Parenting & Family

Thoughts on public schools in Toronto?

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 25th, 2018 11:04 pm
[OP]
Sr. Member
Oct 17, 2002
608 posts
24 upvotes
Toronto

Thoughts on public schools in Toronto?

Hi guys, not sure how this question will be received, or if it’s even in the right place. But what do people think about raising their kids in Toronto? Specifically sending them to public school?

I live in Toronto, but I’m not in one of those super rich neighborhoods with avg household income of $150-200k+ (my neighborhood has an average of only $90k). So it’s not dirt poor, but I definitely wouldn’t call it an affluent area either. I can’t afford private schooling, and I also can’t afford to move to Leaside, Davisville, Rosedale, etc… I’ve been thinking a lot lately of moving out west to Oakville or west Mississauga.

Just wondering if there was a consensus view on raising kids in the Toronto public schooling system if you’re not placing them in one of the rich school neighborhoods? I don’t believe that curriculum or quality of teachers is that different between regions, but I do believe that there is a big difference in the environment and backgrounds of the children that will ultimately be interacting with our little ones from neighborhood to neighborhood. I don’t want this to turn into a big debate on rich vs. poor, race, culture differences, etc… but it’s also not a coincidence that school rankings are reflected by some of these factors.
36 replies
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2011
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It's simple really, without disposable income to send them to a private institution; what other choices do you have?
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Nov 28, 2002
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lol! Good teaches don't want to teach in affluent areas to be bombarded by parents telling them that they are a lawyer or investment banker and do what you are told.
The Public School system is just fine,there is no perfect system.
Success is dependent on you and how much work both you and your child put in at home.
Lets say your child attends private school, how are you going to cope socially? how is your child going to cope socially? Do you think these people actually care if you can't elevate their status? Being a parent is already a challenge, you'll only be complicating your life.
Good luck mate.
Last edited by trini on Aug 25th, 2018 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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KennyX wrote:
Jul 9th, 2018 10:36 am
Just wondering if there was a consensus view on raising kids in the Toronto public schooling system if you’re not placing them in one of the rich school neighborhoods? I don’t believe that curriculum or quality of teachers is that different between regions, but I do believe that there is a big difference in the environment and backgrounds of the children that will ultimately be interacting with our little ones from neighborhood to neighborhood. I don’t want this to turn into a big debate on rich vs. poor, race, culture differences, etc… but it’s also not a coincidence that school rankings are reflected by some of these factors.
School rankings are one dimensional and don't provide a full picture as to the root causes of why some schools are ranked higher than others. I can definitely tell you that it's less dependent on teacher quality and more dependent on:
- the obvious socio-economic correlation to rankings
- % of ESL students - communities with less new immigrants will do better on the test
- Some schools have special needs programs where students still have to write the test which will bring down scores
- private schools "Influencing" test scores to make their own reputation better

Also note that schools that go from K-5 are generally excluded from rankings. Huge problem when comparing schools in Peel. Most elementary schools in Peel District School Board aren't even ranked because they only go up to Grade 5. As evidence, PDSB has approx. 198 elementary schools, but only 57 schools appear in the Fraser Institute's ranking.

Like the last poster stated, success is dependent on how much work the parent and child put into their education, both at school and at home. Also do not undermine the value of a good community school that focuses on instilling good character <- something that you may find to be more present in more of a middle class neighbourhood and school. The biggest value in these high end neighbourhood schools or private schools is the potential connections your child will make. It's definitely no guarantee of success though.

Iv'e had friends who've taught in these high end neighbourhood schools and my best friend lived in one of the top ranked catchment areas in Peel. Both said that there were lots of issues with entitled children and parents who have lots of $$, but their level of empathy and understanding of people who aren't as privileged as them was very low.

