Educational Pathways and Academic Performance of Youth of

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                    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

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.