Aboriginal students in Edmonton continue to have lower high school graduation rates than their non-Aboriginal peers.
Annual Education Outcomes Reports, which include statistics from Alberta Education for 2021-22, show that more than 80% of Edmonton public and Catholic school students complete high school on time, but completion rates are significantly lower for students who self-identify. as First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) people.
According to reports, 67 percent of FNMI students in Edmonton Catholic schools and 47% of Edmonton Public School students finished high school in three years. The province-wide three-year high school completion rate for FNMI students was 60%.
Three-year completion rates for FNMI students have declined slightly in both school divisions since the previous school year, but have increased over the longer term.
The previous three-year high school completion average of Edmonton Catholic schools for FNMI students was 61%, while that of CEB was 45%.
Reports from both districts warn that one should “exercise caution” when comparing high school completion rates over time, as diploma exams have been canceled during the pandemic.
In their reports, school districts outlined strategies to support Indigenous students, including working with families and communities, responding to calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and hiring more staff. native.
“We have a lot of work to do,” EPSB Superintendent Darrel Robertson said at a school board meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Council President Trisha Estabrooks acknowledged during the meeting that there was work to be done, but she was encouraged by the growing percentage of FNMI students graduating from high school within five years.
The EPSB five-year high school completion rate for FNMI students is 59%.
Christine Meadows, spokesperson for Edmonton Catholic Schools, said the division is addressing this issue holistically, connecting with students throughout their school journey.
“We want our students to see themselves in school, to do well in school, to feel welcomed and to have a sense of belonging,” she said in an email.
She also said that the division Braided trips has won awards for its success in increasing high school completion rates among Indigenous students. The program started in a few secondary schools, but has since expanded to support younger students as well.
In the 2019-2020 school year, EPSB launched a Senior Years Coach pilot project at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School which has since been introduced to two other schools.
Ward G administrator Saadiq Sumar asked Robertson if the pilot project could be expanded further to reach younger students.
“I think there’s potential there, but we’ll have to proceed with caution so that we can afford what we aspire to put in place,” Robertson said.
Christine Martineau, assistant professor in the faculty of education at Concordia University in Edmonton, said learning coaches and cultural programs are important for Indigenous students, but so are barriers. systems to their success.
“For Indigenous students, systemic discrimination is at the root of academic non-completion and poor performance,” she said.
Martineau, who is Cree and Métis and dropped out of high school but later earned a doctorate in educational leadership, said the schools were not built with Indigenous students in mind.
She said there are no simple answers to close the graduation gap, but school divisions could benefit from more immersion and bilingual programs for Indigenous languages. More Indigenous teachers and leaders, she said, could mean more role models for students.
“Keep the individual supports, like graduation coaches and Braided Journeys programs, but also look within where systems need to change,” she said.