Post-Symposium: Enhancing Equity in Ontario Elementary Education

The Enhancing Equity in Ontario Elementary Education Symposium was held virtually and in-person at Toronto Metropolitan University, on October 11th and 12th, 2023. Enhancing Equity in Ontario Education is a project led by Dr. Sejal Patel (Early Childhood Studies, Toronto Metropolitan University), in partnership with Dr. Alana Butler from Queen’s University, Dr. Adam Davies from University of Guelph, Dr. George Dei from University of Toronto, Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook from University of Ottawa, Dr. Vidya Shah from York University, Dr. Janelle Brady and Dr. Kathryn Underwood from Toronto Metropolian University, Tesa Fiddler from Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, Max Cooke from EdCan Network, Stephen Hurley from voicEd Radio, Courtnay McFarlane from Regent Park Community Health Centre, and Annie Kidder and Dr. Robin Liu Hopson from People for Education. 

The Symposium invited participation by all Ontario district school boards, education stakeholders, and scholars focused on educational equity and human rights (considering Black and Indigenous students, newcomer/international students, racialized students, students living in low socioeconomic neighbourhoods, student who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, disabled students, and other intersectionalities), to allow for sharing of promising practices around equity-based initiatives, along with providing space to reflect on and commit to taking greater action in support of enhanced equity for elementary school students. 

Video Recap:

As we begin 2024, we reflect on the inspiring conversations that took place at the Enhancing Equity in Ontario Elementary Education symposium. The symposium provided opportunities to share and consider promising practices regarding enhancing equity for elementary students. We received wonderful feedback about the logistics, moderated discussions, panels, and presentations, and are grateful for all of the dialogue and action that the symposium attendees continue to inspire. 

Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of the presenters, symposium staff and volunteers. Your collaboration, support, and effort helped to ensure that the symposium ran as smoothly as possible. 

Thank you all for your participation in this important event. Stay tuned for podcasts and symposium proceedings, which will be mobilized through this website.  

MSIC: Reducing inequities in children’s educational success and family well-being in marginalized communities through innovation in public education

How can marginalized communities be supported through innovation in public education?

The Reducing inequities in children’s educational success and family well-being in marginalized communities through public education investigates how the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) comprehensive, multi-pronged, system focused, and holistic Model Schools for Inner Cities (MSIC) initiative works and what initial conditions and program features help contribute to sustainable improvement in marginalized students’ educational success and family well-being.

“We are proud to be a Model School for Inner Cities,” school poster reads.

What is Model Schools for Inner Cities?

In an effort to level the playing field for all students, the TDSB’s MSIC initiative was launched in 2006. The MSIC initiative aims to reduce inequities and achievement gaps for students in low socioeconomic communities by providing additional school-based supports and services for students in Toronto communities with the highest needs. The TDSB began with four pilot school sites in the first year, which then expanded to over 150 schools six years later serving over 56 000 students in low socioeconomic communities (Kugler, 2007; Toronto District School Board, 2005). Grounded in maintaining high expectations for students and promoting a vision of achieving excellence, the MSIC initiative is guided by five essential components:

  1. Innovation in teaching and learning practices
  2. Support services to meet the social, emotional, and physical well-being of students
  3. Supporting the view of the school as the heart of the community
  4. Frequent research, review, and evaluation of students and program effectiveness
  5. Commitment to share successful practices
At a MSIC school, there are also services for parents, such as the Parenting and Family Literacy Centre.

The MSIC initiative offers a variety of services, supports, and resources for students and families in MSIC schools including:

  • Health and educational support services (e.g., nutrition programs, free vision and hearing tests, in-school health clinics, before- and after- school programs)
  • EarlyON Centres (school-based drop-in programs for parents with young children)
  • Parent Academy (a program that provides an opportunity for parent representatives to organize and offer locally relevant parenting and workforce development workshops)
  • Additional staff to support student academic success and wellbeing (e.g., Teaching and Learning Coaches, Community Support Workers, Social Workers)
  • Additional teaching and learning resources (e.g., information technology, MSIC social justice curriculum, ongoing professional development for teachers)
  • Partnerships with community organizations (partnerships with local agencies to offer programming and opportunities to students and families within and outside of school)

Our Approach

To investigate how the MSIC initiative works and its approach to supporting equity in children’s educational success and family well-being, we will work in collaboration with our partners at the Toronto District School Board to conduct:

  • Secondary analysis of qualitative data, including child and staff focus group and interview data collected at five MSIC school sites over time
  • New key informant interviews with school board staff
  • New focus groups with parents at five school sites

After data collection is complete, we will focus on sharing our results with study participants, school community members, and the broader public.


Kugler, J. (2007). Inner city model school initiative: A vision for equity and social justice. Orbit36, 4-6.

Toronto District School Board. (2005, May). Model Schools for Inner Cities task force report. Retrieved February 14, 2019 from

Toronto District School Board, Model Schools for Inner Cities. (2014). Retrieved February 7, 2019, from

To read more about the TDSB’s MSIC initiative, and GEEC’s research, click here.

Document citation: Patel, S. (2019). Reducing inequities in children’s educational success and family well-being in marginalized communities through innovation in
public education: Knowledge mobilization summary report. Toronto, ON: School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University.

This is an ongoing study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Partnership for Change: The RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project, Ryerson University, and the Toronto District School Board.  We will continue to share more updates about our ongoing project soon.