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TDSB considering overhaul of streaming practice in Grades 9, 10

Peter Goffin, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018

Canada’s largest school board is considering a drastic change to its practice of steering high schoolers toward either “academic” or “applied” courses in an effort to remove barriers and offer equal educational opportunities to all students.

The Toronto District School Board’s director of education, John Malloy, has suggested an overhaul of the policy – known as streaming – that requires students in Grades 9 and 10 to choose whether to take courses such as math, science and English in the more theoretical, university-geared academic stream, or the hands-on, practical “applied” stream.

“Our data suggests that when students are studying at the academic level in Grades 9 and 10 their chances for graduation grow and their opportunities after they leave us are better,” Malloy said, adding that if given the right support in the classroom, almost any student can thrive at the academic level.

“Our goal is to have the majority of students in academic courses and try to minimize the use of applied courses in all schools, and in some schools there will be none.”

Nearly one fifth of Grade 9 and 10 students took a majority of their courses in the applied stream last school year, the board said.

Streaming into academic and applied courses has been standard practice at all public Ontario school boards since 1999. But Malloy’s proposal – which was to be considered by a school board committee Wednesday evening before being debated by board trustees on Feb. 7 – would require schools to root out more subtle forms of streaming that he says occur as early as kindergarten.

“We don’t want to put (students) on a pathway too soon that moves from a struggle to read to a special education program that might then lead to an applied program,” Malloy said.

A study led by York University education professor Carl James, released last year, found that black students in the TDSB are twice as likely to be enrolled in applied courses, as compared to kids from other racial backgrounds.

“It could be because of disillusionment (black students feel) with the education process, the alienation they feel from school, the fact that the curriculum might not speak to them in ways that engages them effectively,” said James, who welcomed the idea of limiting streaming in Grades 9 and 10.

James found that, often, black students were being pushed into the applied stream by teachers or guidance counsellors, raising questions about racial bias among school staff.

“We as a community and a society have to reassess how we … evaluate students and measure what we consider their intellectual abilities and skills,” James said.

A handful of TDSB schools have already eliminated streaming in some grades.

Oakwood Collegiate Institute in west Toronto, stopped offering Grade 9 applied courses in September 2017. Classes are capped at 25 kids, to help teachers address individual students’ learning needs, Oakwood principal Steve Yee said.

And students who may have normally been in applied courses, or who have special education needs can take an additional “learning strategies” class, to help them with literacy and numeracy skills.

“Our student body overall has been positive about it,” Yee said. “They are in a program that has high expectations of them, they believe in themselves, people believe in them and that’s always a positive.”

But some critics say applied courses have a valuable role in the education system.

“At the end of the day when it comes to those challenging courses, the maths and sciences, a lot of kids struggle not necessarily because they’re not capable but because of the way it’s being taught ? because not everyone learns the same way,” said Maddie Di Muccio, president of the Society for Quality Education Canada advocacy group.

“It’s not bad necessarily to have that option of going for applied because it’s in those courses that are easier that you learn, ‘maybe I really do like this (subject) and maybe I want to be more challenged,”‘ she added.

While Malloy’s plan would scale back applied courses for Grades 9 and 10, it would not affect Grade 11 and 12 students, who must choose between “university preparation” level courses, “college preparation” level courses, and courses that combine the two.

“We are hoping that they have a better sense of where they would like to go by the time they reach Grade 11,” Malloy said. “Our theory is that (Grade 9) is too young to make that decision. And by moving that decision by two years we can support students by leaving their options open, they mature, they make better decisions that will benefit them after they leave high school.”

The applied and college preparation streams were originally created for students who were interested in pursuing more hands-on or technical careers, and the Grade 11 and 12 college courses are still valuable for that reason, Malloy said.

But board research shows students who take academic courses in Grade 9 and 10 are better prepared for college, Malloy added.

“Even the math that is required to be a carpenter or electrician or plumber is significant,” he said. “We need to ensure our kids are successful and they are more successful when we give them the appropriate learning in academic.”

Senate approves gender neutral wording for Canada’s national anthem

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018


The Senate has passed a bill to make the national anthem more gender neutral, fulfilling the dying wish of Liberal MP Mauril Belanger.

The Senate has given its final approval to the legislation, which would change the second line of the anthem from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.”

The legislation now only requires formal royal assent before it becomes law.

Belanger pushed the legislation for years, but it took on far greater urgency after he was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, following the 2015 federal election.

The Commons passed the bill in June 2016, with the ailing Belanger in the House.

The longtime Liberal died just over two months later.

The bill had stalled in the Senate as Conservatives fought its passage, but it won Senate approval on a voice vote Wednesday after a pair of procedural votes.

