Whitehorse Daily Star

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RANGE OF PROBLEMS DISCOVERED – Assistant Auditor General Casey Thomas, audit principal Jo Ann Schwartz and auditor Ruth Sullivan present their report to local media representatives Tuesday afternoon.

Audit called a wakeup call for Education officials

There continue to be gaps in graduation rates between First Nations and non-First Nations students in the Yukon, an audit shows.

By Gord Fortin on June 19, 2019

There continue to be gaps in graduation rates between First Nations and non-First Nations students in the Yukon, an audit shows.

The federal Auditor General’s office released its report on education in the territory on Tuesday.

Assistant Auditor General Casey Thomas, audit principal Jo Ann Schwartz and auditor Ruth Sullivan presented the report to the media.

The report looked into whether the Yukon Department of Education has assessed and addressed gaps in student outcomes.

It also focused on whether inclusive programs are offered to students that reflect the territory’s First Nations languages and culture.

“This audit is important because education is a path to helping youth to become productive members of society and communities,” Schwartz said.

She said this is important because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has called for improving education levels and success rates for First Nation students.

The goal is to reduce the gap in graduation rates between Indigenous and non-indigenous students.

The audit concluded that the department is unaware if the students had all the supports that were needed.

Schwartz added this is particularly true for special needs and First Nations students.

“Overall, we found that the department did not know whether its programs met the needs of students,” Schwartz said.

She said that even 10 years after the previous education audit, the gap in success rates between Indigenous and non-indigenous students continue to exist. There is also a gap between rural and urban students’ success rates.

She clarified that there was no comparison between the numbers from 2009 and now.

Schwartz could not say if these gaps were growing or shrinking. She recommends finding the root causes to close the gaps.

She explained that the audit examined a six-year completion rate.

This looked at students who entered Grade 8 in 2011 and followed that group to their graduation from high school.

Schwartz said there was a 32 per cent difference between First Nations and non-First Nations students who completed high school in that six-year period.

She said the department has done little to identify and understand the root causes. Without this knowledge, there was no way to determine if the current supports working for students or if resources were spent in the right areas.

There was no performance measurement strategy. This would have enabled the department to set targets and close the gaps in student achievement.

“This lack of a strategy is a further obstacle,” Schwartz said.

As for offering inclusive education, the audit revealed that there was no monitoring of the delivery of services and supports for students with special needs. This includes no tracking of student outcomes.

This meant, she said, that the department did not know if its model of inclusive education was working.

Nor did it know if specific schools, subjects or teachers needed some extra attention.

She said there were no reviews. The auditor looked at 82 education plans, and there was little to show that students received the supports they were supposed to get.

She said the department has committed to First Nations languages and cultural educational opportunities.

That said, Schwartz explained the department did not do enough to build partnerships that would have developed these programs.

She said there needs to be focus with First Nations, school boards and school councils about how to deliver Indigenous programming.

She added there was not enough direction nor oversight given to schools to offer cultural inclusive programming.

She recommends that the department conducts a review of how inclusive education is offered.

Teachers were surveyed and asked if there are enough supports and services to implement inclusive and First Nations linguistic and cultural education.

The results were that 50 per cent of teachers did not feel there is enough support. Two thirds of those did not feel they were getting enough training.

Schwartz clarified that 543 surveys were sent out, with 181 responded to – a 33 per response rate.

She said this is a typical response rate for an online survey.

The department has agreed to all of the recommendations, Schwartz said, which should help rectify the matter.

She said this is something that needs to happen, or another 10 years can go by and another generation of students would be adversely affected.

She said the department co-operated well with the audit. She has a sense that the department will work on the problems.

“We have faith that they (recommendations) will be implemented,” Schwartz said.

There could be a follow-up to this audit, but there is no commitment at this time.

Sue Harding, the Yukon Teachers’ Association president, spoke with the Star this morning about the audit.

She said she was disappointed to hear that there was no improvement in the last 10 years.

She said there has been no investment by the department to find out if its programs are actually working.

Harding believes that some schools are working well but some rural schools do not have the same resources that urban schools do.

She would like to see more support for rural students.

“It was surprising to me that we had not closed gaps,” Harding said.

She thinks this audit will be a wake-up call to the department to bring about effective changes.

