17 Sep. 2015
KENORA ONLINE: Student achievement goes beyond the classroom in Dryden
For trustees at the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, improving test scores can mean adopting strategies that go well beyond the classroom.
Heather Gardner's job is helping aboriginal children at Open Roads School in Dryden. As she told trustees last night, she's rarely at her desk.
"I'm almost never sitting down. I'm always in the classroom getting to know the students, getting to know the teachers. I'm in and out of the school getting to know the families as well. We're always in constant communication with them. Whether that's a text, a phone call, an email, Facebook message, Twitter. Whatever it is, we need to do to reach the families and get them to correspond with the school," she said.
At Dryden High School, Scott Urquhart oversees the Four Directions initiative. In their first year, he says they were able to narrow the gap in academic achievement between aboriginal students in Grade 9 and their peers.
"I think it speaks to what's possible and what can be done, and the commitment we're ready to make as a school board to move forward," he said.
In an average year, Urquhart says up to 60 per cent of Grade 9 students might earn eight credits. Last year, after the Four Directions program, 80 per cent of students earned eight credits. That's only three per cent below the average for non-aboriginal students in Grade 9.
Kieran McMonagle is called a grad coach. She's been working with aboriginal students in The Four Directions initiative -- which is focused on aboriginal students in Grade 9 -- in an effort to improve their academic achievement. McMonagle says the key is building strong relationships with her students, as well as their families and communities.
"So, for some students, that might mean working with their parent or guardian. For some students, it might mean working with a coach or a team within the school, or in the greater community. For some, it might be linking them with an agency, to better support and meet their needs," she said.
Urquhart says this kind of result has people in Queen's Park taking notice. He adds the board is hoping to expand the program to Beaver Brae in Kenora, while continuing with a second cohort in Dryden.
With a legacy of residential schools, as well as missing and murdered aboriginal women, both staff say its important to provide a strong bond between the classroom and the communities they serve.
Four Directions Youtube Video
FIRST NATIONS, METIS & INUIT (FNMI) COACHING PROGRAM BEGINS AT DRYDEN HIGH
Beginning in 2014 Dryden High School is piloting a new program for First Nations, Metis & Inuit (FNMI) students. FNMI is a program which provides mentorship, individual and group support for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students transitioning to and attending High School. It is the first program of its kind in Ontario.