Indian and Metis Education: Engaging Parents as Partners
SSTA Research Centre Report #93-10: 61 pages, $14.
|Forum Background||This report is a summary of the discussions at
the 1993 SSTA Forum on Indian and Metis Education.
Strategies to increase the participation and representation of Indian and Metis people within the delivery and governance of public education are explored with directions for boards of education and the School Trustees Association. The Forum provides an important source of direction and ideas for bringing parents and school personnel closer together to work co-operatively to ensure a supportive learning environment for children.
Children of Indian and Metis ancestry are a large and growing percentage of the school population of Saskatchewan. Seventy-five percent of these children attend publicly controlled schools. Many parents of Aboriginal children feel they are outside the mainstream of society and have little influence on their children's education. Some parents are reluctant to become involved in an education system that has few warm memories for them.
|Introductions and Opening Remarks|
|Overview of Participation Continuum|
|Demographic Changes and the Implications for Saskatchewan's Schools|
|Engaging Parents in the Delivery of Public Education|
|References and Resources|
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The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.
This report provides a summary of discussions at the 1993 SSTA Indian and Métis Forum held in Saskatoon in October, 1993. (Appendix A). The forum, sponsored by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, included over 100 participants including representatives from educator, school trustee, administrator and parent groups. (Appendix B).
We are living in a time of transitions, where there's an increasing sense of optimism in the Aboriginal community, and there is also a sense that it's a time of individual and community healing, of coming together.
"When we create an education system in which Aboriginal students succeed, then all children will succeed."1992 Forum Participant
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Saskatchewan School Trustees Association
"The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association is organized to promote a climate in Saskatchewan supportive of excellence in Education for all children. To this end, the Association is committed to taking action that will result in equality of educational opportunity and benefit for children of Indian and Métis ancestry.
In the fall of 1992, the SSTA sponsored its first Forum on Indian and Métis Education as a way to provide direction for the Association and its member boards. A number of issues and strategies were identified at last year's forum.
This year's forum has been organized to build on the work that has begun and to focus on increasing the participation and representation of Indian and Métis people within the delivery and governance of public education. It is time to develop a new relationship with Aboriginal input and cooperation at all stages to give meaning to the unique relationship between the Aboriginal community and the public education system in Saskatchewan.
This Forum will provide direction and ideas for bringing parents and school personnel closer together to work cooperatively to ensure a supportive learning environment for children."
Reverend Cuthand, Associate Professor of Native Studies at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, was invited to the forum as the guest elder. Reverend Cuthand opened the Forum with a prayer in Cree and the following words.
"What is education? What is the meaning of education? Are the educational needs of our children being met? Do they learn to see themselves as worthwhile human beings? Do they recognize their origin and cultural background as an asset? Do they attach meaningful tasks with the expectation of success? Do they interact positively with other students? Do they recognize other cultural backgrounds?
Many educators are unaware of the various unique Aboriginal cultures which our children represent. Specific things can be done to enhance understanding and tolerance for cultural differences.
Many years ago, a teacher in one community asked me, "How do I get these people to speak. They don't say anything."
I said, `Talk about the ordinary things--the trees, the sun, the weather to reach them through their own culture.' To be a part of the community, you have to, without asking any questions, become part of that community. No questions asked: why is this? why do they sit in a circle? what are they eating? Too many questions are asked. By sitting and saying nothing while being part of the community, you will find more and more participation by the parents.
Both parents and teachers should be involved to examine recommendations that will lead to the development of Aboriginal education policies. Indian and Métis parents have a right to be part of the education system."
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association
"Professor Cuthand's remarks set an appropriate tone for the evening's
introduction and our discussions tomorrow. I was reminded in his remarks of the importance
that we must place on the humanness of the educational enterprise, that it is our task as
teachers, school trustees, school administrators to build in all our students patience,
strength and character. A year ago we had a similar Forum on Indian and Métis Education.
