Aboriginal education: Member feedback on RBE’s Continuous Improvement Plan Report

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January 21, 2013 by realrenewal

January 2013: From the Regina Board of Education’s Continuous Improvement Plan Report
“The data suggest there is a significant gap for students of Aboriginal ancestry. As these Aboriginal students move from Grade 1 to Grade 2, the data for two cohorts of students (2008-09 to 2009-10 and 2009-10 to 2010-11) suggest the gap in achievement is widening. This is of significant concern and an action plan is being developed to reverse this trend.”

The gap remains through to Grade 8.

Thank you to our members for reading this document and responding with the following food for thought (summarized).

Some good questions:  
– how will aboriginal people be involved in developing and implementing this action plan?
– are any efforts being undertaken to examine the cultural appropriateness of the curriculum being taught in these classrooms to aboriginal and non-aboriginal students to determine whether cultural alienation may be a factor in the supposedly lower achievement levels?
– are culturally appropriate tests being used to measure reading “success” or are aboriginal students being discriminated against by being measured with standardized tests set to Euro-Canadian standards?
– how are institutions and services beyond the school system (community centres, employment centres, housing programs, child welfare agencies, etc. etc.) being coordinated to address the socio-economic determinants of these supposedly lower test scores?

Observations  
– Brad Wall has made a public commitment to close the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal graduation rates. But if the gap is already evident at Grade Two, the situation is even worse than some have thought.

–    So far all the province has done is set up tracking systems to count the heads of those in school who are aboriginal and non-aboriginal, something the Regina board is clearly doing. However there is no evidence of any willingness on the part of the province or by the board (at least as revealed in this document) to address the socio-economic realities that we all know are at the root of school achievement issues. What will the Regina School Board’s “action plan” be doing to address this shortcoming in provincial policy in order to achieve the goal of “closing the achievement gap”???

Recommendations
·    Place-based education and anti-racism education have received broad support as essential components of Indigenous-aligned, culturally relevant education.  One wonders about the extent to which these two elements have been consciously addressed by the RPSD.  In an urban context, the meaning of place-based education and that of a rich and authentic community-based education come close to being the same thing.

·    One of the characteristics which separates anti-racism education (ARE) from “culturally responsive” formulations is that ARE has a broader scope, including attention to the ways in which taken for granted institutional norms, e.g. school rules, serve to exclude some students.  Thus, for example, the current popularity of talk about anti-bullying legislation needs to be apprised of parallel discourse and research regarding the school-to-prison pipeline in which rules and unquestioned policies are unequally visited upon the socially marginalized.  We need to spend at least as much time worrying about students who are pushed out of the school system as we do students who “drop out.”

·    Schooling as we have always known it continues to be the case in Regina. That is, an alienating, academic regime continues.  The results are predictable.

·    Weak, tokenistic, and merely additive approaches to “culturally responsive” education can easily return policy makers to the old practice of blaming the victim when and if the implementation of these approaches don’t lead to changes in school outcomes.

·    In a context where educational authorities love to call for attention to “evidence-based” solutions, the considerable evidence (e.g. Anyon, 1997, 2005; Marsh, 2011) that student outcomes will not be substantially improved without improvement in social conditions for currently excluded, marginalized, and oppressed people needs to be actively incorporated into policy thinking and action.  That said, Anyon joins many others in advocating for community schools.  She also calls for full-service schools, i.e. those called for by Michael Tymchak and nominally realized in Saskatchewan as SchoolsPlus.

·    It’s worth re-visiting the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which proposed an action plan for reforming education.

Further reading

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples education recommendations

RealRenewal Submission to the Joint Task Force on First Nations and Métis Education and Employment

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