Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

Black Students and High School Completion in Quebec and Ontario: A Multivariate Analysis

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

Black Students and High School Completion in Quebec and Ontario: A Multivariate Analysis

Article excerpt

CONCERNS ABOUT RACISM IN CANADIAN schools and the particular experiences of black students have long attracted the attention of researchers and led to a number of qualitative and quantitative investigations over the years. Qualitative studies have explored the impact of racial discrimination and the role of black parents on black students' engagement in school (Codjoe 2001, 2007; Dei et al. 1997; Howard 2014; James 2011; Kanoute et al. 2014; Kelly 1998; Lafortune and Balde 2012; Solomon and Palmer 2004). Quantitative studies have concentrated on the nature and causes of racial achievement gaps, including two major investigations on black students in Quebec (Balde, Sene, and McAndrew 2011; McAndrew, Ledent, and Ait-Said 2008), and an inquiry on high school completion among immigrant students in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB; Anisefet al. 2010).

Altogether, fewer quantitative studies have been undertaken on racial inequalities in high school performance than on postsecondary education. This can be linked, in part, to the absence of national survey data on adolescents in Canada, in contrast to survey data on adult populations, which are readily available through sources such as the census and the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. In the one national survey on Canadian adolescents, the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, the sample of racial and ethnic minority children remains too small to support statistical comparisons. Researchers interested in investigating racial disparities in high school outcomes must turn to school-level records. While indispensable to research in this vein, school-level data can be time-consuming to secure and consolidate, and possess their own data limitations. Information on race and family income, for example, is generally not stored in school databases and must be extracted through other means.

The findings accumulated to date indicate that black students in Canada are, on the whole, less likely than students in the general population to graduate high school on time (Anisef et al., 2010; McAndrew, Ledent, and Ait-Said 2006). In addition, there is a substantial degree of within-group variability that can be found among black students, with graduation rates varying as a function of income, gender, birthplace, and language. Caution is therefore warranted in interpreting the situation of "black students" as a single group, given the considerable heterogeneity in the historical, cultural, linguistic, and class backgrounds of black families and their children (Livingstone and Weinfeld 2015).

The present paper utilizes the 2006 Canadian Census to examine the high school completion of black students in Ontario and Quebec. The aim is to explore the factors that explain why some black students graduate on time while others are delayed or dropout. The study compares the rate of high school completion of black students who were 18 to 19 years of age and living at home in 2006 with similar groups of white and other racial minority students. The study builds on and extends the research of McAndrew et al. (2006, 2008, 2013) and Anisef et al. (2010) by using the census to expand the range of demographic variables considered, namely income, family structure, race, gender, language, nativity, and immigration. Given its reliance on the census, the study cannot take into account the role of within-school variables. The evidence shows that conditions in schools can either exert a positive or negative impact on black students' motivation and engagement in school (Dei et al. 1997; Jordan, Lara, and McPartland 1996; Livingstone, Celemencki, and Calixte 2014; McAndrew 2015). Studies indicate that black students in Canadian schools report fewer positive relationship with their teachers than white students, and believe that their group receives unfair disciplinary treatment and tougher penalties for transgressing the school's behavioral rules (Fitzpatrick et al. 2013; Ruck and Wortley 2002; Solomon and Palmer 2004). …

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