George Lucas Educational Foundation

How Canada Is Closing the Achievement Gap (Education Everywhere Series)

In Ontario, schools have raised their test scores and graduation rates by providing resources such as full-time student success teachers, who help English-language learners and other students in need. 
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How Canada Is Closing the Achievement Gap (Transcript)

Mary Jean: Ontario is an incredibly diverse province. And so if our goal is going to be to improve student achievement, so our children will grow into successful and happy adults, we need to deal with that diversity. And so it's not seen as a barrier, it's seen as an opportunity and a challenge.

Avis: From the outset, we agreed that we had to have special interventions in place in order to bring the bottom up. The students who traditionally had not done well.

Pat: So are you going to join our sports teams?

Student: Yeah, I will.

Pat: And what's your favorite sport?

Student: Track and field.

Pat: Oh, track and field. Oh, yeah, we have a great track and field. But that's not till this spring. Are you going to play something in-between?

Susan: A lot of the students that do come new to the country have a variety of needs and that may be academic, it may be social, it may be language-based. it may be family-based, it could be just survival skills. You know, "How do I get transit? Where is extra help available?" And a student's success person is a critical piece in a school to help support that child.

Pat: Okay, how far did you get? Did you get to the end of the book.

Student: Almost.

Pat: Okay, what's happened since I read with you?

Pat: Students that are new to Canada, there's a large transition. The expectation is that they read quickly. That they process in English, and that they can make inferences. And those are skills they may not have learned in their own schooling system. So we work with students to bridge that gap.

Pat: Semester 1, he has Period 1 off. he has art Period 2. He is good at strings. His music mark is good. So he will also get a credit after school.

Pat: We have weekly meetings. It brings our team together, and it allow us to track the students that we are watching.

Teacher: Would a support for him be-- there's going to be a new drama class created, and it's going to be a nine/ten split drama. That might be a good place for him to acquire some language.

Susan: Generally, the entire school staff needs to be involved. This is a collaborative effort. Although, one person has the time dedicated towards making sure it all comes together, really it is a full-school initiative.

Pat: We've been working in Success with Janice since she was in Grade 9. She came on her own. She came from Hong Kong.

Susan: Some students come across the table, they're failing all four subjects. They don't have money for a transit pass. They're living with no parents in the country. Their parents might be living in China.

Pat: Last year, Dave and I worked with the family to move the guardianship to another family. She wasn't progressing well without family. She was not even allowed to stay after school to see me. Mm hm.

Susan: And that team will network everything from the cultural settlement worker to the administrator to say, an Alt. Ed. teacher, to make connections and set up that program for success. That's the best example of a student success team is looking at the child, and looking holistically how we can support them.

Pat: It's funny they say, "I actually felt awake." So maybe she-- this was something new to me? Mornings look a lot better after nine hours of sleep.

Pat: The one-on-one that's needed for some kids to be successful can't be done when you have another job happening. You can't sit and take the time to read with a student. And they really need that extra time. We don't want to be seen as a disciplinarian. When I introduce myself to the new staff this year, I said, "Don't use me as a threat." Even my room, it doesn't look like a classroom. I didn't put desks in it. I didn't want desks. If it's an uncomfortable environment, they're not going to come after school for help or on their lunch hour if it's more school. So they may sit in a chair and read their book that they're behind in, because they get to sit in a comfortable chair.

Mary Jean: We're succeeding! In the five or six years that we've been working at this, the performance gap for our new English-language learners in this province has been closed by about half of that gap. And that's absolutely critical in a province where up to 40 percent of our children are, in fact, coming from places outside of our province.

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  • Producer / Director: Stephen Brown
  • Director of Photography: Robbie Stauder
  • Second Camera / Audio: Joseph Rivera
  • Editor: Matthew Beighley
  • Consulting Producer: Satya Brink
  • Video Programming Producer: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: Zachary Fink

Produced in partnership with the Pearson Foundation.

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All rights reserved.

Education Everywhere Video Series

This series takes a look at high-achieving education systems and model schools around the world to see what makes them successful. This series is a co-production with the Pearson Foundation.

Canada Fast Facts

  • About 40,000 immigrant students come into the Canadian public school system every year, due to Canada's high rates of immigration per capita.
  • A quarter of the students in Ontario were born outside Canada, and 80% of them are non-English speaking.
  • The large province of Ontario accounts for 40% of Canada’s population; its two million students are funneled into about 5,000 schools.
  • Between 2003 and 2010, Ontario’s high school graduation rate rose from 68% to 79%. The provincial government's goal is to reach an 85% graduation rate.
  • Every school in Ontario staffs a full-time "student success teacher," who devotes his or her time to the students who need it most.
  • Despite coming into the country with challenges, immigrant children are typically performing as well as Canadian-born children on the PISA assessment just a few years after their arrival.

Watch more videos in the Education Everywhere series:

Or visit our global learning resource page for more resources.

Source: Canada: Reform to Support High Achievement in a Diverse Context PDF report by the OECD.

Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Carmen Wilson's picture
Carmen Wilson
Closing the Gap

As we may all know, every school in the world are face with many challenges in the school systems. Each year some the challenges get better and some get worse. Closing the gap trying to help students succeed is a challege.
At our school we have 99% navajo. Our school has worked so hard closing the gap. We have intervention classes for students who are at intensive and strategic levels. The intervention programs have increase students scores and learning attitudes.

Anna Kolesnikova's picture - I read that Canada one of the best countries for education. In fact, it's become an education superpower in the recent decade. It's counted among the world's top performing education systems, among Finland, Norway, Singapore and South Korea.

In addition to being at the top of international rankings, Canada is among the few countries to rank in the top 10 for maths, science and reading. It sure is ahead of its neighbors such as the US and European countries with strong cultural ties like the UK and France.

And when it comes to universities, Canada has the world's highest proportion of working-age adults who have received higher education - 55% compared to an average in other western countries of 35%.

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