Portuguese-speaking students need extra help: trustee

The Toronto Dictrict School Board will be asked to study ways to provide extra help for Portguese-speaking students, who have the highest drop-out rate in the school system.

The Toronto District School Board is being asked to examine ways to help reduce the drop-out rate among Portuguese-speaking students.

"Students of Portuguese heritage continue to have the highest drop-rate in the [school system]," says a motion that will be presented to the board on Wednesday, which calls for the establishment of a task force to come up with new ideas on ways to engage the students.

"[S]tudents of Portuguese heritage require significant and focused guidance and support," says the motion. 

Trustee Maria Rodrigues says a special school — similar to the Africentric school — is just one possible option that might help turn drop out rates around. 

Right now one in three students of Portuguese heritage in Toronto fails to finish high school.  That's the highest drop-out rate of any single ethnic group. 

"If a proposal is made for an alternative school that would be more focused on meeting the needs of Portuguese students,  I would look at supporting that," said Rodrigues. 

Marcie Pointe the director of the Working Women's Center which runs a tutoring and mentoring program for about 200 Portuguese-speaking students who are struggling.  She thinks a task force on the issue is long overdue, but doesn't like the idea of a special school. 

"That I'm absolutely opposed," said Pointe.  "We are already stigmatized as a community that doesn't value education.  And separating us out into a separate school I think further increases that stigmatism."

Pointe thinks Toronto's Portuguese community is already very insular and she feels students would be better served by exposing them to other cultures and their education success stories.

If the task force is approved it will be asked to report back before the end of October.