Education submits to Fraser’s scathing report

These missed days are likely compounded by the fact that the Yukon has one of the shortest school years in Canada. The Yukon’s low graduation rate matches several demographic trends across Canada, said Hine.

Scurrying to respond to a withering report by auditor general Sheila Fraser, Yukon Education Department officials vow swift action on the report’s recommendations.

Fraser found numerous shortcomings in how the department plans for just about everything, from the number of teachers it hires to how it maintains crumbling facilities.

As a result, the Education Department can’t demonstrate how it’s doing its job — educating the territory’s children.

Most of the plans Fraser requested already exist, said deputy minister Pamela Hine. The department just needs to compile them, she told members of the Public Accounts Committee on Friday.

“It’s not like we’re just drawing straws or have a dart board in the department,” said Hine.

A long-term strategic plan will be complete within six months, she said.

Among the more damning problems identified by Fraser is how Yukon reports its graduation rate. By excluding students who drop out before reaching Grade 12 from its tally, the territory has substantially inflated it.

The territory’s method of calculating the graduation rate is “misleading,” said Fraser.

“I have to admit, when I came in as deputy minister, I had concerns about how graduation rates were being reported,” said Hine. She was appointed in June of 2007.

Yukon’s five-year graduation average is 63 per cent. This places the territory below all provinces, but above the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Yukon falls well below Canada’s graduation average of 75 per cent.

Yukon’s graduation rate ought to be comparable to that of the national average, said Hine.

“We have a long way to go,” she said.

But the department still has not defined an official graduation benchmark. A report released in the autumn suggested that the department should aim to have all students graduate.

This may not be realistic, said Hine.

The department’s last annual report, written under Hine’s management, acknowledges that other jurisdictions calculate graduation rates differently and that officials would consider changing their method in the future.

The Yukon’s method of calculating graduation rates has been used since 1995, said Hine.

“My understanding is that’s how jurisdictions were doing it at the time,” she said.

The department report also claims there isn’t enough information to calculate the graduation rate of Yukon aboriginals. This is not true, says Fraser’s report.

She pegs the aboriginal graduation rate at 40 per cent, according to numbers gathered from the department.

Hine blamed an aging database that runs on software that is no longer supported. A new database should be built by 2013, but improvements will be seen before then, said Hine.

Absenteeism has climbed in recent years, Fraser found. The average number of days a student misses has climbed over five years to 21 days from 16.

Why?

“Cold weather,” suggested Christie Whitley, assistant deputy minister of Education. Parents keep students home during extremely cold days, she said.

As well, some First Nation students miss classes in September to go hunting. Schools are trying to offer their own hunting trips to accommodate this tradition, said Whitley.

There are likely other reasons, she added. But to find them out, you’d have to ask students themselves.

These missed days are likely compounded by the fact that the Yukon has one of the shortest school years in Canada.

The Yukon’s low graduation rate matches several demographic trends across Canada, said Hine. The territory has a large aboriginal population, and across the country, aboriginals disproportionately drop out of school. Rural students also fare worse than urban students.

But, Yukon students are less isolated than their counterparts in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, said Hine. Yukon only has one fly-in community.

Schools face far greater expectations than they did a generation ago, she said. Then, school consisted mostly of “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, plus phys-ed.”

Today, schools are expected to feed students through breakfast programs, to ensure children do their homework, and to teach students life skills and parenting.

This shift isn’t a bad thing, but it does put extra stress on the system, said Hine.

If the department does manage to deliver all this, she said, “I think that’s something Yukon could be proud of.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read