Out of that first Forum there were a number of issues that were identified. Of the twelve
broad directions that the participants identified. . . parental participation and
governance . . . are issues most appropriately taken up by the Saskatchewan School
Trustees Association. We will focus on:
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School boards recognize the important role that parents have to play in the education of their children and therefore attach great importance to the direct involvement of parents in this process. A number of important studies have shown that parental involvement is directly related to children's success in learning. Experts say that broad parental involvement with school issues establishes a powerful climate for student learning both at home and in school, reduces behaviour problems and supports positive motivation for academic achievement. Boards of education recognize that specific actions need to be taken in order to make this involvement a reality. Effective schools and school systems foster the active involvement of their communities in program delivery and school governance. Participation in the operation of a school or a school system can be viewed as a continuum. One end the continuum includes involvement in the ongoing activities of the school while the other end represents involvement in the governance of the school or school system. Four major categories of participation along this continuum may be described as:
A brief description of each type of participation is outlined below:
Communication: Parents and community are spectators of the educational activities in the school. They may be recipients of written communications such as newsletters and calenders, purchasers of products sold by the school, or spectators at school functions.
Curricular Support: Parents and community are directly involved in the curricular activities of the school. They play a role as supervisors, volunteers, tutors in the operations of the school.
Collaboration: The advice of parents and the community is sought on various issues as part of a shared governance structure established to direct a school or education system. Involvement varies from election as school board members to the establishment of structures permitting diverse groups to have input and share in the important decisions of the school or education system. A number of structures facilitate this type of involvement. They range from the ad hoc committee established to deal with a particular question to a formally established ongoing committee that has a formalized mandate or identifies the items with which it will deal.
Autonomous control: The established governance structure provides parents and community members with the authority to independently run their schools. Examples include a separate school, "church" school or school controlled by an Indian Band Council.
A variety of strategies and structures are necessary to involve parents and the community in the school and school system. The following table, "Participation in Education", outlines a variety of strategies and structures to engage Indian and Métis parents in the delivery and governance of public education.
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Saskatchewan has a large and growing Aboriginal population.
Saskatchewan's Indian and Métis population will increase by 50% in fifteen years.
The birthrate of Aboriginal peoples is approximately double the average for Saskatchewan (33 per 1,000 as compared to 17 per 1,000) and is projected to increase from 24% of all births in the province in 1991 to 37% in 2006.
Indian and Metis children of school age are having and will continue to have a significant impact on the province's education system.
The proportion of students of Indian and Métis ancestry is expected to increase from 18% in 1991 to 30% in 2006.
75% of the children of Indian and Métis ancestry attend provincially controlled schools.
Thirty school divisions reported an Indian and Métis student population greater than 5% in 1991-92.
Saskatchewan's Aboriginal population is becoming increasingly urban.
One half of the Indian population lives off reserves. Virtually all Métis people live off reserves.
Many urban school divisions report rapidly growing Aboriginal populations.
Of major cities reported in the Aboriginal People's Survey, Saskatoon had the highest concentration of people who identified as Métis; Regina had the highest proportion of people who identified as North American Indian.
Indian bands are taking control of education for students who live on reserves.
The percentage of students living on reserves who attend band controlled schools has increased by 71% since 1982 while the number attending provincial schools has declined by 10%.
Children of Aboriginal ancestry are having now, and will continue to have, an increasing impact on school systems. As the number of total births in Saskatchewan declines, the number of Aboriginal births is increasing and the percentage of Aboriginal population as a whole in Saskatchewan is expanding. The total number of school aged children in this province was 194,042 in 1991, and is projected to drop to below 180,600 by the year 2002. (quote from Teacher Supply and Demand, Ken Horseman, 1992) At the same time, the number of Aboriginal school aged children is expected to increase by over 12,000 from 35,800 to well over 48,100. The Aboriginal school aged population is growing faster than the general school aged population.
While one of the largest groups of the general population is over age 55, the largest proportion of the Aboriginal population is aged 6-14 years. The elderly non-Aboriginal population of Saskatchewan is growing at the same time as the percentage of Aboriginal school-aged children. A rural or reserve to urban shift is also occurring in the Aboriginal population. Saskatchewan is experiencing a major restructuring of the make-up of its population.
How will school systems respond? Seventy-five percent of the children of Indian and Métis ancestry are currently in public schools. Although 53 school divisions currently have less than 1% of their population of Aboriginal ancestry, the increasing percentage of Aboriginal students and changes resulting from treaty land entitlements are motivating all school systems to ask "What can we do to better serve Indian and Metis students?". All school systems in this province are gaining greater awareness of Indian and Métis culture, history, and developing greater sensitivity in dealing with another culture.
