly into the workforce are strongly encouraged by administrators, guidance counselors and parents to take the applied level “just in case”. Their lack of ability affects the progress of the entire class. Why do we see this stream as lesser? I would argue that a paramedic (college program) has followed much more rigorous training than myself with a university degree in English. If students were in the correct pathway, perhaps we would see the value of each. Then, students would be more successful.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more, Jennifer! I also see many students thrive in the Applied stream who were lost at the Academic level. Another issue is absolutely keeping the Applied stream relevant by properly streaming Essentials students.

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      1. You hit the nail on the head very clearly and succinctly. Just look to what our economic partners and competitors are doing? Destreaming in china? Germany? Japan? Ive often wondered the longterm economic impact on the workforce unlimited lates, student success and everyone gets a medal will have. Thanks for your great article.

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    2. I am a parent of grade 9 and grade 10 TDSB students. Both do well in every subject but math, both are artistic, creative and curious but struggle with advanced math. They have lots of parental support and are set up for success. My grade 10 student moved to Applied math when he was in grade 9 with the blessing of me, his math teacher and his guidance councillor. I was all set to have my younger son go into applied math in grade 9 when the TDSB changed the rules. Now he is among many kids struggling with Advanced math. He goes to peer tutoring, gets extra help from his teacher and we go on Kahn Academy at home but when it’s test time, he fails. I understand the theory behind the decision but it assumes that all kids in Applied math were put there against their will by mean teachers. In my family’s case, the decision to have my child in Applied math was an educated decision made in consult with educators. Isn’t forcing all kids into advanced math just another form of streaming?

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      1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that forcing kids into any pathway is a form of streaming. I can’t see TDSB holding this path for long. Hang in there!

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    3. I wondered about an alternative approach to the first 5 years of elementary education. I don’t teach elementary so I am not sure how this could work logistically, however, since all kids learn at different rates, if there were no grades until after grade 4….or put another way, by grade 4 all students moving on will have a minimum literacy and numeracy level that will allow them to succeed at the next level. So theoretically, students up until that point are all in multi-age groups anyway, learning with students they all started school with and are comfortable with. No one knows any different and no one is passed or failed, they just all need to be at a certain point by grade 4 (no idea if this is a good age at which to set the bar) because it seems by then, there has been time for the early starters and late starters to mature enough that they can understand what they are doing socially and academically.

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      1. This is a great idea! I agree that early literacy and numeracy skill are essential to move on past grade 4 – schools in low socio-economic areas are certainly tasked with a much bigger job in terms of this than others. However, if we know this prior to these kids entering the school system, we should be prepared as a system to tackle the challenge.

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  2. I see students who are struggling to stay at grade level in math in grade 4. It’s not because they are stupid, not because they lack support, but they ‘feel’ stupid not getting it; if we have IEPs and modified IEPs for students, as well as ‘academic’ and ‘applied’ and later on ‘workplace’, ‘college’, and ‘university’ stream, we CAN wait until later to stream but there will be some streaming at some point, whether it’s the kids who take 5-6 years to graduate because of having to repeat some academic course over and over vs. the ones graduating in 4 years, or academic vs. applied.

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    1. Agreed. I actually believe that streaming sooner increases student confidence and closes learning gaps. This should be our focus: closing the gaps in literacy and numeracy early on. If we did, streaming wouldn’t be as much of an issue in second diary.

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  3. My dad taught in Peterborough for over 35 years so I’ve been well versed in this conversation. I would suggest that applied streaming will become a necessity due to the looming shortages in trades.

    In Ottawa where I now live there is also a second form of streaming: it’s called French immersion. Only useful if you want to work in government and my ex wife even admitted that it isnt about French, it is a sorting mechanism. Both boys started there and the younger one was lost and gasping for breathe. We moved him to English and he flourished with grade immediately going up. His math and science marks are consistently exceeding provincial standards. Without the move he would be too far behind to ever get caught up.

    The unfortunate part of this is that the experts will be scratching their heads as to why the dropout rate has gone sky high and some bright light will come up with a new and ingenious solution called…streaming.

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      1. Thanks for sharing! I echo the feeling of frustration in this letter – especially the assumption that teachers are ‘racially biased’ and forcing minority students to lesser pathways. Like the author, in my experience this is both insulting and ridiculous.

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  4. Wow! It is quite lovely to read an essay that is rooted in ignorance! Let’s take a look at one of your arguments:
    “Students from low-income households and racial minorities tend to be effected by a general lack of education and poverty; they are at the greatest risk of having low vocabularies as they enter school, as well as developing poor or nonexistent reading habits as they progress in education.”

    “Therefore, the issue isn’t purposeful discrimination or restricting opportunities for students; it’s the fact that most Applied and Essential students can’t read or understand grade level vocabulary required for Academic courses.”

    Hmm… Those who come from low-income household and/or racial minorities tend to be the most at risk for inadequate skills yet, according to you, the problem is not discrimination or the restriction of opportunities… It is quite unfortunate that you could not see the potential connection here. Students who attend schools in low-income neighbourhoods are devoid of the opportunities that allow their richer peers to thrive: arts programs are laughable at best, sports equipment is often unsanitary, extracirriculars are few and far in between, and learning materials (both paper and electronic) are largely outdated. All as a result of low funding. With these factors in mind, it is no wonder that students from these communities do not fare as well as their richer peers in standardized tests or report cards.

    Streaming allows students from low-income and/or minority groups to fall in between the cracks. While university is not the intended goal for every student, preventing access to students who are not deemed “fit” from as early as grade nine does more harm than good. Many of my peers (graduating year of 2019) were “recommended” for applied only to discover that it did not suit their learning needs or later aspired to attend university. The process to switch over for certain courses required a term of summer school – if it was possible at all. On the other hand, there were an abundance of my peers who took academic-level courses against their will and subsequently, did not succeed as well as others. Switching to another level was often met with scrutiny by both the student’s parents and their own peers. Destreaming in grade nine and ten will help ease some of the stress associated with streamed classes. While destreaming will not fix every problem in an education system rooted in racism and classism, it will set the framework for fixing other issues.

    The students of Ontario need increased support and empathy from an education system that recognizes their diverse abilities and backgrounds. I am not a supporter of the Ford government as they too have consistently failed our students.

    I wonder how your students/alumni would react if they read this essay.

    – Natasha
    Future teacher

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    1. Hi Natasha,

      I have no issues with anyone reading this essay, which is why I published it on my blog.

      If you read to the end of the blog, you’ll see that my suggestions are the same as those you mention in your comment: overfunding schools with at risk students and significant literacy intervention. This solution will help decrease the need to stream as students move through the system.

      As a literacy specialist and English department head I’ve taught thousands of students over the years. Unfortunately, the students who are falling behind are often from struggling homes and all studies show that this is usually directly tied to early literacy. These are facts – I’m not being ‘racist’ by sharing this information as you imply.

      Moreover, as you begin working in schools and with students/parents you will come to realize that despite all the opportunities, support and resources you provide to students at risk, often what happens is that they do not have the support from parents or their communities to take advantage of your help. You’ll find this very frustrating, as I do I’m sure.

      Finally, as you begin working in schools, you will also see the tragic result of the elementary no fail policy in Ontario which destreaming is looking to continue. I regularly (every. single. semester.) have students entering my grade 9 classroom with literacy skills in the Kindergarden-grade 3 range. When I began teaching (before the no fail policy) we had weak students who were behind, but not the numbers or severity that we do now. It is completely unethical to put these students in classrooms with curriculum that is at the Academic grade level. Moreover, they often begin to thrive in Applied or Essentials classrooms.

      It is very hard for anyone who hasn’t worked in this system to understand why destreaming will hurt rather than support our most vulnerable students. Yes, those students are often minorities or come from impoverished homes.

      If you really want to help these students once you become a teacher, focus on literacy in your classrooms and in working with these families. All research in education points to the following: early literacy/vocabulary development/reading daily = success in school = social mobility= gainful employment.

      The point of my essay is to highlight that early literacy is the key to supporting these students. Period. Destreaming in grade 9 is far too little too late.

