The Difference Between Applied and Academic Students at MDHS

By Hunter Culhane

There has been much debate in recent years over whether the Applied and Academic streams in Ontario should be combined. Some argue that students placed into the Applied stream cause them to miss out on their true potential; others say that having Applied students in an Academic class is unfair to the Academic students. With this in mind, I decided to dive deeper into the difference between Applied and Academic students at Milton District High School.

Applied students consistently score lower grades on the Grade 9 EQAO Assessment of Mathematics than their Academic counterparts—but is this the only difference between the two? To find out, I examined the grade surveys that each grade nine student is supposed to fill out at the end of the test.

With results dating back to the 2013–14 school year, I put all the data into easy-to-read graphs featuring each year’s survey.

There is a significant difference between Applied and Academic students in terms of reading activity outside of school. In every school year, Applied students answered “never” to whether they read by themselves in a given month outside of school far more than Academic students. This percentage has fluctuated over the years for Applied students but has remained relatively stable for Academic students. Nonetheless, there is a noticeable difference between reading activity done outside of school by Milton District High School’s Applied and Academic students.

According to the EQAO survey data, both Applied and Academic grade nine students at Milton District are quite active. In every school year, less than 25% of students in both streams said they “never” participate in sports or other physical activities in a given month outside of school. However, every year, Applied students answered “never” more than Academic students, meaning they participate less in physical activities outside of school than their Academic counterparts.

While the vast majority of Applied and Academic students participate in sports or other physical activities in a given month outside of school, the same cannot be said for participation in the arts. In every school year, over 25% of Academic students stated that they “never” participate in art, music, or drama activities in a given month outside of school. Meanwhile, at least 35% of Applied students stated that they “never” participate in art, music, or drama activities in a given month outside of school during every year’s survey. It is clear that Applied grade nines are less active in the arts outside of school than Academic grade nines.

The results are similar for participation in other clubs or organizations by Applied and Academic students as they are for participation in the arts. Again, Applied students stated they “never” participated in a given month outside of school more than Academic students. While overall participation in other clubs or organizations is slightly greater than participation in the arts, there remains a visible gap between Applied and Academic students.

There is a clear difference between Applied and Academic students in regard to volunteering in their community. In every school year, Applied grade nine math students at Milton District said they “never” volunteer in their community in a given month outside of school far more than Academic students. In the 2016–17 school year, there was a 30% gap between Applied and Academic student responses.

Overall, this data clearly shows the fact that grade nine Applied math students at Milton District High School are less active outside of school in terms of reading, physical activity, participation in the arts or clubs, and volunteering than their Academic counterparts. In some cases, the difference between the two is extreme.

If and when the Applied and Academic streams are combined, it will be interesting to see if the result has an impact on not only grade achievement amongst Applied students—but their participation in productive activities outside of school as well.

Source: EQAO (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

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