Hot! Prof has doubts about the DSBN Academy [for the poor]

StCatharinesStandard.ca – news/localnews – Consultant for Pathways to Education program believes there’s a better way
January 29, 2011.   By Julie Greco/Standard Staff

Helping disadvantaged youths overcome poverty to attend college or university is a hot topic this week — and one Brock professor Kevin Gosine has long been familiar with.

Gosine used to live in the low-income neighbourhood of Regent Park in Toronto, and can count on one hand how many of his classmates went on to post-secondary studies.

So many individuals with whom I grew up are either in and out of jail, stuck in dead-end jobs or even dead,” he said.

“The impact of poverty on their families, peer influences, the dearth of university-educated role models and the stigma that came with being a Regent Parker which resulted in low teacher expectations, being streamed into non-university classes — all combined to lead them in a different and often unfortunate direction.”

But Gosine thinks the outcome for so many of his classmates would have been different today.

The neighbourhood was a launching pad for Pathways to Education Canada, a program he has been a consultant and researcher for over the past six years.

Its goals are similar to those the District School Board of Niagara has for the DSBN Academy, but they stay at their home school.

Pathways to Education is focused on reducing the effects of poverty by decreasing high school dropout rates and increasing access to post-secondary education It offers academic, social, financial and advocacy supports to disadvantaged youth in participating communities.

The difference is, he says, that it reaches out to youth in a more discreet manner.

“Pathways helps kids get through school, but none of their friends need to know” they’re participating, he said.

“It avoids children being stigmatized. And it was intended that way.”

He said the program has made great strides since it was launched about 10 years ago in Regent Park.

Among 850 youths, the dropout rate has declined to 12% from 56% — half the city and provincial average — and the rate of students moving on to college or university has grown to 80% from 20%.

The program has expanded to locations in other low-income neighbourhoods of Toronto, including Lawrence Heights, Rexdale and parts of Scarborough, as well as Hamilton, Ottawa, Kitchener, Montreal, Halifax and Winnipeg.

“Implementing a program like Pathways would be a much better alternative to a school designed specifically for students from low-income families,” he said.

The sociology professor said he’s concerned whether students at a school designated to a specific class of society will have the same opportunities as students attending mainstream schools.

“I wonder whether schools like this, in the end, will produce the very inequality they were designed to fight,” he said.

He is also concerned about the impact it might have on existing public schools.

“When there is a population constructed as one with special needs, it can take the onus off mainstream schools to accommodate diversity,” he said, adding he believes the programs offered by the academy should be implemented in mainstream schools.

“You wouldn’t want mainstream schools to create a situation where it’s like, ‘if you don’t like it here, go there.'”

Gosine was also concerned that a specialty school for the low-income segment of students would be problematic for students in the long-term,.

“Kids will move on to work in an environment with multi-classes,” he said. “I don’t think that a school based on class really prepares them for a multicultural society.”

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