If your school is decently ranked and you like the neighbourhood you live in, I wouldn't worry about it too much.
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trini wrote:
Jul 9th, 2018 12:14 pm
lol! Good teaches don't want to teach in affluent areas to be bombarded by parents telling them that they are a lawyer or investment banker and do what you are told.
The Public School system is just fine,there is no perfect system.
Success is dependent on you and how much work both you and your child put in at home.
Lets say your child attends private school, how are you going to cope socially? how is your child going to cope socially? Do you think these people actually care if you can't elevate their status? Being a parent is already a challenge, you'll only be complication your life.
Good luck mate.
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Nov 24, 2004
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I think the differences in quality of education between "good" vs. "bad" schools in Toronto are overblown. Teacher quality is going to be pretty much even across the TDSB system.

What you DO get in wealthier neighbourhoods are families that can "afford" to support their children more (e.g. by being present to help with homework, paying for extra tutoring, etc.) and in general may have a stronger social emphasis on education. Wealthier neighbourhoods are also able to financially support extras at the school through parent council fundraising (for things like extra iPads, upgraded playgrounds, etc.) To the extent that you think these are important to actual student education, there may be an advantage in moving to a wealthier school district.

IME what matters most is the degree of community and parent involvement in the school. Parents need to build partnerships with school staff and advocate for students (true at any school IMO). You want to avoid schools where the parents just don't care, aren't involved, or are in a constant adversarial relationship with teachers and the principal. Talk to representatives of the parent council and ask to attend a meeting in the fall to get an idea of how much of a parent community exists.
[OP]
Sr. Member
Oct 17, 2002
608 posts
24 upvotes
Toronto
Thanks for the input everyone. My wife and I are expecting our first very soon, and I grew up in the burbs so I'm familiar with how it works there (and would be perfectly happy raising a child in Oakville). My wife came from a rather poor public school neighborhood (Jane & Sheppard area) so she's obviously very biased against Toronto public schooling. And yes, I know there's a lot of time before schooling, but my current house was built in the 1940's, and the upper level is completely original (floors, bathroom, etc... all needs updating). So rather than renovate, I'd rather just move right away if we decide the neighborhood isnt right.

I fully agree that teachers and the curriculum/materials wont vary too much between neighborhoods, and that the impact from these two factors from neighborhood to neighborhood wont likely be a determining factor of success or lack thereof. I also agree with everyone that working with your child and ensuring we all put in the work at home is a huge factor.

But the one thing I can't wrap my head around is the environment of the less affluent neighborhoods. Take Leslieville for example. It's a fun place to live, youre close to downtown, walking distance to cool restaurant and shops. But schools in the area arent the greatest (I think all the schools rank below median). And for anyone who takes line2 on the ttc or that 504 streetcar, there are some sketch people around. And these sketch people have kids that go to school in the area. Of course, housing prices in that area are quite high, so you would think the neighborhood is becoming or will become affluent.
I realize I'm probably ranting right now and probably come off as snobbish, but my outlook for the neighborhood completely changed the day I found out I would be a father.
Sr. Member
Jan 16, 2007
899 posts
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Toronto
It's not just the school and teachers, it's also the students themselves. There's a reason why schools are better than others and it's mostly to do with the students/parents as teacher quality and curriculum doesn't really vary much from school to school.

My daughter went to an average rated elementary school and her grades were average. Her peers were all average. She keeps saying why she needs to study harder, no one else in her class is studying.

She's going now to a highly rated high school and things definitely changed for her. She is surrounded by many students that are "smarter" than her and she realized she needed to pickup her marks, just to keep up.

