Aboriginal Education Council’s annual report shows improvements in Prince Rupert’s Aboriginal learners

Prince Rupert's Aboriginal Education Council presented their annual report to the board of education earlier this week.

There’s no doubting that since being established in 1989, the Aboriginal Education Council in Prince Rupert has made significant strides in improving education for Aboriginal students living in School District 52.

At the monthly school board meeting held last Tuesday, how much the Aboriginal Education Council has improved learning in the district was made known when they presented their annual report for 2010-2011 as part of the Aboriginal Education Partnership Agreement between the Aboriginal Education Council and School District 52.

One-third of the North Coast’s population is Aboriginal, with over 60 per cent of School District 52’s students (1,405 out of 2,328) being Aboriginal. The percentage of Aboriginal students in School District 52 has been steadily growing since September of 2004, when 53.3 per cent of students in the district were Aboriginal.

Elizabeth Wilson prepared the report for the board of education in collaboration with the Aboriginal Education Committee and the Aboriginal Education Department for the Aboriginal Education Council. The annual report presented data that proves that the number of Aboriginal students isn’t the only thing growing; the success rate among those Aboriginal learners has also improved.

“In most cases we’ve had increase in Aboriginal student success. I feel that’s great cause for celebration,” said Aboriginal Education District Principal Debbie Leighton-Stephens, while presenting the report to the board of education last week.

“Do we have lots of work to do? Sure, but we also need to think about the fact that ten years ago we were graduating just over twenty per cent of our Aboriginal learners. Now it goes up and down, staying close to fifty per cent.”

In terms of basic skills in 2007/2008, 47 per cent of Aboriginal students enrolled in the fall kindergarten program were success, with that number jumping up drastically for the spring kindergarten program to 77 per cent.

The following year there was a drop in the number of successes, with 23 per cent of Aboriginal students meeting or exceeding expectations in the fall kindergarten program, and 70 per cent in the spring.

The 2009/2010 school year saw an increase compared to the previous year, with 42 per cent of Aboriginal kindergarten students successfully finishing the program in the fall, and 83 per cent finishing in the spring.

Last school year, 2010/2011, the fall kindergarten program saw a success rate of 55 per cent for Aboriginal students in the fall, and 83 per cent in the spring.

However, it isn’t all good news for Aboriginal learners in kindergarten. In 2010/2011, 29 per cent of Aboriginal students attending kindergarten in the fall were meeting or exceeding expectations in phonological skills, with 62 per cent meeting or exceeding in spring. This is down from 2009/2010, when 41 per cent were successful in the fall, and 75 per cent in the spring.

Jumping up a few years to grade four students in the district, reading comprehension levels among Aboriginal students, as well as all students in the district, have dropped. In 2010, 50 per cent of all students were meeting or exceeding reading comprehension, with 43 per cent of Aboriginal learners being successful. These numbers dropped slight more in 2011, when 49 per cent of all learners were meeting or exceeding expectations in grade four reading comprehension, with 42 per cent of Aboriginal students being successful.

Aboriginal students that are exceeding or meeting expectations in grade seven reading comprehension has grown from last year, with 43 per cent being successful this year compared to 42 per cent last year. Although this year’s number is still down quite a bit from 2009, when 53 per cent of Aboriginal students were successful. The number of all learners meeting or exceeding expectations in grade seven reading comprehension has stayed within the 50 to 65 per cent mark.

For grade four writing, Foundation Skill Assessments have shown that there has been a gradual rise in Aboriginal students meeting or exceeding expectations, with 62 per cent of Aboriginal students being successful in 2011, 60 per cent in 2010, up from 48 per cent in 2009.

As for grade seven writing, although there has been a slight drop since 2008, when 60 per cent of Aboriginal students were successful in writing, the amount of Aboriginal students meeting or exceeding expectations was 53 per cent in 2011, down from 54 per cent in 2010.

Another area in the Foundation Skills Assessment is numeracy, where for the most part Aboriginal learning success has gone up. After a declining from 43 per cent in 2008, down to 30 per cent in 2010, last year the number of grade four Aboriginal students successfully completing their numeracy course was up to 37 per cent. Grade seven Aboriginal students were the only students that didn’t go up in terms of numeracy marks, with 30 per cent of students being successful in 2011, down from 34 per cent the previous year, and 40 per cent in 2009.

The amount of Aboriginal students that passed the Principles of Mathematics 11 has drastically gone up since 2008, when only 64 per cent of Aboriginal students were successful, compared to 2010 when 92 per cent were successful, going up again in 2011, with 97 per cent being successful. Aboriginal students taking Principles of Mathematics 11 are also earning themselves better marks, with 21 per cent of students earning an A in the course in 2010/2011, compared to 12 per cent the previous year, and 5 per cent in 2008/2009.

Another success story comes from the rate of Aboriginal students successfully passing English 12. In 2011, 98 per cent of Aboriginal learners passed their final high school English courses, which was 1 per cent higher that the 97 per cent of all learners who were successful in their courses. This is up over ten per cent from the past two previous years, 2010 and 2009, when 87 per cent of Aboriginal students passed English. Over the past seven school years, the average grade in Aboriginal students English grades have been a C.

In terms of grade-to-grade transitions, Aboriginal students are pretty much on par with all learners in the district when moving a grade forward, until grade ten, when the amount of Aboriginal learners moving forward lowers to 69 per cent, down from 89 per cent moving forward in grade nine. The amount of Aboriginal students moving forward to grade twelve is 70 per cent. Both previous listed percentages are 10 per cent below the amount of all learners moving forward in those grades.

The proportion of learners who complete school and receive a Dogwood Certificate within six years enter entering grade eight for the first time, known as the school completion rate, of Aboriginal students in the district is nearly twenty per cent below the amount of all learners (43.9 per cent of Aboriginal students being successful, 63.5 per cent of all learners being successful in 2011). With that being said, the amount of Aboriginal learners who have been successful with their school completion has gone up since 2008, when 39.3 per cent of students were successful in completing their high schooling within six years. In 2011 there was a nine per cent increase in the amount of Aboriginal students with a six-year completion rate, the highest increase for the year, in one of the best areas to have an increase in.

Aboriginal students have some catching up to do in terms of the first time graduation rate compared to all learners in the district, however in 2011 59 per cent of Aboriginal students graduating were doing grade twelve for the first time, which is up from 2010’s 42 per cent, and 2009’s 55 per cent. 73 per cent of all learners graduated for the first time in 2011.

Leighton-Stephens is adamant that without the whole team the success rates wouldn’t be this impressive. She also acknowledged all of the programs and initiatives offered in the district, crediting them as reasons as to why School District 52 has seen so many improvements for it’s Aboriginal learners.

The Aboriginal Education Partnership Agreement Annual Report describes learner progress in important areas of learning listed in the Aboriginal Education Partnership Agreement. The annual report gives the district an opportunity to discuss many important aspects of learning, such as achievements for Aboriginal learners across the district, as well as challenges.

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