Identity Matters! OCDSB releases summary results of identity-based data survey

Identity Matters! OCDSB releases summary results of identity-based data survey
Posted on 06/19/2020
Identity Matters! OCDSB releases summary results of identity-based data survey

The OCDSB has released the first summary report of its Valuing Voices – Identity Matters! survey of students from kindergarten to grade 12.

The results demonstrate the rich diversity of the OCDSB student population and provide data the school board will need to consider as it prepares its Indigenous, Human Rights and Equity and Indigenous Roadmap to be released in fall 2020. 

Next week, the District will meet with community partners to discuss next steps in using the data. Future reports will examine patterns and trends related to student achievement, programming, suspensions and expulsions, and sense of safety and belonging.

Conducted between November 2019 and January 2020, nearly 35,000 surveys were completed for students from kindergarten to grade 12. Parents completed surveys for students from kindergarten to grade 6, with students completing surveys from grades 7-12. The overall response rate was 46.5%. 

The study explores issues of identity – such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation – along with perceptual questions focused on student well-being, safety and other topics.

While the majority of students and parents surveyed said they were positive about their school experience, the data shows that more work is needed to improve overall student well-being at school.

This is the first survey conducted by an Ottawa-based school board since the introduction of the Ontario Anti-Racism Act (2017) and Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism (2018). Work on the survey was guided by the input of students, parents and community partners through focus groups and discussions beginning in spring 2019.

The OCDSB will use this information to inform its commitment to human rights and equity. This data will help identify trends and patterns, which will allow the District to take action to address structural racism and systemic barriers.

The data will help to better understand racial disparity in student outcomes (e.g., achievement, suspension rates, graduation rates) and experiences in school (e.g., sense of belonging, safety, etc.), and disproportionate representation of different groups across programs and services (e.g., academic/applied/locally developed level courses; English with core French/French immersion programs).

The identity-based data report results will be presented to the Board of Trustees on June 22. 


"The Board of Trustees and the community have been very clear on the importance of this data.  We recognize there are structural and systemic barriers in public education that are often rooted in racism and privilege. 

This data will help us to better understand the identity of our students and future reports will highlight patterns and trends related to racial or other disparities in student outcomes and experience. Ultimately, it will allow us to take evIdence-based actions to dismantle or replace structures, policies and practices that have historically been barriers to equity."

Lynn Scott, Chair of the Board

“The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board acknowledges that racism and systemic barriers exist in our education system. We need to prioritize the dignity and well-being of all students in inclusive and caring classrooms. To do so, we must recognize, understand, and validate student identity.

The collection of identity-based data is fundamental to having a better understanding of where we need to focus our efforts. But it is only the first step to overcome obstacles that deny too many students access or the opportunity to realize their full potential. 

The data found in this report confirms the vibrant diversity of the OCDSB student population, reflecting many perspectives, lived experiences and identities. Each student brings to school a unique identity according to their background, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This diversity is an asset to our school district and to our community and it is truly representative of our Canadian society as a whole. 

Identity truly matters. It is our responsibility to students, parents and the community to build on this important work, to show we truly value the voices of so many calling for equity, fairness and the opportunity to learn.”

Camille Williams-Taylor, Director of Education and Secretary of the Board, OCDSB

Read the full report

Background infographic on survey process

The OCDSB distributed 74,975 surveys, with an overall completion rate of 46.5% -- 32.2% for parents of children in Kindergarten through grade 6 and 62.5% for students from grades 7-12. Of the school districts that have undertaken data collection under this framework, OCDSB response rates for parents were marginally higher than those reported in Durham (30%) and York Region (30.1%). Response rates for students in grades 7 to 12 varied considerably across school districts, ranging from 46% in Durham to approximately 90% in York and Peel.

Results Snapshot:

The results from the survey highlight the diversity of the OCDSB student population, as evidenced by:

There were more than 150 languages that students were reported to have first learned to speak as a child. Amongst the most common were English, Arabic, French and Chinese.

Approximately 3.5% of survey respondents identified as being First Nations, Métis, and/or Inuit. 

