As a public school board, we know that identity is a factor in determining outcomes for students - it has been this way since public education began. Data continues to illustrate the disproportionate number of Indigenous, Black, racialized, queer, students in special education and students coming out of poverty who do not reach their full potential in school.
We also know that we can change this, by ensuring that all students have the resources, supports and opportunities they need to be successful. By providing equitable access to learning experiences for students from all backgrounds, we can help to ensure that identity is no longer a factor in outcomes for those we serve. Every student should have the chance to excel on their academic pathway.
In fact, we’re already seeing evidence that our work is having an impact on student success. The latest data from the Ministry of Education shows that more WRDSB students are successfully graduating secondary school than in past years.
The number of WRDSB students who graduate in five years increased 2.2% to 85.9%, and the number of students who graduate in four years increased by 4.7% to 76.5%. While graduation rates are just one benchmark used to ensure the effectiveness of efforts to support students, they are a good sign efforts are working.
Our work also includes support for students as they explore the countless options and pathways available as they look towards their futures. The return of an in-person Build a Dream Career Discovery Expo in November 2022 was just one example of this in action. Build a Dream aims to promote opportunities for those who identify as women in a number of fields. Attendees had the chance to meet with over 40 exhibitors, showcasing career fields and pathways ranging from the local carpenters’ union to Region of Waterloo Paramedics.
“I’m just so happy that this event was available,” said Ava Carlaw, a Grade 11 student at Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School (WODSS). “It made me feel more confident going out after high school, knowing what I can do.”
Of course, the goal of equitable opportunities and outcomes cannot truly be achieved when educational spaces, such as schools and alternative learning sites, are not accessible for all. During National Accessibility Week, Mel Lavoie and Ron Dallan with the Facilities Services department provided an overview of some of the innovative work undertaken to ensure WRDSB schools, offices and learning spaces are accessible for all that we serve.
From the installation of new signage featuring raised braille, to major projects like the construction of a new elevator, this work is about building spaces that are supportive and welcoming for all students, staff and community members.
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