Schools renew commitment for better graduation rates
There has been much progress made in the past decade to improve academic success rates for aboriginal students in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district.
In acknowledgement that more work has to be done, officials from the district, local First Nations and the Ministry of Education were on hand at Beban Park on Thursday for the signing of the district's third five-year Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.
The agreement, first signed in 2000, sees the district, local native bands and the government work together to develop processes to close the gap in success rates between aboriginal and other students.
According to results released from the Ministry of Education last month, 52% of aboriginal students in the district successfully graduated from Grade 12 in 2010-11 within six years of entering Grade 8, up from 44% in 2009-10.
Overall, largely due to the increasing focus on improving academic success rates among aboriginal students in the province, completion rates for native students in B.C. increased by 11% during the past 10 years.
"My hope is that we can build on the successes that have resulted from the previous agreements, along with the collaborative work that has gone into the drafting of this new agreement, to continue to ensure that our aboriginal students feel supported and welcome in our schools," school board chairwoman Sharon Welch told approximately 200 people at the signing ceremony.
The Nanaimo-Ladysmith district, whose aboriginal students make up 16% of its overall student population, is the fourth school district in the province to sign a third AEEA.
The agreement, which will run until 2016, has been signed by officials from the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Stz'uminus First Nation, Snaw-Naw-As First Nation, Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre and Mid-Island Métis Nation.
As part of the process, the district receives an extra $1,041 for each full-time aboriginal student enrolled, which is used for a variety of programs and initiatives to help aboriginal students improve academically.
Laura Tait, the district's incoming principal of aboriginal education, said one of the main focuses of the new agreement is to stress the integral nature of native traditional culture and language to aboriginal student development and success.
"The improved success rates of our aboriginal learners in the district has also led to improved educational environments for all of our students," she said.
"A special relationship has been developed between this district and the First Nations who are part of this agreement. I'm confident that we'll continue to work together to meet the needs of our aboriginal students."
THE STRATEGY FOR BETTER GRADUATION RATES
? The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has approximately 2,200 aboriginal students, who make up 16% of the overall student population in the district.
? The school district is located in the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Stz'uminus First Nation, and Snaw-Naw-As First Nation and is supported by the Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre and the Mid-Island Métis Nation.
? Instruction in the local First Nation language, Hul'qumi'num, is offered by two full-time language teachers at 12 schools: John Barsby Secondary, Ladysmith Secondary, Bayview Elementary and Georgia Elementary, Pleasant Valley Elementary, Bayview Elementary, North Cedar Intermediate, Fairview Elementary, Brechin Elementary, Ladysmith Primary, Ladysmith Intermediate and North Oyster.
? A number of aboriginal-focused courses have been added to the B.C. K-12 curriculum including English First Peoples 10, 11 and 12, Math First Peoples 8 and 9 and B.C. First Nations Studies 12.
During the past 10 years, the completion rate for aboriginal students in B.C. has increased by 11%. SOURCE: B.C. MINISTRY OF EDUCATION