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Category: Professional Development

What Works. The Work Program – Core Issues 11 Principals as Leaders in Literacy: A Strategy for Literacy Improvement in Primary Schools

Source: Australian Government: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

Summary: What Works. The Work Program is a set of resources designed to help schools and those who work in them improve outcomes for Indigenous students. The ‘Core Issues’ series is an attempt to distil some topic-based key directions for practical action.

Associate Professor John Munro is Head of Studies in Exceptional Learning and Gifted Education at The University of Melbourne. In this paper Dr. Munro offers a framework for identifying, in a systematic way, ‘where a school is’, in terms of its capacity to improve the teaching of literacy knowledge, skills and attitudes. He asks and discusses key questions that will help school leaders guide their students’ literacy learning and deliver well-planned professional learning for their teachers, to achieve improved learning and teaching outcomes.

The paper includes strategies that have proved successful in practice, as well as sample documents and checklists that leader and staff can use to support them in their school improvement process.

WNCP Common Tool for Assessing and Validating Teaching and Learning Resources for Cultural Appropriateness and Historical Accuracy of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Content

Source: Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Basic Education, Aboriginal Education Research Centre, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Summary: The Western and Northern Canadian Protocol (WNCP) is a cooperative group of Canadian provinces and territories that develops common curriculum frameworks.

The WNCP employed researchers from the Aboriginal Education Research Centre (AERC) at the University of Saskatchewan to conduct a research project entitled Cultural Authenticity and Historical Accuracy (2009). The research project resulted in the document, Guidelines for Assessing and Validating Teaching and Learning Resources for Cultural Authenticity and Historical Accuracy of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Content (2009). The guidelines are based on an analysis and synthesis of current WNCP provincial and territorial (regional) strategies used to assess and validate First Nations, Métis and Inuit content in teaching and learning resources.

Teaching and learning resources that are culturally authentic, historically accurate and respectful of the diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people’s identities and experiences will encourage students and educators to:

  • recognize the importance of Elders and Knowledge Keepers in preserving and sustaining languages and cultures;
  • recognize that First Nations, Métis and Inuit education enriches Western education systems;
  • value and support First Nations, Métis and Inuit languages and cultures;
  • adequately represent and reflect First Nations, Métis and Inuit languages and cultures; and
  • affirm and support the engagement of First Nations, Métis and Inuit parents/caregivers and communities as traditional teachers in the education of children.

To better ensure that First Nations, Métis and Inuit content is culturally authentic and historically accurate, the WNCP Working Group has designed an assessment and validation tool to assess cultural appropriateness and historical accuracy. This tool can be adjusted locally, to reflect each region’s needs.

Creating racism free schools for Aboriginal Learners

Source: British Columbia Teachers’ Federation: Aboriginal Education (BCTF)
Focus: Students and Teachers

Summary: The Ministry of Education and the BCTF acknowledge that racism directed at Aboriginal people, especially students, is a problem to be dealt with.

The BCTF is committed to supporting safe and caring learning environments for all students and all staff in the public school system. The BCTF recognizes that many Aboriginal students and staff have not felt safe or cared for in some schools because of racism directed at Aboriginal people by students, teachers, support workers, administrators, and the school curriculum.

To this end, the BCTF has been spearheading initiatives related to Aboriginal education. This particular resource can assist teachers and students to ensure that their classrooms and schools are racist free environments.

Plan of Action: Métis Education Plan

Source: The Métis Nation of Ontario
Focus: Educators

Summary: A Métis Education Action Plan will lead to a coordinated, focused and strategic approach by the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), in collaboration with other agencies, education partners, and parents to address the needs of Métis learners. The MNO is looking to an engaged Métis student in every publicly funded school in Ontario and is committed to the provision of an improved and appropriate education for all of its students that will be a sustainable effort over time.


  • Improved Métis student attendance, retention and graduation rates
  • Improved Métis student achievement K-12
  • Improved Métis student well being
  • Engaged parent and community partners in Métis student education and increased parent satisfaction with their children’s education.

