Education Action: Toronto

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7. Bottom Streaming

What follows is a set of broad policies to stop the bottom streaming in our schools. They are also found in document number 1. Curriculum (Section 3: Streaming).

This is an evolving document. We hope you will contribute to strengthening these policies with us. Please send us your criticisms and your suggestions for change. We can be reached at eatoronto@yahoo.com.

As background material, we are including two articles: My Experience of Bottom Streaming by Fowzia Mahamed, who is the Co-Chair of Education Action: Etobicoke North. And It’s the Bottom Streaming that Matters Most by George Martell, who is the Co-Chair of Education Action: Toronto.

Streaming

A. Elementary Schools

We are for

  • the maintenance of a single stream for learners in elementary schools, undifferentiated by ability or results;
  • the recognition that all learners have a right to learn in regular classrooms as long as they can do so without risks to their own health or the health of others;
  • the integration of learners of all abilities into regular classrooms, within as short a period of time as can be managed, with due care to the provision of the appropriate supports for learners and teachers alike;
  • the provision of pedagogical training and curriculum materials designed by active educators to make mixed-ability classrooms welcoming and successful;
  • the provision of limited-term booster programs and tutoring for learners needing additional assistance in order to join the regular classroom;
  • and the provision of high-quality special educational programs for learners whose physical condition makes work in a regular classroom impossible.

We are against

  • the involuntary exclusion of learners from the regular classroom, except in those cases where it can be shown that such a setting is injurious to the health of the individual learner or that of others;
  • the involuntary labeling of young people by means of psychometric testing in schools;
  • the involvement of the school system in the recommendation or administration of medication claiming to facilitate or improve learning; and
  • the continuation of classroom groupings that can be shown to stream learners by race or social class.

B. Secondary Schools

We are for

  • the establishment and maintenance of two equally strong streams (academic and technical) in secondary schools, undifferentiated by ability or results, each of which provides pathways to post-secondary education or a valued workplace;
  • a well-planned transition, with the full participation of active educators, from the current streams to the new one that we are advocating;
  • training programs prepared by active educators to make mixed ability classrooms welcoming and successful;
  • a well-planned process to help learners and their families make an informed choice between the two streams in the course of the Grade 8 year in elementary school, a choice that is finally theirs to make; and
  • easily navigated pathways that will make it possible for learners to change streams in the course of their secondary education.

We are against

  • the use of school streams that differentiate expectations of life after school by separating those expected to enter post-secondary education and continue learning from those expected to enter the workplace and implicitly abandon organized learning;
  • the separation of academic skills training from practical applications of those skills and from the development of physical abilities; and
  • the separation of technical skills training from their broader social and academic context and from the continued development of a critical understanding of those contexts.

Policy


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