Summer institute a catalyst for student achievement

The need to build an inclusive and relevant curriculum and the challenges associated with youth violence are just two of the many workshops at this year’s York Centre for Education & Community (YCEC) summer institute, which continues until Aug. 20.

This is the second in a series of institutes related to the School & Community Engaged Education (SCEE) project, a three-year partnership between York’s Faculty of Education and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) designed to improve students’ academic achievement. The summer institutes will reflect on the past year’s activities and plan for the coming year.

Criminology Professor Scot Wortley of the University of Toronto will address issues of youth violence based on research he has conducted in various Toronto communities. Leslie Sanders in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will discuss the need for building an inclusive and relevant curriculum that will meet students’ needs and reflect the values of the multiple communities they represent.

Summer institute participants will also hear from keynote speaker Joyce King, the Benjamin E. Mays Chair of Urban Teaching, Learning & Leadership in the College of Education at Georgia State University in the United States, and York alumnus Chris Spence (left) (BEd ’91), the new director of education of the TDSB. In addition, there will be community and teacher panels and films that focus on the intricate relationships between education and community.

The first YCEC institute was held in May 2008 at the start of the project and focused on teacher knowledge and the use of inclusive approaches in their work with the community, parents and students.

Right: Joyce King

The SCEE project involves five schools – one elementary school, two middle schools and one high school in the Jane and Finch area. The fifth school, which involves working with Aboriginal students, was officially added this summer. SCEE works with teachers and the community to develop inclusive approaches to schooling to enhance students’ participation and achievement. Four areas which guide the work with teachers, students, school leaders and community members are: mentorship and counselling; parent and community engagement; staff development; and research and knowledge mobilization. 

“This is an opportunity for us to reflect on the progress we have made over the year working with teachers, administrators and students in the four schools. With a year behind us, we wish to do more to bring parents into the process,” says Carl James, SCEE project director as well as director of the YCEC.

“Fortunately, a number of parents and community members will be participating in the institute this week, hence we will be able to hear from them about how best to proceed with bringing parents, community members, teachers, administrators and students together. It is crucial that senior members of the Board of Education, especially the newly appointed director, will be participating in the institute, and will be sharing their expertise and insights with all of us.”  

Left: Scot Wortley

Over the past year a variety of activities, including learning communities, parent engagement sessions and workshops, were introduced. These were designed not only to facilitate discussions about the experiences of and relationships amongst students, teachers, parents and community members, but also to enable action research that will help identify the roadblocks to student academic success, and propose methods for encouraging positive, sustained student engagement.

The project activities also work as mechanisms for knowledge mobilization within the network of SCEE project schools and with the larger community.