In 2018-2019 the Equity Scan team was formed with Janet Zarchukoff, Dr. Christine Perkins, Jesse Halton, Danica Weager, Gail Higginbottom and Laury Carriere. The team set out to understand how to unpack the complex topic of equity in SD8. Guided by Scott Benwell andKaleb Child from the Ministry of Education, the team met, brainstormed, and began creating a tool kit and a survey which was shared at all schools in SD8.
2020-2021, Equity in Review
The survey was shared with students, all staff, Trustees, the Aboriginal Council for Education (ACE) and community members. The hopes with this tool kit (information, reflection, and a survey) were simple: to increase the shared language of what equity is and build a shared understanding with one end goal in mind. The goal to take concrete steps forward to close the achievement gap of Indigenous students in SD8 in the 2019-2020 school year. In reflecting on equity, we know that If we want change, we need to disrupt our current patterns. As we learned in the Equity Scan toolkit, if we don’t change our current practices, it will take an entire generation to close the achievement gap of Indigenous graduation rates.
Respondents: The dominant voice in the data was teachers at 53%. Next, administrators and cupe staff. Then, community, students and trustees. What does this information tell us? We need to continue to reach out to community and students to hear from them! But, we also reached a large amount of our staff, which is awesome!
Trustees: The data from trustees suggested that they felt strongly and positively about the policies set in place within our district, including the 2014-2019 Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement, equity hiring, targeted funds, the hiring of a District Principal of Ab Ed and restructuring the Ab Ed department. 66% of Trustee respondents said they were unsure whether issues of implicit bias/racism were affecting Indigenous learners. This data suggests we need to continue a conversation across the district regarding implicit bias, racism, privilege and power.
Administrators: Here is some concrete feedback shared by administrators: Overall, administrators believe we have a strong connection to families and communities. “Entrance of school includes Metis flag, display case includes artifacts, resources and evidence of student learning that reflects Indigenous themes. Aboriginal Education Success teacher attends all school events to ensure she is visible and program opportunities are promoted. Student work that reflects Indigenous perspectives is also made visible. Information in school newsletters and on website.” In contrast, this administrator stated: “I don't feel that all families and communities are made to feel welcome in all of our schools across the district. There exists some inherent historical biases towards indigenous students/peoples as the mindset of fitting into the system is alive and well with some individuals in the district. Hopefully, in time, this will change as everyone has different rates of moving to change.” These multiple perspectives highlight that administration feel as though we are doing good work in the district to move towards equity, and we still have a ways to move forward together.
Community: From data gathered from Community members about inclusivity, the themes in the data showed overall, feelings of welcomeness in learning environments. There are also general feelings of positivity towards professionals, but an understanding that there is still forward movement and growth to be made. In addition, the data tells us that families/community are not adequately informed about academic student success, and how we support Indigenous learners.
Students: Although students only represented a small percentage of respondents, their feedback was loud and clear. They require more individualized supports, and more opportunities for feedback regarding their curriculum. Students vocalized that teachers/mentors who they could reliably communicate with (Ie, “someone who we could email or text a problem or question”) as well as safe spaces (“Ie, the LA room or Ab Ed room”) would support them if they were to get behind in their classes. 100% of student respondents expressed very little to no opportunities for feedback regarding ‘what they’ve been taught’ and ‘how they’ve been taught’. In addition to the supports outlined above, half (50%) of students expressed that they did not feel as though issues of implicit bias/racism were being addressed in their learning environments. This data might reflect that all respondents did not feel as though they had feedback opportunities to reflect upon their curriculum - perhaps if they had opportunities to reflect on their curriculum, these issues of implicit bias and racism could also be addressed?
10 Practical Steps to support Equity in your schools September 2019
What else is being done to move toward Equity for Indigenous Students in SD8? At all high schools, Individualized 3 year Grad Plans are supported by the Aboriginal Education team’s Aboriginal Academic Success Teachers. This collaborative opportunity with school counsellors/admin is an opportunity for the planning of supplemental students supports for Aboriginal Education students. As well, the Senior district team is meeting with school teams to discuss individual grad plans for this school year. Aboriginal Education staff monitors as best as possible with students and teachers, trying to build in academic supports individually and proactively. Students are able to also access tutoring from the Aboriginal Education equity fund, if needed. Some schools are moving toward Aboriginal Education collaboration with school teams on both FSA’s and school assessments, to include more academic support which is data driven.
What is Equity? October 2019
What are we missing and what are our next steps?
Practices: Building relationships with community. Indigenous perspectives, First Peoples’ Principles of Learning and Aboriginal Ways of Knowing and Being are being implemented in classrooms across the district. Students are saying the Territory Acknowledgement in assemblies and events across the district. Data shows that our six year completion rates are on the rise. Staff across the district are open to learning and engaging in this process to ensure Indigenous achievement and success.
Barriers: Staff and community are working together to confront and work through issues of implicit bias and systemic racism. They realise they need more support in the Equity process for taking first steps and/or next steps.. More training needed on what supports and resources are currently available at school and district levels to enhance Aboriginal student’s success.
This is a reminder that Reconciliation is a shared journey. There is a lot of work to do and this will take time. Academically, the Aboriginal Education department is focusing on academic supports and individual monitoring, in partnership with school teams. We want to continue to structure academic interventions earlier, in an effort to close the achievement gap. Partnerships with school teams will be essential in this work. We will all need to have patience as we continue this journey together, and as our collective understanding grows.
As well, two film evenings were held to promote the conversation around equity for Indigenous students. The first one was held in Nelson and the second one in Creston, showing”The Road Forward”, an NFB film tracking Indigenous activism in BC, charting the underground human rights movement from grassroots Indigenous communities. Following the films was a panel discussion and a question/answer period on the topic of equity.
Equity - Individual Student Supports September 2020
The work in SD8 Kootenay Lake toward Equity for Indigenous students is focused and determined. From Grade 12 yearly academic checks to promoting First Peoples Principles of Learning in the classroom, we are moving forward in this journey together. Our next steps include engaging and amplifying Indigenous student voice in our district and involving community in the Equity process.
For further information on Equity for Indigenous Students in SD8 Kootenay Lake, please contact Gail Higginbottom, District Principal of Aboriginal Education.