Beaufort Delta District Education Council (BDDEC) is aggressively working to improve graduation rates.
Superintendent Devin Roberts said the district has gone so far as to expand its team of mobile teachers.
“This year new trades teachers were hired to travel the district and provide more high school courses to smaller schools outside of Inuvik,” he said. “The plan is to improve graduation rates and reduce the number of students who enter grade ten but do not graduate. This has become a focus of the BDDEC vision which we hope to report on over the next five to ten years.”
As of the 2020/2021 year, the six-year graduation rate for the Northwest Territories is 60 per cent. Split between regions, the rate is 74 per cent in Yellowknife, 55 per cent in regional centres like Inuvik and 45 per cent in smaller communities. Graduation rates for Indigenous students is 49 per cent across the territory, compared to 81 per cent for non-Indigenous students. Roberts said BDDEC wants to turn those lower numbers around.
It is part of BDDEC’s overall 2022 to 2027 vision, developed by a council with representatives from all eight Beaufort Delta communities. The vision will renew the district’s focus on the Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit curriculum, which teachers are expected to bring into lessons as much as possible. To help facilitate this, teachers are encouraged to bring in knowledge keepers and Elders to help students learn traditional skills, stories and languages alongside learning science, technology, engineering and math.
A renewed focus on trades education as well as mental wellness is also part of the new vision. Roberts said the vision follows a concept of three “I’s” — Indigenized Education, Inquiry and Inclusive Schooling.
“Decolonizing the education system as much as possible within our local locus of control is a main priority for BDDEC,” he said. “The efforts to advance truth and reconciliation can be seen with the Elders in the School programs and BDDEC’s new vision which includes a focus on voice and choice for students. The voices of the youth in the region must be valued, fostered and supported throughout their education. BDDEC has asked all schools to develop a student council. These student councils will work together to provide youth more of a forum to bring forward ideas and concerns about their education system in real time.
“Also in the day to day classes BDDEC teachers are providing students more opportunities for voice and choice using inquiry as the main method of teaching. Students become active in their learning. They are encouraged to practice and become more comfortable with oracy skills. This is supported through partner talks and small group work eventually building students up to become confident in public speaking, presenting, critical thinking and articulation. The students are the future leaders of the communities and thus BDDEC believes fostering communication skills will support the youth in becoming confident leaders.”
To help students feel more included, the district has re-branded its logo and purchased orange lighting to shine the message that Every Child Matters throughout the dark Beaufort Delta nights.
Implementation of the new vision is already underway, after a motion at the annual District Education Council meeting in March set it in action. Roberts said the first step of that is community engagement to gather feedback on where the vision is going. Changes from said feedback will be announced this fall. After that, the plan is to partner with the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to develop a 10-year plan for student success across the Beaufort Delta.
“In the meantime staff have been trained using the Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit curriculums learning how to Indigenize programming,” said Roberts. “Partnerships between schools, Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers are underway. An Inquiry network for teachers and principals meets monthly. The inquiry networks are supported by consultants and BDDEC senior management.
“BDDEC has a repository of lessons and strategies to support Indigenized Education, Inquiry and Inclusive Schooling through Google Drive available to staff. BDDEC senior leadership and a team of consultants travel the district supporting schools with the BDDEC vision.”