Aboriginal student achievements recognized in the Okanagan

Published on September 22, 2011

From right to left: Clarence Louie, Chief of Osoyoos Indian Band; John Slater, MLA; Hazel Squakin, elder, Upper Similkameen Band; Keith Crow, Councillor, Lower Similkameen Band; Loraine Thompson, Parent rep; Naomi Etty, Parent Rep; Myrna Coates, Trustee.  (Helen Gallagher, Aboriginal Education contact teacher, stands behind Naomi and Myrna.)

Oliver — 

The continued success of Aboriginal students in the Okanagan Similkameen school district was highlighted with a feast to celebrate their achievements.

In 2006, the school district signed its first Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. Since then, academic results have improved steadily:

In 2009-10, 85 per cent of Aboriginal Grade 4 students met or exceeded expectations in Math on the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA), up from 79 per cent for 2005-06.

* In 2009-10, 72 per cent of Aboriginal Grade 7 students met or exceeded expectations in Reading, compared to 50 per cent for 2005-06.

* Seventy-four per cent of Aboriginal students successfully made the transition from Grade 11 to Grade 12 in 2009-10, compared to 56 per cent for 2005-06.

* In 2009-10, the six-year Dogwood Completion Rate for Aboriginal students was 60 per cent, up from 54 per cent in 2005-06.

* Twenty-two Aboriginal students graduated in 2009-10, the highest number ever.

Prior to the feast, a second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement for the district was signed. These agreements are commitments by school districts, local Aboriginal communities, and the Ministry of Education, to work together to support Aboriginal student success.

Another goal of Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements is to increase Aboriginal students' sense of belonging. Since the first agreement was signed, Aboriginal students have brought more of their history and culture into the classroom.

This year a locally developed program on the Okanagan First Nation will be introduced to all Grade 4 students in the district. First Nations banners and murals are prominently displayed in all schools and each school's mission statement is being translated to the Okanagan dialect, printed on elk hide, and displayed alongside the English version.

A powwow is held every April, where between 450 and 600 Osoyoos and

Similkameen First Nations people gather to celebrate. As part of the event, all Grade 4 students in the district attend a session where they receive teachings around the importance of gathering and feasting in First Nations culture.

"My thanks to all the partners who have worked so hard to help achieve this significant Aboriginal student success in the district, and congratulations on renewing that commitment through this second agreement," said Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater.

"As we work to help Aboriginal students feel better supported, valued and welcomed in our schools, all of our students benefit from the programs that bring their rich culture and history into all our classrooms," said Okanagan Similkameen board of education chair June Harrington.

Nearly 15 per cent of Okanagan Similkameen school district students are Aboriginal. SD 53 is located in the traditional territory of the Osoyoos and

Similkameen First Nations.

To date, 52 school districts have signed Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements.

A number of districts have signed their second agreement. Maple Ridge-

Pitt Meadows, Campbell River and Kamloops/Thompson have each signed their third agreements.

Provincial funding for Aboriginal education in 2010-11 was $61.5 million or about $1,160 per student.