Aboriginal students doing better but still lag behind classmates 

Howe Sound district ‘very much on the right track’

Aboriginal students are improving their performance in schools in the Howe Sound District.

But, said the district’s director of instruction Alex Marshall, in general they still lag significantly behind their non-aboriginal counterparts, as was revealed in a recently released Fraser Institute report on Aboriginal Education in B.C.

"I think in the last few years we have seen an incredible change in the awareness of people at all levels of education and in aboriginal communities to redress the situation," said Marshall.

"But it is going to take time.

"The Fraser Institute has certainly identified a problem but it is one we are not unaware of.

"We are very aware of the realities. But what I think the Fraser Institute doesn’t do is look at the more comprehensive way of what is being done about the problem.

"We all know the evidence is there. The question is what are we doing about it, and that part is conspicuously missing from the report."

Marshall said a great deal is being done in the Howe Sound district with support workers in place in the schools and a focus on improving early literacy in aboriginal students.

While it is still early days yet, said Marshall, the district has seen a 15 per cent improvement in the number of aboriginal students who have taken and passed the provincial Grade 12 English exam.

From 1994 on, the passing rate was about 30 per cent. In 2001/2002 that percentage had increased to 45 per cent.

"In this district we are doing a lot to address the issue," said Marshall.

"There is progress with aboriginal students due to fact that we have put in supports, and we have targeted dollars for the First Nations’ programs in the district.

"And we have allocated that in conjunction with a committee of educators in the district and the aboriginal community."

This is the first report on aboriginal education done by the Fraser Institute, which has been producing its controversial annual report cards ranking schools since 1998.

This means there is nothing to compare the findings to. So some schools that may have scored very poorly in the report may also have improved over the years. Yet that fact would not be reflected in the report.

It was based on snapshot data of B.C.’s standardized test results for students in Grades 4, 7 and 10, provincial exam marks and graduation rates.

It ranked 38 elementary schools and 49 high schools (none in the Howe Sound District), and found that aboriginal children lag far behind in academic achievement compared to non-native students.

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