Student Equity and Inclusive Education Policy in Ontario: Perspectives of Three High School Principals
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Embracing diversity within schools is a complex endeavour. Data on student achievement in Ontario’s urban high schools indicate a disconnect between the expectation of equitable and inclusive education as stated in the Ontario Ministry of Education’s (2014) vision, Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario, and the social realities of discriminatory barriers in schools. This study employed semi-structured interviews to obtain the perspectives of 3 urban high school principals on the implementation of policies that support the goal of ensuring equity—identified as a key goal in Achieving Excellence. Findings suggest that the interconnectivity of policies, how principals translate policy messages, and the character traits associated with leadership are factors that muddy the implementation process in urban high schools. It was suggested that policy implementation is not static and occurs in a fluid system consisting of individuals with differing lived experiences, beliefs, and intersectional identities. Emphasizing the delicate state of Ontario’s current political climate, participants proposed the dismantling of tokenism and assumptions placed on principals, the incorporation of practical support in professional development, and changing the pathologizing nature of teacher professional judgment as strategies to improve principal policy implementation.