Following the vote, the office of Conservative Senator Larry Smith sent out a statement saying “so-called Independent senators” had shut down debate “using tools never before applied by individual senators.

“In protest of these illegitimate actions, the Senate Conservative caucus refused to participate in a series of votes this evening,” a spokesman for Smith said in the statement.

7 companies, including 3 major grocers, met to reach deals on bread price increases

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018


Senior officers at Canada’s two largest bread wholesalers communicated directly to raise prices in lockstep, then met with five retailers, who accepted the hike on condition their competitors would as well, the federal competition watchdog alleges in court documents released Wednesday.

The Competition Bureau believes wholesalers Canada Bread Company Ltd. and George Weston Ltd., as well as grocers Loblaw Companies Ltd., Walmart Canada Corp., Sobeys Inc., Metro Inc. and Giant Tiger Stores Ltd. committed indictable offences under the Competition Act, according to the previously sealed information to obtain documents.

Canada Bread and George Weston’s senior officers agreed to boost bread prices in tandem, typically by seven cents, for more than a decade starting in 2001, the documents allege.

The suppliers then allegedly met individually with their retail customers to get their approval for the price hike.

The retailers agreed to the boost on the condition their competitors would as well to maintain a fixed price in the market.

“Further, the retailers demanded that the suppliers actively manage retail competition by co-ordinating retail prices for their respective fresh commercial bread products and ensuring pricing alignment amongst the retailers,” the documents read.

The pattern became colloquially known as the 7/10 convention, according to the documents — with a usual seven cent price increase at wholesale and 10 cent price bump for the consumer in stores.

In December, Loblaw and George Weston admitted they sparked the investigation when they approached the watchdog after becoming aware of an allegedly industry-wide arrangement to co-ordiante retail and wholesale prices of some packaged bread products from late 2001 to March 2015.

The two companies received immunity in exchange for their co-operation. The remaining five companies have previously said they’re co-operating with the investigation, and some have outright denied any wrongdoing.

Loblaw spokesman Kevin Groh said Wednesday the documents are “unequivocal.”

“We have admitted our role, and you cannot price fix alone,” he said, adding the company stands by its previous statements and the actions it has taken.

Toronto police searching properties linked to man charged with 5 murders

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018


More murder charges are expected to be laid against a self-employed landscaper already accused in the presumed deaths of five men, as investigators continue to search properties linked to Bruce McArthur, Toronto police said Wednesday.

Police have said that investigators had found two planters with the skeletal remains of three individuals, but Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga told reporters Wednesday there are still more than a dozen planters that need to be processed by forensic teams.

“We have over a dozen planters and we’re not just grabbing every planter we see. If there is an indication from the canine units that there is some decomposition around that planter, we will grab it,” Idsinga said on Wednesday. “We have been doing that essentially since Saturday, going to different locations. It is quite a time consuming process.”

McArthur, 66, was arrested and charged Jan. 18 in the presumed deaths of Selim Esen, 44, and Andrew Kinsman, 49, who police said went missing from Toronto’s gay village last spring.

He was further charged Monday in the deaths of two missing men — Majeed Kayhan, 58, and Soroush Mahmudi, 50 — as well as Dean Lisowick, 47, who had never been reported missing.

“We believe there are more victims on top of those five,” Idsinga said. “I can’t give you any idea about a number, but I do expect more charges to be laid.”

Tories to launch independent investigation of Dykstra controversy: Scheer

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promised an independent, third-party investigation of the Rick Dykstra controversy Wednesday as his own caucus members wondered aloud how the Ontario MP was allowed to run in 2015 despite facing serious allegations of sexual assault.

The party has been struggling since the weekend with how to respond to a report that a 2014 incident involving Dykstra and a Parliament Hill staffer was brought to the Conservative campaign’s attention but seemingly resulted in no action being taking against the longtime Ontario MP.

But as differing accounts — many of them fuelled by anonymous sources — emerged about who at the party knew what when, Scheer said a substantive determination of facts is what’s needed.

“The key is to make sure if there were breakdowns, if there was a lack of a process, if any of these allegations are true, obviously we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“I think it is essential to guide that process going forward to have an understanding of exactly what happened.”

Dykstra, who has denied the allegations against him, ultimately lost in his 2015 re-election bid and went on to become president of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, a position he resigned after the details of the alleged assault were published by Maclean’s.

The allegations have not been tested in court, nor have they been independently verified by The Canadian Press.

In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, the Ontario PC Party is in disarray with just months to go until the provincial election. Reporter Cynthia Mulligan speaks with the Toronto Sun’s Adrienne Batra for insight and analysis.

Ontario PCs will select a new leader on March 10

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018


The Progressive Conservative party executive says members will select a new leader to replace Patrick Brown on March 10.


