Another day, another lesson, then what?

TORONTO – Time stands still for no one. Not even for Covid-19. The hope is that further lockdowns and restrictions will not have a negative impact on student learning. At least the lockdowns do not apply to remote-learning.

To help curb the transmission of the deadly virus, students within the hardest-hit regions of the province will not return to in person learning on January 25, as previously planned. Until at least February 10, students will continue with remote-learning within the regions of Toronto, Peel, York, Hamilton and Windsor-Essex.

It is still unknown what the long-term effects of school closures and remote-learning models will have on student learning and academic achievement.

In previous editions, we explored school performance and how different school boards stack up against each other, specifically the English-Public Board and the English-Catholic Board in the city of Toronto and the Region of Peel. For this edition, the focus is the third largest school board in Ontario.

That is, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) which servers over 128,000 students in 180 elementary schools and 33 secondary schools across the region.

The area encompasses nine regional municipalities: Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Whitchurch- Stouffville and King Township.

Naturally, education is an important part of life. Every parent wishes to provide their child with the best education and choose the best institution to help achieve that goal. The Fraser Institute provides a list of Ontario schools and ranks their performance on a scale from zero to ten. The standardized EQAO (Education Quality and accountability Office) assessment results are a factor in calculating the metrics for their list.

Throughout the province, the YRDSB is one of the top achieving boards. Student academic results in reading, writing and mathematics are consistently strong and well above the Provincial average. The strength in student achievement scores is portrayed in the 84% of elementary schools at the YRDSB that rate above the acceptable performance outcomes, an average value of six for all schools. Sixteen percent fall just below that average value (graph 1).

Likewise, student achievement scores at the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) are well above the provincial average. The increase ranges from 7-13 percentage points among all three indicators at the elementary level. The YCDSB serves nearly 53,000 students in 85 elementary schools and 16 secondary schools throughout the region. In the 2018-2019 academic year, 80 elementary school placed favourably on the Fraser Institute’s list (graph 2).

In our series coverage among the six school boards in Ontario, the YCDSB achieves the greatest percentage of elementary schools (89%) that rate above the all schools average. Although that may seem cause for celebration, 11% of schools fall below the average standard of six.

Covid-19 has created a significant impact on both societal and educational fronts. It may appear that some schools in certain regions may be better equipped to provide students with different programs and learning opportunities.

For at least another month, as we continue “stay-at-home” to socially distance and mitigate the spread of the virus, students and families have no choice but to adapt to a prolonged virtual model of learning. It may be some time before students can return to a safe and enriching school environment. Until then, the hope is that the learning gap between vulnerable students and their peers does not widen further.

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