The report took 12 to 15 months to complete, having begun in February 2018.

Eight schools were visited, including schools outside of Whitehorse.

Tracy-Anne McPhee, the Education minister since December 2016, issued a statement Tuesday regarding the audit.

“Today’s release of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s audit report on inclusive and special education programs, and First Nations education in Kindergarten-Grade 12 education programs in Yukon provides us with clear direction on where we can improve our education system,” McPhee’s statement said.

“We accept the recommendations of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada and recognize there is work to do to meet the needs of Yukon students.”

She said the government is working with First Nations governments and other partners to meet the audit’s recommendations.

She confirmed that the department is doing a review of supports and services offered to special needs students.

It is also working with First Nations to improve outcomes of students in that community.

“The Government of Yukon is committed to modernizing our education system and working with our education partners to ensure all students have the supports they need to succeed as learners,” McPhee’s statement said.

Comments (19)

Up 1 Down 0

Michael Storm on Jun 25, 2019 at 11:13 pm

Too much blaming.
What's next, we will be told jobs are boring and young people from this demographic should be paid not to work.

Up 15 Down 2

Thomas Brewer on Jun 25, 2019 at 8:11 am

You simply cannot lay the blame for the poor results of FN students on the doorstep of the Department.

Up 25 Down 4

Yukon Justice on Jun 23, 2019 at 3:58 pm

I'd like to see the auditors work one week in the schools. They would not believe how rude and disruptive students of all ages are. My son teaches and the first day he was told to, "go #### himself." It goes on so much he didn't bother to report it.

Up 19 Down 8

What the.. on Jun 23, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Damning report regarding support and traditional learning for FN kids. The problem has been identified for more than a decade without a plan or solution.

But yeah, we need to spend $30+m on a school for 150 Francophone kids to practice their language in a space separate from everyone else.

Up 30 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Jun 22, 2019 at 10:10 am

If some of our elected officials in both the YG and FN governments had the courage and honesty to improve on this failure they would interview the drop outs and find out what the real issues are. But then by knowing, they would have to act to correct the issues, and who knows what contention that would stimulate?

Up 34 Down 5

How about the Students? on Jun 21, 2019 at 8:52 pm

Blame the teachers, blame the parents, blame the system, blame everything under the sun except the kids. They have a huge role to play in their personal success. As the old saying goes, “if it was easy, anyone could do it.” It’s definitely time for the students to start carrying their share of the load, and accepting part of the blame for what is happening.

Up 48 Down 3

Just Sayin' on Jun 20, 2019 at 10:20 pm

I agree with ‘Yukon Teacher’ regardless of content, parents and those in charge of the youth’s must ensure they show up to school. They must also be in a state where they are ready to learn. Even if it is content about their cultural backgrounds, if one has not slept well, then one will not be able to perform well. In the real world, being tired is a form of impairment and some companies will not allow employees to work if they are tired.

I truly wish the schools would challenge students instead of decreasing expectations. In the World, Yukoners cannot compete and decreasing expectations is not going to help. Furthermore, the further integration of cultural and languages is not going to help under sustainability imperatives, nor will it help students be the best versions of themselves.

Up 37 Down 2

Oya on Jun 20, 2019 at 4:52 pm

I certainly get the comments about showing up, etc. I certainly get the comments about parents taking a more active role in their kid's education. What I don't get is: why no KPI's (key performance indicators)???

Is that not what management is all about? Just this one aspect is an EPIC failure on the part of the department. This is about as basic as it gets! What exactly have all those past DMs been doing besides collecting their fat paycheques? Who hires these people and who keeps putting them in these kinds of jobs despite the fact that they have accomplished nothing in their careers? Yeah, you Ms Royal! And what about the Minister? When will YOU do what you were elected to do and make those overpaid DMs perform? Do you even know what a KPI is, Minister McPhee?

Up 51 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jun 20, 2019 at 11:11 am

I'd be interested in seeing the trends in attendance and what influence that might have in the FN student drop out rate. A popular saying for coaches is: Step one to success is just showing up on time.
Nothing in this latest audit is new, it has all been noted before, I suggest the problem is not within the school system but rather in the homes where these students try to live. How engaged are the parents to their childrens' education and do they lead by example and display responsibility to help them to be good students?

