Between April 8 and 12, 2021, educators, researchers and community members virtually met for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting. This year’s theme was, ‘Accepting Educational Responsibility’. Dr. Sejal Patel and Maria Yau shared about their community engaged research project studying a large urban school board’s initiative on inner-city students and its structural supports for learning coaches as part of the session.
About Maria Yau
Maria Yee-man Yau was an educational researcher associated with the TDSB for over 30 years. She is currently an educational research consultant working on projects at municipal, provincial and national levels. Maria’s years of research have covered a wide range of equity related issues including understanding and addressing the needs of immigrant and refugee populations, students from diverse racialized backgrounds, English Language Learners, international students, students with disabilities, and low socioeconomic communities. Aside from research, Maria sits on the board of directors of a charitable organization in support of immigrant youth, mentors young people in the workplace and the community, and supports rural education and youth development globally.
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.
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 Quarterly, 35(Complete), 49–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.12.006
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.
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.
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.
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