Goal #1 - Alberta Education

Goal #1: First Nations, Métis and Inuit
student achievement is increased as
measured by Provincial Achievement
Tests and Diploma Exams.
Theme 1: Achievement Tests and FNMI
Activity: Four Questions
“What do you hope to learn in this workshop?”
“What is your favourite pastime?”
“What does success mean to you?”
“Why do you think FNMI students achieve
lower scores on provincial achievement tests?
Achievement Tests and FNMI Students
“Born in and nurtured by the soil of home and
community, Native children must inevitably
extend their growing roots into the encroaching
terrain of the majority culture. A soil of challenge
that is barren or unfriendly will choke growth.
One that nourishes development will help
ensure that individual potential has the chance
to flower.”
Morten Beiser et al “Mental Health and the Academic Performance of First Nations
and Majority-culture Children” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Activity: Brainstorming
“How can teachers help nourish the development of FNMI students?”
“How can schools help nourish the development of FNMI students?”
“How can communities help nourish the development of FNMI students?”
Key messages:
Aboriginal students’ test results tend to drop as they get older.
Aboriginal underachievement on these tests cannot be attributed to a
single factor – it’s a complex problem with many factors.
Attitude and environment are key factors that influence the success of
Aboriginal students.
Teachers and Administrators can influence the success of Aboriginal
students on these tests.
Misconception #1: Aboriginal students have less academic potential,
which is confirmed by lower scores on IQ tests.
This misconception was prevalent less than 40 years ago, but has
been discredited by many studies. For example:
Bryde 1968 Showed that South Dakota Sioux children outperformed their
non-Aboriginal counterparts during the first three years of school. After
grade three, grade point averages dropped to below non-Aboriginal
Beiser 1998 Did not show a higher performance by Aboriginal students
early on – Aboriginal students scored the same or slightly below nonAboriginal students. However, it did show a similar drop in grades later on.
Beiser states that IQ tests measure “the shaping of certain intellectual skills”
rather than “inherent ability”.
Therefore, even though Aboriginal students often score lower than nonAboriginal students, this shows that Aboriginal students lack “school
readiness”, not academic potential.
Misconception #2: Aboriginal students score poorly on standardized
achievement tests because the tests are culturally biased.
The fact that Aboriginal students score lower than non-Aboriginal students on
achievement tests is influenced by many factors beside differences in culture, for
Poor educational leadership
School structures (size and grouping of buildings)
Insufficient school and community support (tutoring and social
Inadequate early childhood literacy development
Impersonal education environment
Failure to establish a cultural context
Low teacher expectations
Lack of positive neighbourhood influences
Negative peer pressure
Instruction not aligned with student needs
Assessments inadequate to fully capture students’ learning
Summer setbacks
Facts about Aboriginal Student Achievement
In Alberta
According to provincial achievement testing, Aboriginal students
strongest in grade 3
weakest in grade 9
High school graduation rate of Aboriginal students (1996):
15% less than non-Aboriginal students
Percent of students that complete university program:
Aboriginal students:
Non-Aboriginal students:
Activity: Compare and Contrast
FNMI students in Grade 3 compared to FNMI students in Grade 9
Grade 3
Grade 9
English is often a
second language
How are grade 3
students different
than grade 9
Focus on
cooperation rather
Have less value
for the written
word (come from
an oral culture)
How are grade 9
students different
than grade 3
Self Image and Confidence
Good self image and confidence in one’s abilities are important
factors in being academically successful. Beiser’s study (1998)
showed that Aboriginal and non-aboriginal students differed greatly
when asked to rate their own abilities. Students were asked to rate
themselves on such things as:
People can depend on me.
I am good at schoolwork.
I can follow directions.
I am just as smart as other kids my age.
Aboriginal students scored themselves significantly lower than their
non-Aboriginal counterparts.
Activity: Focused Reading –The Achievement Gap
Do a focused reading of the article. Mark the text with the three
symbols – checkmark (things I already knew), exclamation point
(interesting ideas) and question mark (things I don’t understand).
Discuss in groups the parts you marked and why.