The call by Indian and Métis parents for an increased voice in the operations of schools attended by their children has been articulated both formally and informally for many years. The National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations), in its position paper entitled, Indian Control of Indian Education (1972), emphasized the role of parents by stating,
"If we are to avoid the conflict of values which in the past has led to withdrawal and failure, Indian parents must have control of education with the responsibility of setting goals."
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples states in its October, 1992 publication Framing the Issues, that the call for Aboriginal control of education was heard from every direction.
"There was a clear consensus that control over policy, curriculum, and support services is necessary to create an educational experience that reinforces the positive identity of Aboriginal students and enables them to succeed academically." (Framing the Issues, p. 8).
Roland Crowe, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, has stated that Indian people are ready, willing and able to take full control of their own education. Chief Roland Crowe states,
"We appreciate very much what educators have done for us. We sincerely do. But it's time we took out future into our own hands. Because no matter what we do - and our systems are not perfect - I can tell you that we could do no worse."
Chief Crowe has also indicated that there will be Indian schools in Regina, Saskatoon, and other major cities run by Indian school boards. Schools on urban reserves would relieve provincial taxpayers of fiscal responsibility for such schools. (The School Trustee, April, 1992)
The Federation of Saskatchewan Nations has developed a strategic plan for education with the intention of developing a totally controlled Indian education system. The strategic plan provides for the development and implementation of a framework that enables First Nations to develop autonomous education systems. The roles of Elders, parents and the community are defined within the education process of First Nations.
Although the position of the Métis Society of Saskatchewan (MSS) on education is less clear, one might anticipate that the organization is also interested in establishing a Métis school system. The School Finance and Governance Review reports that the predecessor to the MSS, Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan (AMNSIS), articulated their position on education governance when bilateral and trilateral agreements were proposed in 1987. AMNSIS assumed the position that the fundamental goal of Self-Government for Métis and Non-Status Indian People could be exercised by:
"extending to them all the powers, privileges, and duties confirmed and imposed on the Roman Catholic Subjects and have the right, when numbers warrant, to primary and secondary school instruction out of public funds for minority Aboriginal educational facilities."
The design sought by the Métis is similar to the legislation proposed for Francophone governance. More recently, the MSS has requested that the Minister of Education provide them with a grant to undertake an evaluation of the degree to which the provincial education system is meeting the needs of Métis students.
In short, the Indian and Métis communities and their organizations are asking for increased control of their children's education and recognition as partners in educational governance. The SSTA is committed to exploring, developing and implementing strategies and structures that will enable the public education system to meet this need.
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Research indicates that parent involvement is important. In the early 1960's, one of the very first studies on parent involvement was undertaken by James Coleman. The results of his work showed that the greatest contributors to student success in school and predictors of success in school were:
The more recent research that James Coleman has done, primarily in U.S. private schools, has led to a more useful understanding of parent involvement and the importance of reaching out to families at home and engaging them more directly in their children's education.
If the school, the community, the Church, and the home work together, it creates a common sense of value and understanding and purpose around what we are doing that forms a type of 'social capital'. This social capital, in turn, leads to increased student success in school. Consequently, working together is part of building a community with a greater capacity for learning.
We can begin that network that brings values together and leads to improved student success in school. It is important to reach out.
There are many reasons why schools should and do encourage active parental participation in schools. Education is recognized as a responsibility shared by the school, the home, the community, and the church. Recognition must be given to the broader community and the integral role they play in school success (Renihan & Renihan, 1991). Student achievement is related to the extent to which parents are actively involved in and support their children's learning. Successful school development projects have been related to high levels of communication. There are a number of compelling reasons for promoting parent involvement in schooling:
The fact that only one third of the responding schools completed this section of the survey suggests a good deal of work is required in the area of parent and community involvement.
There are times when it is very difficult to involve parents of Indian or Métis ancestry in the school. A substantial number of Aboriginal parents distrust the school system because of unpleasant memories of their school experiences. It is not unusual for certain community and family factors to further inhibit parental involvement in schools. Consequently, it is vital that when addressing parental involvement in a context where there are Aboriginal parents, a working relationship be established that provides for the development of mutual trust and respect. This means that plans to increase parental involvement have to be developed with parents and not for parents.
