Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

9.1 The need for consistent and ongoing support

We know that governments are always stretched to find dollars to support the many initiatives they believe will make a difference for their citizens. However, we also note that the AESN has made excellent use of its limited dollars. Because of the very real and substantial impacts that the AESN model provides for teachers and inquiry teams in their schools, we believe this centralized level of support should be continued. From a systemic change perspective, the impact of this small investment is many times amplified as learning is shared across schools, districts, and among network members.

However, we have also observed how some districts have levered their own funds to help teacher inquiry. This is because, as this study makes abundantly clear, the goal of enhancing the success of Aboriginal students is a shared one, and the Network provides a model that supplements and extends the impact of districts’ work on this priority. We believe that this observation merits consideration: what ways might provincial policy makers encourage this kind of levering of additional resources? There are likely different models, but we believe that providing some regionally targeted support in addition to school inquiry grants might be a wise way of using limited resources.

We also want to emphasize that the work of Aboriginal educational leaders is having a significant impact on efforts to enhance Aboriginal student success in every region we undertook to study. Not only are they effecting change in the success of Aboriginal students, they are making important and significant inroads into shifting the thinking of non-Aboriginal leaders and teachers around the province. Their work is inspiring change on a transformative scale. Yet we also believe that this success is due to the commitment of the Network principals and the individual leaders who have responded to the call for working as partners in this morally centered work. The work of changing the practice of non-Aboriginal teachers requires significant effort, and we saw that the most effective of these efforts involved deeply engaging non-Aboriginal teachers and leaders in experiences that involved working with and within their local Aboriginal communities. It also involved doing important work at deconstructing the colonial mindsets that are naturalized within the current mainstream educational system. Engaging in this work must be much more systematized if we are to effect the instruction of the largely white, middle class teaching force, but we believe, on the basis of this study and our analysis, that it needs to be under the guidance and tutelage of Aboriginal leaders already working within the BC school system. We think of this as an investment in our future as an inclusive, respectful and successful nation.

Finally, we now have a strong baseline of data to show how the AESN has transformed many districts and schools; to illustrate its continued effectiveness funds could also be set aside to regularly report on the impacts of the Network. This might be built into annual reporting mechanisms but we believe another larger scale assessment of impact should be completed within the next three years.