Back to School: New Report Finds High School Students Struggling to Escape Course Selection Deadlock.

As school returns, Toronto’s students and parents are still coping with a legacy of ‘streaming', finds a new report by Social Planning Toronto. In the process of ‘streaming’, students are grouped into either academic or applied courses, with big impacts on post-secondary options and life outcomes. Unfortunately, evidence shows streaming is impacted by a variety of factors, including neighbourhood and socio-economic factors.

The report, entitled ‘Still Streamed: How High Impact Decisions Are Shaping Students’ Futures’, finds that these patterns put students from racialized and marginalized communities at a significant disadvantage. The Ontario government abolished the then formal practice in 1999, but the report finds that much of the pattern of streaming remains through social norms and entrenched racial discrimination.

“Students’ futures are still largely being determined by major decisions they are forced to make as young as 13 years old”, said Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto.  “Rather than students’ decisions focusing on post-secondary and job opportunities, these decisions are then highly influenced by social expectations and poorly-informed assumptions”.

The report looks beyond the policies on streaming to see how current practices continue to result in low-income and racialized students being more likely to find themselves in applied streams, leading to fewer post-secondary opportunities.

“Streaming was abolished on paper in the nineties, but still exists in reality”, said Meagher “These patterns don’t evaporate overnight, rather they require proactive and substantive policy changes to make a difference”.

The report suggests de-streaming courses in the earlier years of high school, allowing students to make their course selection choices later. It also suggests greater access to one-on-one support for students and involving parents more actively in the process. The TDSB is pursuing such changes through piloting various initiatives in some of its schools. Social Planning Toronto believes those pilot projects could be expanded.

“This report adds to the existing progress being made by the TDSB, and points to solutions to further improve conditions for students and parents”, said Meagher.

Read the report »

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