A recent report out of the Yukon Legislative Assembly seeks to keep the department of Education accountable for commitments made in response to the auditor general of Canada’s recommendations.
On Sept. 26, the standing committee on public accounts released a report that notes what has been done since 2020 to address the issues outlined in the auditor general’s 2019 report on education, and where more work is needed.
The auditor general’s latest report found the department continued to struggle to close gaps in educational outcomes since a previous 2009 report by the auditor general on the topic.
The standing committee on public accounts said it continues to support the auditor general’s findings.
For example, the auditor general recommended the department of Education should develop and carry out a strategy to address long-standing gaps in student performance and improve student outcomes, specifically for Yukon First Nations and rural students. The auditor general recommended that the strategy include analyzing the root causes of poor student outcomes, defining performance targets, developing and implementing actions to reach these targets and evaluating how effective these actions are at improving student outcomes.
In its written submission to the standing committee, the Association of Yukon School Councils, Boards and Committees (AYSCBC) noted the department has acknowledged that it has not carried out a comprehensive strategy for measuring and analyzing differences in student outcomes and for targeting plans to address those differences as they pertain to First Nation and rural students.
“It is not clear as to how information that is collected [by the department] has led to any decisive and/or immediate action to improve student outcomes,” AYSCBC said.
The Yukon Chiefs Committee on Education informed the standing committee that it was not aware that work on performance targets had taken place or where these targets are published.
The chiefs committee also noted that while it was appreciative of refinements to the way data is collected and shared, it is unclear how this work is in line with a data memorandum of understanding. A representative of the chiefs committee urged the department of Education to share the raw data.
“We don’t need it interpreted by somebody; we don’t need it put through a washing machine. Let’s share the data and be honest,” said Daryn Leas, a technician of the chiefs committee.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to look at those numbers, but we need to understand what the challenges are.”
When it comes to understanding the root causes of gaps in student outcomes and finding solutions to closing the gaps, the department of Education said in its response to the standing committee that it is working with Yukon First Nations and education partners to come up with a strategy to get better student outcomes.
The department indicated it is tracking and monitoring data to interpret causes for student outcomes and other issues. A written submission quoted in the standing committee’s report states the department is working with “Yukon First Nations and the Advisory Committee for Yukon Education to refine outcome indicators and performance targets such as cohort tracking through transition periods, student satisfaction, graduation rates and primary years’ literacy and numeracy.”
The department has conducted reviews to better understand root causes that demonstrate there is still more work to do.
“We have heard loud and clear that the department of Education needs to do a better job of working with Yukon First Nations, of ensuring that Yukon First Nations are supported and succeeding at school, and making sure that Yukon First Nation students, and all Yukon students, have opportunities to learn about Yukon First Nation history, cultures, languages, and ways of knowing, doing, and being,” deputy minister of Education Nicole Morgan told the standing committee at a Jan. 19 hearing.
The department claims it has begun to identify and address some of the underlying causes and committed to its work with First Nations and special education partners, such as the work done to establish a Yukon First Nation school board.
“This is a significant stride in our sincere efforts to advance our relationship with Yukon First Nation governments and ensure that Yukon First Nations have greater authority and control in education, which is a commitment of the joint education action plan, and to continue to strive to take meaningful action on truth and reconciliation,” Morgan said.
“Our work does not stop there.”
The committee is recommending the department of Education provide an update on progress made on all of the recommendations in the auditor general’s report by the end of February 2023.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org