School board releases new Learning Opportunity Index

UPDATE: The 2011 LOI has now been released. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another blog post on the topic:
The TDSB’s Learning Opportunity Index

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