The New Westminster school district is finding success in its efforts to improve the academic outcomes of its Indigenous students.
Rav Johal, the district’s principal of equity and inclusion, brought that message to the New Westminster school board during a Feb. 9 presentation to the board’s education committee. Johal said Indigenous student results on the Foundation Skills Assessments, standardized tests given to measure literacy and numeracy for all Grade 4 and 7 students in B.C., are showing success.
“Our Indigenous students in Grade 4 are doing exceptionally well on the FSAs,” Johal said.
Johal noted the district’s Indigenous student results in 2019/20 were more than 20% higher than provincial outcomes.
On reading comprehension, 83% of New West’s Indigenous students were found to be on-track or “extending” (that is, achieving beyond their grade level), compared to 61% for Indigenous students provincewide. For writing, the local number stood at 100%, meaning every Indigenous student in New West was found to be on-track or extending, compared to a provincial result of 71%.
For numeracy, the New Westminster total was 77% – again substantially higher than the B.C. number, 51%.
Johal cautioned the results reflect only a small number of students, since just 18 of the district’s 28 Indigenous students in Grade 4 actually wrote the test.
In Grade 7, participation was higher, with 15 of 18 students writing. Once again, however, results were much higher than the provincial outcomes.
For reading comprehension, 73% of New West’s Indigenous students were found to be on-track or extending, compared to 60% across B.C. For writing, the local number was 86%, compared to 79% provincewide. For numeracy, the New Westminster number was 60% – substantially higher than the 40% provincewide.
ACADEMIC OUTCOMES PART OF ABORIGINAL EDUCATION AGREEMENT
Johal said academic improvement is one of the goals outlined in the district’s aboriginal education enhancement agreement.
“The continued focus for us, for Indigenous learners, is to improve performance in Grades 4 through 7 in numeracy, reading and writing,” he said.
He said the district will continue to work with school-based teams and aboriginal support workers to maintain the gains it has made in student success. The district will also continue to work with educators on “Indigenizing” the curriculum for kindergarten through Grade 9, Johal said.
At the high school level, Johal reported the district has seen a steady increase in the number of Indigenous students who graduate – from 53% of 52 students in 2015/16, up to 82% of 27 students in 2019/20 (higher than the B.C. number, 71%).
Johal said there seems to be a strong correlation between the upward trend and the presence of a “grad coach” at New Westminster Secondary School.
This story is one part of a special School Snapshot report.