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      1. I’m a teacher, I don’t know where to begin with this, but you do know the most recent data re: destreaming isn’t from the 90s, but from basically last year? Check the TDSB destreaming report. It’s no longer theoretical but there is actual data.

        Applied classes simply don’t work for marginalized students.

        You clearly have a problem with removing barriers in schools to promote equity. You actually used the word “political correctness”.

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      2. Hi Jeff,
        TDSB is one school board in Ontario. The data from the 90’s was province wide. I think those are two very different scenarios. Also, from what I’ve read not all TDSB schools participated in this pilot project and data hadn’t been conclusive as of yet. From the anecdotal research I’ve read I haven’t seen many positive comments about the results of destreaming from the actual teachers who were in those classroom.

        I’m also going to disagree with you about Applied classes and marginalized students. I’ve found that many of my marginalized students (both socioeconomic and visual minorities) do very well in Applied courses due to an increase in their confidence and ability to do well in school. They’ve spent their entire academic careers feeling like they are struggling and once they are in small courses with achievable curriculum expectations they gain confidence in their skills and have a chance to close gaps (especially in literacy and numeracy) to move confidently into post-secondary programming. Moreover, I’ve had many Applied students move to bridging programs from College to University so the concept that ‘University’ is out of the question for Applied level students isn’t true.

        I do not have any issues with removing barriers in schools to promote equity. What I have a problem with is putting students in a class together who are up to 10 grade levels apart (I teach English) in terms of skill set. I regularly have grade 9 students enter my Applied or Essential classes who still are struggling with sound blending in reading and who literally take an entire 70 minute period to copy a paragraph long note off the board. It is unethical to put kids with this skill set in a classroom with those who are reading above grade level and are writing full literary essays.

        Yes, I used the word ‘political correctness’ because that is what this is. All research in education points to the language/vocabulary gap as the central learning gap between students who flourish and those who struggle with school. The fact that this overt fact isn’t even mentioned as a reason why there is a learning gap between students points to the fact that major truths are being with held in the ‘reasons’ why streaming exists. The argument implied is that educators within the education system in Ontario are purposely working to destroy equity for marginalized students. This simply isn’t true and the fact that this is suggested is completely degrading to all teachers who work very hard day in and day out to support marginalized students in successful school pathways.

        Also, if you think Lecce and Ford are initiating this practice out of the goodness of their bleeding hearts then you’re sorely mistaken. It’s all about the money. By destreaming grade 9 they will be saving millions in teaching positions as Applied and Essentials courses have much lower caps. Guess how many kids will be crammed into these ‘destreamed’ classes and how many teaching jobs will be lost as a result?

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      3. I agree with you – Literacy is an imperative aspect of learning. However, we cannot simply point fingers towards a lack of parental and community involvement for poor literacy skills. I may also argue that elementary school teachers actively contribute to this problem as well. I write this from my own personal experience. Growing up, I have seen teachers give up on my elder brother many times. The amount of extra attention he required to comprehend assignments was minimal – yet it posed a great challenge to his often apathetic teachers. Without my mother’s constant intervention, he too would have fell through the cracks. No, it was not because of growing class sizes that he did not recieve assistance, it was only because his teachers could not be bothered to put in a small amount more than they were required to. I should add that my brother had some amazing teachers – but the uncaring bunch far outnumbered them. I am sharing this story as I know that there are many pupils out there who endured the same obstacles while in the critical stages of learning. Teachers are not being held accountable. The government does not respect teachers, but, we need to stop constantly victimizing ourselves about problems WE also are very much a part of. I may not be an accredited teacher as of yet, but I understand the challenges on both sides.

        Now, in response to your reply to Jeff:

        “I am also going to disagree with you about Applied classes and marginalized students. I’ve found that many of my marginalized students (both socioeconomic and visual minorities) do very well in Applied courses due to an increase in their confidence and ability to do well in school.”

        Marginalized students come from many different backgrounds – this is also in regards to academics. Fun fact: there are also racialized students from lower socioeconomic households who have above average literacy skills and struggle from boredom in the classroom. There are students from marginalized communities who fall into every possible learning category. We need to stop assuming that every student who is racialized or poor is a damsel in distress. They require our attention – but they should not be seen as a sob story. Also, referring to these students are “my marginalized students” is a strange look particularly coming from a white professional. Perhaps you should keep this in mind.

        “What I have a problem with is putting students in a class together who are up to 10 grade levels apart (I teach English) in terms of skill set.”

        Um.. This is the reality of every classroom. Should elementary school classrooms be streamed as well if this is the case? Every classroom has students with widely different abilities and experiences. There are students who breeze through with minimal assistance and those who require more help. For example, ENG4U is required for every Ontario university program (the exception may be Art schools). Some students who are incredibly talented in STEM or creative subjects may struggle with this course while students who enjoy literature will likely flourish. This is what teaching is all about. While it is challenging and should be addressed, we must continue to teach for a diverse classroom. Ceasing the process of destreaming will not prevent this from happening.

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      4. I agree with you regarding teachers being held accountable. I have been chastised more than once by my own teachers union for pushing accountability in my own department. After nearly two decades, I’ve come to realize that the only thing I can control is my own classroom. Unfortunately, as long as teaching is unionized we will have teachers who are sub-par, as once they are full time employees there is little to nothing anyone can do to encourage them to improve their practice. They get yearly raises regardless of their dedication to their career.

        In regards to parent and community involvement in literacy, there is significant research that supports childhood literacy requires support from home, school and the community at large. Funding and maintaining literacy programming in communities is fundamental to supporting early literacy initiatives.

        I am also more than aware that marginalized students can be very successful. My argument that destreaming is not a racial issue reflects this. It has to do with literacy levels. There are many marginalized students who are excellent students. Again, by stating that destreaming is not a racial issue this is what I’m trying to communicate.

        When stating ‘my marginalized students’ I’m referring to students who have been in my classroom who happen to also be from the marginalized demographic – whether that be racial or socioeconomic. Interestingly, in my classroom the vast majority of marginalized students are from low socioeconomic environments. We have few visible minorities in my school, but most of them are in our Academic pathways.

        In response to your final point about skill disparity, keep in mind that I’m a secondary teacher. The learning gap isn’t vast in most elementary grades until grade 6. That is when the divide truly becomes challenging. Also, please note that elementary teachers can modify curriculum for struggling students. For example, in grade 8 classroom with a large skill divide in math a teacher could have most of the class working on grade 8 curriculum, then perhaps a small group working on grade 6 expectations, and a even smaller group working on grade 3 curriculum. In secondary we do not modify curriculum. We teach grade level curriculum only and if students cannot achieve these curriculum expectations, they fail the course. This is why destreaming will be so detrimental for students who are below grade level. If they cannot achieve grade level expectations (which we already know if our data shows they are working at a grade 3 level) they will simply fail the course. The TDSB pilot project regarding destreaming has already shown increased failure rates in destreaming courses.

        Again, the issue with destreaming is not students working 2-3 grades below-good teachers can bridge these students. The reality is that many current Applied level students are working at primary or junior literacy levels. They just don’t have the skills set as of yet to tackle grade 9 curriculum and it isn’t fair to put them in these circumstances. There is a significant difference between struggling with a course and literally not having the skill set to even participate in it.

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      5. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that streaming, or destreaming, are not the real enemies here. Both are at least symptoms of a broken system. Better stated, both are band aids, and I just happen to believe that streaming does a better job of limiting the bleeding.

        The real issues lie at the start of the path, in some instances even before kindergarten. Even if we can promote mass literacy and give every child a truly equal footing with which to start, and all the same opportunities and time commitments along the way, the individual nature of each child still dictates that we would have a vastly different finished product going into grade nine. Every child learns differently. Each has strong and weak areas in learning and interests. Each child hits the milestone developmental stages at different ages. Even with all else being equal, I would argue that some form of streaming will still be necessary somewhere along the journey. The danger of removing streaming lies in the very real possibility that we will experience a greatly increased dropout rate as kids get left behind in a system that they are ill equipped in which to operate.

