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.  

Model schools student and school staff perspectives on parental involvement and home support for students

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. 

The Model Schools for Inner Cities (MSIC) initiative aims to reduce inequities and achievement gaps for students living in low socioeconomic communities by providing additional school-based supports and services (TDSB, 2017). The MSIC initiative offers a variety of in-school health and educational support services, additional staff to support student academic success and wellbeing, and additional teaching and learning resources for staff. An essential objective of the MSIC initiative is to establish the school as the heart of the community, where parents and community members are viewed as partners in students’ learning and success. To support family and community involvement in schools, MSIC schools often have partnerships with community agencies to offer programming in schools and Community Support Workers at each school act as liaisons between the community and the school. In addition, the Parent Academy, led by parents in MSIC schools, have hosted parent conferences and workshops to support the school community (Yau, Archer, & Romard, 2018). To read more about the MSIC initiative, click here.


Student artwork at the redesign school.

In our research, we spoke with students and school staff in 2013 and 2014 to learn more about their perspectives on family involvement both in school and at home. We found that most students said that their parents and caregivers were involved at home and helped them with their homework. Other students said that their parents were unable to help, because they were unable to speak English or were too busy.

School staff said that families were involved with school issues. For example, at one school, parents voiced their concerns over Wi-Fi being installed in classrooms. Staff also discussed school and community-based programs that encouraged parent involvement. These programs included school-based preschool services along with free programs and activities in the community.

This research shows that culturally diverse parents may tend to focus their involvement in their children’s education at home as opposed to physically volunteering in schools Patel, 2018; Patel & Corter, 2013). The MSIC initiative continues to strengthen school-family-community partnerships through programs such as the Parent Academy, which aims to empower parents to share resources about student learning and education and provides opportunities for personal and professional development for parents. Programs such as these can foster family involvement in students’ educational success and well-being and a closer two-way communication between families and schools.

We held focus groups in 2013 and 2014 with students (ages 4 to 13) and their teachers.

References

Patel, S. (2018). Student and teacher perspectives on Model Schools for Inner Cities: Knowledge mobilization summary report. Toronto, ON: School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University

Patel, S., & Corter, C. (2013a). Building capacity for parent involvement through school-based preschool services. Early Child Development and Care, 183(7), 981−1004.  DOI:10.1080/03004430.2012.701625

Toronto District School Board [TDSB]. (2017). Enhancing Equity Task Force: Report and recommendations. Retrieved on February 13, 2019 from Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from: http://www.tdsb.on.ca/Portals/0/community/docs/EETFReportPdfVersion.pdf

Yau, M., Archer, B., & Romard, R. (2018). Model Schools for Inner Cities: A 10-Year Overview. Toronto, ON: Toronto District School Board.

Click here to read more about student and teacher perspectives on the MSIC initiative.

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

Document citation: Patel, S. (2018). Student and teacher perspectives on Model Schools for Inner Cities: Knowledge mobilization summary report. Toronto, ON: School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University.

For further information regarding the overall project see: Patel, S. (2016). School redesign and neighbourhood redevelopment: 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 and in partnership with the City of Toronto (Children’s Services), Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Toronto District School Board, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (University of Toronto), Housing Services Corporation, and the Centre for Urban Health Solutions (St. Michael’s Hospital). We will continue to share more updates about our ongoing projects soon.