Nanaimo school district received a pat on the back last week for its improved aboriginal graduation rates.
Our still-too-low statistics shouldn’t be a cause for celebration, but they can be a reaffirmation that what we’re doing is working, in some ways.
B.C. Minister of Education Peter Fassbender wrote a letter to Steve Rae, Nanaimo school board chairman, to congratulate the district on its highest-ever aboriginal grad rate last year, 63.9 per cent. It’s the second-straight marked improvement, up from 56.2 per cent in 2012-13 and 49.9 in 2011-12.
These numbers show that we’re far from acing any tests here. The district-wide graduation rate was 72.5 per cent, so we should expect higher grad rates from all our teens.
At the same time, small victories matter. Sometimes we spend so much time poring over statistics that we lose the sense of what those numbers mean. We shouldn’t. These percentages represent actual kids, each one of them with their own success story of completing coursework and navigating the hazards of high school hallways.
We think some of the district’s aboriginal education initiatives are effective. Schools are succeeding in finding unique ways to reach pockets of pupils through inclusivity and flexibility and recognition that education is more than just reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic and rote learning.
Last week’s pat on the back shouldn’t satisfy us. We need to keep doing what we’re doing, and more. We need adequate provincial funding to expand aboriginal education programs, not subject them to budget cuts.
And we we must never be satisfied while our First Nations students – or any group of students – lag behind. Having two sets of standards and two sets of expectations sends the wrong message to kids at an age when they shouldn’t be putting limitations on their potential.