Most survey respondents considered themselves to be Canadian, despite more than 300 ethnic/cultural backgrounds being reported. Aside from Canadian, more than 5% of survey respondents reported being of Arab, Chinese, English, Irish, or Scottish descent.

While the majority of respondents identified as White, there was student representation from all response options provided to the question about race. Black, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and South Asian were amongst those most frequently reported.

The OCDSB student population is reflective of a multi-faith community; Christian and Muslim faiths were amongst those most frequently reported. Many students reported having no religious or spiritual affiliation.

Just over 1% of students in JK to grade 6, and more than 5% of students in grades 7 to 12, reported diverse gender identities. 

Approximately 40% of parents/guardians of children in JK to grade 6 were uncertain or preferred not to answer the question about their child’s sexual orientation; the balance of respondents reported that their child was straight/heterosexual (55%), LGBTQ2S+ (1.5%), or that it was too soon to know (3.5%). Just over 16% of survey respondents in grades 7 to 12 identified as LGBTQ2S+.

Approximately 9% of survey respondents (parents/guardians of students in JK to grade 6, and students in grades 7 to 12) reported having a disability at the time of the survey. Learning disability was the most commonly reported disability for both groups of respondents. Close to one-third of students in JK to grade 6 were reported as having Autism, while a similar percentage of students in grades 7 to 12 reported having a mental health disability.

Over three-quarters of survey respondents were born in Canada. Of those not born in Canada, most reported being a Canadian Citizen or landed immigrant/ permanent resident at the time of the survey. Ten percent of JK to grade 6 students, and 13% of students in grades 7 to 12, were enrolled through a study permit as an international student.

Responses to the perceptual questions shed further light on the student experience:

Most survey respondents reported positive school experiences; parents/guardians of children in JK to grade 6 tended to rate their child’s experiences more positively compared to students in grades 7 to 12. For both groups, results suggest that an area of focus should be on respect. For younger students, acceptance was another area that warrants further attention, while older students need to be made to feel like they are part of the school community.

The majority of survey respondents reported positive moods and attitudes towards school. More than 75% of students in grades 7 to 12, however, reported being tired in the morning.

The majority of survey respondents described themselves as having “excellent” or “good” attainment of the characteristics and skills identified in the OCDSB Exit Outcomes. For the younger cohort of students, Creativity was a particular area of strength, and for the older cohort of students it was Digital Fluency. Areas that require further support include Goal Setting (both cohorts), Resiliency (younger cohort), and Communication and Global Awareness (older cohort).

A sense of belonging at school was stronger for the younger cohort of students compared to those in the older cohort. Five percent of students in JK to grade 6, and 11% of students in grades 7 to 12, reported a low sense of belonging.

Between 30% and 50% of survey respondents reported participating in Arts, Music, School Clubs, School Special Events, and Team Sports in school. These activities, with the exception of School Clubs and School Special Events, also tended to be the most common out-of-school activities. More than 25% of survey respondents reported an interest in participating in extracurricular activities, but an inability to do so. Time, cost, distance/location, and transportation were amongst the most frequently cited barriers. 

Most survey respondents saw their identity reflected positively within the school. For students in JK to grade 6, this was particularly true with respect to pictures, posters, and displays, whereas extracurricular activities was the area in which students in grades 7 to 12 felt it the most.  

Survey respondents were more likely to report having opportunities to express their identity and learn about the identity of others, than they were to have opportunities to learn about their own identity.

Students who have experienced stereotyping and/or acts of prejudice or discrimination within the school system, were most likely to report that it is associated with their appearance, clothing, or grades/achievement. 

For the most part, students reported feeling safe at school, in the area around the school, and on the way to and from school. Feelings of safety on the school bus, however, is an area that warrants further investigation.

The majority of respondents do not worry about being bullied and have not been subjected to bullying. Of those students who had been the victim of bullying in the four weeks leading up to the survey, verbal bullying was the most common form for students in JK to grade 6, whereas verbal and social bullying were most common amongst students in grades 7 to 12. 

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