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Centre for Urban Schooling

Issues That Matter!


ISSUES THAT MATTER! is a quick way to share our thoughts about critical issues in urban education.  The writings in this section do not necessarily reflect the thinking of the Centre for Urban Schooling, but represent the Centre's wish to create a dialogue about issues in urban education in Canada.  If you are interested, please e-mail Jeff Kugler your response to a relevant event (max. 500 words):  jeff.kugler@utoronto.ca 


Grade 5 student at Nelson Mandela Park P.S. (Toronto)


"Laurels" are still a cause for concern - by Dominique Riviere and Jeff Kugler

In “Education movie points the wrong way for change” (Toronto Star, Sept. 16), Dr. Jane Gaskell discusses the movie Waiting for Superman.  It tells the story of five American students and their families who believe that their only chance at a quality education is to “win” the charter school lottery.  In response to the film’s “simplistic and divisive finger-pointing at teachers”, Dr. Gaskell writes, “There is no doubt the American education system has some terrible schools and has fallen behind over the past 20 years, but many public schools perform quite well.  They are in wealthy districts and they have the support of their communities.  The failing schools are in areas where poverty is increasing, political support is lacking and the tax base is insufficient to support great schools – issues the film ignores.”

What concerns us is that these same issues are then ignored when Dr. Gaskell argues against the director of Superman’s suggestion that the film is an early warning system for Canada.  She cites our consistently high rankings on international assessments of educational achievement as evidence that we have “set the standard for how to educate a highly diverse student population in an equitable manner”.   This “standard”, however, includes persistent low academic achievement, credit accumulation, and high-school completion rates for many students across the country, particularly if they marginalized by race and ethnicity, citizenship status, and/or socioeconomic status.  It includes punitive forms of assessment, unrealistic curriculum requirements, large class sizes, and the gutting of programs that provide students with invaluable academic and social support.  It also includes draconian policies for classroom management and school discipline, the deprofessionalization of teachers, and market-driven educational reforms that privilege private, individual “choice”, over the collective public good.  All of this serves to maintain the wealthy school/high academic performance vs. impoverished school/low academic performance divide that Dr. Gaskell ascribed to the United States, but which is very present here in Canada, as well.  While our divide may not be as large as the one south of the border, it still requires immediate and serious attention.  The recommendations of the Toronto District School Board’s Achievement Gap Task Force report are a step in the right direction.  They include:  training in culturally responsive instruction and leadership for all teachers and principals; enhanced support for secondary schools with the largest number of racially marginalized students who are not meeting provincial academic standards; consulting with Aboriginal communities in order to improve their educational opportunities and outcomes; and ensuring that students who live in economically marginalized communities have equitable access to programs and supports for their needs.  It is this kind of work that will make our high international rankings truly meaningful.


Centre for Urban Schooling Presentation to the TDSB Gap Task Force Hearings -

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The TDSB has created a Gap Task Force to develop a Report for the Director of Education this spring looking at recommendations for closing the achievement/ opportunity gap.

The Task Force will:

• assess the achievement gap based on research;

• identify initiatives within the system and externally which address this issue; and

• make recommendations for system implementation, policies and practices which will be effective in closing the opportunity gap for our underserved student communities.

In seeking out in-put from external sources hearings the Gap task Force held hearings all day on Saturday, March 6.

The following deputation, with recommendations, was made by the Centre for Urban Schooling to the Gap Task Force.

Approaches to and Recommendations for Closing the Opportunity Gap


 The School and Community Safety Advisory Panel's Final Report - January, 2008

A Response to Margaret Wente's "Panic in the Blackboard Jungle" - by Jeff Kugler

I just read Margaret Wente’s response to the Final Report on School Safety: “Panic in the Blackboard Jungle” (The Globe and Mail, 12/01/08, Page A23). I find it so interesting that she is so quick to condemn the entire Report based, it seems, solely on her identification of the Panel’s Chair, Julian Falconer, as “a familiar face from the race and social justice set”.  More...


Gender and Violence in Schools - by Dominique Rivière

I read the Executive Summary of the School and Community Safety Advisory Panel’s final report with much interest and optimism. Despite some of the report’s troubling findings (e.g. the number of undetected weapons, especially guns, in TDSB schools), I was glad to see that it emphasized the need to focus on the systemic roots of violence in schools, and refused to rely on simplistic, short-term, reactive solutions to this problem.  More...


Teens feel like criminals in high-security schools - by Kathleen Gallagher

Article which appeared in The Toronto Star:

"The Falconer report on school safety has provoked a fascinating range of reactions. It has been called naive by some and applauded for its candour by others. It has, in other words, opened up a much-needed conversation about schools, communities, youth and our city". 

Read the complete article


ARCHIVE - 2007

A New School Year and an Important Election - by Jeff Kugler

On October 10th, 2007, Ontario voters will go to the polls to elect a new provincial government. As education is a provincial jurisdiction, this election can have an important impact for urban/inner city students, schools and communities.  More...

"It is always disappointing, if unsurprising, when progressive ideas are called 'naive and unrealistic'. There are a few ways in which Saturday's article, 'New York Educators call report naive, unrealistic' is a mischaracterization of the Falconer  Safety Panel's final report on school safety in Toronto schools." More

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