Three objectives represent Phase I of an ongoing commitment to Métis student education.

Objective #1

To increase the attention to better Métis education in the Ontario education system:

(a) the development and implementation of a robust education action plan including key messages and strategies that speak to an active and contributing MNO role in policies and programs that will contribute to Métis student success;

(b) active participation and contributions to ongoing work with key partners in the education of Métis students through the inclusion of qualified Métis candidates on decision-making bodies at all levels of the education system and;

(c) identifying roles and responsibilities that will be needed to begin effective implementation of the Métis Education Action Plan in the 2008-09 year.

Objective #2

To build capacity for evidence-based decision-making:

(a) support and facilitate the strategy to establish self-identification for all Métis students in Ontario

(b) initiate dialogue with key partners in education regarding the development and implementation of tracking mechanisms that align with existing provincial student identification tracking systems to address and facilitate transitions for both “mobile” students and students moving through the levels of the system and;

(c) contribute to an annual symposium on the topic of Aboriginal student achievement with a Métis component based on data within a successes, challenges and opportunities context.

Objective #3

To develop a Community Outreach parent engagement process that supports improved Métis student achievement:

(a) develop and communicate a strategy including key messages for community outreach and parent engagement at all levels of education beginning with internal organizational input and implementation;

(b) build on those strategies that speak to the engagement of Métis parents and the community identifying the resources that will be needed in support of an overall strategy and;

(c) look to deepen understandings and approaches of board and school improvement plans K-12 that address community outreach and parent engagement goals in pursuit of improved Métis student achievement.

The Impact of the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) Program on School Readiness Skills

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

Summary: The AHSUNC program is a national community-based program funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

In a study conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) during the 2010-2011 school year, the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) Program was found to have a positive impact on school readiness skills.

Skills were measured at the beginning and at the end of the school year and participants showed significant improvement in all three skill areas assessed: language, motor and academic skills.

Handbook for Aboriginal Mentoring

Source: Alberta Children’s Services, Alberta International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations
Teachers and Community Workers

Summary: A handbook on the What? Why? How? and Who? of mentoring in Aboriginal communities to assist students to stay in school and be successful. Included is a checklist of what should be included in any program and how to get started.

Aboriginals in Post Secondary Education The MESA Project: Measuring the Effectiveness of Student Aid

Source: Ross Finnie, Stephen Childs, Miriam Kramer, Andrew Wismer, University of Ottawa, Ontario

Summary: The Longitudinal Survey of Low Income Students (L-SLIS), created to measure the effects of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation’s Access Bursary, offers a unique combination of information pertaining to students’ preparations for, attitudes towards, and experiences in post-secondary education (PSE). This report uses the L-SLIS to focus on the experiences of Aboriginal students, a particularly interesting subset of respondents. The L-SLIS asks respondents to describe their ethnic background and those who report aboriginal heritage (North American Indian, Métis or Inuit) are considered Aboriginal for the purposes of this brief.

For the low income students represented in the L-SLIS data, the major findings are:

  1. Aboriginal students are substantially more likely than non-Aboriginal students to leave PSE without graduating in their first or second year.
  2. Aboriginal students are more likely than non-Aboriginal students to be first generation PSE students.
  3. Aboriginal students are less likely than non-Aboriginals to have savings for PSE.
  4. Aboriginal students are more likely than non-Aboriginals to live away from home in their first year of PSE.
  5. Aboriginal students in the sample receive greater amounts of government aid compared to non-Aboriginals.

The sample includes only 61 Aboriginal students; due to this small sample size, the analysis is restricted and we must be careful not to overstate the significance of the findings. That said, the findings of this report do point towards further research. Also note, Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals have many different individual and family characteristics that could be driving the results of this report; for this reason one must be careful when imputing causality between any factors. Finally, the findings of this brief apply specifically to the low income students represented by the L-SLIS and we cannot say if our findings hold for other low income students or for the student population in general.

