By Alex Rinfret–Skidegate’s Sk’aadgaa Naay is the top elementary school in the province when it comes to aboriginal student performance, according to a report released last week by the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute.
The “Report Card on Aboriginal Education in British Columbia” looks at aboriginal student performance in grade 4 and grade 7 foundation skills assessment tests in literacy, writing ability and numeracy. It then compared the 38 elementary schools in BC which have at least 15 aboriginal students in these grades.
The numbers showed that the aboriginal students attending Sk’aadgaa Naay had the highest scores on these tests in 2002, compared to aboriginal students anywhere else in BC. And the Sk’aadgaa Naay results don’t appear to be a fluke—data from 2000 and 2001 also put the school in the top spot.
Tahayghen elementary in Masset was ranked 25th out of 38 schools in the same report, based on the 2002 test results. Tahayghen has done slightly better in previous years.
The other elementary schools in the district did not have enough aboriginal enrollment to be included. The report also notes that Sk’aadgaa Naay had a grade 7 aboriginal enrollment of 19 in 2002, almost 80-percent of the total enrollment. At Tahayghen, grade 7 aboriginal enrollment was 27 students, almost 85-percent of the total.
School district superintendent Mike Woods said he was somewhat pleased about the elementary results, although he has concerns about the Fraser Institute’s narrow approach. He also had concerns about G.M. Dawson. The high school in Masset scored at the very bottom – 49th out of 49 – when the Fraser Institute crunched the numbers for aboriginal performance at secondary school. (Queen Charlotte Secondary was not included in the report.)
Mr. Woods said the Fraser Institute report ignores several aspects of education which people here consider important, such as the local high schools’ recent successes in keeping students in school longer. And while he is always interested in any available data, he said, he doubts the district will be taking a close look at this report.
“We are doing our own data analysis,” he said, explaining that the district tracks the performance of each student, year after year, to see if they are improving. “This gives us way more valuable information.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Woods said, the school board’s number-one goal is to improve the academic and social success of aboriginal students. To that end, it has recently signed local education agreements with the Old Massett and Skidegate band councils, and is pursuing other ideas like increasing the number of Haida trustees on the board.
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