Ontario Set to Start Collecting Data on Student Race and Ethnicity

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The Ontario government recently announced that it plans to start collecting data on the races and ethnic backgrounds of students in the province in a bid to "boost opportunities for students' long-term success."

Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education, recently appeared in Mississauga to release Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan, a new three-year strategy to "reduce systemic barriers and ensure that all students in Ontario can reach their full potential."

The province says the move is geared towards making the education system fairer and more inclusive for all students by identifying and eliminating systemic barriers that could be holding some students back. Among the other things, the initiative will help determine if students of specific races and ethnicities are more likely to be targeted for suspensions and expulsions.

"Ontario's Education Equity Action Plan is a powerful blueprint that will strengthen our publicly funded education system by ensuring that all of Ontario's students will have every opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential, regardless of their personal circumstances," says Hunter. "Together with our renewed focus on achievement and well-being, the school experience of Ontario students will be enhanced."

According to the government, the strategy includes:

  • Introducing a renewed approach to Grade 9 in which all students are better able to explore pathways to work, college, apprenticeship, and university.
  • Identifying and addressing disparities in suspension, expulsion, and exclusion rates amongst certain student populations.
  • Enhancing other school and classroom practices to ensure that they reflect and respond to student and staff diversity, including more culturally relevant teaching resources, curriculum, and assessment.
  • Enhancing diversity in hiring and promotion, and tying accountability for equity to the performance appraisals of principals, vice-principals and directors, to ensure that the diversity of teachers, staff and school system leaders reflects the diversity of students.
  • Collecting and analyzing demographic data to more precisely address the systemic barriers to student success through data-informed decision-making.
  • Applying an equity, inclusion and human rights perspective to internal organizational structures, policies, programs and practices.

The province says the equity plan will address whether or not current policies are inadvertently putting racialized, lower-income, Indigenous, recent immigrant, LGBTQ, religious minority, French, disabled and special needs students at a disadvantage.

In the 2017 Budget, $49 million over the next three years was identified to develop and strengthen programs that support and promote student well-being. Ontario committed over $7 million in 2017-18 to support the implementation of the Equity Action Plan.

"We are already at work, with partners in education, on implementing parts of this Plan," says Patrick Case, Assistant Deputy Minister, Education Equity Secretariat. "I believe that the time is right and based on conversations I have had with community organizations, I can sense an excitement and a renewed vigour about tackling some persistently difficult issues in our publicly funded education system, together."

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