Some of the best resources for encouraging the participation of Indian and Métis parents have been developed in Saskatchewan. One of these resources is Partners at School: A Handbook on how to Involve Indian and Métis Parent in School Activities (1988), developed co-operatively by Saskatchewan Education and the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. A second resource, The Indian and Métis Education Staff Development Program (1992) includes a substantial section entitled, "Developing Participation of Indian and Métis Peoples" that builds upon Partners in School. It also identifies a substantial list of resources that may assist a school in developing a plan to increase parental involvement. In addition, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, in its 1991 Education Equity Report, summarized activities in school systems with education equity plans designed to increase parental involvement (See Appendix C).
Given the current trends, how can we best work with Indian and Métis parents in program delivery and governance?
Forum participants shared the following key points:
Respect can be demonstrated when we:
This can be developed through:
"The angry parent who comes to school is obviously someone who cares. After dealing with the issue at hand, involve that person in the school." Forum Participant, 1993
John Barton, Principal of Princess Alexandra School, Saskatoon, was invited to share experiences regarding engaging parents in school learning at the forum.
A community school is concerned with the involvement of all residents of its community. It seeks to improve the total environment and quality of living for children, families, older people, all who live in the neighbourhood. It develops programs related to the needs of the neighbourhood. It brings the services of health, welfare, recreational and educational agencies so close to the people that they are readily available.
Community School Program: Discussion Paper,
Saskatchewan Education, 1980, Section 3.0, p.4.
History of Community Schools: An Overview
As a staff we adopted that vision and that hope. Our trustees took this further. They had a symposium on inner city schools. They developed a concept plan for what community schools or inner city schools should look like and the jobs that we should be doing. We get support at the trustee level when they ask, "How are things going? How can we help? How can we move this along?"
As educators, our primary job is the academics. We can't lose track of that. Sometimes we start to wander down the path of "we need to provide this service", or "we need to provide that service", or "we need to get parents interested". But frankly we need to keep in the back of our minds the real reason that we're there, and that is for the academics. And through the academics, through restructuring we found that indirectly we've been able to invite parents into the school.
A while ago we started a police liaison program at our school. We did a pre and post survey with the students. One of the criteria we measured was parents attitudes towards the police as recorded by the child. Of all the categories we surveyed, that area was the most surprising. When children were having good experiences with the liaison officer, they were going home and telling their parents about it. The parents started to feel better about it, or at least the students felt that the parents felt better about working with the police.
Our hoop dance troop, another example of working with children, keeps students attending school to provide the academics. Parents are now coming to us and saying, "Thanks a lot." "What do you mean, thanks a lot?" "Well, my child is involved in hoop dancing . . . now I have to learn all that."
Think about how you grow with children. You share in their experience. If they have success at something, you feel proud. If they're struggling with something, you feel for them. And the parents we're working with in the inner city are no different. I think of my own experiences; when my children are having a good time at school, I feel more invited to go to the school. If the children aren't having as good an experience, I tend to back off.
What makes classrooms inviting? What are the characteristics that create inviting teachers? (Purkey & Novak) w Schools that are Intentionally Inviting: We are intentionally inviting the parents to some specific things: special events, soup and bannock, having a room parent come in, having tea or coffee, feasts, what they are comfortable with--an area where they have some expertise. We cleaned up our building to make it look attractive, make it feel inviting. We modernized our logo to capture what it is in our community that we believe in, and what it is in our school that we believe in. It has an Aboriginal motif. Harmony is actually one of the words that the students came up with when we asked them: "When you think of Princess Alexandra School, what do you think of?" We have a school jacket which the staff wears in school and when we go out in the community. Changing our attire has enabled us to become more comfortable in the community and become more respected by the community.
We're doing things but we don't realize exactly what we're doing, but they have an inviting effect. One was when we started to deliver students' progress reports to the home. We saw more parents starting to come to the school.
We do things that are unintentional and they have a rippling effect. We may inadvertently say something that may turn somebody off. School fees are unintentionally disinviting, for example. The parents would come in with their child; "Oh we're glad you're here. Your child's in grade 7, that's $23.00--oh' you've got another one in grade 8?--that's $32.00. You've got a child in grade 4that's OK, that's only $24.00." What is the message we send to the parents? We're unintentionally disinviting.
Our old logo unintentionally was disinviting. We changed that.
We had a policy in place or a procedure whereby, for example, if the students didn't bring a permission form back, then they couldn't go on the trip.
We needed to say, "How can we do some things differently?--to take a real risk, to teach classes without basal readers, to teach classes without workbooks, to make home visitations, to become life-long learners."
We have to build that comfort zone where we can make mistakes, where we can go to our parents and say, "We're struggling with this. We don't know everything that there is to know about some of these subjects."