        As much as I think streaming is good, I actually think it failed me. I wanted to go to university. So I plugged along in the A courses. (We had advanced, general, and basic). I dutifully obtained my six OAC’s. And all this to get a degree in music. None of those courses made me a better organist. For that matter, none of them made me a better cemetery grounds man, a better bus driver, or a better janitor. I would have been better served by courses that taught me budgeting and accounting for the home instead of the probability of rolling a sum total of 27 with three rolls of two dice. To be a better organist, I had to be a better academic, and those two things are not related.

        By the same token the faculty of music in Toronto decided that musicians couldn’t possibly be well rounded citizens so we were forced to take one course from the arts and science syllabus each year. I chose philosophy which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in life. But I digress.

        The real challenge is finding ways to get every child an equal opportunity both as they enter, and as they proceed, through the education system. Destreaming as a solution will not address that basic inadequacy.

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      6. This is completely off topic but have you considered the educational value in this thread? You have here, at very least, a conversation, but really a proper debate. If your students were to read all of the posts, could they notice the differences from what they are used to on social media? There is genuine debate with each person trying to present arguments to further their point. What is missing is the name calling, the vitriol and the demeaning nature that is insidious in social media.

        You have an exercise whereby each student could write an opinion piece about which poster they think has best argued their point

        I would love to see this used as a Supreme Court case. Groups of nine or so discuss and debate the value of de streaming using Premier Fords’s Logic. Then they vote, which doesn’t have to be anonymous, and quickly present their decision both for and against.

        As a final piece each student can take Chief Justice Ford’s decision to cancel streaming and write either a supporting decision or a dissenting position. There are wonderful opportunities for evaluating critical thinking, logical argument assembly, reading comprehension, and writing skills.

        It would also be interesting to see how your applied students respond compared to the academic stream students. Maybe other English teachers would sign on to the exercise as well. Just a thought but it seems a shame for such intelligent and well meaning discussion to go to waste, especially as it seems to be an endangered skill set.

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  5. I’m a high school teacher, who’s been around for the past 20 years, so I’ve seen lots of educational reform. I remember that at the beginning of my career, we did run destreamed English courses in grade 9. Back then (early 1990s), it was called the “Common Curriculum” and brought in by the NDP gov’t, who by the way also wanted to implement antiracism and ethnocultural equity in school boards. This means that ALL school boards in the province would’ve been required to develop and implement antiracism and ethnocultural equity policies. Unfortunately, the NDP gov’t lost out to the Conservatives in the late 90s and the Mike Harris gov’t stopped these reforms. That’s right – the Conservative gov’t implemented streaming again ..and even better .. got rid of the mandatory antiracism guidelines that called for “systemic policies covering multiple areas of education provision, including curriculum, learning materials, student assessment and placement, hiring and staffing, race relations, and community relations.” As a teacher, I find it interesting that this gov’t now wants to bring back “destreaming” when they’re the ones who cut it in the first place. How crazy was that!

    Here’s a link where you can find out more about the history of education in Ontario ..
    http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~icec/policytrends.pdf.
    http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/abcs/rcom/full/volume1/chapter2.html

    So when teachers talk about “support and empathy”, we need to direct that to the gov’t — in terms of funding — so that we can properly support ALL of our students. Don’t forget that before Covid, teachers were fighting to maintain decent class ratios .. from a gov’t who didn’t care that we were telling them that their proposed change in class ratio was resulting in classes of over 40 students in high school. Teachers across the province walked out in protest .. losing days of pay .. we walked out b/c we do empathize with our students and want the best for them. So this gov’t needs to put up the $$$ before they talk about supporting students.

    Back to this “destreaming” issue .. I hear the frustration about students being counseled to take the applied pathway in grade 9, but the problem starts a lot earlier than high school. Academic skills, like reading and writing, take years and years to develop, so the support needs to be channeled into the younger grades. Don’t you agree? We have students coming to us in grade 9 with grade 2 or 3 reading levels. How will a “one-size-fit-all” system in grade 9 help them? That’s 9 years too late! And I won’t even begin to talk about other issues, like poverty and the destructive effect that has on our kids. Raising the minimum wage would’ve been helpful for families that struggle to pay for rent and food and clothes, etc.. But what happened to that?

    What we have now isn’t a perfect system. I agree with you. But just throwing all the kids into one ‘melting pot’ and closing our eyes to the real problems is just going to put off the inevitable b/c they’ll be streamed in grade 10.

    So – this government saying that we’re going to destream classes as a means to supporting more equitable policies that will ensure success for all students – is just a political ploy. There’s been no consultation with any teacher groups or school boards as far as we know. Has there been any indication of how this will be implemented? No.
    Where are the resources? I don’t know. How will this affect class sizes? I don’t know.
    Will the gov’t hire more teachers? I don’t know. Will school boards be mandated to hire more teachers that are representative of the school community? Hmmmm .. Where’s the training for differentiation of learning so that we can address the individual needs of each and every child? Nothing like this has been discussed. That’s how you know it’s just a short-sighted political ploy to get voters to think that they’re out to help our kids .. and that teachers are the big bad wolf who are out to fail kids.

    Sorry for the long post, but these are serious times and teachers need to stand together so that we can support each and every one of our students to reach their potential

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      1. 🙂 thank YOU for starting the discussion. It gave me an opportunity to go back and refresh my memory about the “Common Curriculum”. I can’t believe that there’s no mention of this in any current news articles. You’ve inspired me to keep spreading the word!!

        We’re definitely living in “interesting times” .. and you know that saying about history repeating itself. Teachers – both new and experienced – need to listen to each other about this issue. Why do we need to repeat a failed experiment that’s going to cause such damage to our students?

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  6. Thanks for writing this. You’ve said everything I was thinking but you have the experience to back it up.

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  7. This article is bang on! I taught a destreamed English class years ago. It did not work then and it will not work now! Thank you for such a frank and insightful article.

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  8. I am a Lead Mathematics Head in a major school board and have taught for 34 years in Ontario. I have the best job one could ever wish for, and could fill this blog with enough information and comments about Mathematics in general and de-streaming to create a book. I do have several “short” comments that I would like to add to this discussion:

    1) Any talk about streaming being a racial issue is a LIE. I and the VAST majority of teachers that I have met and respected over my many years of teaching would stand on our heads for ANY one of our students who are trying to learn. To imply that educators stream kids into lower levels to get rid of the trash is so insulting and derogatory that I would dare anyone to stand up to me and accuse me of treating any student that I teach in some lesser way due to their situation in life.

    2) I have taught Enriched grade 9, Academic grade 9 and Applied grade 9 classes for many years. My enriched classes have completed mathematics units that would shock even seasoned professionals as to the level of complexity and difficulty. My Academic classes have for the most part easily made their way through the grade 9 curriculum with strong success. My applied classes have also with much assistance made their way through the Applied curriculum. Here is the problem however. The Applied students for the most part had very genuine learning issues. Concepts that I went over and over and over with them throughout the year would slip away in a matter of weeks and have to be re-taught again. Adding and subtracting one and two digit numbers was a serious problem for these students and had to be reinforced again and again. If the Applied students were together with the Academic students then which curriculum would dominate? The Academic curriculum would be far too difficult for the Applied students and the Applied curriculum would be too easy for the Academic students. Thus, I would have to individualize for the class as to their abilities and thus stream them while they are all together. This is not me saying that students are incapable of learning, this is me saying that there are genuinely students that must be in classes tailored to their abilities in order to succeed. It has nothing to do with elitism or class definition, rather it has to do with actually helping students to succeed at their level of understanding and ability.

    3) Claims have been made that students are placed in Applied classes and never can get out because they are trapped there. I work with my students at all times to bring them up to the next level and am constantly looking for signs that they may have been misplaced. That being said, in my many years of working with students at various levels, moving up rarely occurs, whereas moving down levels occurs very often. What I am saying is that in most cases, NOT ALL, that students usually are in the level of mathematics that they are capable of dealing with by the time they are in grade 9. If this leads to college instead of university, SO WHAT, that just means that these students will actually have a chance at a practical job and will be out in the world being productive and earning money, rather than being one of the numerous university educated unemployed people that our current society has no room for in the practical world. I sing the praises of college far more loudly then University for most of my students, as I want to see them successful!!!

