Choosing The Right Stream To Success

The education section of the newspaper and its websites has been dominated with the all-too-familiar “Will there be a teachers’ strike?” the past few days but prior to that, there was a report by the advocacy group People For Education that caught my attention. The report is calling on the Ontario government to remove “streaming” in Grade 9 and have all students study and be evaluated at the same level.

High school changed in two profound ways in 1999. The graduation track went from 5 years to 4 years and the three-level system of university, college and workforce courses were condensed into two levels known as academic and applied. Applied courses lead to post-secondary opportunities at college and academic courses are pre-requisites for university entrance.

The report that came out on Monday argues that the applied level courses lead to “lower achievement, lower expectations of the students by teachers and at times a low-quality learning experience.” It also points out that a lack of guidance staff available in Grade 8 is a problem and that once students start studying at one level, they rarely make a change to the other level.

Here at Mentor and TEAM, we are not seeing the problems that People For Education claim and we think there are some very good reasons for this. We are a school that believes streaming is the best way to approach education so when a student enters our school, we match them up with the academic programme (TEAM, Mentor College or Mentor Academy) that will challenge but not frustrate the student. As parents, the last thing we want for our child is to be in a situation where they are so far behind or ahead of their peers that school is a negative experience and for many families, this was the reason you chose our school. Every year after (including the very-important Grade 9 entry year), we suggest the most-appropriate of our three academic streams for your child.

The second reason that we don’t see the problems People For Education do is that our teachers never start with low expectations of their students. When students are in an academic situation where expectations are both high AND realistic, achievement and quality will follow.

When we started TEAM Secondary School, we wanted a high-quality, applied-level high school programme that would lead to success in post-secondary college studies. We achieved this and continue to graduate students who have gone on to great success in college but what we were not expecting was the number of students who started in Grade 9 at TSS and are now successful in university. Sometimes the transition has been TSS to Mentor to university, sometimes it has been TSS to college to university and sometimes from TSS directly to university but in all cases, the students have used the academic skills earned at TEAM/TSS for their post-secondary successes.

We say this all the time but there is way too much emphasis in Ontario on the marks to gain entrance to university; this is why there are so many private high schools who offer mostly Grade 12 courses (usually with inflated marks). Parents who choose our school know what our alumni tell us over and over again…the marks they earn with us to get INTO college and university are way less important in the long run compared to the skills they learned to FINISH a post-secondary degree.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

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