We needed to look at factors that impact on us in the school because most of us come from the middle-class experience. All of a sudden we're thrown into a situation that is no longer middle-class. "We're bringing, solutions from a middle-class perspective, to a nonmiddle-class situation with poverty issues." We're teaching from a middle-class perspective. What works at some of our suburban schools doesn't work in the inner cities.
We needed to try and see how we could better address the children, keeping in mind that we wanted to focus on the academics.
With some of the things we are doing, we will have parents come and ask:
"Is this the school that has a re-entry program? I want my daughter back in."
"Is this the school where they don't have workbooks?"
"Is this the school where you only charge $10.00 for the school year, because I want to take my child but I cannot afford the fees that they are asking at other schools."
If we change some things, we become intentionally invitational, and we are focusing more on how we invite parents through the children. The children have good experiences at school and hopefully, the parents will feel better and that will encourage them. And . . .
To effectively engage parents as partners; appropriate material, human, and financial resources must be available. Forum participants offered the following suggestions:
Productive partnerships are built through effective two-way communication which includes on-going dialogue and networking.
Education and home-school partnerships are most effective were there is a conscious effort to building a community were learning is maximized.
Review political and legislative structures to ensure that they are enabling and empowering for education in each community.
Public schools must be sensitive to diverse mind sets, values and cultural perspectives.
A sense of shared ownership is essential to developing commitment and responsibility.
Schools must consciously reach out to parents and the broader community.
It is important for the school to encourage community learning since people only support what they understand.
Racism is evident in the behaviours of some individuals and how the education system is organized.
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Participants at the 1993 Forum reviewed present governance structures and considered possible options for change.
Present initiatives in Saskatchewan include:
The Education Act provides for participation in the governance of schools through election to a school division's board of education, a school district's board of trustees or a local school's advisory committee. Although legislation provides the same opportunity for individuals of Indian and Métis ancestry to be elected to boards or advisory committees as it does for all ratepayers, it is well known that Aboriginal people are under-representated of on these bodies.
Currently, approximately 16 of a total of 750 trustees are of Aboriginal ancestry. Only in cases where a majority of the ratepayers in a division are of Aboriginal ancestry (Northern Lights School Division or Ile a la Crosse) or where special provisions have been made, such as the establishment of an Indian reserve as a subdivision, does representation become proportionate. For example, in Prince Albert, as the proportion of Aboriginal people in the city's population has grown, representation on the public and separate boards has increased. At the school level, there is a substantial natural increase in participation as the number of Aboriginal people grows.
A number of boards of education have signed tuition agreements with band councils on neighbouring reserves. These agreements make provision for participation in the decision making in three ways.
a) A subdivision may be created that provides for the election of a band member to the board of education. Section 27(2) of The Education Act speaks to this provision. Eight boards of education have made this provision in tuition agreements signed with twelve Indian bands.
b) Indian band representation may be provided on the board of trustees. Representation may exist where an Indian reserve has been designated as a subdivision as well as where the reserve exists outside the school division. Section 127(1.1) of The Education Act provides the legal framework for an Indian Band Council to appoint one person to the board of trustees of the school district in which pupils from the reserve receive instructional services. It should be noted that a tuition agreement does not have to be in place for an Indian band to have representation on the local board.
c) More recent agreements speak to there being set meetings between the board of education and the Indian band's school committee or the Band Council.
Community schools are required to have parent councils. Because these schools have been established to combat the effects of inner city poverty and target an Aboriginal population, councils typically have a high proportion of Indian and Métis parents. This does not occur by accident; rather the principal, community school coordinator, and community members actively encourage participation.
Joe Duquette High School (originally called the Saskatoon Native Survival School) was established in 1980 by a group of Indian and Métis parents who were concerned about the high drop-out rate among Aboriginal students. A tripartheid agreement between Saskatchewan Education, Saskatoon Catholic School Division, and the Parent's Council articulated the roles and responsibilities of each signatory. In summary form, the department funds the school, the board provides the administrative framework for the operation of the school, and the Parent's Council is responsible for the "cultural life" of the school. They are actively involved in school programming, approve hirings, and develop supporting structures (nursery, group homes, and counselling services).
Northern Lights School Division has delegated increased authority to the boards of trustees in the school division. This has been done to place the locus of decision making closer to the school and community, a real need in a school division that encompasses one half the province.
