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First Nations’ students focus of joint venture

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First Nations students have been scoring lower on provincial test scores than their classmates across Ontario.

But a joint venture between the Seven Generations Education Institute here and Northwestern Ontario school boards announced last week hopes to change that in this region.

The Ontario Ministry of Education and Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have contributed a grant of $40,000 to address First Nations’ student achievement in school boards from Marathon to the Manitoba border.

Warren Hoshizaki, education director for the Rainy River District School Board and chair of the Northern Ontario Education Leaders, said school boards across the region have been concerned about lower reading, writing, and math scores for aboriginal students, as well as lower graduation rates.

While 20 percent of students at Fort Frances High School are aboriginal in grade nine, for instance, that number drops to between five and six percent by graduation day.

“There’s been a discussion about how do we increase the student achievement scores for First Nations kids as well as the graduation rates,” Hoshizaki said Monday.

“We thought if there’s an opportunity to bring together superintendents and directors involved in the public system, as well as First Nations educational leaders around the area, we can start talking about these issues and see if we can come up with some solutions,” he explained.

After meeting with Delbert Horton, chief executive officer of the Seven Generations Education Institute, the pair created a proposal to ask for funding to address this issue.

“The main thing is to set performance targets and to come up with a plan to improve the reading, writing, and mathematical achievements,” said Horton.

Horton said board administrators and senior educators will examine programs run across the province, as well as national initiatives, to bring the best practices to school boards across Northwestern Ontario.

“It’s a proactive approach towards the education of First Nations kids,” Hoshizaki noted. “If we can get all the expert minds that we have working with First Nations kids, hopefully this will make a difference.”

Horton said he’s excited by the opportunity to address the educational needs of First Nations students—and help them to achieve their potential.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” he remarked. “We know the success rate for First Nations students hasn’t been what we would like it to be.

“We need to look at how the school board can do its job better,” he added.

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