In October 2018 at the Teaching for Justice conference in Toronto, the GEEC research group led by Dr. Sejal Patel joined Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Researcher Coordinator Maria Yau and TDSB Model Schools for Inner Cities (MSIC) Program Coordinator Alison Rutherford to share about ongoing MSIC research and practices.
The MSIC initiative aims to reduce inequities and achievement gaps for students in low socioeconomic communities by providing additional supports for schools in Toronto communities. The initiative was first piloted in 2006 in three schools and has since grown to include 150 schools serving 56 000 students (Toronto District School Board, 2017). The goals of the initiative focus on equity, community (including partnerships with families), inclusivity and high expectations for students in inner-city schools. The presentation shared findings from research investigating the MSIC initiative and highlighted some of the conditions for the initiative’s success.
Patel, Yau and Rutherford shared about the programs and services offered by the TDSB’s MSIC initiative that are guided the initiative’s 5 essential components:
- Innovation in teaching and learning practices
- Support services to meet the social, emotional, and physical well-being of students
- Supporting the view of school as the heart of the community
- Frequent research, review, and evaluation of students and program effectiveness
- Commitment to share successful practices
The MSIC initiative offers additional educational, health, and well-being support services for students and families, such as nutrition programs, in-school health clinics, before and after school programs and hearing and vision assessments. The initiative strives to make schools the heart of their local communities through supporting family-school-community partnerships, by offering family drop-in programs through on-site Parenting and Family Literacy Centres (now EarlyON Centres), and by encouraging school staff to get to know the communities they work in through community visits and faith walks, among other strategies.
Ongoing research and review of the MSIC initiative has highlighted some key areas of success. Research conducted by the TDSB has found a rise in Grade 6 EQAO reading test scores, increased levels of school readiness and improved resiliency scores in MSIC schools over time. In Ryerson University-TDSB community-partnered qualitative research, families and school staff have spoken about the importance of community-school partnerships, Community Support workers, and programs that support children with disabilities, while the children’s voices highlighted the benefits of relationships with staff in the school including the social workers and the benefits of paediatric health clinics in their schools, among numerous other findings.
The presentation concluded with a discussion of the potential conditions for the MSIC initiative’s continued success. Some topics discuss the role of leadership, additional support and resources to level the playing field for all students, and the role of innovative curriculum in raising expectations for students and addressing social justice issues.
The Teaching for Justice Conference is a yearly conference where educators, students, and community partners gather to discuss issues of social justice, share resources, and meet with others who continue to challenge systems of oppression. To read more about the Teaching for Justice Conference and the other presenters, click here.
To read more about the MSIC initiative, click here.
Toronto District School Board [TDSB]. (2017). Enhancing Equity Task Force: Report and recommendations. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved February 14th, 2019 from: http://www.tdsb.on.ca/Portals/0/community/docs/EETFReportPdfVersion.pdf