In addition to those responsibilities stipulated in Section 136 of The Education Act, district boards in the Northern Lights School Division have been assigned responsibilities in the areas of local policy development, program, instruction, decentralized budgeting, plant operation and maintenance, transportation, and student-related activities.
Prince Albert Public School Division has established an Aboriginal Advisory Committee to the board. The committee is composed of two parent representatives from each school who are appointed by the principal, one of whom has voting rights. One board member is assigned to the committee. Central office administrative support is provided. The committee deals with system-wide issues that are referred to it by the board or are identified by the committee. The committee plays a role in helping Aboriginal people establish networks in the city.
Participants at the Forum were provided with an opportunity to consider and suggest new alternatives for a governance structure that would encourage Indian and Métis involvmeent. The majority of participants agreed that change is necessary. All new initiatives must institute processes for improved communication, curricular support, and collaboration. Boards of education could develop and institute a variety of processes to ensure appropriate parental involvement including surveys, forums, meetings and school visits.
Two publications, Aboriginal Self Government and Education in Canada, and Facing the Challenge outline a number of structures that may have potential for accommodating Aboriginal needs in Saskatchewan. Certain structures and models described in these publications are similar to those being considered in Saskatchewan. For example, the elected local school committees that are suggested are very similar to the school councils described in the 1992 Langlois-Scharf Report and the 1993 Task Force on Educational Governance Report.
It is likely that the number of Indian and Métis controlled education authorities will increase. While there may be some competition for students with publicly controlled schools, these new authorities may be more representative of the communities being served. The following options are envisioned:
1 Sale or Lease of Provincial Schools to Indian Bands: At least one school is currently being leased to an Indian band. Negotiations are underway to sell another provincial school to an Indian band. These schools are or will be operated as band controlled schools. The bands will likely accept students from the communities where the schools are located as tuition fee paying students. Legislative changes in The Education Act are required if these arrangements are to be expedited.
2 Public Indian, Métis or Aboriginal Authorities: The Government of Saskatchewan is committed to devolving certain programs in a number of areas to public Aboriginal authorities established for specific purposes. Again, legislative changes would be required to permit the turning over of selected schools in the provincial education system to such authorities.
3 District Aboriginal Governance Bodies: Aboriginal school district and boards could be created within present or extended provisions of provincial statute.
4 First Nations or Tribal Council Government: Local governance in Aboriginal education could be under the jurisdiction of First Nations or Tribal Council government. The Educational arms of such governments would function like divisional or county boards.
This occurs in a variety of ways:
These forms of autonomous control would represent a breaking away and separation from the public and separate schools as they now exist. While there are strong advocates of such a separation, opinions divided on the educational merits of this approach.
Further opportunities for shared decision making and control could be explored. A variety of structures that ensure meaningful consultation and input could be considered including:
1 Schools Operated Under Joint Agreements: Section 96(1) of The Education Act currently permits schools boards to sign agreements with certain parties to jointly operate schools. Legislative changes could extend this right to Indian bands.
Forum participants encouraged consideration of the establishment of associate schools. Schools with a majority of students of Indian and Métis ancestry would be controlled by a parent's council while remaining within the administrative framework of the school division. Appropriate roles and responsibilities would be clearly identified.
2 Seats Assigned to Aboriginal Representatives: Enhanced statutory provision for Aboriginal participation in existing provincial school boards and districts could provide a governance mechanism for Indian and Métis peoples who wish a particularly close link with provincial education, combined with practical participation in the decision making of boards.
Forum participants expressed guarded support for assigning school board seats to ensure Indian and Métis representation. Indian bands could be designated as subdivisions to provide for the election of at least one band member to the board of education. Urban ares could designate a minimum number of seats on the school board to represent the percentage of Indian and Métis people in the community. Participants focused more on searching for ways to overcome an apparent reluctance to serve.
3 Associate Boards: Alternative education programs for urban Aboriginal students could be operated by an Aboriginal board of directors in association with a neighbouring public school division. Such boards would have the status of "associate boards". The Sacred Circle project in Edmonton currently operates with such a board.
Decentralized school-based management has risen in popularity and support during recent years. Such a system would allow greater parental and community control within the structure of the larger school division. Alternatives include:
1 Site Based School Management: Education policy boards would delegate policy setting and administrative control to individual school sites.