    4) Here is a tough one, MATH is HARD !!! Some students do not have an aptitude for it, others are fantastic at it. This is not a crime. ” Leave no one behind” strategies adopted by eggheads at the hallowed halls of the ministry of education have only one goal in mind. Keep students in school at all costs, until the government is no longer responsible for them. This is incompatible with excellence in education for our students.

    5) Back to Basics !!! You may hear this current government, who I voted for, talk about how we are getting back to basics, blah blah blah, etc, etc,. Most documentation from them is so steeped in indigenous and now anti-black, anti ( fill in the blank ) rhetoric, that any real changes to mathematics for the good of our students are lost. MATH is MATH !!! The colour of the skin of my students, their orientation, religious affiliations, country of origin are meaningless. What is meaningful is HARD WORK and rigour. Students need practise every day from grade 1 to grade 8 on the following topics: Add, Subtract, Multiply and Divide one, two three and four digit numbers. Fractions, Fractions Fractions !!! LOTS of practice !!! Word problems and how to decipher what they mean and solve them. Money, simple interest, loans, credit cards, tax, paying bills. Instead, I and my elementary school counterparts attend numerous mind numbing meetings on how to make math “Culturally Significant” for our students. REALLY !!! When I teach I am instructed to say that Sandeep goes to the store to buy naan rather than Bob goes to the store to buy milk. This is what is going to make students proficient at mathematics ???

    These are some starting points; I could go on and on about this. My greatest joy in my entire career is hearing from my students who come back and say to me that you gave it your all for me so that I could be successful and it made a difference. This is what we teachers strive for.

    Go ahead current government and the ones that come after you to try and politicize education to fit your horrible agendas and your need to get re-elected by a missguided public. I and the numerous dedicated colleagues that I have had the privilege to work with will do our best to circumvent your meddling in order to help our students be successful.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment, Brad. The public needs to hear from season veterans of the education system to truly understand why this is a political, not education focused issue. I am with you in feeling horrified that public officials and so called ‘experts’ in education (most of whom have spent little to no time in a classroom) are so easily jumping on this bandwagon that accuses teachers of manipulating the steaming system to oppress our most vulnerable students.

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    2. Well said, Brad! I just hope that teachers new to the profession hear .. I mean truly HEAR.. the voices of teachers who’ve been there. I’ve taught for 20 years and have had the same experiences. I just don’t understand how anyone thinks that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system would benefit the kids.

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    3. Wow Brad. Glad you are so comfortable speaking on behalf of the VAST majority of teachers. Love the assumption that most teachers aren’t racist or bias. So TDSB stats revealing that Black students are overrepresented in Applied and Special Education has to be because Black students are simply inferior or due to their life circumstances considering that they and other racialized communities come from poor neighbourhoods? Systemic racism in our education system has nothing to do with it, because you and the vast educators you respect and work with are well meaning and well-intentioned… I can appreciate many points raised in the author’s post, but I’m also concerned by the stereotypical assumptions and undertones many of you have shared. It scares me how highly you all think of yourselves considering how inequitable our education system has been since its inception, since schools were segregated and desegregated… I’m a Black teacher, working as an educator in a school board in Ontario, and I’ve heard the same rhetoric over and over again. At what point, do we as teachers take accountability for the role we play in this? Systemic change that supports educators to be in a position to be better teachers is important, but how about we focus on the things we are also capable of changing? Have any of you thought about how de-streaming grade 9 might actually give opportunties to students that have been underestimated and overlooked their entire educational journey. If I’m a teacher, good at what I do, I won’t be worried about having to make sure my differentiated instruction skills are on point for grade 9 students. It’s time for y’all to get woke. It’s 2020. It’s time we acknowledge our own implicit bias and the way it impacts students. It’s time to own our lack of knowledge and understanding about the complex issues students and families are impacted by. Racism and bias is a system, made up of teachers and admin that posses great power too. Educators have to power to make or break a child’s path in this world. This is really a conversation about the fact that with each new policy y’all are worried about the power you’ll lose. Check yourselves.

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  9. Hi Kyleen. I’m a 12-year secondary school math teacher who’s taught and been a department head primarily in the Jane and Finch community of Toronto. I’ve also worked centrally in my board as an instructional coach and coordinator of programming. I was one of the teachers who initiated “destreaming” at my high school in 2015-16 and returned to the classroom from my central position this past year. I must say that after teaching Academic-only math to all students for several semesters, I would never go back to streaming. The department head of English at my school would also wholeheartedly agree. Here’s some reasons why:

    1. Learning to shift my teaching to be more inclusive and to differentiate learning allowed me to reach a wider audience. The students that have always learned math quickly were still challenged and got to work when they wanted to, while I worked with students that really needed more of my time. I posed problems that were “low-floor, high-ceiling” so no matter how advanced a student was, there was always an entry into the task. The English department runs differentiated book clubs so students read books that not only met them at their reading level, but that also matched their interests. Struggling readers read multiple novels a semester on their own because of this approach and can still demonstrate the overall expectations of the English curriculum.

    2. Many students that would have either been placed in Applied math automatically because of special education status or because they struggled in elementary school did just fine in Academic, and a number of them excelled. This calls into question our school system’s ability to “properly stream” students. How we judge “ability” as a collective is actually not very accurate at all. Besides, Applied and Academic were not designed to be levels in the first place; they were about learning preferences and what students wanted to pursue as careers down the road. The system got hijacked to replicate the old Basic/General/Advanced streams.

    3. Prior to destreaming at my school — and I would argue in many schools — Applied classes had poorer learning environments compared to Academic classes (not sure if that’s your experience too). In mine, when students who have always struggled and tried to get out of learning by acting out are all placed in the same room, that culture of low expectations placed upon themselves dominated, no matter how much I tried to change it. When we mixed all the students together, behaviour issues decreased significantly because of the elevated culture of Academic-only classes. It just doesn’t make sense to me to try to support struggling learners in an Applied class where the environment actually caused it to be harder to help them close gaps.

    4. Prior to going Academic-only in math, many successful students in Applied math did not switch to Academic for two main reasons: (1) they would have needed to take a summer transfer course to do Grade 10 Academic math, or (2) they were scared of moving to Academic after finally being successful in a math class. Although in theory students can move between streams, not very many do, at least in math, which is second only to English as a gatekeeping subject for post-secondary programming.

    That’s not to say students don’t struggle in Academic-only classes. There needs to be coordinated extra help and intervention supports for those that really do need them. That’s typically part of every school and it needs to be even more effective.

    Anti-destreamers point to the negative stigma that has been placed on Applied/College streams and the need to value skilled trades and colleges. I, and every educator who advocates for destreaming, of course see the value of colleges and trades, but it’s the way we get students to those destinations that’s the problem. When less than half of students who take mostly Applied classes go to post-secondary destinations, that’s a huge issue in the 21st century where a high school diploma doesn’t get anyone very much. On a related note, I don’t know why we only actively promote trades as an option to students in Applied and Essentials streams, as if those jobs are designed just for students who struggle in school. Students in Academic should also be promoted to look into skilled trades, as they are becoming more and more complex and technologically sophisticated. My argument, echoed by leaders of skilled trades, say that Academic programming better prepares students for trades compared to Applied, as they’ve realized after more and more university graduates are now transitioning to those professions.

    With respect to attendance issues, I agree that it’s a big contributing factor, but being heavy-handed on truancy is counterproductive. What would be the consequences of those policies? Suspensions? Automatically having students fail a class that they clearly don’t care much about? Attendance needs to be dealt with through social supports and attendance counsellors, not tough punitive measures.

    I do agree with you that literacy is a huge root issue, and as you know, the issues go back to elementary school, which has its own streaming structures. We agree that destreaming in Grade 9 alone is not going to solve the problem – it takes work all the way back to kindergarten classes. I don’t agree that low literacy is due to poverty or parental neglect by racialized parents, although I do recognize its statistical correlations. I argue that elementary students are in school for at least 6 hours a day, which is more than adequate time for effective teachers to teach literacy. Effective teaching CAN make the difference. Why that doesn’t happen can be anything from a lack of understanding how to effectively support reading development to straight-up bias — as an instructional coach that’s gotten to travel to many elementary schools, I heard it loud and clear from some teachers straight out of their own mouths.

