Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Toronto Connection: Poverty, Perceived Ability, and Access to Education Equity

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Toronto Connection: Poverty, Perceived Ability, and Access to Education Equity

Article excerpt


This study explores the educational opportunities available to secondary high school students in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), using both public TDSB and Ontario Ministry of Education data. Family income, parental education, and student participation in special education (excluding Gifted) are key units of analysis, as are the types of programs that the TDSB provides. The research found that low income students, students whose parents lack university education, and students in special education have less access to socially valued educational programs. The research found a significant overrepresentation of low income students receiving special education services and in other programs that offer few options for post-secondary education. Work-oriented programs were found to be most prominently available in the lowest income neighbourhoods in Toronto.

Key words: Neoliberalism, education, streaming, Toronto, disability, poverty, vocational


Cette etude explore les opportunit6s educatives offertes aux e1eves des ecoles secondaires du conseil scolaire du district de Toronto (TDSB), utilisant a la fois des donnees provenant de ce meme conseil scolaire et du ministere de l'IEducation de l'Ontario. Le revenu de la famille, l'education parentale, et la particiation des etudiant a des programmes d'education specialisee (excluant les eleves surdoues) sont des unites cles de ranalyse, ainsi que les types de programmes proposes par le conseil scolaire du district de Toronto. La recherche a revele que les etudiants a faible revenu, ceux dont les parents n'ont pas de diplome universitaire, et les etudiants en education specialisee, ont moins acces aux programmes educatifs socialement valorises. La recherche a constate une surrepresentation importante des etudiants a faible revenu qui recoivent des services de l'education specialisee et inscrits dans d'autres programmes qui n'offrent que peu de possibilites pour une education postsecondaire. Les programmes professionalisants se sont reveles ere les plus presents et disponibles dans les quartiers les plus pauvres de Toronto.

Mots cles: neoliberalisme, education, repartition, Toronto, handicap, pauvrete, formation professionnelle


For some time now, Canadian researchers (see Curtis, Livingstone, & Smaller, 1992; Martell, 2009) have been arguing that public school systems are structured to replicate the social stratification experienced by students who are poor, who are from minority groups, or who have disabilities. Not only does the evidence show that these students are being systematically streamed away from academic opportunities, but the bar for 'academic success' is continually on the rise. Research in Canada on equity issues related to secondary school opportunities and socio-economic status, disability, parent education, and disproportionate representation is limited. Education at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary level is governed provincially/territorially. Consequently, available research is generally locally focused. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the largest in Canada and the fourth largest in North America (, is an excellent source of data. The student population is large (~250,000) and it has in the past (and again just recently) had data available for analysis on school-level student and parent characteristics, programs, and achievement levels.

In the following study, we examine educational programs available in public secondary schools and their relationship to school-level student and parent characteristics, specifically, low-income status, parental acquisition of university education, and student use of special education services. Poverty, disability, and lack of parental education have long been established as traits that diminish a student's perceived academic potential (Artiles, Kozleski, Trent, Osher, & Ortiz, 2010; Brown & Sinay, 2008). …

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