Optimizing the Effectiveness of E-learning for First Nations

Source: Conference Board of Canada

Summary: This report looks at how to optimize the effectiveness of e-learning to improve the educational outcomes of First Nations people living on a reserve.

E-learning can help close the education gap between First Nations people living on a reserve and Canada’s non-Aboriginal population. Based on a brief literature review and interviews, this report found that optimizing the effectiveness of e-learning in improving the educational outcomes of First Nations people living on a reserve requires: better engagement of First Nations in e-learning program development and implementation; the development of an e-learning strategy; an increase in funding amounts and the extension of funding terms for e-learning; the assessment of community needs and educational outcomes; building tools and capacity to support e-learning; the development of a strategy to improve teacher engagement; consideration of generational differences among students; the promotion of student commitment; the expansion and increased flexibility of programs, with holistic program delivery; and better integration of e-learning under the overall Indian and Northern Affairs Canada education umbrella.

Making a Difference for Indigenous Children

Source: Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Hurst, Armstrong and Young
Focus: Classroom teachers

Summary: The Make It Count project aims to provide better mathematical outcomes for Indigenous children, and, to that end, the Swan Valley cluster identified various initiatives. This paper reports on a research project that investigated those initiatives and resultant changes in practice.

First, a modified First Steps in Mathematics professional learning program was provided for Education Assistants and Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers to upgrade their mathematical and pedagogical content knowledge. Second, elements of best practice in teaching Indigenous children were investigated. Professional learning communities have begun to develop in the wake of the professional learning and there are clear directions for pedagogical practice that may lead to improved student attendance and engagement.

Walking Together: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Perspectives in Curriculum

Source: Jane Friesen & Brian Krauth , Simon Fraser University, August 2009

Summary: According to these researchers, Aboriginal Canadians have an above-average incidence of almost every marker of social and economic deprivation, including poverty (Mendelson 2006), poor health outcomes, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide (Health Canada 2009). Some analysts (e.g. Richards and Vining 2004) argue that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty among off-reserve Aboriginal Canadians lies in improving educational outcomes among Aboriginal children and youth. This view is supported by evidence from other populations that education is associated with better health behaviours and outcomes (Kenkel 1991), substantially lower rates of incarceration (Lochner and Moretti 2004), higher earnings (Card 1999), reduced teen childbearing, criminal propensity, child abuse and neglect, and improved educational attainment and health outcomes of children (Greenwood 1997), increased voter and civic participation (Dee 2003), and reduced reliance on public transfers (Wolfe and Haveman 2001).

Their goal in this paper is to contribute to establishing an evidence base that can inform the development of policies related to Aboriginal education in Canada. They have used a newly available administrative data set provided by the British Columbia (B.C.) Ministry of Education to document the achievement gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in B.C. as measured by standardized test scores in grades 4 and 7, and to investigate the relationship between this gap and student characteristics, particularly differences in rates of assessed disabilities. They next measure the extent to which Aboriginal students are segregated from non-Aboriginal students at school. B.C.’s school funding rules provide districts with roughly similar resource levels, so this source of variation in school quality is not as salient as in the U.S. context. However, if peer effects are important, differential sorting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students may lead to systematic differences in the quality of the learning environments of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. They provide econometric estimates of the effects of peer group composition on Aboriginal students’ achievement as measured by B.C.’s Foundation Skills Assessment tests, and focus in particular on the share of peers who are Aboriginal or who are classified as disabled.

Their results show that the grade 7 test score gap is large in both reading and numeracy. Most of the gap has developed by grade 4, but the gap continues to grow between grades 4 and 7. Differences in rates of identified disability do not explain much of the test score gap. There appears to exist a substantial degree of segregation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, suggesting that school environments can in principle play an important role in the achievement gap.

The average Aboriginal student has a substantially higher proportion of Aboriginal peers and a somewhat higher proportion of peers with disabilities. Aboriginal students perform better when they attend school with a greater proportion of peers who are themselves Aboriginal, and experience limited if any disadvantage from attending school with a greater proportion of peers with disabilities.

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