    Finally, students’ stories and their lived experiences matter. Community advocates and their stories matter. Teachers are not the sole knower of all things education. Ignoring their voices, particularly those from the Black community, perpetuates the systemic oppression that destreaming is trying to address. This issue IS about race, class and dis/ability.

    Anyway, I have so much more to say but this reply is already super long…I’ll share with you my own series of blogs about destreaming in case you’re interested. Here’s part 1 of 3: https://mrjasonto.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/academic-streaming-part-1-why-its-just-the-worst/. My colleagues and I have also started a site to

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    1. Hi Jason, thanks for your reply and your relevant comments on this issue. I think we come from very different perspectives in terms of our experience as educators.

      I can’t speak to math as a subject area, but as an English teacher I’ve embraced differentiation for years, and as a pedagogical practice I follow teachers who are actually in classrooms (not working as academics) – such as Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher. That being said, differentiation can only go so far. I regularly have students entering my grade 9 Applied classrooms who don’t simply struggle with literacy skills – they are working at a primary level. There are no ‘book clubs’ or entry points to lessons for these students. Really, they are misplaced in Applied and should be Essentials students but as teachers all we can do is suggest appropriate courses. I’ll work 1 on 1 or in small groups with these students as well as the support of Educational Assistants to drill early literacy skills so that they can be successful at the Applied level.

      I agree that proper streaming is a serious issue that is a massive miscommunication between elementary and secondary institutions – our board is trying to rectify this through ‘Transition Plans’ and meetings as students enter secondary buildings. It’s getting better, but it’s a major struggle. I think this may really have to do with the fact that many elementary teachers are ‘Jack’s of all trades’ and really don’t specialize in a single subject area, so many students maybe haven’t had the opportunity to learn from a passionate and qualified educator, which can make a huge difference.

      Our Applied classrooms are also different in the fact that behavioural issues aren’t really a problem (at my school anyways). I don’t think I’ve even sent a student to the office in the past 5 years or so. Also, our school has a specialized ‘tech/trades’ program, so we get many students who come to our school to be in the Applied program and work towards the trades. We promote the trades quite a bit at all levels of study, and our students don’t really feel ‘shame’ about being in this stream as you suggest above. Perhaps it is how the stream is marketed to students in different buildings.

      In terms of the literacy issue, my comment was that statistically there are more lower socioeconomic and visual minority students in Applied courses not because of parent ‘neglect’, but due to their parents literacy levels – this is also supported by significant research. I’m not stating these things to be elitist or racist – simply stating facts. What I do believe in is early literacy, and that our province and education system is failing our most vulnerable students and communities by not focusing funding, resources and our best teachers to this cause. I truly believe schools that we know via EQAO data are struggling with literacy and numeracy skills should be massively overfunded and staffed with the best and brightest teachers we can offer these student. If we had these resources would we even be having a conversation about destreaming right now? Probably not…

      We clearly do not agree that streaming is a racial/social issue. Although I’m sure there are some biased and ineffective teachers in Ontario, I have a very hard time believing there are so many that they are powerful enough to create ‘systemic oppression’. In my time as an educator, I’ve been both a literacy department head as well as a special education department head and have sat through hours of meetings with teachers, parent and administrators about student placements and can honestly say I’ve never – ever – witnessed any kind of bias or discrimination. I agree that it most likely exists, but that most teachers want the best for their students – regardless of race or class. Clearly, you teach in a very diverse school board and I do not, so maybe it is an issue in larger cities due to a variety of factors that don’t exist in Northern Ontario.

      I’ve also read quite a bit of data coming out of destreaming pilots with TDSB and do notice higher failure rates for grade 9 destreamed students which puts them at more significant risk for disengaging with school. What are your failure rates like at your school after destreaming? Also, I’m curious about EQAO data – have you noticed an improvement in regards to Academic 9 testing and the OSSLT?

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  10. Hi Kyleen, thanks for your reply. Penny Kittle’s “Book Love” has been the basis of a popular English program in the TDSB that’s been very successful in Grade 9 Academic-only English classes. I agree that there are some students that really really struggle with reading, so there’s also been a push for effective interventions. My colleagues have developed and piloted an intervention program (that does involve some funding for a teacher) that can increase students’ reading levels by at least a year in only a few weeks. I’ll share an article about what’s going on in TDSB schools and a report (written by teachers) about the Right to Read intervention: https://www.tdsb.on.ca/About-Us/Innovation/TrendingAtTDSB/trendingATtdsb-Article02-Runnymede, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OdWXAdgZeYrJtvBOEohOQzkUSp-g2WgW/view?usp=sharing). I think we’re on the same page on priority funding and staff allocations to underserved schools with low literacy and numeracy achievement. It really does come down to our collective will to improve these outcomes. I’ve always hoped that there was an easier way to facilitate mutually-beneficial teacher movement from one school to another (our OSSTF branch facilitates mutually agreed position switches but those are rare).

    In terms of judging students and what they can do and which streams they should go to, we know from very recent research from York U that teachers’ perceptions of student ability can be tainted, implicitly or explicitly, by racial, ableist, and classist biases. Just citing my source: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6W69r2qnlyodHZzU3pZc0xZVGtKMkRqNWpvU0RtRWZ1ZjNj/view?usp=sharing. Even though the TDSB was studied, there’s no reason to believe that this isn’t relevant to jurisdictions across Ontario. I have definitely heard bias come out of teachers that has led to a lot of uncomfortable moments, but I also do believe teachers mean well and try to do what’s best for students. That’s the hardest part about confronting these kinds of issues in a caring profession like teaching. The vast majority of teachers are not racist, ableist or classist, but racial bias exists likely within all of us, including myself, but we need to check ourselves and do a double-take to be aware of them. However, that doesn’t happen in enough educational spaces, not just in schools but also district leadership (read Peel). The reality is that these biases based on race, disability, and class exist, they influence our judgements of students, and this has direct ramifications on placement and trajectories.

    I haven’t seen any recent data on course success rates. I know the most visible pilot school, CW Jefferys Collegiate Institute, saw their success rates increase, particularly amongst students who would have taken Applied courses. EQAO data is more available, and the proportion of students meeting Grade 9 Academic math expectations has declined in those schools that have moved towards an inclusive destreamed model. For OSSLT, the levels in the main destreamed English sites are a mixed bag – some have increased, some decreased. Although that doesn’t sound all too great, it’s important to keep in mind (1) even though TDSB has had dialogue about destreaming for 6 years, math has been one of the more resistant subjects, so it’s still a work in progress, and like all system changes will take time to refine; (2) comparing EQAO math results between an Academic-only system with one high bar of expectations with a streamed system with two separate tests and two different level bars is apples and oranges, and EQAO officials that have worked with our schools know and have communicated that, and (3) EQAO improvement is not the end goal for destreaming, but rather credit accumulation and post-secondary access and success. Would improved EQAO outcomes be great? Sure! But folding in all the students that have historically struggled in math classes and expect them to all of a sudden hit the provincial expectation is not a fair expectation (although some definitely do). Having a huge bump up in those approaching expectations (level 2) would be cool to see. It’s a long game.

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    1. Thanks for the resource links! Our board uses a similar approach to the TDSB Kittle based pilot. We also got a chance to meet her (and Kelly Gallagher) at a TDSB sponsored literacy conference last year which was great.

      I have searched quite a bit for research on the TDSB pilots of destreaming and have found bits and pieces along with anecdotal blogs/social media posts from teachers. You just gave me more concrete information than I’ve been able to scrounge. Why can’t it just be published? If this is going to be the Ministry’s new approach, then why can’t they support it with data from their pilot?

      On another note, another thing that frustrates me about Lecce leading destreaming as a education initiative is that I personally believe all the Ford government cares about is saving $$, which destreaming will do as fewer grade 9 teachers will be required and class sizes will be larger.

