Symposium: Driving Black Student Success on a System-Wide Level


  • Karen Murray Toronto District School Board
  • Nicole West-Burns Toronto District School Board
  • Stephanie De Jesus Toronto District School Board
  • Sarah Armson Toronto District School Board
  • David H. Cameron Toronto District School Board
  • Aakriti Kapoor Toronto District School Board
  • Carl James York University
  • Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh York University



anti-Black racism, academic achievement, well-being, culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy, critically conscious practitioner inquiry, racial identity, urban education, advocacy, social change, action research


Qualitative and quantitative data indicators from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and York University highlight the crucial need for a holistic Black Student Success and Excellence (BSSE) strategy to address systemic racism that Black students face in all aspects of their schooling. To this end, TDSB developed a program to foster critical consciousness in educators. The initiative partnered educators, school administrators, central support staff, associated researchers and initiative leaders in an inquiry-based journey relevant to their role(s), space(s) and experience. The study took place in 17 secondary and elementary schools. Results demonstrate that participants fostered their own critical consciousness and that of their students’ through the research or inquiry process. The symposium details experiences from across this work. It also explores the direct and indirect effects of the initiative on participants related to the conditions and mechanisms for entry, implementation, mobilization and sustainability, and processes within the initiative at micro and macro levels. As an extension of this work, TDSB and York University also piloted a Black Student Summer Leadership Institute to provide Black secondary students with opportunities to understand and develop leadership and agency in challenging anti-Black racism through principles of Youth Participatory Action Research. As part of their inquiry, students in the summer program also identified the following key themes to describe the Black student experience: sense of belonging, stress, engagement, body/self-image, neglect, student voice and safety. Overall, this panel highlights the different components, challenges and successes with this initiative and implications for expanding this work.

Author Biographies

Karen Murray, Toronto District School Board

Karen Murray is currently a Centrally Assigned Principal for Equity, Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression in the Toronto District School Board. She engages in working with educators, administrators and Superintendents on deepening their understanding in these areas. Karen leads the TDSB initiative Black Students Success & Excellence from K-12.

Nicole West-Burns, Toronto District School Board

Nicole West-Burns, PhD is a professional development consultant on equity issues. For over a decade, Nicole has worked with school boards across the province of Ontario. Nicole is currently a co-facilitator, research partner and critical friend with Toronto District School Board in multiple initiatives related to Black student achievement.

Stephanie De Jesus, Toronto District School Board

Stefanie De Jesus received her doctorate from Western University and is currently a Research Coordinator with the Toronto District School Board. Her work involves researching and evaluating policies, programs, and services in areas such as equity and anti-racism, early years, professional learning and support models, staff well-being and student discipline.

David H. Cameron, Toronto District School Board

David Cameron is a Senior Research Manager at the Toronto District School Board. He is an educator and education policy sociologist with research interests in school change and the interrelationship between educational policy intentions or design and peoples’ experiences within policy frameworks.

Aakriti Kapoor, Toronto District School Board

Aakriti Kapoor is a researcher and educator with interests in anti-racist education policy and knowledge mobilization of equity literacy. She currently works as a Research and Information Analyst at the Toronto District School Board and is also a Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholar at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Education.

Carl James, York University

Carl E. James holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education at York University, with research interests in examination of how race, ethnicity, gender, class and citizenship/immigrant status intersect and mediate accessible and equitable opportunities and outcomes in education and employment for racialized youth – Black youth in particular.

Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh, York University

Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh is a fourth-year Ph.D. Sociology candidate at York University. Her academic work is motivated by her unwavering commitment to the collective struggle for Black freedoms and life forms. Specifically, her dissertation focuses on racialized spatial practices of concealment and boundary-making that obscures Black personhood(s) in Toronto and the Region of Peel.




How to Cite

Murray, K., West-Burns, N., De Jesus, S., Armson, S., Cameron, D. H., Kapoor, A., … Anane-Bediakoh, B. (2020). Symposium: Driving Black Student Success on a System-Wide Level. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 18(1), 57–59.



Human Rights: Critical Discourse and Reparative Curricula