Nobody likes to be the one that drags the class average into the mud.
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Dec 27, 2013
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One of the issues that I have with the Fraser Institute ranking is that they almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Resourceful families move to communities with highly-ranked schools. They expect those schools to remain highly-ranked. The admin and teachers at those schools are not naive to the fact that their community expects results in terms of EQAO. They may be more likely to spend more time explicitly "teaching to the test" than schools in communities where there is less pressure to achieve those results. Since EQAO as an assessment tool is unlike almost all other assessment in the classroom, students that spend more time learning about and practicing the specific language and format of EQAO seem to have an advantage. This is all speculation and by no means do I believe that this is the only reason. I'm almost certain that, based on factors such as access to resources and supports, higher parental education etc. students in highly-ranked schools would still do better on EQAO than those in lower ranked schools, I'm not certain that the range in the data would be as high as it is if you were to completely eliminate (or introduce) EQAO prepping so that all students receive the same amount.

Of course, admin and staff at low-ranked schools may, as a matter of pride or from some other motivation, take steps to prepare their students for EQAO even without any pressure from the community. Again, this is all speculation so take it with a grain of salt, but just one more thing to consider before making this important decision. Don't decide where you raise your family based on how a few dozen 3rd and 6th graders did on a test last June. You should consider the size of the school, commute to school, resources in the area, parks, libraries, community centres, commute to work, demographics etc.
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Apr 16, 2002
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I went to a working class public school in Toronto. My kids go to a public school in a 'rich' area of Toronto. The big difference I see is how much money my kids' school is able to effortlessly raise from parents. The funds allow them to buy better gear and experiences. They have coffers full of $ and yet there is no mandate to share it with poorer schools. That's a big pet peeve of mine but I know that life isn't fair and the rich get richer. No surprises there.
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sprung wrote:
Jul 11th, 2018 10:06 am
The big difference I see is how much money my kids' school is able to effortlessly raise from parents. The funds allow them to buy better gear and experiences. They have coffers full of $ and yet there is no mandate to share it with poorer schools.
Funds raised by parent school councils cannot be used improve the school building or learning materials used in class.

Our kids' elementary school is run-down with many structural issues and many wealthy parents in my area would gladly donate to repair all the deficiencies, but the board won't allow it. Just like every other school, they have to submit a work order and wait. Our parent council is also flush with lots of cash, but again, none of it can be used for classroom improvements like ipads or chromebooks. The ones used in class were funded by the TDSB and not us. I know a lot of parents here are frustrated by the rules, but it does make sense to have every student in Toronto to have the same opportunities.
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akira1971 wrote:
Jul 11th, 2018 11:29 am
Our parent council is also flush with lots of cash, but again, none of it can be used for classroom improvements like ipads or chromebooks. The ones used in class were funded by the TDSB and not us.
Are you sure that is a rule? I'm pretty sure our parent council donated money to purchase chromebooks and iPads now being used in classes.
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I get OP. Given the condition of your house, your own experience, your wife's preference, your gut feel, sell your Toronto house (which is at a relative premium to the 905) and move to Oakville.

I have family here in Scarborough, grew up here and in a ghetto area (household income for my public school is low 30K) so am comfortable here in what I think I need to do keep keep my 2 kids focused on academics. But if I were you, and I had a free hand, I would do Oakville. Almost everybody I know in the corporate world in accounting, finance, etc. grew up outside of the 416 or in Agincourt which is basically like Markham/Richmond Hill today. *

If I wanted to play the odds, and make my life easier, I'd move to Oakville too.
Last edited by MrDisco on Jul 15th, 2018 3:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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JHW wrote:
Jul 11th, 2018 2:18 pm
Are you sure that is a rule? I'm pretty sure our parent council donated money to purchase chromebooks and iPads now being used in classes.
Agree, my sons school's PTA specifically fund raised this year so that they could get another Chromebook cart.
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JHW wrote:
Jul 11th, 2018 2:18 pm
Are you sure that is a rule? I'm pretty sure our parent council donated money to purchase chromebooks and iPads now being used in classes.
Actually, I might only be partially right about that. When my oldest was in elementary school before they introduced chromebooks/iPads, it was a definite 'No' for us to donate them. But I think the rule now is that if it's already in use in the TDSB school system, you can ADD to the number a school has.

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