The End of Grade 9 Academic Streaming in Ontario

The Ontario government has announced today that it will be ending Grade 9 academic streaming. This is great news for students who are just starting high school. Continue reading to find out why!

What is Academic Streaming?

In Ontario high schools, students must choose a path to follow before they even start grade 9. The two path options are Academic and Applied level courses; this is academic streaming. When students choose a path, they are split into different classes and courses from the opposite path, creating a divide between the students as early as grade 9. Academic level courses use abstract reasoning to teach the ability to analyze information, detect patterns and relationships, and solve problems on a complex, intangible level; meanwhile, applied level courses use a more hands-on and concrete approach to their teaching methods.

This level of streaming happens in grades 9 and 10, to which are then continued in grades 11 and 12 but with the names changing to University and College. With Academic level courses becoming University level and Applied level courses becoming College level.

For example, the Ontario curriculum outlines the specific goals for the Grade 9 Academic course Principles of Mathematics as:

This course enables students to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts related to algebra, analytic geometry, and measurement and geometry through investigation, the effective use of technology, and abstract reasoning.

Pulled from the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum

While its Grade 9 Applied counterpart defines the specific goals as:

This course enables students to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts related to introductory algebra, proportional reasoning, and measurement and geometry through investigation, the effective use of technology, and hands-on activities.

Pulled from the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum

Another example of grades 9 and 10 academic streaming. Pulled from: Ontario Secondary School Curriculum.

Ontario Academic Streaming Grade 9

Why this Change is Important

The Ontario government cites research that found the early division of students to “disproportionally impact Black and low-income students”.

People for Education did a study back in 2017, using data from the Provincial Government, York University, the Toronto District School Board, and the EQAO to show that students who started taking Applied level courses in grade 9 were less likely graduate, less likely to attend any form of post-secondary education, and be less likely to succeed on EQAO tests. In addition, People for Education also showed a relationship between family income and which level of education students took in grade 9, with lower income neighbourhoods having the highest percent of students in Applied level courses; and that, in the Toronto District School Board alone, black students were twice as likely than white students to enrol in Applied courses.

Additionally, the transition from Applied to Academic / College to University is not as easy as it seems. Every semester that goes by makes the bridge between the two bigger and bigger. There are no prerequisites for grade 9 courses (aside from graduating from grade 8), but prerequisites start building up fast as students progress throughout high school.

For example, let’s look at the chart below.

As you can see, students who take grade 9 Applied English have the choice to go into grade 10 Academic or Applied English; however, if a student wants to eventually take grade 11 University English, they must take grade 10 Academic English first. Meaning, if a student in grade 10 Applied English has a change of heart and decides he/she wants to attend University, they either have to retake grade 10 English and choose Academic the second time around, or take a bridge course that will “catch them up” to the University level before applying for grade 11 University English. Either way, it’s a lot of work.

Although this split will still exist in grades 10-12, it gives grade 9 students an opportunity to attend high school in the same manner as every other student, without forcing them to decide their high school academic path prior to even taking a single high school class.

Our Thoughts

We at Northern Academy love this change. It prevents an early divide in high schools and gives every student the chance to work their way up to an Academic/University level if they don’t feel confident enough to try in grade 9. It also prevents the divide between families that can afford extra support / tutoring for their child and those that cannot. All students learn in different manners and at different rates, which unfortunately puts stress on the parents of students who require more time to get extra support outside of the school system. Which in the end, comes down to if the family can afford that extra support or not. The ending of grade 9 academic streaming should hopefully help lesson that burden early on and give students the opportunity and support they need to get to an Academic/University level within the school system itself.

If you have any questions about this provincial change and what it may mean for your child, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to go into greater detail!