May 27, 2020

New Student Census reports shine light on student identities and experiences

The Peel District School Board has released elementary and overall board results from its first board-wide Student Census, including demographic information and school experiences of more than 127,000 students and families. Grade 9 to 12 results were released earlier this school year.

"The Student Census reports provide a glimpse into the realities of student life, and help paint a clearer picture of the communities we serve," says Director of Education Peter Joshua. "We are committed to using this valuable data to make the education experience for students the best it can be, with a focus on improving student outcomes, especially for those who have been historically underserved."

The Peel board launched its first board-wide Student Census in November 2018, following a motion by the Board of Trustees. Students in grades 4 to 12 were invited to complete the census in class, while parents/guardians of students in kindergarten to grade 3 received a questionnaire to fill out on behalf of their child(ren). A total of 127,377 Student Census questionnaires were completed, resulting in a response rate of 79.2% for all Peel board schools—75.1% for all elementary schools and 90.5% for all secondary schools and specialized sites.

"With authentic student voices guiding the way, our Student Census results will have a fundamental role to play in our system's strategic planning and decision-making moving forward," says Joshua. "We look forward to diving deeper into these results to eliminate barriers to student success and well-being, and to create safe and inclusive learning environments and programs that meet student needs."

Next school year, school administrators will be provided with access to school-specific reports, as well as tools and training to integrate this data into their school success planning. Census data will also be incorporated into the board's plans to address anti-Black racism and other forms of systemic discrimination in the Peel board, in response to directives from the Ministry of Education in their recent review of the board.

​Full reports can be found at www.peelschools.org/studentcensus, as well as a snapshot of Peel board students' identities by municipality.​

Each report provides a breakdown of perceptual data, including factors that commonly contribute to student achievement, engagement and well-being, such as students' sense of belonging, feelings about their climate and safety, and healthy habits. In addition, the census collected demographic data to provide an overview of student identities in the Peel board:
  • The top five single racial backgrounds reported by Peel board students are: South Asian (48.8%), White (13.3%), Black (9.5%), Middle Eastern (5.8%), and East Asian (4.7%).
  • 666 or 0.5% of students identify as First Nations, Métis, Inuit or another Indigenous identity.
  • The ethnic or cultural backgrounds most frequently reported by students are: Indian (30.2%), Canadian (23.1%), Pakistani (11.6%), Jamaican (6.4%), and Chinese (5.3%).
  • The most common religions, faiths, spiritualities or creeds of Peel board students are: Islam (23.5%), Christianity (19.2%), Sikhism (17.6%), Hinduism (15.7%) and no religion (7.9%).
  • Peel board students self-identified as male (50.7%), female (47.7%), multiple gender identities (0.3%), another gender identity not listed (0.2%), questioning (0.1%), transgender (0.1%), and intersex (0.05%).
  • The sexual orientation most frequently reported by grade 7 to 12 students is heterosexual (79.1%), while another 7.9% identify as 2SLGBTQ+.
  • Note, these reports do not provide connections between how students identify and their experiences—that data is still being analyzed.
Notes Joshua, "Our next steps are critical ones. We owe it to our school communities to make sure these results aren't just numbers on a page. We are committed to honouring students' voices and taking action to address areas of concern."

The census was voluntary and confidential—all responses are stored in a secure database, accessed only by the Peel board's Research and Accountability department. The census follows Ontario's Education Equity Action Plan, the province's strategy for identifying and eliminating discriminatory practices, barriers, and biases from schools and classrooms, and is a critical step to supporting equity and addressing the factors affecting it. 

More information about the Student Census, including the elementary, secondary and full board reports, can be found at www.peelschools.org/studentcensus.
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Reference: Kayla Tishcoff, Senior Communications Officer, [email protected] 

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