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  11. Dear Ms. Gray,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and your perspective. And thank you for “going public” (Freeman, 1998) with your pedagogical beliefs. As educators, we need to speak of experiences and give voice to our profession. I reluctantly wade into this discussion, but I feel it is my own pedagogical imperative to do so.

    I begin with this belief: education is an act of emancipation. Education provides foundational knowledge, which then, allows access to power.

    I would like to revisit your arguments as a way of establishing a discourse.

    1. Teachers are stakeholders too.
    You present the notion of de-streaming as an idea introduced by non-teachers. That is an apt point. Of course, all stakeholders should be consulted. However, that does not discount the validity of the opinions of students and parents who, are not “the professionals” as you put it. The first part of your post focuses on the ostracization of teachers from the discussion. You impart the feeling of marginalization, that your voice is not being heard. I sense that you feel strongly the inequity of these discussions–that these decisions are being made without any regard for those directly involved, teachers. These feelings of marginalization and inequity permeate through every part of the school experience of our students within the margin. Similarly, their voices are not heard, even less so than teachers. Their lived experiences are such that marginalization and inequity are part of their very being. You speak of marginalization in the context of this discrete and particular issue.
    2. It’s not about race or socio-economics.
    I respectfully disagree. The frustration and anger with which you speak about railing against a system that does seem to hear you is what students in the margin feel. Your position is that of a white, female from Northern Ontario. You were able to succeed within the dominant discourses and narratives that exist in the education system because it values and prioritizes your lived experience, but at the expense of many others. Educators are not examples of failures, but success stories. We re-inscribe and perpetuate “normal curve ideologies” (Simon and Campano, 2013) because we are products of these normal curves. BUT the students in the margin, are not. It is our moral and pedagogical duty as educators, to advocate for our students at the margin, to acknowledge our privilege, and to confront our own biases. You write: “Although it’s not directly stated, many articles heavily imply that low-income and racial minorities are herded … into Applied courses to allow for the supremacy of status quo to reign.” Absolutely. It’s not an implication, it’s a reality. Deficit ideologies (Gorski, 2012) only benefit the dominant class. Streaming and standardized testing further deepen the chasm between the dominant and the margin.

    3. Marginalized students have low literacy skills.
    Earlier in your post, you position teachers as the “professionals.” However, later, you write: “How are literacy skills acquired? Well, via parents (whose education and influence played a major role in vocabulary acquisition). Also, via reading (which requires modelling at home as well as accessible reading materials).” On the one hand, you explain that educators are responsible for education, the “professionals” who know what they are doing, but here, it seems the responsibility becomes that of the home. What you speak to is a failure of the system, but you misplace the blame upon the families. Students at the margin are victims of the system, a system that oppresses. You write: ”
    Therefore, the issue isn’t purposeful discrimination or restricting opportunities for students; it’s the fact that most Applied and Essential students can’t read or understand grade level vocabulary required for Academic courses.” We exist within a system that attempts to purposefully discriminate (streaming is an act of discrimination based on a specific kind of ability) and does in fact restrict opportunities for students.

    Continued …

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    1. Hi Monica,
      Thanks for your comments, I will respond to them in the order of their presentation.

      1. Teachers as stakeholders
      Yes, I do believe teachers voices are not heard in terms of our ‘top down’ system of education. Have you ever watched ‘Undercover Boss’ on television? Essentially, that is how our education system functions in Ontario. Those who create all the ‘rules’ and ‘plans’ have usually never stepped foot in a classroom, or if they have it was for a short period of time long ago. This is an ongoing issue with education in our province. As you can see by the number of shares on this blog, as well as the comments by most teachers – destreaming is not a feasible option in most classrooms in this province, and is an ideology that is presented through a political agenda.

      2. Race/Socio-economics
      We are clearly not going to agree on this point. However, it is interesting albeit a bit hypocritical that you immediately assume that I come from ‘privilege’ since I am a “white female from Northern Ontario.” First of all, as a female I’m immediately part of a marginalized gender; secondly how do you know my socioeconomic familial history? Perhaps I came from extreme poverty, and a broken home with parents who were substance abusers and worked my way through school via bursaries and scholarships. I’ll be forthcoming and admit this is not the case – nevertheless, I know many ‘white’ teachers who do come from these very marginalized experiences in terms of socioeconomics, as well as many teachers from visible minority groups who come from very wealthy and established family networks that also benefit them in terms of privilege and social mobility. Secondly, you focus on my comment about teachers ‘herding visual minorities into Applied classrooms’ as fact via ‘proven research.’ The research you point to focuses on the fact that there are more minority students in Applied level classrooms, not that teachers have forcefully and admittedly streamed them there due to bias and racism as you imply. My argument from the point of view of a teacher within this system is that this is not the case – teachers, by and large, want only the best for their students. I’d also like to comment on the fact that as an academic, not a classroom teacher, our perspectives and experiences are very different in this respect.

      3. Marginalized Students have Low Literacy skills
      All research in vocabulary acquisition and literacy development tells us that the literacy skills most children acquire via early literacy in the home will determine their later success in school. The highly publicized “Million Word Gap” research in vocabulary acquisition points to this argument, as to a plethora of other research studies on the topic of early literacy. Moreover, nearly all these studies also point to the education of parents (specifically mothers) as a important factor in vocabulary acquisition and early literacy before students enter school buildings. So yes, literacy at home is absolutely a key factor in early literacy, as is daily reading at home. Again, as someone ‘in the trenches’ who has conferences with thousands of students over the past 10 years about their reading habits, I can tell you that students from higher socioeconomic households with educated parents tend to have more reading materials at home, as well as support and encouragement – also requirements – to read. I’m not stating this to be elitist – these are anecdotal facts. Literacy acquisition needs to be a team effort between schools and homes. I know that this is something that many in the public don’t want to hear, but very often, despite supporting marginalized homes with literacy resources and support, educators are stonewalled in regards to support from parents. I have experienced this hundreds of times throughout my educational career. Again – its much easier to assume that biased and racist teachers are the problem.

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  12. 4. You address the real “problems.”
    1. Absenteeism Yes, some students do not come to school. But, we need to ask ourselves, why? From our positions as educators, (again, who have benefited from dominant ideologies), we need to shift our perspectives. Students at the margin often do not come to school because of an underlying feeling of not fitting into the mold of dominant discourses. OR, their lived experiences are such that coming to school has become near insurmountable due to any number of possible and devastating reasons (mental illness, care for a loved one, care for dependents, etc.).
    2. Elementary no fail policy
    You write: “Applied (and Essential students) are often the result of the failings of an elementary system that refuses to allow students an extra year (or two) to catch up and refine essential literacy and numeracy skills before entering secondary school.” We are all (elementary and secondary) a part of the same broken system. Cogs in a machinery that values product over process, a production line for the next workforce. I think there is something to be said for emotional well-being. And yes, being held back will potentially result in some emotional trauma. But again, I think we lose sight of the greater crime: a system that refuses to acknowledge the diversity of its population and attend to the myriad identities. We are not in the business of creating a workforce but our education system is designed as such. The no fail policy is a band-aid solution to a growing problem. BUT instead of encouraging our students to “take an extra year” to “fix” things, we need to advocate for sustainable, systemic change, rather than suggesting that remediation is what will fix it.
    3. No Late Policy
    You begin your argument about the policy and how it “compliments” the absenteeism policy. Again, we need to ask, Why? Why are students not able to meet deadlines? And yes, there may be some who simply aren’t, but there may be more to it. And it is our duty to understand why. You write: “Whereas Academic students often have parents genuinely engaged in their education, and ensure that they submit work in a timely manner, Applied students often do not have this support at home.” In your argument, you have drawn the correlation that marginalized students comprise the majority of students in Applied classes. By this reasoning, it would appear that “normal curve” or “dominant discourse” students would comprise the majority of students in Academic classes. So again, the division is based on deeply engrained notions of power and privilege.
    4. Top Down approach of education.
    Your words: “In Ontario, as demonstrated by the publicity about de-streaming, teachers opinions are ignored, devalued and marginalized. The top-down approach ignores what teachers know and have proven to be best practices, and instead focuses on ‘theories’ and ‘political agendas’.” Now, change the word “teachers” to “students.” That is how advocates for de-streaming feel. Your frustrations are real. You feel tethered to curriculum mandates and that your knowledge is undervalued. But, when you speak for marginalized students and their families in sweeping generalizations, assuming they do not care about their children or that they do not know what their children need to succeed, you similarly discount their knowledge.

