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Signs of trouble found in Grade 1

The road to being thrown out of school is paved by missed opportunitiesfor early intervention, a limited curriculum and poor teacher training.

The road to being thrown out of school is paved by missed opportunities for early intervention, a limited curriculum and poor teacher training.

That’s the consensus of educators, parents and students concerned about a school system that suspended 112,829 pupils in Ontario in 2006-07, the most recent data available. Another 1,889 students were expelled. The number of suspensions issued was almost twice as high — 201,224. Many students are being suspended multiple times, which suggests problems are snowballing.

What’s clear is that teachers and principals spot signs of trouble as early as Grade 1. It’s common, teachers say, for elementary students to divert attention from literacy or numeracy problems by acting out — from being the class clown to confronting teachers.

Kevin Battaglia, principal of the Toronto District School Board’s programs for suspended and expelled students, recalls witnessing one Grade 6 child, who was struggling academically, become a deft shoplifter. “We all have a need to be good at something,” he says.

The ministry’s figures show that 42 per cent of all suspensions in 2006-07 — 42,292 students — were from the elementary grades. Of expelled students, 14 per cent — 263 — were in elementary school.

Melanie Parrack, the TDSB’s executive superintendent of programs, says the board is making “a concerted effort to focus interventions earlier.” But more money is needed, she says, for social workers, youth workers, psychologists and teaching assistants.

 
 
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