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Hello there, we’re GEEC, the Greater Equity in Early Education and Care: Child, Family, and Community Engaged Research team. We are a research collaborative working with community partners to promote equity in learning and care for children through child, family, and community engaged research.

What programs, services and supports are available for newcomer and culturally diverse families in the Model Schools for Inner Cities initiative?

What are the challenges experienced by newcomer and culturally diverse families?

Newcomer and culturally diverse families can face unique challenges and marginalization, particularly as it relates to learning how to navigate the education system in Canada. The Model Schools for Inner Cities (MSIC) initiative aims to support all families and reduce inequities in their children’s educational success and well-being through innovation in public education. Programs and resources offered board-wide, through MSIC, and at the local school-level contribute to diverse families’ sense of well-being and belonging in their schools and communities. 

Our approach

Researchers spoke to TDSB administrators and parents in 2019 to gather their perspectives on the MSIC Initiative. They were asked specifically about what their school was doing to engage newcomer and culturally diverse families.

Findings

The following categories of programming, services, and supports were noted as contributing to newcomer and culturally diverse families’ sense of well-being:

  • Child and/or family focused programming and supports
  • Health and nutrition programming
  • Community outreach and getting to know families
  • Supporting settlement
  • Celebrating diversity
  • Equity-focused staff professional development and training

Recommendations and Implications for Practice

Equity, community, inclusiveness, and expectations are the goals of MSIC1. These principles can be exemplified and enhanced through the school-based MSIC and board-wide programs and services aimed at improving health and well-being for newcomer and culturally diverse families. Findings demonstrate that MSIC’s philosophy along with its enriched program features help to provide comprehensive supports for students and families from newcomer and culturally diverse communities.

  • Positive family-staff relationships and open communication are vital to newcomer and culturally diverse family engagement. A welcoming and supportive school culture helps families to feel that they are not alone. 
  • Professional development for staff is needed, including conversations related to power and privilege, identity, anti-oppression and anti-Black racism. Families emphasize the importance of educators and administrators understanding how their own identity and privilege can influence their teaching and work.
  • Celebrations and acknowledgement of diversity are an important way to showcase various cultures and ethnicities and can contribute to an increased sense of belonging. 
  • Including the voices of newcomer and culturally diverse families in decision making around school and educational policy is key to upholding the goals of MSIC, and should help to inform practice in schools and communities. 
  • Results highlight the importance of school staff outreach and getting to know your community of families.

1. Toronto District School Board. (2005, May). Model Schools for Inner Cities task force report. Retrieved February 13, 2019 from: http:// www.tdsb.on.ca/Portals/0/ Community/ModelSchools/ InnerCityReportMay2005.pdf 

Click here to read more about programs, services and supports for newcomer and culturally diverse families within MSIC.

To read more about the TDSB’s MSIC initiative, and GEEC’s research, click here.

Document citation: Patel, S., Bemister, K. & Yau, M. (2020). Programs, Services and Supports for Newcomer and Culturally Diverse Families within Model Schools for Inner Cities (MSIC): Knowledge mobilization summary report. Toronto, ON: School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University

This is an ongoing study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Partnership for Change: The RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project, Ryerson University, and the Toronto District School Board.  

Dr. Sejal Patel’s Q&A with the Toronto Star

Article: Coronavirus Q&A: Focus on children’s “social and emotional well-being” Education researcher answers questions on parenting during COVID-19 | Toronto Star

As parents underwent virtual learning challenges in Spring 2020, the Toronto Star invited Dr. Sejal Patel to chat with Star readers who had questions about education during this unprecedented time.

Parents and caregivers shared their questions about how to keep children engaged with online learning and how to socialize young children in a time where social distancing measures were recommended. 

In the Q&A Dr. Patel acknowledged that online learning while maintaining social distancing may increase inequities for children and families with certain families and communities not gaining as much from virtual learning due to their circumstances. She noted that we will have to pay attention to this as a society, working together to support one another, building upon strengths and monitoring progress once we are through the period of distancing (Patel, 2020). Read the full interview here.