Success Stories: #1 El Centro, California
The community:
• Near Mexican border
• Traditionally lower-performing district
• Low income
• Unemployment rate of 34%
• Most residents spoke little or no English
Success Stories: #1 El Centro, California
The “Inquiry Science” Approach
• Innovative way to teach science
• Hands-on experimentation rather than passively observing
• Teachers serve as guides and collaborators
• Integrate reading, writing, math, technology and higher-order
thinking skills
The results:
• Science test scores showed significant gains
• Dramatic improvement in mathematics and reading scores
• Scores in writing averaged around 90% on district writing exam
• Student interest and engagement improved because of active
Success Stories: #2 Twin Falls, Idaho
The community:
• More than 50% of students on lunch program
• Struggling with poverty, family instability, drug abuse and crime
• Scores well below the national average
• Mostly disadvantaged students with limited English proficiency
The “Focus on Test Scores" Approach Involved:
• educating teachers, students and parents about standardized test
design, content and structure
• teaching test-taking skills to students and parents within the context
of the school curriculum, with a focus on improved student learning
• curriculum alignment
Success Stories: #2 Twin Falls, Idaho
The “Focus on Test Scores" Approach Involved (continued):
• test-taking practices
• peer, parent and community volunteer tutoring
• special attention for challenged and accelerated learners
• individual and group rewards
• constant monitoring of student performance
The results:
• after less than two months, test scores jumped an average of 18%
across grade levels
• after a year, tests score jumped to 90% in three of the grades tested
Activity: Motivate Me!
Take turns playing the teacher, parent or other authority figure and model
poor and positive examples, such as:
“Don’t be so hard on yourself – not everyone can expect to get good
“C+ is a very good grade for you.”
“Be realistic about your future – there are lots of jobs you can do
without going to university.”
“Nobody else in our family has gone to university, why should you?”
“Grades aren’t important.”
“I know you can do better than this. Do you need extra help?”
“You can do whatever you set your mind to.”
“You are just as smart as everyone else – show me what you can do!”
Activity: Success Stories
Review the material from the article “Helping Children
Succeed”. Split into groups and take turns summarizing
what they learned (I Summarize, You Summarize).
Discuss lessons learned from these success stories.
Examples of Aboriginal Content Infusion
From “Influencing Aboriginal Education: Effective Practices for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learners and
Educators” Alberta Learning, 2003. Also see Theme 10 Summary Sheet 4.
Muskowehiwan Band School, Saskatchewan – examples of Aboriginal Content
Aboriginal Content Activity
Creating Star blankets, Tipi design
Instructing students in various types of pow-wow and round
dance movements
Social Studies
Teaching a comparative perspective of the government
structures of the province and the reserve
Endangered animals, such as the eagle, and its significance
to Aboriginal culture
Indigenous food groups and traditional ways of healing
Language Arts
Elders tell stories and legends
Geometry of the circle
Examples of Aboriginal Content Infusion
Metawewinihk Archeology Project:
• Students worked on several real archeological digs and participated
in activities such as fire starting, flint knapping, petroglyph making,
and traditional cooking
• Helps move the concept of history from abstract to concrete
• Involves Elders, who came to bless the site
• Develops cultural pride and a sense of identity
Father Gamache School:
• Use Native legends and concepts to teach Language Arts concepts
• Use First Nations plays and books to teach students how to create
traditional artwork
• Be careful to distinguish between different Aboriginal groups (Cree,
Dene, Métis, etc.)
Examples of Aboriginal Content Infusion
Chief Mistawasis School:
• Interviewed local Elders about the history and culture of the reserve
and legends
• Material was translated and edited to form social studies units for
grades 1 to 9
Twin Lakes School:
• Offer a cultural camp to students from grades 1 – 12 every year
• Learn how to prepare traditional foods, hunt, fish with nets, trap and
tell stories in the oral tradition
• Field trips and culturally relevant extracurricular activities are often
effective means of supplementing course work and providing deeper
insight into Aboriginal culture.
Activity: 5 – 3 – 1
Work alone and jot down 5 words that come to mind when
thinking about achievement tests and FNMI students.
Share your words with your table. As a table, choose 3 words.
As a table, choose 1 word.
Groups share the word with the other groups and explain why
they chose the word.
Activity: Action Plan
Use the “Action Plan” graphic organizer to develop a plan for how
you will use what you learned during the workshop in your
classroom, school and/or community. Share your plans with the