Parent involvement could be increased through decentralized school management. In the Northern Lights School Division significant decisions are being made at the school level by the principal and staff in cooperation with community representatives. The board of education has established guidelines and training programs to support this move to decentralized decision-making. As members of their communities, Aboriginal parents are key players in deciding how their schools will be run.
2 Enhanced School Councils: The Langlois-Scharf Report recommended that differences among communities be accommodated in a restructured education system where each school within a larger School Division be required to establish a school council. The school council would consist of the school principal and a set number of elected parents and teachers. The Council would be advisory to the principal and to the division board. Such a structure would "foster and advance the viability of the public school divisions while recognizing the differentiations that have been, or may be, decided by governments or the courts" (p. 228).
Forum participants supported the establishment of school parent councils. Parent councils might operate like current community school councils or the school councils proposed in the Langlois-Scharf Report or a school-level governance body recommended by the SSTA Task Force on Educational Governance report. These bodies would be elected by the parents and others in the school community and have a significant voice in the operation and ongoing improvement of the school.
3 Charter Schools: This idea, approved experimentally in Minnesota in 1991, permits any qualified institution or group to seek to set up a charter school. The charter application must be sponsored by a public body (government or school board). The school must be open to all, tuition free, non-sectarian, non-selective, and non-discriminatory. For each student attracted to the school, a grant equal to the average per pupil amount currently provided to other schools would be provided.
There is a range of options, many of which we are doing now. It is time to talk about other possibilities and begin to carve out a sense of where we may go together in the future.
Table of Contents
Saskatchewan's population is aging, the birth rate is declining and people are moving from rural areas to the cities. As well, the Aboriginal population is growing at a faster rate than the general population. Saskatchewan's population, in the years ahead, will include a large number of Aboriginal children and young adults, and an increasingly large number of elderly people of Anglo-European ancestry. The anticipated large number of Aboriginal youth has profound implications for the education system. It means greater emphasis on Aboriginal history, culture and traditions in all aspects of the school program.
It will also affect enrolment in provincially-funded K-12 schools. There is a growing trend in the Aboriginal community to educate children on reserves in band-controlled schools. This trend means declining enrolments for many provincial schools. Instead of offering a full K-12 program, some Indian bands purchase services from local provincial schools. This means that enrolments in provincial schools can fluctuate dramatically from year to year and that provincial schools must adapt program offerings in order to retain Aboriginal students.
Parents want a voice in decision-making about educational programs and services and are no longer content to be passive recipients of information provided by the school. The fact that increasing numbers of Saskatchewan parents are of Aboriginal ancestry will greatly influence the nature of educational decision-making and programming in the years ahead.
It is our hope that the 1993 forum and this report will serve as an important source of direction and provide ideas for bringing parents and school personnel closer together to work co-operatively to ensure a supportive learning environment for children.
There is no clear consensus. We need to continue work in each community to find acceptable answers.
"Two different languages are being used and the langauge is interesting. One group is using `involved', `representative', `participating' and the other group is using `central', `decision making' and `autonomy'." Forum Participant
"There is no one solution. There are different kinds of solutions because we have different kinds of communities. What really makes it work is the heart, when people come together and put their words together with their actions." Forum Participant
Forum participants suggested that it is time to further enhance connections through:
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Scenic View S.D.
Blaine Lake S.D.
Ile a la Crosse S.D.
Indian Head S.D.
Last Mountain S.D.
Meadow Lake S.D.
North Battleford S.D.
North Battleford R.C.S.S.D.
Northern Lakes S.D.
Northern Lights S.D.
Prince Albert S.D.
Prince Albert R.C.S.S.D.
St. Paul's R.C.S.S.D.
Prince Albert Rural S.D.
Tiger Lily S.D.
Prince Albert Comprehensive S.D.
Saskatchewan Valley S.D.
Yorkton Regional High School Division
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Metis Society of Saskatchewan
University of Regina
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment
Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Saskatchewan Community Schools Association
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association
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The following guidelines offer suggestions for developing a plan to increase parental involvement.
To be successful, a school initiative of this nature requires that active support and involvement of all staff members. This is particularly true if proposed changes may present a threat to individuals. The staff must understand why increasing parental involvement is an important initiative and how parents may be involved in the school.
Remember, all schools currently involve parents in the school; you must build upon what exists.
