Weston schools will not be closed

The TDSB released a list of under-enrolled schools this week under pressure from Liz Sandals, the provincial Minister of Education. Politicians will now be forced to consider closing some of them. The good news: Weston schools are not threatened. The bad news: several in Mount Dennis are, as are schools that host recreation programs attended by Weston families.

About 1 in 5 Toronto elementary schools has low enrolment, and about 1 in 3 high schools, does, according to the Globe. Not all of these schools will be closed, of course; the TDSB will consider—and try to punt on—each one.

All five Weston schools (Pelmo, Memo, CR, CI, and HJ) have high-enough enrolment to miss the cut. Other area schools, though, are in danger.

  • Dennis Ave: 59%
  • Amesbury MS: 56%
  • York Humber SS: 56%
  • Maple Leaf PS: 64% enrolment
  • Nelson Boylen: 13% enrolment
  • The Elms: 49%

Boylen, Amesbury, and the Elms all host community recreation programs such as swimming.

Weston public schools may have another kind of problem: over-enrolment. HJ Alexander is currently at 121% of its capacity. Pelmo is at 109%.

 

Spaces still available for March Break camps

If, like me, you forgot to plan anything for your kids for March Break, you can take a deep breath. All is not lost. The City of Toronto would like you to know that there are spaces still available in many of the day camps.

Nearby camps with spaces available include at Weston CI, The Elms, Thistledown and Amesbury. You can register online. The camps cost about $80 for the week—quite a steal.

Mike Sullivan upbeat (for a change!)

When I spoke to Mike Sullivan last week, I asked him why he was often down on Weston in the House of Parliament.

His assistant, Paul Ferreira, wrote to inform me that Sullivan has been more upbeat about our riding; on April 30, in fact, he drew the country’s attention to the innovative anti-bullying program at Weston CI.

Mr. Speaker, my riding of York South—Weston has an amazing gem of a school in Weston Collegiate Institute. When principal Deborah Blair arrived three years ago, the school was plagued with non-stop bullying, especially among girls. She led students and staff through training in a remarkable program called “Restorative Practices”. It is a whole school approach based on the belief “not to penalize, but to restore. Victims are empowered to play a key role in addressing the harm that has been done”.

Victims and the accused are brought together in restorative conferences led by peers and attended by parents and staff.

The program has been so successful that these conferences are now rare. In three years, office referrals of students have gone from 80 each day to just 5. Suspensions are down from 151 to just 46. As a result of the declining suspensions, student achievement has gone up and the numbers of credits earned have increased.

Sometimes the most effective way to change behaviour is not to punish but to restore. There is a great lesson at Weston Collegiate Institute for all of us.

 

Thank you Mr Sullivan. Now, if you could say something nice about the excellent local reporting in Weston…

Weston CI earns D-

Weston Collegiate, the secondary school in Weston, did not do well in the latest round of school rankings.

The Grade 9 students at Weston CI were asked to do a mathematics test and a literacy test earlier this year. The results are discouraging.

In math, Weston CI students continue to perform worse than their peers at the city and provincial levels. 23% of CI applied math students met the provincial standard. While this is a dramatic improvement over last year’s number (13%), our students still performed much worse than their counterparts in the province (42%) and board (30%).

Academic math students were also bested. 71% of Weston’s students met the standard. 83% of the province did, as did 81% of the board.

This is the fifth straight year that Weston CI students have not measured up. Not once, in fact, have Weston students in either the academic or applied streams performed as well in mathematics as their peers.

Weston CI’s literacy results were only slightly better. This year, 74% of students met the provincial literacy standard. The board (81%) and the province (83%) still did better.

Once, however, in April of 2009, some Weston students did as well as some of their peers. In 2009, 75% of male CI grade 9 students met the provincial standards. Only 70% of the board did—though the province as a whole still pipped CI by a single point.

Weston schools do poorly in rankings

Weston schools have generally fared poorly in the latest evaluations of student achievement. Only two schools excelled: HJ Alexander and Weston Memorial. This week, in the first of several posts, I’ll have a look at CR Marchant’s EQAO results.

CR Marchant

Marchant is Weston’s middle school, located near Lawrence and Ralph. Marchant’s grade 6 students are performing worse than their peers in reading, writing, and math.

Over the past five years, while schools province-wide have been improving standardized test scores in reading and writing, CR Marchant has struggled. 74% of the all grade 6 students meet the provincial standard in reading. Only 55% of CR Marchant students do. This year is an improvement over last year, however. In 2010, less than half of Marchant students met the provincial reading standard.

Marchant is also having trouble getting its students to write well. While 72% of all grade 6 students meet the provincial standard, only 62% of Marchant students do.

The situation is even worse for mathematics. 46% of Marchant students—less than half—meet the standard, while 58% of all students do.

The problem is not because we live in Toronto. Schools in Toronto do reasonably well—almost exactly as well as the province as a whole does. Marchant is performing poorly for some other reason, and it’s not a fluke. The students at Marchant have performed worse than the city and province on every test, in every year that the EQAO has been administered.

Marchant students are not doing badly because they come from abroad: fewer students, in fact, were born outside Canada than in the city as a whole. Nor are they underperforming because they don’t speak English at home.

 

CR Marchant grade 6 EQAO results for this year
CR Marchant Grade 6 scores over time, compared to city and province

Leave non-perishables outside this afternoon

Community-minded students from Weston CI will be coming around this Halloween to collect food for the Weston food bank. If you would like to donate, you can leave a bag of food outside your front door. A student will come by between 3:30 and 6:30 to pick it up.

The Weston Area Emergency Support flyer lists some food that you could consider donating: peanut butter, rice, pasta, and canned fruits and vegetables.