June 20, 2019

Student voice drives Peel board’s ongoing work to address barriers to Black student success

Key learnings will support board’s third year of its We Rise Together action plan 

As the Peel District School Board begins planning for year three of We Rise Together, the board’s strategic action plan to support Black students, board staff will use feedback from focus groups with Black students and key learnings from the first two years of implementation to take action to better support the success of Black students. These focus groups were conducted by a team led by York University Professor Dr. Carl E. James.

After the launch of We Rise Together in 2016, the Peel board enlisted Dr. James to work with board research staff to measure the impact of the work with the strategic action plan schools. Focus groups were conducted in May and June 2018 with Black Peel students. The findings are included in a We Rise Together report that represents the voices of Black students at that time. A number of themes emerged including:
  • the relationship between students and teachers 
  • the role of parents 
  • the role of peers 
  • resisting stereotypes 
  • students suggestions for change

 “The report provides critical insights into Black students’ lived school experiences to help us better understand what other research studies tell us about their racialized lives,” says Dr. James. “I was pleased to be able to engage with both students and members of the We Rise Together Community Advisory Council, who provided meaningful, culturally relevant voices. This report provides important context and will serve as an essential reference in analyzing and interpreting the board’s student census data once it’s available. I look forward to continuing to work with the board and its community members in using the various data sources to support the educational needs of Black Peel students.”
The findings of the report are intended to further inform action and inquiry to support Black student success. “While Black students have expressed that they have seen some benefit from the board’s We Rise Together work to date, they continue to experience challenges and barriers,” says Poleen Grewal, associate director of instructional and equity support services. “We know there is still much work to be done to ensure all students, including Black students, can truly rise. We will continue to be bold, courageous, and decisive, and remain committed to transparency and being accountable.” 

Many of the recommendations in the report have been built into activities and initiatives undertaken in the 2018-19 school year and offer additional considerations that the Peel board will look to implement in 2019-20. In response to Dr. James’ report, Peel board staff reviewed findings after the first year of implementation, benchmarked progress and created an action plan that includes measures that have already been implemented in 2018-19, as well as additional measures to be considered for 2019-20. Board staff will finalize the year three plan after receiving input from the Community Advis​ory Council​. Recommendations in the We Rise Together action plan include:
  • developing a board Anti-Racism policy that will address anti-Black racism 
  • partnering with community agencies for the possible creation of a We Rise Together educator award to recognize staff invested in the work of anti-Black racism
  • exploring additional ways to engage Black families in a culturally responsive manner
  • creating guidelines for schools on how to start a Black Student Association and develop a student-run session to support the creation of additional student associations in Peel schools
​“We appreciate the tremendous contributions of students, school communities and partners like Dr. James to We Rise Together,” says Peter Joshua, director of education. “We remain committed to this crucial work to minimize and eliminate the marginalization experienced by Black students in Peel board schools.” 

Since the launch of the We Rise Together action plan in 2016, the Peel board has undertaken numerous activities, initiatives and training. The board released a We Rise Together 2018-19 summary report​ that provides an overview of the past year’s implementation efforts and includes suggestions for the continued work of the action plan moving forward. Highlights from the 2018-19 school year include:
  • the completion of system-wide We Rise Together training with over 10,000 teaching, office, custodial, and other employee group staff
  • adding 25 additional strategic action plan schools to deepen staff understanding of the lived experiences of Black students and to learn about anti-Black racism
  • forming 36 new Black Student Advisory Councils in middle and high schools

We Rise Together: The Peel District School Board Action Plan to Support Black Students was originally released in October 2016 to identify, understand, minimize and eliminate the marginalization experienced by Black students in Peel board schools.  To learn more, visit www.werisetogether.ca and follow WRT on Twitter at @WRT_PDSB


Reference: Poleen Grewal, Associate Director, Instructional and Equity Support Services, Peel District School Board, 905-890-1010 ext. 2232, [email protected]   ​
Media contact: Ryan Reyes, Manager of Communications and Community Relations, Peel District School Board, 905-890-1010 ext. 2652, [email protected] ​

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