Academic Streaming

Academic streaming refers to the pathways students pursue through school that have significant implications on their futures. This section includes studies that look at traditional high school streaming (course levels) but also explores specialty programs and schools.

Structured Pathways

Author: Gillian Parekh
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This report (2013) focuses on structured pathways at the secondary level and their relationship to demographic and socio-economic variables as well as achievement, post-secondary access and experiential outcomes of belonging. This report explores school structures at the secondary level (Grades 9-12) as well as the mechanisms of promotion and transference from Grade 8 to Grade 9. There are three key sections: Program of Study of students (Grade 9/10 and Grade 11/12 Program of Studies), selected in-school programs such as Gifted, International Baccalaureate, Elite Athlete and Special Education, and school-wide structures such as Alternative Schools, Arts Schools, and Special Education Schools.

Programs of Study: An Overview

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Drawn from the Structured Pathways (2013) report, this factsheet (2013) highlights program, demographic and outcome data related to students' Program of Study (Grade 9/10 and Grade 11/12) and their trajectories across secondary school.

Selected In-School Programs: An Overview

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Drawn from the Structured Pathways (2013) report, this factsheet (2013) highlights students' access, participation and outcome data related specialized programs offered within TDSB secondary schools. The analysis explores students' participation in such programs as Gifted, International Baccalaureate, French Immersion, Advanced Placement, Elite Athletics, Specialist High Skills Major Programs, Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Programs, and Special Education programs.

Selected School-Wide Structures: An Overview

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Drawn from the Structured Pathways (2013) report, this factsheet (2013) highlights students' access, participation and outcome data related specialized programs offered within TDSB secondary schools. The analysis explores students' participation in alternative schools, schools with limited academic course offerings as well as schools dedicated to special education and specialty arts.

Market “Choices” or Structured Pathways?

Authors: Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández & Gillian Parekh
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Abstract: Located in one of the most diverse cities in the world, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) offers several programs catering to a variety of student interests. Specialty Arts Programs (SAPs) have gained particular attention in part because of their reputation as excellent schools providing a unique opportunity for training in the arts. However, recently such programs have also raised concerns about who can access and who ultimately benefits from specialized programming in the arts. While the TDSB is committed to equal access for all families, the student populations at these programs do not mirror the broader school population, serving mostly affluent families and students with access to high levels of social and cultural capital. Employing data from the TDSB’s Parent and Student Census and the School Information Systems, the article first demonstrates the demographic homogeneity of specialized arts programs and then examines whether this homogeneity is a particular outcome of specialized arts programs or a manifestation of a de facto streaming mechanism that begins earlier in the schooling process. To do this, the authors explore the relationship between feeder schools and programs that guide students towards SAPs. Results demonstrate that the bulk of SAP students are drawn from a select few elementary schools across the board. Largely, the demographics of elementary feeder schools reflect similar characteristics of the SAP population and this relationship is amplified as the number of students drawn from feeder schools increases. In addition, students in SAPs experience a high level of belonging in school as compared to students across the system. While this outcome is often attributed to the immersion in arts-based curriculum, the authors query how the role of creating homogenous spaces through selective programming contributes to students’ experience of belonging while at the same time reproducing structural inequality.

The Trajectories of Grade 9 Mathematics Achievement 2008-2013

Authors: Robert S. Brown, Lisa Newton, George Tam & Gillian Parekh
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Excerpt from page 2 of report:

Streaming: The streaming process of the old Ontario Schools: Intermediate and Senior (OS:IS) system still exists to an extent in Ontario through Grade 9 POS courses. That is, students take a majority of their Grade 9 courses in only one POS including Academic, Applied, or Locally Developed. The distribution of the POS levels closely resembles the old Advanced (Academic), General (Applied), and Basic (Locally Developed) system. For 91% of students in this cohort (14,508 students of 15,981 taking Grade 9 Mathematics), the POS level for their Grade 9 Mathematics course was also the same POS level for the majority of their other courses. For example, 97% of students taking Academic Mathematics also took the majority of their other Grade 9 courses within an Academic POS. Differences in this pattern were in three hybrid categories where students were taking a majority of their courses:

  1. in Academic, while taking an Applied Mathematics course (N=779, two-thirds of whom were female)
  2. in Applied, while taking an Academic Mathematics course (N=371, almost three-quarters of whom were male)
  3. in Applied, while taking a Locally Developed Mathematics course (N=288, a majority being students with Special Education Needs).

The Toronto Connection

Authors: Gillian Parekh, Isabel Killoran, & Cameron Crawford
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This study explores the educational opportunities available to secondary high school students in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), using both public TDSB and Ontario Ministry of Education data. Family income, parental education, and student participation in special education (excluding Gifted) are key units of analysis, as are the types of programs that the TDSB provides. The research found that low income students, students whose parents lack university education, and students in special education have less access to socially valued educational programs. The research found a significant overrepresentation of low income students receiving special education services and in other programs that offer few options for post-secondary education. Work-oriented programs were found to be most prominently available in the lowest income neighbourhoods in Toronto.