An educational move away from streaming applauded

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It would have been easy enough for Amina Abdulle to slip through the cracks of an education system with a faulty sketch to determine a student’s ability.

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Prior to 7th grade, a lack of support in mastering a second language left Abdulle struggling in all of her classes and as the teacher discussed options for high school, she was encouraged to follow the applied flow rather than the more demanding academic flow leading to university.

Abdulle and her family came to Canada from Somalia. She started in the Ontario school system in Grade 3 as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student. Competent in speaking English in Grade 4, she was offered in regular classes without extra supports despite shortcomings in her ability to read and write at the level of her peers.

I think we have come a long way in our education system

A family move from Toronto to Windsor brought her to Begley elementary for Grade 8 where a shrewd teacher questioned her when choosing the applied path.

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“I told her‘ I thought that’s the plan, ’” said Abdulle, who earned two degrees from the University of Windsor and now works for the Greater Essex County School Board as an equality teacher’s advisor. “I feel lucky because I could slip through the cracks.”

Amina Abdulle is pictured outside the Greater Essex County District School Board offices on Monday, November 15, 2021.
Amina Abdulle is pictured outside the Greater Essex County District School Board offices on Monday, November 15, 2021. Photo of Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

A bdulle and other local educators welcome a recent announcement that the Ontario Ministry of Education is eliminating fluency for incoming high school students in September 2022.

“Data shows that it is a truly repressive system where students who are BIPOC, Indigenous, Black or from low socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately flowing into the applied flow,” said Josh Canty, a public board supervisor responsible for student success. “It’s a system that keeps repeating itself.”

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Ontario was the only Canadian province to stream students that way.

“The ministry said this is the plan to address systemic racism,” noted Melissa Farrand, an inspector for student achievement at the Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board. “We want to keep as many doors open for as many students as possible for as long as possible.”

Making the announcement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said “we want to make sure that every single child, regardless of their background, their ethnicity, their belief, every child has an equal chance to succeed.”

The seamless process began this year with a new curriculum for 9th grade math.

“We live a de-flow experience already in our math classes,” Farrand said.

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“The whole conversation about downturn started last year. We gave professional development training last year around cultural development and pedagogy.”

Amina Abdulle is pictured outside the Greater Essex County District School Board offices on Monday, November 15, 2021.
Amina Abdulle is pictured outside the Greater Essex County District School Board offices on Monday, November 15, 2021. Photo of Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

A new science curriculum will be released next fall.

There was no announcement from the ministry of new curricula for academic English, geography or French.

The Ontario High School Teachers Federation supports outflow but voiced concerns around lack of supports and resources for educators and the possibility of increased class sizes.

“The change will require some support for our educators,” Farrand said. “Educators want to know how best to serve all students in front of them and teach those strengths. Undoubtedly, it will be a challenge.”

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Canty and other board administrators are currently looking at the potential impact on class sizes.

“OSSTF may be right about larger class sizes in English, geography and French,” he said. “We’re investigating that now.”

Abdulle credits support parents and her Grade 8 teacher for guiding her in the right direction for her educational path.

“I think we’ve come a long way in our education system,” Abdulle said. “When a student struggles, we ask why and provide them with support. With a delay, we have to ask what are all the tools we can give students so that they can make the right decisions for themselves. “

mcaton@postmedia.com

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