A special party committee has spent the last few days drafting the rules, a timeline for the race and how much it will cost to enter the competition, which will be held just a few months before a spring general election.

Following their meeting on Wednesday night, the party said the final rules of the leadership contest would not be released until Thursday.

Brown resigned as party leader last week after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced.

He resigned just hours after emphatically denying the allegations that have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press.

Earlier this week Hartley Lefton, chairman of the committee, said the Tories would stick to a one-member one-vote rule, which would open up voting to the party’s grassroots.


Toronto home sales to slip, but remain vulnerable to overvaluation: experts

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018


Continued signs of overheating in some cities leaves Canada’s housing market highly vulnerable for the sixth straight quarter, the federal housing agency said Tuesday as the country’s largest real estate board predicted another year of rising prices.


The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said Tuesday that the country could fall prey to market instability. The cities of Toronto, Hamilton, Victoria and Vancouver are its greatest source of concern.

“This assessment is a result of the detection of moderate evidence of price acceleration and moderate evidence of overvaluation,” CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said.

He noted that Manitoba, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces are faring better than their Ontarian and British Columbian counterparts and that Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina are seeing rashes of overbuilding, but house prices there are in line with the population and its income.

He stressed that across the country there are only “weak” signs of overbuilding and overheating — a problem that has plagued the Greater Toronto Area in recent years.

The agency’s observations came the same day the Toronto Real Estate Board reported an 18 per cent drop in annual sales last year as the market started to cool from previous overheated conditions.

In its annual forecast released Tuesday, the board said it expects home sales this year to slip to somewhere between 85,000 and 95,0000, slightly lower than 2017 when there were 92,394 sales.

However, the real estate board also forecast that the average home will sell for between $800,000 and $850,000 — similar to TREB’s prediction for 2017.

“The midpoint of that range suggests a slight increase in the average selling price this year,” it said in the report.

The average selling price reached $822,681 last year.

The market is being dampened by the Ontario government’s moves to stabilize housing conditions after 2017 saw a busy first quarter, another interest rate hike from the Bank of Canada in January, a rise in five-year fixed mortgage rates and a new mortgage stress test brought in Jan.1.

“Federal and provincial policy decisions will act as a drag on demand for ownership housing,” TREB predicted in a Tuesday release.

“In response to the stress test, many intending buyers will change the type and/or location of home they are looking to purchase or potentially tap other down payment sources, rather than simply deciding not to purchase a home.”

TREB’s forecast comes about two weeks after the Canadian Real Estate Association slashed its outlook for 2018 to predict a 5.3 per cent drop in national sales to 486,600 units this year. When compared with previous estimates, that’s a drop of 8,500 units.

At the time, CREA said it was already seeing signs that the country was “fully recovering” from last year’s surge in home prices that sent the market into a frenzy.

TREB and CREA’s predicted Toronto slowdown is unlikely to seep across the country, TD Canada Trust economists Michael Dolega and Rishi Sondhi said in a note to investors on Tuesday.

They found Atlantic markets are looking positive “with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, owing to a continued influx of international migrants.”

In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they expect higher mortgage rates will lengthen the time needed for sales to recover and dampen activity, but Quebec will “enjoy a relatively healthy performance.”

However, they added, the recent mortgage regulations “coupled with higher rates will meaningfully weaken housing demand in the high priced Toronto and Vancouver markets, leading to softer activity in Ontario and B.C.”

Puck Protest: Business owners play hockey on King Street

Nitish Bissonauth | posted Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018


A group of business owners on King Street organized a spontaneous game of road hockey on the east-west thoroughfare this afternoon to protest the city’s King Street Transit Pilot.


“You can’t be nice on the ice anymore — we’ve been talking to deaf ears” said Kit Kat owner Al Carbone, who helped organize the event.

The pilot project, which launched in the fall, prioritizes streetcars over other vehicles between Jarvis and Bathurst streets.

Carbone said the initiative has turned the Entertainment District into a ghost town during the day and has had a serious impact on local business profits.

Former NHL player Jarrod Skalde — now a player development coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins — was there to show his support.

“For 25 years, I’ve been going to the Kit Kat, when I played against the Maple Leafs,” he said.

“Took my teammates there, I wanted to support Al and get the chance to play ball hockey on King.”

The city said it understands the importance of supporting businesses, but it’s also focussed on moving traffic on the once-gridlocked street.

“The mayor is committed to the year-long King Street Pilot and its objectives, and will focus on real data and meaningful actions that will ensure that we are improving the movement of people along one of our busiest transit routes, while keeping the corridor vibrant and supporting local business,” a spokesperson said.

Carbone said he’s not giving up and plans on organizing more games of shinny.

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