Government education report lacking

The Education department’s recently released First Annual Highlights Report distorts what’s going on in the Yukon, says the Whitehorse…

The Education department’s recently released First Annual Highlights Report distorts what’s going on in the Yukon, says the Whitehorse Elementary School Council.

Funding cuts over the past two years are not mentioned.

Student achievement highlights are presented to look better than they actually are.

And there is no mention of dropout rates or the considerable outcome gap between First Nation and non-First Nation students.

“The council had decided that it would tone it down and go back to concentrating on our own school rather than raising a ruckus,” said Erik Blake, a member of the school council.

“But then this thing came out.”

The four-page report was mailed to homes throughout the Yukon a few weeks ago.

“I highly suspect that the report was actually generated in response to our earlier criticisms of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” said Blake.

“It’s essentially trying to refute the things we were saying were wrong, but the government has never actually demonstrated that the numbers we were presenting are incorrect.

“They’ve said in words that we’re wrong or that we’re interpreting things incorrectly, but in our minds the numbers speak for themselves.”

On April 17, the school council sent an open letter to Education Minister Patrick Rouble pointing out factual anomalies in the report.

“It’s got data that’s two years out of date, which is not helpful,” said Blake.

“The numbers did increase, but they were just keeping pace with salary increases and things like that.

“There are not actually more resources for education.”

From 2004/2005 to 2007/2008 public school funding grew by 3.6 per cent.

During that same period, the average government department grew by 9.4 per cent.

This opened up a funding gap of $15.8 million, according to the school council.

“If you look at the numbers for the two years since then, including the latest budget, the amount of money going to schools has decreased,” Blake added.

The Testing Student Achievement section of the highlight report paints an inaccurate picture of what’s going on, he said.

Contained within this section are two graphs showing students’ achievements in language arts and mathematics.

The graphs were lifted directly from the Yukon Education annual report, which is available on the Education department’s website.

However, there are a few things missing.

In the far more lengthy report there are two lines, one solid and one dotted, indicating target percentages.

Education has set a target for successful performance at 85 per cent and the graph indicates that the Yukon has achieved this in only three of the eleven categories.

The dotted line represents the department’s target for excellent performance at 20 per cent.

This was only achieved in two of the 11 categories.

These target lines have been omitted from the report that was mailed out to the public.

“If you look at the numbers compared to the Alberta jurisdiction, which seems to be the benchmark that’s used for the department of Education in all their reporting, we’re consistently underperforming,” said Blake.

And there are no figures on drop-out rates in the highlights or the complete report.

“I have a suspicion that that’s probably not a pretty picture and, of course, that has long-term consequences and costs for society,” said Blake.

“I think teachers just don’t have the resources to deliver quality education to the full range of students that are out there in our school system.”

“Of course we’re concerned,” said Yukon Teachers’ Association president Jim Tredger.

“We see the needs of our children increase and the more needy the child, the more resources are required for support.”

Teachers are working “flat out” to meet the needs of their students, said Tredger.

“We have an excellent education system — I think it’s one of the best in Canada.

“Do we have to improve? You bet.

“But we’re working on it.”

The department of Education will make a submission to the management board if money is needed for education reform, he added.

Education Minister Patrick Rouble refused to comment on the issue.

“We’re not saying that more money is the solution to all of our problems, but decreasing the budget certainly doesn’t help,” said Blake.

“We can’t hire staff without money, we can’t purchase educational resources without money and you can’t have a school structure without money.”

“As a member of the school council and as a parent my concern is with outcomes,” he added.

“I want my children and all Yukon children to have a quality education and to be successful.”