The number of at-risk aboriginal students is on the decline while their graduation rate is at the highest level ever in Delta.
Those were some of the encouraging findings reported to the Delta board of education Tuesday.
According to the 2012 annual report on Delta's Aboriginal Education
Enhancement Agreement, the district had a 67 per cent graduation rate
for First Nations students, which was once again higher than the provincial average. About 80 per cent of those graduating go on to post-secondary education within two years.
The goal is to move the graduation number in line with non-aboriginal students.
In January of last year, the board signed a new version of an Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement in a ceremony marking the continued effort to improve the learning outcomes of native students, who have traditionally struggled in the B.C. public school system.
There are approximately 500 aboriginal students registered in Delta's public schools, roughly 60 of those coming from the Tsawwassen First Nation and Musqueam First Nation.
In 2005, the school board signed its first enhancement agreement at a time when all B.C. districts were mandated to come up with such plans. Monitored by the district's aboriginal advisory committee, the Delta agreement contained a series of academic performance indicators to measure success.
According to the district, the latest agreement centres on the Medicine Wheel and its four components: intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual well being.
The overall purpose of the new agreement is to reinforce nurturing, safe learning environments where aboriginal students feel respected, valued and supported.
At the time the new agreement was signed, Kathy Guild, the district's director of special education programs, explained there are various aspects which are important to support student academic learning, including understanding and appreciation of their culture. She said the goals in the latest agreement would be achieved through a more holistic approach.
The Aboriginal Educational Program in Delta has aboriginal students provided with support
workers, along with aboriginal community members who are familiar with and sensitive to the value, beliefs and needs of the aboriginal community from which the students come.
"It is this cultural sensitivity and awareness that acts as a bridge between the two cultures, necessary in assisting aboriginal students maintain academic success," said Guild.
The recently released report notes all aboriginal students surveyed are proud of their culture and heritage, and that 80 per cent of parents report they are satisfied with the aboriginal cultural program.
The report, though, identified several areas that require improvement.
For example, up to 85 per cent of students feel safe in elementary school, however, that number drops to 55 to 63 per cent in high school. Twenty per cent of aboriginal students report being bullied at school, compared to 10 per cent of non-aboriginal students.
Meanwhile, only 35 to 45 per cent feel that high school prepares them for the future and/or post secondary, while only 60 per cent of parents are satisfied with the academic support provided by their child's school.
The report, which also lists a number of academic areas in need of further improvement, outlines an action plan to address the concerns.