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posted May 20, 2007

Neighbours Discuss Local Schools

A recent thread of emails has appeared on the dufferingrovefriends listserve regarding local schools and the merits of standardized tests as valid indicators of school quality. They are published here:

Hi all, I wonder how many people can comment on Dewson in general, and its immersion program in particular. Also curious to hear anyone's experience with Pierre Elliot, or with Hawthorne II. My 6 year old is registered at two schools right now and we are looking for some anecdotal experience. thanks!


I would highly recommend Dewson, especially for French immersion. The school population is a wonderfully diverse reflection of our neighbourhood and has an excellent combination of cultural, artistic and athletic programming (school choirs, steel bands, track and field, artist in the school). We also have great social events like movie nights, Dewson Festival (June 7) and the recent South Asian Festival.

Our principal, Beth Mills is a long time member of the Dufferin Grove community. Beth works tirelessly for the benefit of the children and the school. As well, there's a very active and engaged group of parents and dedicated teachers.

We should support our neighbourhood schools wherever possible. We're lucky to have a French immersion school in our neighbourhood, as many parents have to bus or drive their kids across town to reach one. I recommend anyone interested in Dewson to attend an open house, or contact Beth Mills or VP Gail Croll.

Andrew Munger 63 Hepbourne St.

I would like to ditto Andrewís remarks about Dewson. My son was at Dewson (French immersion) from JK to grade six. He is now at Harbord in grade 10 so I canít comment on current events at Dewson. All I can tell you is that I literally wept when he graduated from Dewson. My son grew up colour-blind. I never knew what race or ethnic background his friends were till I met them. When he had a birthday party he was usually the only white kid present. He learned about such a variety of different cultures and traditions that I found that I learned a lot too.

In my view this experience canít hold a candle to standardized testing. Life isnít just about academics. Just my opinion, not intended to offend anyone elseís values.

Rona Achilles.

The grade 3 EQAO results for Dewson over the last five years have consistently been below the provincial standard.

There are also several excellent Catholic schools in the neighbourhood.

Outskirts (Anonymous Poster)

I'm not sure what experience, other than through bureaucratic measurement (the EQAO) this anonymous poster has with Dewson, or with any of our neighbourhood schools.

The EQAO (popularly known as "standardized testing") was introduced by the right wing Mike Harris government as a "one size fits" method of measuring student achievement. It's designed for the benefit of administrators and policy makers, rather than students or teachers. There is a direct correlation between high EQAO scores and socio- economic factors, ie: afluent, white kids whose first language is English score higher.

If EQAO is one's sole measure of a school's quality then perhaps Rosedale or Forest Hill would be a more appropriate setting.

And yes, there are several Catholic schools in our district, which is great. If you happen to be Catholic.

Andrew Munger 63 Hepbourne St.

Just to add the discussion many European countries have scrapped testing as it is ineffective. The Reggio Emilia Model in Italy is about child-led learning. There is also a move in England to scrap the school system by in the next twenty years and move to learning resource centres that are student led. Democratic schools like Alpha II are opening around the world. The evidence shows that humans are born able to learn from their environment.


"Vicit pudorem libido, timorem audacia, rationem amentia." Cicero
(She conquered shame with passion, fear with audacity, reason with madness)

"My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself."
George Bernard Shaw

Judging schools by EQAO numbers is an inherently flawed activity. The tests are being performed upon the children by the very people who are being tested: the teachers. Thus some teachers teach to the tests, resulting in better test scores, but this is no guarantee of better overall teaching. I have two children in the system and find the most effective way to ensure quality education is to be involved with the school and to support the staff there as actively as time allows. There's no romance in this, let's face it: you wind up on the lice picking teams... But, you do get to know the school better and can actually judge where flaws and strengths lie. You truly can learn very, very little from EQAO test scores.

Cookie Roscoe

While I do agree that strictly relying on EQAO scores is not a fair measurement of student achievement, the correlation between socio-economic factors and scores is quite weak. Shirley St. School (a few years back...I don't check scores every year) did incredibly well on the test and their demographic at the school is hardly "afluent, white kids whose first language is English". Same goes for St. Helen's.

As for the Catholic schools, only one parent need be Catholic for children to attend.

Outskirts (Anonymous Poster)

i think it's not easy to get into pierre elliott trudeau -- most people say you need to have a francophone parent. but he kids i know who went there (there are several on glastone) seemed to like it.

i hear good things about hawthorne as well.

so very anecdotal evidence....

Matt Price

Hi all you agonizing parents out there, I just wanted to clarify what's been said about Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It's not a French immersion school but a school in the French language public school board. Access to it is determined by the laws around minority language education rights. I'm not certain of the parameters, but I believe parents can send their kids there if they 1) received their own primary education in French 2) French is (one of) the language(s) they first spoke and still understand, and / or 3) French is one of the languages spoken at home now.

We've been at PET for 6 years now, first at the daycare and now with a kid finishing Grade 1. It's a wonderful place to maintain a sense of belonging in a francophone community in Toronto. It's also a great school academically speaking, and has a good community feel. The seamless onsite daycare and full-day kindergarten are also a big bonus. As Tori said, no school is perfect, but we're very happy to be at PET and to be part of the growth and improvement of this very young school (it's only been around for 7 years).

This neighbourhood sure is rich in schools. For families where the parents don't speak French, Dewson is a fantastic French immersion program for introducing kids to French. And for all you parents out there from a francophone background, there is an alternative to French immersion in our community. You don't have to lose your cultural and language connections just because you live in Toronto (or as someone from my hometown called it, "Au Canada.") On vous attend!

Emily Paradis

I second all the positive things Andrew said about Dewson. It has many, many strengths. It has a full-time music teacher, gym teacher and librarian (sadly not every school can have specialist teachers.) Dewson really feels full of energy these days - there are so many engaged parents, staff and kids making things happen. On successive Thursdays in May Dewson's had a South Asian Festival, story telling festival, film night, kindergarten concert, and on June 7 the festival will happen with multicultural dinner and steel band performance. The school even has a cricket team! But for me the best thing is the diversity of the school community - I can't believe how much my boys are learning about the world just from their classmates. And as a stay-at-home parent right now I really value the community I've found at the school. All that said, I offer one more piece of advice - don't worry too much. In the west end of Toronto we have a many great schools to choose from. No school is perfect, but I haven't talked to a single parent who isn't mostly satisfied with where the school they chose. Good luck.

Tori Smith

We live on Concord (one street west of Ossington), north of Bloor, and our French immersion school is Palmerston. You can check what your "default" schools are, including for French immersion, on the tdsb website www.tdsb. -- at the home page, to the far left, is the drop-down menu 'schools', and under it, 'find your school.' You type in your address....


It would be great to apply to your default school but enrollment is done by lottery. We tried to get our child into Old Orchard and currently she is number 22 on the waiting list. So even if you do find a school out of district that you like you may not be able to get your child in . I believe this is also thanks to Mike Harris.

Iím not sure if I have the order right but I believe it goes like this

-children who live in the district

-children who go to a linked daycare in the district


- children who are minded by grandparents/caregivers who live in the district

-other children

I think Iím missing one or two but if you choose not to put your child in daycare your choices for schools becomes a crap shoot.

So you have to ask yourself ĎAre you feeling lucky?í or completely frustrated by the whole system.

Silvie Varone

Havelock Street

By default school, I meant the one in your district, the one you are assigned to by where you live, for which you do not need to enter a lottery. For us on Concord north of Bloor, it is Palmerston.


Some parenst register their children in more than one school, which is part of this problem. This not only holds spaces but effects school staffing models when kids don't show up.

Outskirts (Anonymous Poster)

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