Enriched courses at NT are being cancelled
Graffiti March Issue 2022
“A look into how and why the changes to the enriched course selection were made.”
Sophie Block (Section Editor)
Victoria Man (Section Editor)
North Toronto C.I. will no longer be offering enriched courses, as the TDSB is eliminating “enriched courses to allow for equitable access to all programming by all students.” Initially, it was the enriched math and French courses that were cancelled, now the enriched English and the experienced music program have fallen in-line with the government’s de-streaming directive. Faced with a dilemma of wanting to follow rules but also to provide a variety of learning opportunities, the guidance department and department heads, with the idea of foci from Dr. Lee, created a new way for students to find enriched. This will be through more literature focused classes in English and through a new streaming system in the music department; both of which allow students to self-select for specific types of enrichment opportunities.
Ms. de Braux, the head of the guidance department, explained this new option and how it was created, saying that “We know that there are a lot of students who absolutely love English and want the opportunity to go more in depth and be challenged. Schools in the TDSB are allowed to have special school foci, like the Global Ed certificate. On that model, we came up with the idea of a literature focus. Students who are interested in all the kinds of bells and whistles that are involved in the enriched course (a lot more reading, more challenging books for the reader), all of those things would be available but with no nomination. If you are interested in the focus, join the focus; you can move in and out of the focus. Now, the prerogative is the students.”
NT has “always had a strong music focus in the school,” and while the program is changing, it will remain strong. The music department now has “coded grade nine beginner courses as beginner courses.” According to a slideshow created by the music department, “quality programming is accessible to all students regardless of ability or prior musical knowledge.” Ms. de Braux further expands on this and says, “students can self select into this, but the idea is that you can get into the focus in grade nine right away, if you have experience, or if you enter grade nine and you want to change your instrument or you are new to music, you can get into the focus in grade ten. This allows us to offer all the options.” Overall, students will be able to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to take on a more specifically focused course, even in music.
Why has the TDSB prohibited enriched courses? Dr. Lee explained that the discontinuation of enriched courses was a TDSB decision stemming from its “Multi-Year Strategic Plan.” The TDSB writes that the focus of this plan “lays the groundwork for how we will transform student learning” by closing “the achievement and well-being gaps while keeping expectations high for all students … to ensure students improve in literacy and math and strengthen essential skills.” Dr. Lee shared that the TDSB is “committed to providing equitable access for learning for everyone, which includes removing obstacles faced by historically oppressed groups of students.”
Mr. Zohar is the head of the English department and has taught the enriched English course for the past many years. He said that “enriched courses were always a safe place for students who were anywhere from just more ambitious to more enthusiastic to not have to hide the fact that they are more ambitious or more enthusiastic.”
Still, Mr. Zohar recognizes that there were problems with enriched classes. He says that “every teacher [selecting enriched students] has a different thing they’re looking for and we try to be consistent, but often it rewarded students who were very good at following the rules as opposed to the students who were most enthusiastic … It’s a shame that it might’ve kept out a student with lower grades, but who reads profusely with insight, but who isn’t very good at finishing their work on time.” Similarly, Ms. de Braux says that “overachievers were disproportionately being chosen for enriched courses.”
Mr. Zohar believes that the L coded courses will be an excellent alternative to the enriched, and “may actually solve” the issues with enriched courses. He says that “the idea was really to focus on enthusiasm, so we created the L coded courses … and will allow students who are enthusiastic specifically about English to have a place where that enthusiasm is allowed to flourish.” He hopes that “there are students who say ‘yeah, this is kind of cool. I am an interested reader and I want opportunities to read with greater complexity and perhaps read a little bit more so I’m going to take those L courses.’”
Current NT students in enriched classes speak of their great experiences in the class. Luke Taylor says that “the main benefit I gained from the enriched class is that it better prepares me for the next level of the subject, whether it be Math or English.” Felicity Hughes, part of enriched English, says that her “love for English makes [her] want to learn around those who share a similar passion and respect for the course.” This is also the thought of Ruby Steinberg who “took enriched mostly because of the other people in the class.” The new courses will offer this same opportunity.
For those students who have not had the opportunity to be in enriched classes, and were previously disappointed, this also offers a solution. Kavoubvand is a grade ten student and she feels that “enriched courses are a good way to challenge yourself.” Arissa Roy, another grade ten student, says that “one of the reasons NT was so appealing to me when I was in grade 8 was because of the enriched courses, but when I came, they discontinued.” Although they weren’t able to take enriched classes this year, next year, they both have the option to take the literature intensive course.
Ms. de Braux speaks to these benefits, saying that the new courses offer “a really good way to keep the best part of that tradition [of enriched classes] alive,” and that the school “took a fairly massive lemon but we made some really good lemonade.”
For students who want to provide themselves with courses that go beyond the average, already academically rigorous, standard, NT’s L (and P for music) coded courses will be the perfect solution. The end of enriched courses marks the end of a long era at NT, but hopefully, moving forward, creating the circumstances for equitable access for all students produces an equal, if not stronger, way forward.