Toronto board pushes for ‘boy-friendly’ school

By Josh Wingrove and Anthony Reinhart
Toronto Globe and Mail
Boys left behind by Toronto’s public schools are about to feel a firm force pulling them forward: the strong hand of Chris Spence, the Toronto District School Board’s new education director, who is calling for an all-male school and more “boy-friendly” classrooms to address male underachievement.

It’s a bold step that’s considered a first in the province. All-boys programs are typically found today in private schools and in the Catholic system, including Toronto’s. A handful of public schools across Canada offer single-sex classes.

If adopted, however, Dr. Spence’s Male Leadership Academy would be Toronto’s only single-sex public elementary school. (Dr. Spence will be online Thursday at 5 p.m. ET for a discussion with Globe readers.)

Boys’ disengagement at school not only leads to poor grades and unproductive lives, but also can lead to the kind of violence Toronto schools have struggled to control in recent years, Dr. Spence told reporters before presenting a sweeping vision document, his first since becoming director this year, to the board’s planning and priorities committee last night.

“The real objective is to cast a critical eye on how we reach and teach our boys,” said Dr. Spence, whose 2008 book, The Joys of Teaching Boys , makes the case that boys learn differently from girls and have suffered under a “unisex model for child rearing and teaching.”

In Toronto public schools last year, boys were 3.5 times more likely to be suspended. They underperform compared with girls regardless of age, socioeconomic class or ethnicity, and are more likely to need learning support programs. Full story.


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