    5. The Tyranny of Political Correctness
    In light of everything that has happened, I am appalled you did not change this part before re-publishing (in July 2020). Political correctness is the dominant (re: white) discourse undermining the impetus of Black Lives Matter. This “political correctness” sentiment courses through the “All Lives Matter” movement as well as the “colourblindness” argument. You write: “But due to the fact that this identifies an issue that pertains to race and class, we have to make it into something more………something malicious that is stopping the marginalized from succeeding in our classrooms, universities and eventual work force.” That is spoken directly from a position of privilege. To not see marginalization or to think that it has nothing to do with future success is irresponsible. Your solution is early literacy and overfunding of “identified marginalized communities.” Overfunding schools is not the answer–overhauling the system, maybe. Increasing the minimum wage so that parents can in fact be there to support their children with their learning. More rent-control to decrease transience and allow for consistency within marginalized populations. Those are a start. Communities in the margin need more than well-stocked classrooms (although it is a start). Early literacy is important, but when all the other needs are not met (as per Maslov’s Hierachy of Needs), then, how is that even possible?

    You don’t change things if they’re working. Maybe de-streaming isn’t the answer. But it’s an attempt at an answer. We cannot ignore that things aren’t working. And to even think that they are not along the lines of class and race is egregious. Literacy, as Freire would put it, is about teaching students to “read the word and the world” (2012). What world are they reading if they are told by their educators that their marginalization doesn’t matter, that they’re being too sensitive and succumbing to the “tyranny of political correctness.” I began this response with the belief that education is an act of emancipation. A way of giving power to those who are oppressed or feel powerless. Our job as educators is to help students access this power. But if we are blind to their marginalization and re-inscribe dominant discourses, we are no longer participating in an act of emancipation, we become the oppressors.

    References

    Freeman, D. (1998). Doing teacher-research: From inquiry to understanding. Heinle and Heinle.

    Freire, P. (2012). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bloomsbury.

    Gorski, P. C. Perceiving the problem of poverty and schooling: deconstructing the class stereotypes that mis-shape education practice and policy. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(2), 302-319.

    Simon, R. & Campano, G. (2013). Activist literacies: Teacher research as resistance to the “normal curve.” Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 9(1), 21-39.

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  13. 4. Absenteeism/ No Fail Policy/Late Policy
    I am going to group these items together, as they are all ‘student success’ initiatives. As a classroom teacher who experienced the world of education before and after the initiation of these policies, and has seen their impact first hand on students, I can tell you that they are NOT supporting marginalized or struggling students. You can cite any Ministry smoke and mirrors or academic research reports you’d like to refute my claims here, but to me (and many other teachers across this province) – who have seen it unfold over the course of the past 15 years, we can assertively tell you that it is detrimental to longterm student success. I know that regardless of the stream of learning, if I have a student in my class who has missed over 15 days (the previous benchmark for losing a credit), regardless of their race, economic status, intelligence level, etc. it will be extremely hard for them to earn their credit. Period. This is also the case with students who attend class habitually late and miss my daily lesson. When these structures are in place, the majority of students (marginalized or not) will adhere to them. For the handful of students who don’t, administrators could deal with them on a case by case basis. Again, you assume this will be via draconian measures (you mention suspension), but believe it or not most administrators are compassionate and passionate educators working in our Ontario schools who have the best interests of students at heart. In regards to the no fail policy – I can barely address this as it actually infuriates me. Since this has been enacted – and continually revised (now elementary students cannot have modified curriculum or grading despite requiring it, nor can elementary teachers assign anything below a ‘D’ on a report card for grade specific curriculum), we have seen a steady decline in the skill level of our most vulnerable students. Continually moving them along to the next grade level without addressing their learning needs is doing nothing for their self esteem or learning. Once they enter our buildings in secondary, very often they barely have the skills to enter our Essentials pathway classrooms. This policy, although beautiful in theory, is doing little to nothing in practice for our most vulnerable students.

    5. Tyranny of Political Correctness
    Your response here, in my opinion, actually supports my argument. Based on my blog arguments that refute the idea that streaming is ‘racist and elitist’, you essentially jump on the attack, accusing me of being a racist and elitist through my “position of privilege.” My argument here (and throughout my entire blog) is that streaming is not about racism or elitism, rather about early literacy development. I also argue that teachers in Ontario are not purposefully streaming our most vulnerable students into Applied streams due to racist and biased ideologies. The fact that I can’t even make this argument without being labeled a ‘racist and elitist’ is exactly what I’m arguing in this section of my blog. Why is it that you can’t simply understand that I’m a teacher who is passionate about early literacy and sees this as the primary issue that is causing both the call for destreaming, as well as the cause. Because I happen to be white…I can’t have a voice as an educator, immediately it becomes an issue of race. I’d be interested to see your response to this blog if my profile picture showed a visual minority? I really do happen to believe that I’m not a racist, nor am I an elitist, and that many other white teachers (actually most) aren’t either. That we all want the best for our students, regardless of race, yet when white teachers speak out against destreaming, they are immediately accused of racism/elitism. Perhaps there is also a fundamental problem with this point of view.

    In conclusion, clearly we don’t agree on this issue. Your suggestions about ‘overhauling’ the entire education system as we know is not feasible nor will it even happen – especially after COVID since our province will be impoverished for years to come. What we can do as an education system is focus on early literacy strategies as well as overfunding the most needy classrooms with the best resources and teachers available.

    Finally, I believe we also come from very different experiences with education – you are clearly a well researched academic working in higher levels of education, whereas I am in the classroom where these policies and their impacts unfold before my eyes. It is very hard for anyone who has not experienced daily classroom learning over a long period of time to truly understand the impacts of policies and curriculum changes, as well as the actual interaction between teachers, students and parents. To assume that all white teachers are racist and elitist by nature is offensive to the actual people on the front lines doing the best for all our students, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, socioeconomic status. Fun fact – in my nearly 20 years of education as a teacher, coach, mentor and author my personal experience is that most teachers actually sought out this profession because they love it, and are passionate about helping and supporting youth. My experience is that most (I’m avoiding absolutes here) go out of their way for all vulnerable and marginalized students – again regardless of their personal race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. I really believe another part of the fundamental argument around destreaming that is so offensive to many teachers is that academics, politicians and the general public have been lead to believe that teachers (especially – actually exclusively- white teachers) are driving racial oppression in our schools – yes, this is insulting, and no – I don’t believe it is accurate despite your carefully sourced research on the subject.

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    1. We are never going to be freed from talk such as ” inclusivity ” , ” white privilege ” , ” racism ” , etc because that will end the discussion as to why certain groups of people are struggling in education and force the supposed educated ilk who opine about these matters to face the REAL issues as to why these groups struggle in the first place.

      This year I had a serious discussion with one of my best students that I have ever taught ( humble, thoughtful, smart, etc ) who is top of his class, the most liked person in our school and will go on to great things in the future. He is a black male who went to great lengths to try and convince me that it was my ” White Privilege ” that allowed me to get where I am today in society. When I tried to explain to him the hell that my wife and her family endured when they came to this country in the 60’s and the outright hatred and purposeful blocks that were put into their path to stop them from being successful, his answer was that they were white, thus their eventual success was due to that fact. When I explained that my father at 16 worked to raise his 8 brothers and sisters and helped them all to be successful in this society he said that they all had ” White Privilege “, despite their initial poverty, inability to speak the language, or the advantage of today’s modern system to look out for them. When I talked about my father-in-law living in a clay hut with 9 brothers and sisters and had to bring each one to Canada and help them get on their feet in this country and had to work 12 hour days in tough labour conditions his answer was that they had ” White Privilege “. Finally, when I pointed to him directly and asked how he was so successful and what his thoughts were about his future, he said that he did indeed have to work hard to get where he is, but expects that he will be disadvantaged in the future due to the barriers that will be in his way. He did say however, that he was aware of all efforts that are being made to address this situation ( equity and affirmative action ) and fully intends to take advantage of such contingencies. My sad realization was that his bent perspective of society was actually taught to him by some of my colleagues in the social sciences area, as I remember him quite well in grade 9 and 10 as being far more idealistic and less pessimistic about society as a whole.

