Initiatives such as the board’s action plan to support black male students, announced last month, are important steps, she said. But “in order to determine whether it’s having an effect, we need to measure it.”
The census for the board’s 154,000 students would be voluntary, confidential and anonymous. While details of what information will be collected haven’t been decided, it would include such data as race, ethnicity and sexual identity. The process would enable the board to gather such statistics as graduation rates, credit accumulation, numbers of students enrolled in academic versus applied courses and suspension and expulsion rates and examine them according to race.
The move makes the Peel board the second in the GTA to collect race-based data and comes a decade after the Toronto District School Board committed to completing a student census every five years. At the time, the TDSB decision was controversial, but momentum is growing for the rest of the province to follow suit, with advocates claiming statistics are the most reliable way to highlight problems and discover where resources need to be directed.
In 2015, former TDSB director Donna Quan became an adjunct education professor at York University, where she is assessing the feasibility of all provincial boards collecting detailed demographic data on their students.
Earlier this month, Durham District School Board issued a statement that it is “looking forward to collecting race-based data to further improve how it responds to student issues” once the province has provided criteria, timelines and financial support.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board completed a student census in 2011 but currently has no plans to repeat the process.
It will provide a picture of whether the workforce adequately reflects the student population and could lead to training, hiring and promotion measures to encourage diversity, said Farrell Hall, the board’s manager of workplace equity.
Nurse said the board needs a snapshot of who is teaching its students and the administrators making decisions.
It’s vital for kids “to see themselves reflected” in their mentors and teachers, she said.