Posts tagged ‘Toronto District School Board’

June 25, 2012

Student graduation rates in the TDSB showing improvement across the board

Research staff at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are producing a series of fact sheets to give an early peek at some of their drop-out data, and, as elsewhere, it’s good news: Student graduation rates are up.

Of the more than sixteen thousand students who started grade nine five years ago, 79% had graduated, up 10% from a comparator group seven years earlier. Those doing a “victory lap” held pretty well steady at 7%, so the decrease was in the number of students dropping out, down to 14% of the group in this study from a high of 23% in the earlier cohort.

However, while the groups examined are all showing an increase, not all groups of students are performing as well as each other. These research snapshots show some the differences among student performance within the system.

Board staff were also, for the first time, able to link these students profiles to the student census data.

Further analysis and more reports will be produced over the coming months, looking at issues like special education, race and ethnicity, and sex. This first brush looked at a wide range of variables: academic level, gender, age in grade nine, sexual orientation, racial background, language, and region of birth.

The numbers are more confirming than surprising. Eighty-eight percent of academic stream students graduated on time, compared to 59% of applied-level students. Girls had higher graduation rates than boys (83% vs. 75%).

Straight students had an on-time graduation rate of 82% compared to self-identified LGBTQ2S students of 69%.

Students who spoke English as a first language had a below-average graduation rate. Students who speak Chinese, Hindi, Serbian, and Bengali had the highest on-time graduation rates. Those who speak Spanish or Somali had the lowest rates.

The racial categories showed similar variation, but are less reliable because factors such as poverty or parental level of education were not controlled for. However, the numbers confirm that schools are not graduating Black or Latin American students in the same proportion as other racial groups.

The third fact sheet shows similar patterns when looking at the students choices around post-secondary education. 2005 and 2006 were the first years that a majority of TDSB students applied to post-secondary education on-time (the researchers measured rates of application from 17-year-olds).

The most interesting findings in this third fact sheet confirm how parental occupation and education levels seem to be major drivers in students going to university. 65% of students with parents in professional occupations confirmed an Ontario university after graduation, while only 46% of those with parents in “skilled clerical” occupations and 38% of those in unskilled occupations. These numbers are almost mirrored when looking at parental levels of education.

English: Missouri S&T Students at Fall'08 conv...

Students at Fall’08 convocation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similarly, while one out of eight (14%) of students from professional families chose not to apply to university, one-third of students from unskilled/clerical families chose not to.The pattern for college applications did not show such stark contrasts.

TDSB staff plan to continue to release these early glimpses into the student and parent census over the course of the next school year.

Next up for release is a report on Special Education and how socio-economic demographics interplay with those identifications. Subsequent reports will look at student engagement; LGBTQ students; Aboriginal students; the Black student diaspora (with York’s Professor Carl James); and at continuing education (52% of the current cohort have taken at least one summer school or night school class).

April 19, 2012

TDSB budget woes: Education assistants and school superintendents as a “nice-to-have”

My young son hated school when he started it; he hated school so much he ran away frequently. One January morning, wearing no shoes, he ran out straight out the school doors having realized stopping to grab outerwear would slow his escape. His heroic kindergarten education assistant was the one who caught him again.

So when Mike Harris threatened to cut funding for education assistants, I began a long career as a parent activist. My son will graduate from high school next year, and education assistants are being cut once more. (I don’t remember a time when school funding wasn’t being cut.)

In 2012, the Toronto District School Board is looking at another yawning funding gap, one that has now grown to over $100 million a year.

School trustees might choose to face down the current Liberal government, to refuse to implement a funding formula which systematically underfunds high-cost urban areas like Toronto. But the last time the Board did that, it was put under provincial supervision. And nothing changed.

So, instead, trustees are faced with staff layoffs. (Lay-off notices went out this week to over 700 education assistants, school secretaries, high school teachers and other staff, some with almost three decades of work at the Board.)

This will get worse. The first announced wave has moved the Board less than halfway to their budget target. Board staff and committees are looking now for another $60 million to cut.

More staff will fall, and it’s going to get ugly. For instance, senior staff came under ruthless attack at the last Board meeting, the quality of their contribution to the education enterprise being debated, as they sat there behind the trustees. Superintendents are an easy target. If women who chase into a snow storm after a small angry child are a “nice-to-have,” then these senior staff have little chance of showing they are a “must have.”

Really, the debate over central service staff is a mug’s game which the non-profit sector has been playing for years. Funding for core administrative staff pays for people who run the payroll, pay bills, hire staff, keep computers running, conduct health & safety inspections or maintain harassment prevention offices. Core staff are the ones who let others do the work of the organization, whether teaching or serving clients. Yet they are not seen as “mission critical.”

Trustees will be faced with tough choices. This, now, is the time they cannot be parochial or arbitrary in their decisions.

One of the key tools they have at their disposal, then, is one they adopted a few years ago: the Learning Opportunities Index (LOI), which ranks schools according to communities’ needs. The LOI was created because the school board was looking for better criteria to drive resource allocations. Trustees chose, as the framework for its decisions, the principle of equity, the idea that those who are stronger can do with less.

Almost three decades later, during the latest revision, the Board renewed that policy commitment and strengthened it, adopting a policy which said

In order to provide a more equitable distribution of resources, the Learning Opportunities Index shall be used when resources are being allocated to school.. [going on to describe a few exceptions: those where allocations are universal (for all schools), required by legislation and collective agreements, and finally where a better measure of need can be found.]