In 2016, Dr. Patel published findings from a study investigating the relations between participation in integrated early childhood services and children’s early development. The findings have implications for our circumstances today, with more equitable learning outcomes for 4 and 5 year old children who had greater participation in integrated early childhood programming (including full day kindergarten) in terms of children’s physical health and well-being, language and cognitive development and communication and general knowledge, after taking into consideration demographic, parent and school site factors. 

Access the full study, ‘Dose-response’ relations between participation in integrated early childhood services and children’s early development, here.

References

Patel, S. (2020, April 6) Coronavirus Q&A: Focus on children’s “social and emotional well-being” Education researcher answers questions on parenting during COVID-19. The Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/06/coronavirus-q-and-a-home-schooling-worries-toronto-early-childhood-researcher-will-answer-your-questions-thursday-at-130-pm-et.html.

Patel, S., Corter, C., Pelletier, J., & Bertrand, J. (2016). ‘Dose-response’ relations between participation in integrated early childhood services and children’s early development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly35(Complete), 49–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.12.006

We stand in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

Enough is enough.

As a research team with an ongoing commitment to greater equity in early education and care for children, families and communities, GEEC stands in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter in fighting for justice against police brutality, systemic racism and racial inequity.

We remain dedicated to fighting discrimination and racism of all forms, with a focus on the experiences of children and families in racialized groups, including members of Black and Indigenous communities, and those who live in marginalized communities.

We will continue to engage in dialogue, stand in solidarity with and learn from members of the Black community and share the voices of community through community engaged research with a focus on advocacy, practice and policy change. 

Image citations:

Image #1 - TOP LEFT - Blue and black wordcloud in the shape of a teardrop. [Black Lives Matter word cloud]. (n.d.). https://www.123rf.com/photo_93815577_stock-vector-black-lives-matter-word-cloud-on-a-white-background-.html 

Image #2 - BOTTOM LEFT - Black and white photograph of a man holding up the peace sign in front of police officers. Montgomery, P. (n.d.). Get up, Stand Up [digital]. Wired. https://www.wired.com/2015/10/how-black-lives-matter-uses-social-media-to-fight-the-power/ - 

Image #3 - TOP RIGHT - Drawing of 3 fists raised high, with #BlackLivesMatter image printed overtop.#BlackLivesMatter [digital]. Building Union Power. https://buildingunionpower.ca 

Image #4 - MIDDLE RIGHT - Drawing of woman and child sitting on steps; 'Black Lives Matter' printed on the woman's shirt. Wong, P. (2016). Milo’s Museum [Children’s book]. Teaching for Change. https://www.teachingforchange.org/seven-things-learned-black-lives-matter-week 

Image #5 - BOTTOM RIGHT - Black and white image of protesters, with 'enough is enough' written in capital letters. Enough is Enough [digital]. Black Lives Matter. https://blacklivesmatter.com/social-media-graphics/

Dr. Sejal Patel speaks to the Toronto Star about homeschooling and parenting amid the COVID-19 pandemic

On April 1, Dr. Sejal Patel who leads the GEEC Research team spoke on the Toronto Star’s new podcast, This Matters, about parenting in the age of the coronavirus.

In the episode, host Saba Eitizaz speaks with Patel, an associate professor of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University—and a parent herself—about ways to cope and keep kids engaged during this difficult time.

Listen to Patel’s advice on how to navigate as a parent during this difficult transition.

On Thursday, April 10, Patel will also be answering questions about parenting and home-schooling in the age of COVID-19 at the Toronto Star here.

You can also listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotify.

How does school redesign affect student and school staff safety?

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This blog post is part of the School redesign and neighbourhood redevelopment: A longitudinal study of educational success and well-being study. To learn more about the larger study, visit our projects

How does school redesign affect student and school staff safety?

Safety signs posted outside school doors in the redeveloping neighbourhood.

How do students, school staff, parents and school-based key informants view safety during school redesign?

School Safety During the Transitional Period

During the school redesign process when the Redesign School students were transferred to feeder schools (FS1 and FS2) while the school was under construction, many students reported bullying incidents between the two student groups. Some mentioned that the presence of teachers was helpful, but that more intervention was needed for a smoother, safer transition. Some students and school staff believe it was the issue of territory and school rivalry that caused the bullying and physical fights.

