TDSB Achievement Gap Task Force

Update June 1, 2010: The Achievement Gap Task Force has released its draft report for review and consultation. Comments will be received until Oct. 31, 2010.

Dr. Chris Spence, the Director of of the Toronto District School Board, has a vision, a Vision of Hope. It’s hit a few bumps, knocked for proposing of a boys-only school and skewered by a trustee, in the media, for doing teacher P.D. in a sports arena.

Still Spence has set some hard targets.

An important part of the Director’s vision around student achievement focuses on building effective schools, as described by Ron Edmunds 30 years ago. Edmunds, Lezotte and others laid out a framework containing the following elements:

  • Clear and Focused School Mission
  • Safe and Orderly Environment
  • High Expectations
  • Opportunity to Learn and Time on Task
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
  • Positive Home-School Relations

But as the saying goes, coming up with the idea is the easy part. The hard part is the administration of it.

So, working on a tight timeline, Spence has set Lloyd McKell, the Executive Officer of Student and Community Equity, to work with an internal staff team to look specifically at the underachievement of racialized and marginalized students.

The taskforce will report to the Board, through the Director, in April. The workload is daunting, including a literature review, a survey of current school programs and public hearings. The hearings are set for March 6. (See More below, for further details.)

A cynic would wonder why they are doing it. Do we really need another study?

As a student of Edmonds, Spence must understand that the first challenge is creating the political will. In Some schools work and more can, Social Policy (1979), Edmonds wrote:

Whether or not we will ever effectively teach the children of the poor is probably far more a matter of politics than of social science, and that is as it should be. It seems to me, therefore, that what is left of this discussion are three declarative statements:

(a) We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling

is of interest to us;

(b) We already know more than we need to do that; and

(c) Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.

So what remedies might we begin to consider? Our ideas must move beyond platitudes and be specific.

Speaking recently at OISE, Linda Nathan, a principal from an innovative arts school in Boston’s inner city, provided some insights into producing a strong urban education. She explains the problem is not one of an achievement gap, but of opportunity.

In her book The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test (Howard Gardner of Multiple Intelligences writes the jacket blurb), Nathan prescribes school administrators:

  • Develop a clear strategy, for students, parents, and teachers, of active engagement and ownership of the educational process.
  • Investigate the possibilities of incorporating, for example, an arts-based, science-based, or technology-based curriculum
  • Require a rigorous Senior Project that successfully reflects academic and non-academic learning as well as addressing a community need, recognized and documented by the student.
  • Build an assessment system that doesn’t determine student achievement and knowledge exclusively through the results of standardized tests.
  • Mandate paid time for teachers to talk about their practice and their students, and struggle with difficult questions.
  • Advocate for our public schools to equalize educational facilities, expand curricular opportunities, and reduce class size to match our best schools, this providing every child with the necessary education and skills to participate productively in our democratic. This necessarily costs more money!

Within a few months, we’ll see how the TDSB and Torontonians respond to the challenge of providing a good education to all its children.

EVENT: Breaking the Cycle

What can schools do to close the achievement gap for students of racialized and marginalized groups who are not achieving success?  Parent and community groups, student and youth groups, and staff groups are invited to present their proposal for change to the TDSB Achievement Gap Task Force on Saturday, March 6th, 2010.

When:  Saturday March 6, 2010               10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Where:  TDSB, 5050 Yonge Street, Boardroom

Presentations: 10 minutes maximum

Presenters are required sign up to address the Task Force, by March 1, 2010 by email to: or by calling 416-397-3138.  Presentation slots will be confirmed.

Back again at the Board on the achievement gap (March 9, 2010)

An opportunity gap, not an achievement gap  (Nov. 10, 2009)

2 Responses to “TDSB Achievement Gap Task Force”

  1. Hi my name is Ines Garcia from Lord Dufferin P.S. Chair Parent Council, I think having a good teacher working with kids in Regant Park it makes a difference that are caring and loving not treat children any different form others. My older child went to Central Tech High School and i find that some of the teachers treated the kids different because of where they come from of where they leave, I understand some do it for the money and some because they really care but thank god we have great teachers at Lord Dufferin P.S. it would be nice to have them in High School to, we need to get more info. to parents and get them more involve in the schools.

    Thank you,

    Ines Garcia



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