Porter Creek Secondary students on a bison hunt in the Kloo Lake Valley on March 1. The Education department has pledged more outdoor, experiential learning for students. (Yukon Conservation Officer Services/Facebook)

Porter Creek Secondary students on a bison hunt in the Kloo Lake Valley on March 1. The Education department has pledged more outdoor, experiential learning for students. (Yukon Conservation Officer Services/Facebook)

Yukon’s Education department continuing consultation on student outcomes

An outcome strategy is pledged in response to the auditor general’s recommendations

The department of Education is claiming progress on the recommendations issued to it nearly four years ago.

In 2019, the auditor general reported that First Nations students in the Yukon experience worse educational outcomes than their non-First Nations counterparts. Further, the Yukon government was found to be ill-informed of the gaps and to have failed to substantially implement First Nations culture and languages into public school programming.

The Education department accepted the report’s seven recommendations and has issued regular updates to them.

The last update, which is dated March 1, logs what the department has accomplished since January 2022.

Touted actions include:

– getting feedback for a student outcomes strategy;

– supporting the launch of the First Nation School Board;

– reviewing inclusive education;

– launching full-day kindergarten in most communities;

– and creating a collaborative framework with Yukon First Nations.

READ MORE: Education in the Yukon not living up to expectations for some students: auditor general report

Pledging to close learning gaps

In 2019, the auditor general said the department needed to address poor student outcomes, which were described as ongoing and particularly affecting Indigenous and rural students.

The Education department has since pledged a student outcome strategy to address those gaps.

The government says it’s currently engaging with students, families, educators, other groups and the First Nation Education Commission. An updated student outcome strategy will be completed in time for the 2023-24 school year, the department says.

The department noted the launch of universal child care in spring 2021 and says more than 200 new child care spaces have been created between Whitehorse, Dawson, Ross River and Pelly Crossing.

READ MORE: Feds contribute $42 million toward affordable, improved childcare

More data and reporting has also been promised. The department says schools received school profile reports last fall, which provided an overview of student assessments and attendance.

Student data dashboards will be developed to provide similar data to the First Nation School Board, the update says.

Sharing information with the top

The auditor general has also said that the Yukon needs more oversight mechanisms and regular reporting to the minister’s office.

The department says it’s working on a workflow for “school growth plans” which will make space for goal-setting. The goals will be informed by the aforementioned student outcome strategy.

‘Reimagining’ inclusive education

The auditor general report recommended a “full review” of inclusive education to determine whether the current system is working, as well as work on prioritizing special assessments and tracking specialists’ recommendations.

A 2021 review found that specialist services were scarce and assessments lacking.

READ MORE: Report on special and inclusive education finds territory lacking in support

Since then, the department says it has established eight working groups to consider the current practices, implement Individual Education Plan (IEP) templates and determine how budgets and staffing can better serve students.

A specialist from the University of British Columbia is advising on improving assessments, the department says. The ultimate goal is to expedite assessments and implement IEPs within six months of a teacher or physician’s referral.

The department will also increase the number of educational assistants, thanks to the 2023 NDP-Liberal confidence agreement.

READ MORE: Yukon advocates calling for faster improvement on inclusive education

A universal support program has been implemented at three schools and introduced at three more, according to the department. It will eventually be implemented in every school.

Ready-to-Learn Schools was piloted in 2019. It’s based on training teachers to be responsive to children developing at different rates, either emotionally, cognitively or socially. There is also training on the impact of prolonged trauma on children’s’ development.

Collaborating with First Nations

A new collaboration framework was approved by the First Nations Education Commission on Feb. 17. An implementation plan is next, the department says.

There is already $1.5 million annually tagged for the 14 Yukon First Nations’ community-level priorities. A three-year memorandum of understanding is being developed on Yukon First Nations language fluency and a core funding request is being considered for the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate, according to the latest update. The directorate currently receives $735,000 annually.

The update speaks of frequent meetings held bi-weekly and monthly between the Education department and Chiefs Committee on Education; the First Nation Education Directorate; Yukon Native Language Centre; and Council of Yukon First Nations. It also mentions regular meetings with the 14 Yukon First Nations.

The Yukon Native Language Centre received $59,000 in addition to its core $1.19 million in funding in 2021-22, the update says, to help revitalize traditional languages.

Training to teach traditional languages, culture

The Education department says several credential courses leading First Nations perspectives have been introduced or updated. They include:

– Yukon First Nations leadership 12;

– First Fish 10 in Carcross;

– Ancestral Technology 10;

– Field Studies 12;

– Climate Change 10 and 12.

A new unit on residential schools for Grade 5 students is also being developed, the department says.

A number of professional development sessions for teachers are also listed, including localizing the curriculum and implementing oral traditions.

Students also attended a few trips including a chum salmon project, a moose hunt and a camp on Crow Mountain.

The department says it’s planning for more experiential learning in the future.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com