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Toronto: Board targets dropouts

TDSB committee approves plan to increase graduation rates of ethnic students

Friday, June 20, 2008

A plan to cut the above-average high school dropout rates of some of the city's ethnic groups was approved last night by a Toronto District School Board committee.

The TDSB's 11-trustee Planning and Priorities Committee voted in favour of a strategy aimed at increasing graduation rates by 5% a year until 2013.

According to board data, 43% of Portuguese high school students drop out, a total higher than any other ethnic group in the city. About 40% of black students drop out, though that number can be broken down further into groups including Somali students, who drop out at a rate of 37%.

The board's Toronto District Urban Diversity Strategy: Focus on Students will tackle the high dropout rates and it will work, director of education Gerry Connelly said last night.

"I'm absolutely confident it will work," Connelly said.

Trustee Josh Matlow also favoured the plan and said it's about time the board addressed the challenges facing many of the city's ethnic and language groups. "This is one of the first initiatives I've seen in years that has some real substance, some real weight," Matlow said.

The plan also will identify the lowest achieving 15% of students in all schools and aim to get their marks up, as well as identify 25 of the most underperforming schools.

Student mentors and learning coaches will also be used to help kids, Connelly said.

But trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher opposed the policy, and said it doesn't involve parents enough.

"I think it's a badly flawed process because it doesn't deal with our strongest support of student achievement, which is parents," Cary-Meagher said.

The plan will go to a full board vote likely later this month. Matlow said it's likely to be approved.

The board's graduation rate is 77%, 2% above the provincial average, Connelly said.

According to the board, 28% of Arabic students drop out, while 39% of Spanish-speaking students don't graduate. Other challenged groups include Vietnamese, Persian, and Punjabi students.

Source: Toronto Star, June 20, 2008


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