Ensuring Equity in Ontario's Education System

Ensuring equity is a central goal of Ontario's publicly funded education system, as set out in Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario (2014). It stems from a fundamental principle that every student should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of background, identity or personal circumstances.

Equity is also connected to all of the elements of the ministry's vision for education, from achieving excellence to promoting well-being and enhancing public confidence in our education system. It is a critical component of the student experience, and it's at the core of our commitment to the success of every student and child in Ontario.

Education Equity Action Plan

In September 2017, Ontario launched its Education Equity Action Plan to serve as the province's blueprint for identifying and eliminating discriminatory practices, systemic barriers and biases from schools and classrooms. This action plan will build on the ministry's 2009 Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, bringing new focus and resources to bear as a means of accelerating our progress.

Systemic barriers are caused by embedded biases in policies, practices and processes, and may result in differential treatment. The impact of these barriers is detrimental for many and can have lasting consequences. When factors such as race, class, gender identity, religion, and physical or intellectual ability intersect, they can create additional barriers and unique experiences of discrimination for some students.

The action plan will unfold over three years — beginning with the 2017-18 school year — and bring together parents, educators, principals, board staff, trustees and community leaders who will bring it to life.

To help implement the action plan, the ministry has created the Education Equity Secretariat. The secretariat will work to bridge gaps and address disparities in achievement for Ontario's students through new policies, resources and program options, and with realistic goals that will help all students.

The key components

The key components of Ontario's Education Equity Action Plan include enhancing:

  • School and Classroom Practices by ensuring that they reflect and respond to the diversity of all students and staff.
  • Leadership, Governance and Human Resource Practices by ensuring that the diversity of the teachers, staff and school system leaders in Ontario schools reflect the diversity of their students, and that those education leaders are committed to equity for all learners and to upholding and promoting human rights.
  • Data Collection, Integration and Reporting by collecting and analyzing demographic data to gain a clearer understanding of who Ontario's students and staff are, which will enable our school and system leaders to more precisely address the barriers to student success through data-informed decision-making.
  • Organizational Culture Change by applying an equity, inclusion and human rights perspective to the Ministry of Education's internal organizational structures, policies, programs and practices. The Ministry of Education will become an example of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and demonstrate our commitment to upholding and promoting human rights.

Ontario's vision for education is about creating the best possible experience for staff, educators and students. The result of this work will be positive learning environments where student achievement, well-being and equity are the top priority.

Additional Reading

Progress on Status of Equity Action Plan Commitments

Since September 2017, the Ministry of Education has made great strides towards meeting the commitments set out in the Education Equity Action Plan, including an enhanced focus on equity and inclusive education to be reflected in the 2018‑19 Parents Reaching Out (PRO) Grants cycle.

The Education Equity Secretariat is pleased to share some of the progress being made in the second half of the 2017‑18 school year.

School and classroom practices

  • The ministry is working with 13 school board teams to support the implementation of Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP) initiatives that aims to ensure more students feel reflected in their learning. These initiatives are intended to address equity issues that are a priority at the local level. A further 12 school boards are on a waiting list to engage in CRRP initiatives during the 2018/19 school year.

    Participating school boards include:

    • Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario
    • Durham District School Board
    • Halton District School Board
    • Lakehead District School Board
    • Near North District School Board
    • Ottawa Catholic School Board
    • Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
    • Peel District School Board
    • PVNCC DSB
    • Sudbury Catholic District School Board
    • Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
    • Waterloo Region District School Board
    • Wellington Catholic District School Board
  • In November 2017, the Education Equity Secretariat, in partnership with Facing History and Ourselves, launched a province-wide webinar, entitled When Hate is in the Headlines. This learning opportunity offered over 400 elementary and secondary educators practical, hands-on strategies designed to help navigate important conversations about race and other social identities in the classroom.
  • Regionally based equity networks bring school boards together to support efforts to address equity priorities that are connected to board and school improvement plans, including multi-year strategic plans. These networks are tailored to address local needs, and will identify and implement projects that target discriminatory biases and systemic barriers that limit students' well-being and achievement. The regional Equity Networks include the six English-language Networks, based on the locations of the ministry's regional offices, and one provincial French-language Network responsible for supporting Ontario's French-language school boards. All 72 school boards are affiliated with one of these Networks. The equity networks support school boards and school communities to build upon and embed cultures of equity and human rights in all aspects of board and school practices, policies, programs and operations. This year, the ministry is investing over $800,000 and supporting 60 projects across the French language network, Toronto, Barrie, London, Ottawa-Carleton, Thunder Bay and Sudbury Near North regions.

Leadership, governance, and human resource practices

  • The first round of intensive two-day professional development training programs for trustees on human rights, ethical leadership and good governance took place in February 2018. The next round of sessions will take place in 2019 after the next school board elections. These sessions were developed with the help of an advisory committee of trustees and staff from the four trustee associations, including two First Nations trustees.
  • The ministry is committed to establishing formal human rights support structures in schools and school boards. These structures may include dedicated staff to resolve human rights complaints or concerns, and provisions to assist building cultures of respect in school boards.
  • As part of capacity building with ministry staff, the Education Equity Secretariat established a speakers series which will provide an opportunity for staff to hear from a range of speakers on systemic barriers in education. The first of the series took place in January 2018, and featured Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City.
  • Engagements are ongoing with Supervisory Officer Associations and Director of Education Councils to discuss revising the guideline for Supervisory Officer Performance Appraisals (SOPA). This is part of the province's commitment to enhance accountability for equity and human rights in principal, vice-principal, and supervisory officer performance appraisals. Implementation supports for revised performance appraisals will be developed in time for release in Fall of the 2018-19 school year. Directors of Education are also responsible for reporting on how they are holding school and system leaders accountable for progress towards the board's goals for equity and inclusion through the director's annual report.
  • The ministry consulted with principals' and supervisory officers' associations on Principal Performance Appraisal Regulation amendments to embed accountability for equity and human rights. The regulatory changes and implementation supports for revised performance appraisals will come into effect in September 2018.

Data collection, integration, and reporting

  • The Education Equity Secretariat continues to engage with district school boards and affiliates that are participating in the first phase, to leverage their expertise and interest in relation to the collection of voluntary identity-based student data. This collaborative engagement includes staff and researchers from participating boards to help develop a consistent approach to data collection, which will include considerations such as technical capabilities and uniformity with respect to the data categories, such as socio-economic status and ethnicity. This work will inform the process for collection of voluntary student data that will be applied across the province.

    School boards participating in the first phase, include:

    • Avon Maitland District School Board
    • Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario
    • Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir
    • Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
    • Durham Catholic District School Board
    • Durham District School Board
    • Huron Perth Catholic District School Board
    • Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
    • Keewatin-Patricia District School Board
    • Kenora Catholic District School Board
    • Ottawa Catholic School Board
    • Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
    • Peel District School Board
    • Toronto Catholic District School Board
    • Toronto District School Board
    • York Region District School Board
    • York Catholic District School Board

Organizational cultural change

  • The first meeting of the Expert Equity Community Advisory Group will take place in March 2018. The purpose of this advisory group is to serve as resource for the Education Equity Secretariat and school board communities on the implementation of action plan items within the sector.

There is still a great deal of work to do, but the Ontario government is working tirelessly with education and community partners to make sure that all students across the province feel supported. Ensuring equity is a necessary foundation for improving student achievement, promoting student and staff well-being, and enhancing confidence in the publicly funded school system.

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