      If this is the talk from a successful person who is going to be a star in our society, what do you think the perspective of people who are not working hard and doing well in school is? They will be the next group of ilk telling us how we put barriers in their way to succeed, rather than face why they truly were not successful.

      I will say it again, as I did in my original post ( school is hard work, getting a job and keeping it is hard work, being a productive member of society is hard work ). There is no way around it, HARD WORK is the mantra in all facets of life.

      If the day ever comes when these supposed “Marginalized” groups come to the realization that hard work and attitude actually do make you successful and that your success in life can come to anyone regardless of their race, religion, etc, then we will be able to have real discussions about directing our efforts to help students succeed in the areas where they really do need help.

      I await the haters to call me a racist or elitist as they usually do, a statement that frees them of their obligation to be truthful about what the real issues are.

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      1. Thanks for your reply, Brad. Believe it or not, there are people from marginalized groups who share your point of view about hard work. I have had similar discussions with many successful adults from marginalized groups who value hard work, perseverance and personal responsibility above any social barriers. This is not to say they haven’t experienced racism in some aspect of their lives-but they acknowledge that their success in life is based on their personal choices and hard work.

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  14. Dear Ms. Gray,

    Thank you for choosing to engage in important dialogue.

    I bristled at how quickly you dismissed my arguments as the work of a “clearly well-researched academic working in higher levels of education” simply because they did not support your claims or align with your views. I have been a teacher in the classroom, just like you, for nearly 15 years. I have worked in rural, urban, and suburban settings. The articles I have cited are articles that have informed my own reflective practice. They are not from the Ministry. They are not “smoke and mirrors.” I spend a lot of time interrogating my stance as a practitioner in education out of a sense of urgency. Youth are feeling increasingly disenfranchised. The situation in America is escalating. They have a leader who also doesn’t see race or class and believes that the citizens in his country who are struggling the most, just need to work harder.

    You have named your blog “Teacher Revolution.” Revolution is a powerful word. One that connotes change. One that suggests activism. Now, Ms. Gray, is the time for revolution! Now is the time to lean in to the discomfort of the unsettling events of the last few months and listen. The violence of what we have witnessed: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter, punctuate a mounting unrest. The injustice felt by the black community is not a symptom of the “tyranny of political correctness.” What revolution is happening if we simply continue with the status quo?

    Your voice matters, but so do the voices from the margin. And whether you see it or not, by amplifying your voice, leveraging your cultural capital and privileged position to downplay their concerns, you become part of the greater oppressive frameworks. As teachers we are held to a greater standard. Our discussion of de-streaming punctuates some serious and systemic oppression within education. When students come to me and tell me about ways in which they experience discrimination, ways in which they feel powerless, I listen. I don’t undermine their lived experiences by telling them to work harder, I listen. If you, as white person, use the stories of marginalized friends you know to undermine the experiences of other marginalized people (as you have done in the comments on this post), you should reconsider this approach. Currently, black students across the province are not succeeding in school. This issue is very nuanced and very complicated. Will de-streaming alone resolve this issue? Likely not, but it is a start. Our system has failed so many of our black students. And though you may not experience it in your site of practice, it is the reality for an alarming number of students.

    Within education, a narrative is written of each of our students; identities are created and destroyed. The deficit approach to teaching purported by the Ministry and school boards, the use of standardized testing, using terms like “gap closing” and “interventions” and “streaming” all pathologize our students. What the majority of the research has shown is that this approach isn’t working for the students most in need. Instead, it establishes these conflicts within our students, conflicts that extend beyond understanding y = mx +b.

    No one here is calling teachers racists or elitists. Asking that we (and I use the term we because that includes all of us), interrogate our own biases should not be misunderstood as accusations of racism or elitism. By naming your whiteness, site of practice and location in Northern Ontario, and gender as female (although, I should not have assumed that you identify as female, I apologize), I was simply pointing to ways in which you are identified within society. We should use our identity markers to recognize ways in which we have more and less power in society. Your whiteness gives you tremendous power and privilege. Failure to see this is on you. Your whiteness doesn’t mean you are a racist. It means you are able to circulate through society with a particular level of comfort. It means you can be out at night without feeling nervous around the police. It means you can wear a hoodie and not feel one way or another about it. It means that, given the same circumstances (other than race), and the same “hard work” ethic, you would likely succeed over a person of colour. It also means you have a moral imperative to not only recognize your power, but leverage your power to empower others. As an educator, your moral imperative is even greater.

    Simply by working in education, teachers have become implicated within a machinery of exclusion, discrimination, deficit ideologies, and the market imperative. EQAO and standardized testing have perpetuated this agenda. So many colleagues strongly disagree with many initiatives that perpetuate these ideologies. But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to blame the system and say, “my hands are tied.” If anything, our position WITHIN the system provides myriad opportunities for acts of resistance. Teaching students about resilience and hard work is not bad. Teaching marginalized students that they just need to work harder to overcome oppressive frameworks, is irresponsible. It is our responsibility, as teachers, to interrogate these frameworks, understand how we function within them, and how our students are impacted. And while you may not have “witnessed” discrimination, that does not mean it wasn’t there. Similarly, you have made the argument (within the comment threads) that in rural, Northern Ontario you have less racial diversity. That does not take you out of the conversation, if anything, your role is all the more important. The students you teach will eventually become citizens within this ever-changing global landscape. Our legacy as educators is deeply connected to the students we teach. We should want our students to be able to see clearly their positions of power and privilege (and similarly, positions of oppression). We should want them to be able to identify opportunities for allyship. If we feel threatened by discussions of equity, if we feel uncomfortable about conversations around privilege, if we feel the need to co-opt these discussions and sweep them under the rug of “political correctness,” and if we feel targeted as “racist” or “elitist” that says more about us and our own fragility.

    Of course teachers care about their students. That is not in question. Taking the time to reflect on our own positions as educators is important. Understanding that where we come from is not always where our students come from is important. You queried whether I would have responded the same way if your profile picture was that of a person of colour. My answer is this: you would not be holding fast to the belief that race and class have nothing to do with what is happening in education today. You would not talk about issues of race and class as symptoms of the “tyranny of political correctness.” And as a result, we likely wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Under “Our Values” on the Rainbows District School Board website where you are employed, it states under “Priorities” that your School Board strives to “support students to reach their potential” and to “honour diversity and enhance cultural understanding” and to “value student, staff, parent/guardian and partner voice.” Further, under your School Board’s “Equity and Inclusive Education” section, it states that you, along with your colleagues board-wide “explored the impact of poverty on learning and shared strategies to meet the needs of all students regardless of socio-economic barriers.” These are some strong commitments from your School Board to support students within the margin. Do your beliefs align with the fundamental goals of the Rainbows District School Board? The fact the even school boards are beginning to take note and attempting to enact change, is a sure sign that a revolution in education is happening. Which side of the revolution are you on?

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  15. Very thankful for your comments Monica! It’s lonely and exhausting having to convince people that seem to be just as invested in education, but so comfortable maintaining the status quo they’re so critical of.

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  16. I wondered about an alternative approach to the first 5 years of elementary education. I don’t teach elementary so I am not sure how this could work logistically, however, since all kids learn at different rates, if there were no grades until after grade 4….or put another way, by grade 4 all students moving on will have a minimum literacy and numeracy level that will allow them to succeed at the next level. So theoretically, students up until that point are all in multi-age groups anyway, learning with students they all started school with and are comfortable with. No one knows any different and no one is passed or failed, they just all need to be at a certain point by grade 4 (no idea if this is a good age at which to set the bar) because it seems by then, there has been time for the early starters and late starters to mature enough that they can understand what they are doing socially and academically. Thoughts?

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