Yukon needs own report card: Tredger

The only Yukon high schools included in the annual Fraser Institute report card are still failing the grade. Vanier Catholic, F.H.

The only Yukon high schools included in the annual Fraser Institute report card are still failing the grade.

Vanier Catholic, F.H. Collins and Porter Creek secondary schools haven’t changed their rating for more than five years, said Peter Cowley, who is with the institute.

For the Yukon, the think-tank’s assessment is based on graduation rates and standardized tests in math, science, languages and social studies. It then compares those results with schools in B.C.

“In none of the three (Yukon) cases would we be willing to say that the results are going up or down,” said Cowley.

Although Vanier is still in the top half of all the schools, one more year of similar marks would drop its standing, he said.

But former Yukon principal and current NDP education critic Jim Tredger wants the territory to “reject” the poor results and develop its own evaluation system.

“We can no longer let right-wing think-tanks define, within a very narrow range, what is important to Yukoners,” he said in the house on Tuesday.

“We have heard from parents, we have heard from educators and from First Nation governments what is important,” said Tredger, who is the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun.

“We need to be accountable to these stakeholders, not the Fraser Institute. We need to develop our own reporting system so we can read about us and what is important to us.”

But the Yukon government is already doing that, said Education Minister Scott Kent.

He mentioned the New Horizons education plan, which lays out goals through to 2016.

Kent said the first goal is that “Everyone who enters school in the Yukon will have the opportunity to successfully complete their education with dignity and purpose, well prepared to enter the next phase in their lives.”

But that’s not specific enough, said Tredger.

The New Horizon’s plan is not well known by parents or communities and evaluations are “ad hoc,” he added.

Tredger offered some specifics.

He wants to see more focus on training for trades and culture-based programming that is developed with parents, communities and First Nation governments.

Once students find courses they can engage with, and build their confidence, their success will spread to their other studies as well, he said.

“That (Fraser Institute) failing grade is not necessarily reflective of what’s happening in the classrooms,” said Tredger.

“Many of our students have chosen not to engage in school, so no matter what happens in school, they’re not engaged. And because they’re not engaged, that will bring down the marks. So what we need to do is broaden the base of what we’re evaluating and how we’re evaluating it.

“If there’s a focus on what the Fraser Institute thinks is important, we may forget what that parent in Carcross says is important or we may not have time to deal with what the Selkirk First Nation wants.”

Tredger doesn’t think the academics should be ignored, and he even gives a nod to the role that comparing schools with one another can play. But he said if Yukon schools are only evaluated on academics, that’s all that will be taught.

The more communities and parents are excluded from planning and evaluating, the more decades will pass with the same mistakes repeated again and again, he added.

“Until we start to develop an evaluation system that people believe in, and see as important, we’ll default to things like the Fraser Institute, and because it is such a narrow focus we don’t gain anything from it.”

The Department of Education issued a statement on the report this morning:

“To judge individual schools by a limited data set, which is what the Fraser Institute report does, is distracting and disrespectful of the hard work our staff is doing to keep kids in school, build supports and improve outcomes for all students. The Department of Education uses a much broader variety of data, including social, emotional, academic development, attendance and resiliency issues in its assessments.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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