EDUCATIONAL PATHWAYS AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF YOUTH OF IMMIGRANT ORIGIN: COMPARING MONTREAL, TORONTO AND VANCOUVER Executive Summary Submitted to the Canadian Council on Learning and Citizenship and Immigration Canada Project coordinator: Marie Mc Andrew, Université de Montréal Montreal site team: Rachid Ait-Said, Institut national de la recherche scientifique Jacques Ledent, Institut national de la recherche scientifique Jake Murdoch, Université de Montréal Toronto site team: Paul Anisef, York University Robert Brown, Toronto District School Board Robert Sweet, Lakehead University David Walters, University of Guelph Vancouver site team: Cheryl Aman, independent researcher Bruce Garnett, School District 36 (Surrey) May 2009 Educational Pathways and Academic Performance of Youth of Immigrant Origin: Comparing Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Through secondary analysis of provincial and school-board data banks, this project examines and compares the educational pathways and academic performance of students who do not use at home the majority language used in schools in Canada’s three major immigrant destinations, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (e.g. non-French speakers in Montreal and non-English speakers in Toronto and Vancouver). In order to ensure comparability between three school systems where high-school entrance and duration times differ, the cohorts are adapted to reflect each site’s specific schedule. The population is the cohorts entering high school in 1999 in Montreal and Vancouver and 2000 in Toronto; all were expected to graduate in 2004 if they did not accumulate delays. Descriptive data on similar individual, schooling process, and school-context characteristics, as well as common indicators of educational pathways and academic performance, are first presented for the target and 10 linguistic subgroups and contrasted to the native speaker baselines at each site. A multivariate regression analysis is later conducted on two dependant variables (graduation two years after expected; access to university-bound or selective courses) using the same set of independent variables. Additional tables, limited to descriptive data, were also produced in Montreal and Toronto for the full immigrant student population, including a comparison of first and later generations. A final conclusion presents a reflection on comparative trends across sites as well as future directions. The major findings of the study can be summarized as follow: 1) The target group, whether defined by language used at home or place of birth, clearly exhibits less positive features than the comparison group in term of its socio-demographic profile (gender, SES, immigrant status), the schooling process it went through (age when entering high school, level of entry into the school system, frequency of school changes, taking ESL/ESD courses or receiving linguistic support during secondary schooling), and the characteristics of the school it attended (concentration of non-English/non-French speakers, identification by provincial or local authorities as socio-economically challenged and attendance of a private vs. a public school). Although each site has specifically challenged subgroups, there is no clear ranking-order across sites in this regard. Educational Pathways and Academic Performance of Youth of Immigrant Origin: Comparing Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver 2) Educational outcomes appear more favourable than one would expect from these risk factors. In some sites, the results of the target group are even slightly higher than that of the comparison group with regard to graduation rates, performance in various subjects, and most of all, participation in selective or university-bound courses. This advantage is enhanced, and extended to all sites, when one considers comparative performance through a multivariate regression analysis taking into account the initial characteristics of students. Then, all odds ratios for the target group as a whole, whether for graduation or for participation to selective courses, are higher than for the comparison group. 3) Nevertheless, this overall positive result masks major inter-group differences, both for linguistic or region of birth subgroups. In the specific case of linguistic subgroups, where descriptive data can be enlightened by a regression analysis, a rather-consistent hierarchy across sites emerges with, on the one hand, the highly achieving Chinese speakers and on the other hand, Spanish and Creole speakers. The profile of other groups is less consistent across sites. 4) Some interesting and largely unexplained differences were also found between the same group with control variables in different cities (for example, Vietnamese speakers in Montreal and Vancouver), between the three cities, both for the target and comparison groups (Montreal exhibiting a clearly more negative profile than the two other cities), as well as between schools with similar intake of target group students. 5) Although not as strong as the fact of belonging to a specific linguistic subgroup, the impact of gender, of various schooling process variables as well as of attendance of a private school (in the two sites where it was available) was as expected, especially regarding graduation. Boys entering a public high school one year or more late, who often change schools, and still need ESL/linguistic support are clearly at a disadvantage. With regard to participation in selective or university-bound courses, except for the linguistic subgroup variable, the factors considered in our model were less predictive. This would seem to indicate that resilience toward higher education within the target group is influenced mostly by variables which were not available in provincial/local data banks. 6) Other variables did not show the expected impact, whether based on the literature or public perception. Socio-economic factors (median family income/attendance of a school identified Educational Pathways and Academic Performance of Youth of Immigrant Origin: Comparing Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver as educationally challenged) were most often non-significant in the three sites, which would tend to confirm that cultural capital among immigrant families is less linked to their actual socio-economic position than for the general population. Other factors (immigrant status, level of entry into the school system and concentration of the target group) were inconsistent across sites, which points to the great variety of dynamics and cases that can be hidden by such variables. 7) Overall, there were no major differences in the factors influencing graduation for the comparison group, except for SES, which proved much more predictive. But our model explained participation in selective or university-bound courses for the comparison group much better than for the target group. Pan-Canadian policy implications include: 1) Non-French/non-English speakers, or even immigrant students, should not be considered as a whole, as a group educationally at-risk .Thus, any one size fits all supplementary support for these students or for the schools they attend, is not an evidence-based policy. 2) Many subgroups exhibit a very high occurrence of risk factors, and in many instances, an important deficit in terms of graduation, performance in different subjects, as well as participation in selective courses that are needed to pursue a higher education. Without proposing that policies target groups on the basis of origin or language, school authorities, with the help of academics, need to understand better what lies behind the important inter- group differences encountered in the three cities. This could serve to better support families in assessing their educational values and strategies or the school system in critically examining the extent to which its functioning equally favours all groups. 3) Results also show that the many programs and actions that educational authorities already carry to support students who enter high school at a later age than expected, change schools often or need ESL/linguistic support are well funded and susceptible of having a positive impact on youth of immigrant origin. Nevertheless, a more systematic and increased support may be needed if our school system is to achieve a genuine equity of results for all students. 4) An increased collaboration between provincial educational authorities is also recommended, on the one hand, to improve and harmonize the administrative data they collect on Educational Pathways and Academic Performance of Youth of Immigrant Origin: Comparing Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver immigrant/minority students and, on the other hand, carry further research to better assess their comparative results with that clientele, and the systemic factors that explain differences. This work was funded by a contribution from the Canadian Council on Learning. However, the opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors. The Canadian Council on Learning bears no responsibility for its content.