There aren’t a lot of perks that go with living in the poorest riding in Toronto—but there is one. Full-time Kindergarten.
Only 15% of the elementary schools in Ontario will be getting full-time kindergarten this year. And, as the father of a kindergartener, I can tell you, 85% of parents look at me with envy.
Weston is unusual. Most of the elementary schools here have full-time junior Kindergarten: HJ Alexander, Weston Memorial, and Portage Trail all do. (Pelmo Park and St John the Evangelist do not.)
Weston has this high proportion of full-time kindergartens because the province tried to place them in low-income neighbourhoods.
The provincial Liberals say that
“A full day of learning will provide four- and five-year-olds with the strong foundation they need for future learning…. Students who achieve early success in school are more likely to perform well later in school and go on to postsecondary education.”
On her website, Laura Albanese, the MPP for York-South Weston, says that children
“will learn new skills and have enriching experiences to help prepare them academically and socially for Grade 1 and get them on track for future success.”
This may be, but not all is rosy in Weston’s elementary schools. Most of the schools are not doing as well as the provincial average in grade 3 achievement. Pelmo, Weston Memorial, and Portage were below average in all of the categories measured. HJ Alexander and neighbouring St John were above.
The deficits are sometimes shocking. At Portage, only about a third of the students meet the provincial standards. Three years ago, more than half did. At Weston Memorial, about two-thirds of the students make the grade, but that number is falling rapidly. In 2006, Weston Memorial trounced the provincial tests.
The data whipsaw around, so it may be that the declines in school achievement are nothing to be concerned about. But perhaps they are. It certainly worries me that the province appears to have not paid much attention to the quality of the school when it decided where to place kindergartens. Under-performing Portage got one, but the dog-eared Pelmo did not. Hot shot HJ got a kindergarten, but its Catholic over-achieving brother, St John, did not.