School Safety in the New Redesign School

Upon returning to the newly-redesigned school, many of the older students felt safe in the new building because of the new alarms, better security cameras, emergency lights, smoke detectors, sprinklers and places to hide during a lockdown. They also felt that less fights were occurring because of new play equipment and because the school yard was more easily monitored by staff.

Many school staff found that the reopening of the school resulted in fewer behavioural incidents and improved safety with new equipment and play areas. The newly redesigned school included large floor to ceiling windows. Both students and staff reported the large windows as a safety concern. Some staff and younger students felt less protected because of how exposed they felt to the outside neighbourhood.

Many students reported that their feelings of being unsafe in school were associated with losing friends as a result of the process of neighbourhood redevelopment and relocation ongoing in the community.

What are the takeaways from this study? Students’ feelings of safety are related both to the feeling of support they have from school staff and the built environment. Students and staff perspectives matter and should be included in both neighbourhood redevelopment and school redesign projects.

This report is based on focus groups with students (aged 4 to 13), divided into Primary, Junior, and Intermediate grade groupings, and focus groups with teachers in 2013 and 2014.

Click here to read more about student and school staff perspectives on safety during the school redesign.

To read more about the School Redesign and Neighbourhood Redevelopment: A longitudinal study of education success and well-being study,click here.

Document citation: Patel, S., Ranjbar M., Cummins, T., & Cummins, N.(in press). Safety and inner city neighbourhood redevelopment: Student and teacher perspectives. Education and Urban Society.

Meet the GEEC team: Krissy Bemister

Meet Krissy Bemister, a Research Project Manager leading GEEC’s Model Schools for Inner Cities Research Team. Krissy completed her Psychology B.A. degree in 2018. Her undergraduate thesis, along with her more recent Research Assistant experiences in two projects based out of OISE investigating reading interventions and full day kindergarten, solidified her passion for research methods and applications.

Krissy is now pursuing her M.A. in Psychology at Ryerson University, where she investigates face and emotion perception in infancy.

Krissy is enthused by the potential to contribute to real change at the ground level for children in marginalized communities through her work in the GEEC research group.

Krissy has also had practical experience working with children ages 3 to 18 in an educational program, as well as through her array of research experiences. She utilizes her research skills on the GEEC team and expands her knowledge about community-engaged research and qualitative methods.

In the GEEC Team, Krissy is currently working on mobilizing data from the MSIC: Reducing inequities in children’s educational success and family well-being in marginalized communities through innovation in public education project. What she finds most compelling about this study is hearing about people’s lived experiences, especially their experiences with education.

Student social dynamics, school-based transitions and school redesign

This blog post is part of the School redesign and neighbourhood redevelopment: A longitudinal study of educational success and well-being study. To learn more about the larger study, visit our projects

When a school in a marginalized neighbourhood goes through a redesign, what social impacts does it have on students and school staff?

This timeline indicates the years when children were initially relocated to other schools and then later brought back to their newly redesigned school following completion.

From 2011 to 2012, we held focus groups and interviews with students (ages 4 to 13) and school staff (teachers and administrators).

The redesign of a school in a low socioeconomic neighbourhood in Toronto resulted in students and staff being moved to two other neighbourhood schools (feeder schools) while the focal school was under construction. Students shared their thoughts on the changing social dynamics amongst students and staff during this transitional period.

At the beginning of the transition, students spoke about an initial divide between the new students from the redesign school and those who were in the feeder schools. There were reports of bullying, spreading rumours, and physical fights. Another challenge mentioned was the lack of school space and changes to school activities and resources. RS students were blamed by some feeder school students for these challenges.

Some RS students felt more comfortable with school staff from their own school in comparison to the staff at the feeder schools. They said that they could trust the staff from the redesign school more, and also shared that they felt the school staff from the feeder school favoured the feeder school students more.

During the transition, many students said that they missed the redesign school, and wanted to return to graduate there. Others felt nervous that when they moved back, the original school would be completely different.