Activity: Devote a staff meeting to the answering the following questions:
1 How do we currently involve parents in the school?
2 Why would we want to increase parental participation in our school?
3 What resources are there in the school and the community that would assist us in this initiative?
4 What barriers are there to this initiative?
You may wish to close the staff meeting by creating a committee to lead in the development of a school plan to increase parental involvement. Initially, the committee can synthesize the responses to these questions.
If children from a reserve attend your school, you will also want school committees, or band council support. You may want representatives from these groups on your committee.
Hold a parent meeting to solicit support for and input into the school plan. It is extremely important that representation from all parts of the community attend this meeting. The meeting could commence with an overview of the rationale that has been developed and a description of what is meant by parental involvement. Parents could then be divided into groups to answer the following questions.
1 What is the school doing well in involving parents in the school?
2 On what areas of parental involvement should the school concentrate?
3 How can we assist in enhancing parental involvement in the school?
4 What barriers are there to parents becoming more involved in the school?
Consider closing the meeting by expanding the committee charged with developing this plan by adding a number of parents. It is important that parents be representative of the community. Remember, committees that are too large have difficulty functioning effectively.
At this point the committee can commence designing a plan to meet local needs that utilizes local resources. Important resources include: information from the staff meeting(s) and the public meeting(s), resources that have been identified earlier or gathered in support of the initiative, and the parents and teachers on the committee.
A very important part of the implementation involves the communication of initiatives to the various school and community audiences.
Remember to assess the plan in terms of its original objectives. Stakeholders should be involved in the assessment.
Revise the plan in accordance with feedback from the assessment and to meet evolving needs.
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h3>References and Resources
Cambridge Management Group Inc. Federation of Saskatchewan Nations (Draft Strategic Planning Document), Saskatoon, 1993.
Davis, Sidney (Editor). Partners at School. Saskatchewan Education and Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. Regina, 1988.
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Nominal Role System. Regina, 1982-83; 1992-93.
Eidsness, Barry W. Indian and Métis Children of School Age: The Present-the Future (Unpublished). Saskatchewan Education. Regina, 1990.
Epstein, J.L. "Five Types of Parent Involvement: Linking Practices to Outcomes." Educational Leadership. Oct., 1989.
Fitch, Clarence E. Chicago School Reform: Year Two--Restructuring Instruction. ERIC Document 229101, 1992.
Institute for Canadian Aboriginal Students Inc. A Discussion paper: A Survey to Determine the Interest and Commitment Towards the Research and Development of an Alternative School Model for Aboriginal Students. Regina, 1990.
Kirkness, Verna J. First Nations and Schools: Triumphs and Struggles. Canadian Education Association, Toronto, 1992.
Langlois, Dr. Herve O. And Scharf, Dr. Murray P. School Finance and Governance Review. Saskatchewan Education, Regina, 1991.
Northern Lights School Division. Local Boards of Trustees and Local School Advisory Committees - Policy. La Ronge.
Olesen, Dr. Mavis. Urban Indian/Métis Education Governance Issues (Unpublished). Regina Public School Division, Regina, 1993.
Paquette, Jerald E. Aboriginal Self Government and Education in Canada. Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, Kingston, 1986.
Renihan F. I. And Renihan, P.J. Parental Involvement: The Forgotten Dimension in School Effectiveness. 1991.
The Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on School Governance. Facing the Challenge. Twentieth Century Fund/Danforth Foundation, New York, 1992.
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Public Hearings. Overview of the First Round. Ottawa, 1992.
Saskatchewan Education. Director's of Education Survey Results 1991-92. Regina, 1992.
Saskatchewan Education. Indian and Métis Education Policy from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Regina, 1989.
Saskatchewan Education. Indian and Métis Education Staff Development Program (draft). Regina, 1992.
Saskatchewan Education. Partners in Action: Action Plan of the Indian and Métis Education Advisory Committee. Regina, 1991.
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. Education Equity Report. Regina, 1991.
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. Cumulative Assessment. Regina, 1992.
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. "Chief Roland Crowe Asks: What is So Different?". The School Trustee. Regina, April, 1992.
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. Indian and Métis Education: Present Realities and Future Directions. Regina, 1992.
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. Task Force on Educational Governance Background Materials. Regina, 1993.
Statistics Canada. '91 Aboriginal Data. Age and Sex Catalogue, Ottawa, 1993.
Statistics Canada: Demography Division. Population Projections of Registered Indians 1986-2011. Ottawa, 1990.
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