The LOI has to be used as filter for these discussions of where budget cuts are going to hit.

This is not going to be a popular tactic, but it is in accord to the Board’s own policies and history. It is also a just and judicious approach. As they wrestle with these hard questions, that’s what trustees must hang onto.

June 1, 2011

Toronto District School Board 2011 budget deliberations begin

The head office of the Toronto District School...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

A useful e-mail is circulating around the Toronto District School Board, summarizing some of the early budget deliberations, as trustees face another year of shortfall. The Board’s Budget Committee met on Monday, May 30. Here is the synopsis. The conclusion provides some useful steps for concerned parents and advocates:

The Committee members defeated the Staff recommendations to balance the 2011-2012 Budget, which included the following:

  • Shifting $30m (million) from large capital repairs to smaller projects
  • Permit Fees Increase – 22% as of Jan. 2012 — $ 1.60 m
  • Department Budget Reductions $3.70 m
  • Using savings from previous years   $13.10m
  • Transportation (no impact on students) $.25 m
  • Reduction to central departments casual replacement budgets $1.00 m
  • Purchasing of utilities $.80 m
  • Auditing for enrolment and class size efficiencies $ 1. 00 m
  • Broader Public Sector Directive and reduction of meeting expenses $ .20 m
  • Reducing of External Consultants $3.70 m

Possible total (short-term) savings found:   $ 55. 35 million

After this recommendation was defeated, the Budget committee agreed to meet Wednesday June 8th (time to be confirmed) to look at recommendations again. They asked staff to look at the possibility of lessening the $30 m cutback from capital funding (to $20 m or $25 m for example), and balance the remainder from items from another document presented (Appendix “B”) which lists items which are either under or unfunded items by the Ministry of Education.  Here is the list from Appendix “B”:

  • Outdoor Ed  $6.7 m
  • Regular Ed. Assistants  $ 22.6 m
  • Literacy Teachers  $15.2 m
  • Library Teachers   $ 6.25 m
  • Guidance Teachers  $5.59 m
  • Classroom Consultants, Central Coordinating Principals etc. $3.5 m
  • School budgets   $10.27 m
  • Elementary supervision  $9.31 m
  • School safety monitors   $6.13 m
  • School office  $8.06
  • Vice Principals  $8.34 m
  • Special education    $15.4 m
  • Model Schools   $8.5 m
  • Safe Schools   $3.05 m
  • Board Administration  $18.48 m
  • Transportation  $ 2.49 m
  • Permits   $11.2 m
  • Vision of Hope  $1.00 m
  • Aboriginal Education  $438,284
  • Continuing Education  $8. 01 m

Total:  $170,633,755.00 million under or non-funded items

Why does the TDSB have a funding gap?

There is currently a $150,000,000 million difference between what the TDSB receives in “directed grant” monies from the Ministry of Education (i.e., for things such as Full Day Kindergarten etc.) and what we choose to spend. Sometimes, the Ministry does not send enough money to cover an initiative that they direct the board to do, for example, adequate funding for teachers’ salaries to fully implement Full Day Kindergarten. This means money must be found elsewhere to cover this cost.

Sweatered vs. Unsweatered Grants from the Ministry of Education (MoE):   Grants from the Ministry are either sweatered (meaning they have to be spent on a certain program or in a certain way), or unsweatered (meaning the board has flexibility about how they spend the money).  For example, special education funding is sweatered by the MoE and can only be spent by the TDSB on special education programs and services.  The TDSB must also be accountable and track these monies to show the MoE they were spent as directed.

However, the Learning Opportunities Grant (LOG) is an unsweatered Ministry grant, which means the TDSB has flexibility in using these funds event though the LOG is intended, in theory, to fund programs and services for students who are deemed “at risk” due to poverty and other factors, and/or who are aboriginal. While some of the LOG funding does indeed go to support students ‘at risk’, much of it is used to pay for under or unfunded items through the MoE’s funding formula and initiative funding.

The Inner City Advisory Committee (ICAC) and the Learning Opportunities Grant (LOG)

The ICAC has always argued that the Model Schools for Inner Cities Program (MSIC) should be funded by the LOG because that is what the grant is supposedly for. The Model Schools provides a holistic and innovative program in 105 schools across Toronto, and does this on a budget of $8.5 million that has not changed since 2006, in spite of inflationary pressures, salary increases, rising food costs etc.   Next year, in an effort to reach more underserved students, staff have decided to expand the MSIC to reach 125 schools across the city.  Last night the ICAC motion, asking for a 5% increase (approximately $425,000) to the MSIC funding, was defeated. (The motion is attached in pdf above.)

What can you do?

1.     Email or call your/all trustee(s) to ask that the motion be reconsidered at the June 8th Budget Committee meeting. (www.tdsb.on.ca click on “boardroom” to find a list of 22 trustees)

2.     Request a deputation (speaking for 5 minutes) spot for the June 8th Budget Committee meeting (http://www.tdsb.on.ca/_site/ViewItem.asp?siteid=88&menuid=310&pageid=239)

3.     Attend the June 8th Budget Committee meeting and the Board meeting where the Trustees debate the budget – June 22nd

4.     Advocate for a fully funded education system which meets the needs of all children and supports each and every one in achieving their highest potential.

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