The Toronto District School Board is the largest and most diverse public education system in Canada. Public education is for everyone and it is our goal and responsibility to ensure that each and every student has the tools, resources, supports and opportunities they need to thrive.
Over the past 18 months, the TDSB has focused on improving equity within our system as a key supporter of achievement and well-being. In October 2016, we launched the Integrated Equity Framework, a key part of our Vision for Learning, to specifically address issues related to equity. This plan was developed from our past experiences and work, the expertise of our staff and partners and, most of all, from our parents who shared their ideas, perspectives and thoughts on our proposed framework. From the outset though, we recognized this Framework was a fluid plan that would continue to be shaped through continued learning and listening to our diverse communities.
One way that we encouraged dialogue was through the Enhancing Equity Task Force, which was launched in November 2016 and led by an external facilitator. The Enhancing Equity Task Force took a bold new approach to connecting with our parents and students. Their work brought to the surface the systemic barriers that many students are facing in the TDSB and highlighted – and in many cases reinforced – the specific areas we need to focus on in order to achieve large scale system change. The recommendations they developed aimed to address those areas and identify ways to better support students, especially those who have been traditionally underserved and/or marginalized.
We also heard from parents who are very satisfied with their child’s school. We learned that our communities have strong, divergent views on how we support students, but there are things we agree on: that every student deserves a great education, that student well-being and learning should be at the centre of every decision we make and that access to opportunities and experiences must be made in an equitable and inclusive manner.
The work of the Task Force is now complete and senior staff have reviewed the recommendations to develop proposed directions to move forward in this urgent and necessary work to support students.
Through this process, we have taken a broad view of the work that needs to happen and identified the areas that will move this work forward. It is critical, therefore, that as we strive to create the necessary changes in the learning environment, create and provide access to the right learning opportunities and redefine the relationship between educator and student, we must also consider – and address – the practices, policies and structures that oppose this direction.
This work will impact all members of our community and while it is necessary for some, it will benefit all students, staff and families. The proposed actions align to our equity goals and will influence innovation in the system, schools and classrooms to support more equitable and inclusive outcomes for all students.
The areas of focus include:
1. Professional Learning
Providing the professional learning opportunities to staff to build capacity and deepen understanding of how to support all students. The focus of this professional learning for all staff will be:
- Equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression training; and,
- Indigenous Education, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Some staff, dependent on their roles, will receiving learning to support:
- Student improvement in literacy, numeracy and global competencies;
- The needs of students with identified special learning needs; and
- Leadership development for aspiring and current leaders.
2. Challenging Streaming and Exclusion to Improve Achievement and Well-Being
Setting high expectations for all students and increasing access to programming and supports will improve the outcomes for students. We will consider the impact of:
- Interventions beginning in the Early Years (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
- Special Education, including: changes to the Home School Program and the Individual Education Plan and Identification, Placement and Review Committee processes
- Suspensions and Expulsions
- Grade 9 and 10 Academic Programming
- Mental Health and Well-Being
3. Examination of our Policies, Procedures and Practices that Impact Access, Opportunity and Outcomes
Ensuring all policies, procedures and practices promote equity, inclusion and human rights. We will review to remove barriers and ensure access to opportunities is increased, to ensure that school communities are inclusive and welcoming and that schools are reflective of the Board’s population.
4. Enhancing Engagement and Encouraging Voice
Inviting and welcoming the voices of our students, staff, parents and community members is a critical driver to student achievement and well-being.
5. Equitable Allocation Review
Aligning our resources with our equity commitments to support improved achievement and well-being for all students.
6. Development of a Strategy for Black Student Achievement Excellence
Research shows that Black students are among the least successful in the Board. Developing a focused approach to directly address the persistent achievement and opportunity gaps experienced by Black students is critical.
7. Equitable Recruitment, Hiring, Promotion and Placement Processes Aligned with Principles of Human Rights
Developing, implementing and maintaining employment and promotion policies, practices and procedures that reflect, understand and respond to our diverse population.
This work is important and will lead to intentional systematic and cultural shifts that will make a real difference in schools and classrooms where real change happens. This high-level direction, should it be approved by the Board, will inform strategic planning moving forward, including updating the Integrated Equity Framework and creating the Board’s Multi-Year Strategic Plan.
Finally, approving these broad directions will lead to the development of operational plans for implementation. It should be noted that where implementation requires, in staff’s view, a change to an existing Board policy, staff will bring a report to the Board on the proposed policy change that will also offer opportunities for input and consultation.
Thank you to all students, staff, families and community members who have shared their voice, experiences, insights and time. This work is important and we appreciate your commitment to and involvement in the process.