Danforth Schools Coming Up Short – Part Three

In the last instalment of this series, we examined the diverse programming of Danforth Collegiate and noted how important tailored programming was to producing accomplished students. While not all schools are able to implement such a variety of courses, the philosophy of being cognizant of students’ interests is one shared by at least one other school on the Danforth.

Need To Succeed

Principal Cynthia Abernathy of Monarch Park Collegiate agrees that addressing the specific needs of students is essential to a school’s success.

“I think that in any school you’re going to have a broad spectrum of learners and our role is to understand one learner’s needs and make sure what they need is what we’re giving them,” she says. However, this concern for the well-being and success of her students has not been rewarded —at least not in the Report Card.

The Fraser Institute study gave Monarch Park an overall score of 5 out of 10, with an Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test pass rate of 71.8 per cent and an academic EQAO score of 3.2 (which meets provincial standards). Abernathy doesn’t think this score should be given any weight.

“You have to look at the individual needs of the student before you pass judgment,” she suggests. And the students at Monarch Park certainly have a variety of needs. In addition to regular programming, the school is known for its International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which caters to advanced students by offering a more rigorous curriculum based on international standards. It also has an extensive special education program and a large number (41 per cent) of English as a Second Language students.

A Home Away From Home

Principal Abernathy notes that the wide spectrum of students does not deter the staff from trying to reach out to each student individually.

“Teachers here go above and beyond the call of duty,” she claims.  This year the staff came together to buy a student —a refugee who has been living in a rooming house— a bed.

“It is very important to me that when you walk through those doors that you feel the love,” she says, “that you feel a sense of belonging here, like this is your second home.”

Redefining Education

How should we define a “good” school? The Fraser Institute says it is one which produces favourable academic results. Yet that definition fails to account for unconventional programming offered by schools to directly address, and thereby improve, issues within the student body.

Should a comfortable and encouraging environment be valued above intellectual achievement, or should academic success retain its status as a school’s main focus?

Looking for a single answer to this question is where the problem lies. Not all of our children are meant to succeed in a traditional academic environment, because not all of them are meant for careers that rely on an academic foundation. Our children all have different interests and capabilities, so the education they receive should encourage and aid the development of these qualities.

Perhaps the real question is:  If our children are all unique, why do we expect our schools to all be the same?


  • Marissa

    We expect our schools to be the same because it’s the easiest way to systematize the learning process. We generally run schools like factories, which means we like to push all kids through the same process and hope that they all “turn out” in the end.

    There. Done ranting. (Can you tell this topic makes me angry?)

    But I do think there is a problem with standardized testing and scoring schools this way. Great article.

  • Shauna

    I think schools can find ways to create a nurturing environment without relaxing academic standards…they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Great article — definitely some food for thought!

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