Up 17 Down 20

Max Mack on Jun 20, 2019 at 10:20 am

As though the Auditor General has a clue about education in the North. Good talking points, though. Probably looks really good on someone's resume.

Up 57 Down 10

Yukon teacher on Jun 20, 2019 at 9:32 am

This is a joke. Our education system is not lacking. Parents are lacking. Parents who do not care where their kids are and when they go to school. You can't hold the Department of Education responsible for all learning gaps. When will parents and guardians and all those responsible for minors wake up and realize that it isn't a teacher's responsibility to make your kids come to school.
I can't believe the progress we have made by working on closing these gaps. But we will never get there unless everyone works on it. Don't blame the government, blame yourselves. If you don't understand my comment, you are not the problem. But surely you know a family in this kind of situation. If you want to help, help get the kids to school and help them with their homework. Help them learn and be a role model. Raise your kids and don't expect others to raise them for you. We do our jobs, but can only help kids if they come to school.

Up 35 Down 1

Robert Scott on Jun 19, 2019 at 11:29 pm

It's sad this gap exists and it really does need to be improved for the betterment of FN children and the territory as a whole. This AG report fails to address social concerns and they too need to be considered. If children do not have parents that support education at home their children will struggle. I'm not sure if it's happening or not but parents at risk need effective support as well. Alcohol, drugs, lack of parenting skills all play a roll in a child's success in school and in life. It's not just the education system. It's a collaborative approach to affect necessary change.

Up 32 Down 4

enough blame to go around on Jun 19, 2019 at 7:45 pm

“It was surprising to me that we had not closed gaps,” Harding said.

Really? The YTA should have known or investigated over the last 10 years and help keep the government to account. Focusing on labour issues and not education issues is what helped this to happen. Teachers are also culpable because they have continually let the YTA leadership in through acclamation.

Clean house! Everyone from the DM to program directors who have been working in those positions for over a year should move on. YTA Executive who have been on the leadership board for over one year should also go.
Let's get new people on both sides to come together and fix this!

Up 37 Down 10

Yukon56 on Jun 19, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Why graduate? Turn 16 and no longer have to go to school. Free housing, social assistance - don't need to work.

Up 15 Down 13

Wilf Carter on Jun 19, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Every person who has lived here for 30 years or more knew our education system needed up grades but because of health care cost and cost of education we can't afford a better system unless Ottawa provides more funding. This Federal govt has cut total funding by a lot when you look at it like infrastructure, housing, family support and health care. Why do you think this government is putting cost up everywhere to find money to replace funds Ottawa has and is taking away.
Both of my kids went through the education system and went on to university to get degrees. The administration and teachers at the christian school in Riverdale were great. They went to Queens and UBC.
Instead of being the arm chair know it all, where is your point of view to help the situation. You sound like a Larry Bagnell fan. What has he done to help our education system? 0. Sandy is holding the line on things and is a great educator and comes from a great family. There are just AH in the Yukon who do not bring forward any reasonable ideas. Trudeau is going take away billions from western Canada in if he goes back in.

Up 72 Down 8

Pierre Le Beau Homme on Jun 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm

After all the funds are wasted on a new Francophonie school there will be little left to provide proper schooling for the remaining 99%. Disgraceful really.

Up 53 Down 3

Lost In the Yukon on Jun 19, 2019 at 4:35 pm

This lack of accountability goes back at least to 2007 and the ADM of Public Schools and DM (with no background in Education) and continues today with a gym teacher steering the ship. First Nations issues and solutions have been used as political talking points and window dressing and the systemic problems ignored. Millions wasted and the results are still the same. People need to be outraged.

But the current senior admin will strike a committee or two or three and once the news cycle shifts we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Up 16 Down 21

Dan Davidson on Jun 19, 2019 at 4:07 pm

This is an odd report. A lot has happened in Dawson in terms of First Nation content since 2008 when I retired. Observing it as a reporter I’m often sad it didn’t happen while I was there, but I’ve certainly seen progress..

Up 41 Down 5

Politico on Jun 19, 2019 at 3:09 pm

Wow. 8 of those years were under the YP Government and 2 under the Liberals. Both parties just pay lip service to education. In 10 years we'll read the same stuff again. Too bad it's the kids that suffer.

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