Attendance In NWT Community Schools

An indigenous male child wearing a green tshirt and playing a drum while in school

Report cards in school can be a hard lesson. But a bad report card is better than a good one that doesn’t tell students where they truly stand. Unfortunately, in hopes of maintaining a positive environment, our department of education and education ministers try to water down the results in our community schools with a waterfall of good news. Parents and students need both.

We used to speak a lot about high absenteeism rates outside of  Yellowknife where the GNWT runs the schools. The community school staff and divisional boards struggled to get them higher. 

There was little discussion about residential school then but now we know if education had not been so brutally imposed on generations of people, they would have a more positive perspective.

The education department reports high attendance compared to years ago. If you comb through the reports from the divisional boards that run the community schools, there are statements that have a greater ring of truth.

Just look below at item three on the GNWT chart that explains how attendance is counted, or not counted.

Northwest Territories Department of Education Attendance by Community
If you click on the table above, you will see the GNWT attendance numbers are in the mid to high seventies and low eighties percentages. But look at the chart below and click on it. Look at Note 3. The high attendance numbers are highly questionable.
Percent Overall Attendance , By Community Type, Northwest territories, 2010/2011- 2019/2020

What Are The Attendance Rates In GNWT Community Schools?

There seems to be two measurements of attendance in GNWT school. One is termed Overall Attendance which is usually the higher figure. The other is the Percentage of Students Who Attend 90 plus Percent of the Time, which is a much lower figure. The lower figure sounds much like attendance when we used to talk about absenteeism. However, we can all agree attendance is tied to success. The graduation rates have changed little in the last twenty to forty years so there is reason to wonder if the attendance rates are similar.

Annual Reports for Northwest Territories Education Bodies

2017/ 18

Regional data: Average attendance – 78%; percent attending 90% of the time – 37%

2018/ 19


Students in the Sahtu region have a diverse set of needs with approximately 50% of our students on Individualized Education Plans (IEP), or Student Support Plans (SSP) in 2018-19. Attendance remained a significant concern, as only 27% of students attended school at least 90% of the time. This inconsistent attendance prevents our students from receiving daily instruction and support at a consistently high rate to ensure thriving learners and readiness for tertiary education. 


Students in the South Slave have a diverse set of needs, with approximately 18% of our students on Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or Student Support Plans (SSP) in 2018-19. Attendance remained a significant concern, as only 42% of students attended school at least 90% of the time; however, this was a 5% increase over the previous year. This inconsistent attendance prevents our students from receiving critical daily instruction and support at a consistently high rate.

2019/ 20

Territorial Schools – Regional Targets – Achieved results 30.2% of students attended 90+% which is an increase of 3.1%.

2021/ 22

Addressing attendance issues in Sahtú schools. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many disruptions in the opening of schools across the region and getting students to return to school was a challenge. In the next school year, schools will be tasked with engaging students and families in order to address the low attendance rates — Page 855

BDDEC – Student attendance remains a high concern,and many initiatives have been implemented to increase the student’s attendance in the schools which did result in increased attendance at some of the schools during the 2021—2022 year. Staff will continue to focus on methods to increase the regular attendance at the schools.

Attendance was significantly impacted by COVID 19. All communities in the Beaufort Delta region experienced school closures because of COVID 19 in 2021-22 — Page27/136

Attendance continues to be a major concern. The schools are constantly reviewing and looking for better ways to engage the students and their parents in encouraging attendance. With our hiring program this year we were pleased to offer positions to a number of our former graduates. These individuals have become role models for our students as to what they can accomplish, and that they can bring their education back to their community to help others — Page 143

The Dettah District Education Authority is pleased to report that we were able to continue with our strong Indigenous Language Programming, and that we were able to welcome Elders and Knowledge Keepers back to our school in the late Spring. This was very exciting and allowed for us to offer some exciting Key Cultural Experiences for our students. The 2021-2022 school year also presented many unique learning experiences and challenges, many in part due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. Student attendance was one of the major challenges experienced. Student mental health was also challenged by many factors, including illness and the impact of unpredictability due to the Pandemic — Page 423

Attendance was very inconsistent due to a variety of factors. Student learning gaps will need to be revisited and addressed — Page 446

The TCSA experienced a decrease in actual enrollment during the COVID pandemic. Particularly in the students over 19 the TCSA experienced a significant change in attendance patterns with many students struggling with distance/blended learning — Page 1230

Attendance – There has been a significant reduction in attendance due to COVID. This year students had to attend learning on-line as well as in person. Attendance was very low when learning was remote and didn’t significantly improve when schools re-opened. Attendance is the number one factor in student achievement. Older students who were unable to attend in person (or choose not to attend the alternative learning sites) resulted in a reduction of graduates. Community and family based strategies are essential to improve attendance in all grades in the future.

Missing 1 day a week results in being over 2.5 years behind by grade 12.

On average Tłı̨chǫ students have an average attendance rate of 60.4%. For an average student this means that they lose ONE WHOLE YEAR of school each 3 years, and by grade 12 are at least 4 YEARS BEHIND — Page 1227

TCSA – Additional Comments for the region, including any specific information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendance is a significant concern and barrier to student success. Since the onset of COVID-19 TCSA schools have had a significant reduction in attendance in all grades — Page 1229

SSDEC Another challenge for the Council is the low levels of readiness of many young children entering the school system, poor attendance by many students, and disengaged parents, probably related to the intergenerational effects of residential schooling. These varying levels and engagement can make it difficult to catch up and retain these students so that they progress and reach their potential. The recent disruption to schooling resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the equity of access and engagement issues — Page 1140


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