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Rainbow's Gr. 6 Aboriginal students surpass peers

Aboriginal students with the Rainbow District School Board have outstripped the board's overall results for Education Quality and Accountability (EQAO) tests when it comes to Grade 6 reading and writing.
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Lansdowne Public School Ojibwe teacher Linda Manitowabi teaches her Grade 4 students about cradleboards. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.
Aboriginal students with the Rainbow District School Board have outstripped the board's overall results for Education Quality and Accountability (EQAO) tests when it comes to Grade 6 reading and writing.

Seventy-seven per cent of Rainbow's Aboriginal Grade 6 students met or exceeded the provincial standard for writing this year, as compared to the board's 75 per cent overall average, and 64 per cent for Aboriginal students provincewide.

When it comes to writing, 73 per cent of Rainbow's Aboriginal Grade 6 students met or exceeded the provincial average this year, as compared to the board's 69 per cent overall average, and 61 per cent for Aboriginal students provincewide.

Grade 6 reading results for Rainbow's Aboriginal students jumped 20 per cent from last year, and writing scores jumped 23 per cent.

Not bad, considering that last year, Rainbow's Aboriginal students scored, on average, between 13 to 21 per cent lower on the provincial standardized tests compared to the board's overall results.

Only students who self-identify as being First Nations, Metis or Inuit are included in the board's EQAO statistics for Aboriginal students. In total, that includes about 1,000 students.

Kathy Dokis, the board's principal of First Nations, Metis and Inuit education, said she's thrilled with the results. She said the scores have been slowly going up for the last three or four years.

“Actually closing some of these gaps, it's really amazing,” Dokis said.

Guided by the province's First Nations, Metis and Inuit framework, the Rainbow board has been working at closing the achievement gap for Aboriginal students, offering Ojibwe language classes, among other initiatives.

In elementary schools where there's a high Aboriginal population, the board has also hired Aboriginal support workers, who develop relationships with the students, who ensure they have all the resources they need to do well in school.

That includes referrals to social service agencies or just encouraging them to do their homework, said Rainbow's superintendent of schools Lesleigh Dye.

While Aboriginal students are doing well when it comes to Grade 6 reading and writing scores, not all EQAO results for this group are great.

In Grade 9 applied math, for example, just 20 per cent of Aboriginal Rainbow students met or exceeded the provincial standard this year.

That compared to the board's 40 per cent board-wide average, and the 35-per-cent average for Aboriginal students provincewide.

Dye explains that at a high school level, many of the board's Aboriginal students have come from on-reserve schools, and haven't had the advantage of the specialized programs explained above.

“We've been working very hard from K-12 on a variety of learning strategies in our classrooms,” she said.

“What we're seeing is we're having a greater impact right now in primary and junior, so we need to put a little bit more emphasis on the older students.

“Partly it could be we have more students at the elementary level that are our urban Aboriginal students, so they've always been at a Rainbow school, as compared at the intermediate grades, where they're new.”

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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