Exploring Black Students' Experience In High School and Their Transition To Higher Education (He) In Toronto.
By: Dr. Jamila Aman
The research focused on investigating the underlying reasons and barriers that hinders Canadian students of African descent from graduating from Toronto High Schools (Grades 11 and 12) and to transit to HE. Barriers might be socioeconomic background of parents, issues related to first generation, literacy level of parents, self-efficacy, poverty etc. that prevent students from transitioning to HE. Racism, discrimination, biases, and micro aggression tactics increase the achievement gap between Black and White students and are analyzed as part of this study.

The Canadian Public-school curriculum is based in European based curriculum and is biased towards the ideology of the mainstream Anglo-Canadian culture while disregarding minority cultures. Among the marginalized cultures are the African and Caribbean cultures and their orientation. Years of research have confirmed African and Caribbean students' struggle in school thus, their transition to post-secondary is hindered (Marium, 2008).

As a result of these dominant Anglo-Canadian and Eurocentric curriculum and worldview, Black students are pushed out of the system. ACLU (2008) explain that the following factors contribute to education pushout of Black students (1) poor resources (2) overcrowded schools (3) excessive extreme suspension and expulsions (4) inadequate school support (5) low expectations (6) giving more weight to testing (7) absence of emotional and physical safety (8) limited interventions that does not respond to students individualized needs (9) absence of fair college preparation (10) not accommodating students cultural and linguistic needs.

In addition, according to Gleason & Dynarski, (2009) there are numerous risk factors that in combination with each other raise the probability of youth leaving high school early. These factors fall into four broad categories related to individuals (e.g., truancy, poor school attitude}, families (e.g., low-income, lack of parental involvement}, schools (e.g., negative school climate, low expectations}, and communities (e.g., high crime, lack of community support for schools}, according to the Center for Mental Health in Schools (UCLA, 2007).

Some scholars claim that black students disengage from academic environment to cope with racism. Numerous low-income and vulnerable, racialized students are faced with bias, harassment, intentional and subtle discrimination within the schools. And the absence of inclusive, equitable and fair treatments contributes to school dropouts (ACLU, 2008).

Canada in general, is in a critical condition regarding retention of Black students in high school particularly in grades 11and 12 and their transition to HE. The underachievement of Black students is frequently reported in daily news media (Saunders, 2016). Black students are not transitioning to HE institutions at an acceptable rate; only 50% of Black high school students proceed to HE (Comrie, 2013).

There appears to be a general crisis regarding retention and transitioning of Black students to HE institutions, in Toronto and, perhaps, across Canada. In an effort to increase black student's retention and increase achievement gap, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) developed an "Urban Diversity Strategy" to "increase the secondary school graduation rate for all demographic groups to a minimum of 85% in five years." (Toronto District School Board, 2008, p. 2). There is more content on how to educate black student that is American and international content; however more Canadian research is needed on how to educate black students (Dragnea & Erling, 2008).

According to a study commission by Toronto School Board (2017) data collected between 2011-2016 confirms that Black students represent 12% of the TDSB high school population. Despite the fact that Black students represent 12% of high school population the rate of expulsions for Black students is 48%. All races combined in Toronto District School Board represent 88% and the rate of expulsion is 52%. (Refer to graph below)

Toronto District School Board. (2017, April). Expulsion decision-making process and expelled students' transition experience in the Toronto District School Board's caring and safe schools pro­ grams and their graduation outcomes. Toronto: Toronto District School Board, Research and Information Services.

PhD dissertation synopsis by Dr. Jamila Aman
Dr. Dei called for the decolonization of the education curriculum, including its pedagogy and epistemology, which seeks to order the society like a path to follow through just texts and books.

He further called for creating options to embrace the culture of the climate, the environment, and the socio-organizational lives in schools through work, divesture, resistance, disruption and importantly, the generation of new ideas. Dr. Dei lament­ ed that the curriculum is standardized without specificities and power-saturated and should allow for reimagining through the creation of new features, ideas, and possibilities. These features, he said, are to create an environment for Black students to belong, think and have a sense of ownership of the schools' environment. He said there was the need to galvanize support both within, around, and outside the school systems by tapping into community and street knowledge as resources for education, to increase the capabilities of Black, Indigenous, and racialized peoples.

In addition, Dr. Dei advocated for specific educational measures directed in support of Black and Indigenous learning in the school system meant for all learners. He stated that educational theory must have weapons of change grounded in politics of change where communities must be able to advocate for their own sustainable interventions through collectively generated knowledge reflecting Black cultural perspectives.

In other words, Afro-centric or homegrown knowledge for Black learners and communities. He maintained that the teaching, learning, and administration of education must speak the multi-dimensionality or specifics of the Indigenous, Black and racialized learners.
  • ACLU (2008). Schools for all campaign: The school bias & pushout problem. Advanced Research Journal of Educational Research and Review, 1(7), 137-142.
  • Comrie, L. (2013). 5 Biggest Challenges Blacks Face in Canada.
  • Dragnea, C., & Erling, S. (2008). The Effectiveness of Africentric (Black-Focused) Schools in Closing Student Success and Achievement Gaps: A Review of the Literature. Toronto: Toronto District School Board.
  • ONABSE, Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (2015). An Experimental
  • Philip Gleason &Mark Dynarski (2009): Do We Know Whom to Serve? Issues in Using Risk Factors to Identify Dropouts.
  • Saunders, D. (2016). Why Black Canadians are facing U.S.-style problems. The Globe and Mail. ans-are-facing-us-style-problems/article309395l 4/?ref=
  • School Discipline Support Initiative (2020).
  • Tolson-Murtty, Marium, (2008)"Factors influencing Black students in Windsor and their pursuit of post-secondary education". Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 8088.
  • Toronto District School Board. (2017). Expulsion decision-making process and expelled students' transition experience in the Toronto District School Board's caring and safe schools programs and their graduation outcomes. Toronto: Toronto District School Board, Research and Information Services.
  • UCLA (2007) Addressing Buriers to Learning. UCLA Cneter.



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Dr. Jamila Aman
Dr. Jamila AmanDr. Jamila Aman, CEO and Managing Director - Premier Canadian Business Solutions Inc.
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