So just how does school redesign impact the social dynamics between students?  There was tension between students when bringing the redesign school and feeder schools groups together. This was reported by both students and staff. Staff also noted that feeling a sense of ownership or identifying with the school was particularly important for the older students. This research can help inform other schools undergoing redesigns and renovations. Additional staff to better support students during transitions, such as psychologists or social workers, at the school could help students to adapt to the changes easier. Having activities that encourage connections between students, such as a buddy system, could help to ease the transition as well. Teachers incorporated themes of neighbourhood and school change into the school curriculum during the transition to help students adjust which is a helpful practice. Allowing for more time for students and teachers to adjust to the changes, build relationships with one another and get settled in the redesigned school may be beneficial.

Click here to read more about student and school staff perspectives on social dynamics during the school redesign.

See also: Patel, S., & Cummins, N. (2019). Student and staff social dynamics and transitions during school redesign. Improving Schools, 22(2), 158-172. doi: 10.1177/1365480219832415

To read more about the School Redesign and Neighbourhood Redevelopment: A longitudinal study of education success and well-being study, click here.

To learn more about social dynamics and transitions during school redesign, read our manuscript here.

Document citation: Patel, S. (2016). School redesign and neighbourhood redevelopment: Knowledge mobilization summary report. Toronto, ON: School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University.

School staff social dynamics, school-based transitions and school redesign

This blog post is part of the School redesign and neighbourhood redevelopment: A longitudinal study of educational success and well-being study. To learn more about the larger study, visit our projects

What are the impacts of school redesign on school staff social dynamics?

Construction underway at the redesign school.

From 2011 to 2012, we held focus groups and interviews with students (ages 4 to 13) and school staff (teachers and administrators).

The redesign of a school in a low-socioeconomic neighbourhood in Toronto resulted in students and staff being moved to two other neighbourhood schools (feeder schools) while the school under construction (see timeline). School staff shared their thoughts on the changing social dynamics amongst staff and students during this transitional period.

This timeline indicates the years when children were initially relocated to other schools and then later brought back to the new redesigned school following completion.

Prior to transitioning to the feeder schools, some redesign school staff said that they felt rushed, explaining that they only had a short time to pack materials and move into the new school. Once in the feeder schools, redesign school staff said they found it challenging to adjust to new rules and routines in the feeder schools.

School staff highlighted that they had strong connections with their co-workers prior to moving, and some staff felt a division between the redesign school and the feeder school groups. However, other teachers felt that they had merged with the school staff quite well, and said that it was much easier for the teachers to get along than it was for students.

Many school staff noted that strong leadership was particularly important during this period of transition. School administrators can influence school climate and help model relationship building with new students and families.

School staff also wanted more opportunities for staff members to meet prior to the transitional period to establish a more cohesive teaching team and additional prep time to prepare for the move. Professional development focused on transitions that bring school staff together prior to school redesigns may provide an opportunity for teaching staff to build connections between schools and build educators’ capacity to support students during transitional periods.

Click here to read more about student and school staff perspectives on social dynamics during school redesign.

See also: Patel, S., & Cummins, N. (2019). Student and staff social dynamics and transitions during school redesign. Improving Schools, 22(2), 158-172. doi: 10.1177/1365480219832415

To read more about the School Redesign and Neighbourhood Redevelopment: A longitudinal study of education success and well-being study, click here.

To learn more about social dynamics and transitions during school redesign, read our manuscript here.

Document citation: Patel, S. (2016). School redesign and neighbourhood redevelopment: Knowledge mobilization summary report. Toronto, ON: School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University.

American Educational Research Association 2019 (AERA)

Dr. Sejal Patel of GEEC Research (left), and TDSB Research Coordinator Maria Yau present their research investigating the ‘mechanisms of change’ in the TDSB’s Model Schools for Inner Cities initiative.

Between April 5 and 9, over 15,000 educators and researchers met in Toronto for the 2019 American Educational Research Association annual meeting. This year’s theme was ‘Leveraging education research in a ‘post-truth era: Multimodal narratives to democratize evidence,’ with a focus on community and practice relevant research. Dr. Sejal Patel and Maria Yau, Research Coordinator, Research & Development, Toronto District School Board shared about the TDSB’s Model Schools in Inner Cities program and their study, Reducing Inequities in Children’s Education Success and Well-being in Marginalized Communities through Innovation in Education as a part of the Equity Innovation in Teaching and Learning session held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.