Education Debate in NWT Assembly 2nd Session Day 121 19th Assembly

Education Minister RJ Simpson and Dehcho MLA Ronald Bonnetrouge in NWT Legislative Assembly

HANSARD Monday, October 17, 2022

Question 1178-19(2): Grade Level Outcomes and Data for Northwest Territories Students

MR. BONNETROUGE: Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last Thursday in the House, I questioned the education Minister on whether grade level statistics are being collected and reported. The Minister listed documents and reports that may contain this information.

Can the Minister point me to where I can find the actual grade levels of the students in the NWT and whether this information is available for parents, education leaders, and the public to see today? Mahsi.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Minister responsible for Education, Culture and Employment.

HON. R.J. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A child’s grade level, so, you know, how they might be performing in class ‑‑ and I don’t like to use that term for something like junior kindergarten, I don’t know if they have a grade level at junior kindergarten, but that type of information is absolutely accessible to parents. I encourage parents to have conversations with teachers so they’re informed, so they can make the best decisions for the future of their child. There is information on how children are doing that is in the possession of the education bodies, and there is broad general information that’s available to the public in terms of how children across the Northwest Territories are doing academically.

In this House earlier this year, I tabled the document entitled JK to 12 Education System Performance Measures Technical Report from 2019‑2020. And that contains information ‑‑ a variety of information about students of all ages throughout the JK to 12 system. Thank you.

MR. BONNETROUGE: Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I see we still have problems with collecting data, especially the grade levels which is very critical at this juncture in our education modernization. The Minister identified that the data is effectively owned by the education bodies and now the teachers and the parents. The Minister alluded at that time that the information is not at our fingertips.

Can the Minister explain what is the delay in the education bodies sharing this information with the department? Mahsi.

HON. R.J. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So if you look at the Education Act, in that act it lays out how information can be shared. The Minister doesn’t have the same type of access to that information that the education bodies have. So there is a way for us to access that information, but it is not a simple straightforward process.

Each year education bodies table their accountability framework reports, which contains a significant amount of information, and so the department does have access to that. But there is no common shared system that ECE can reach into to look at where a child might be at a given point or even in a certain region. So the department has to reach out, have the discussion with the superintendent. Perhaps that ‑‑ it goes to the board. Perhaps the DEA has a conversation. What I can do is follow up with the Member and provide additional information, though, on some of the processes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. BONNETROUGE: Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. There is a big problem with sharing that information. You know, the grade levels, we need to really get a handle on those because it’s really hurting in the small communities where we’re having graduates that are not achieving the grade 12 grade level. And I’m after, you know, that information, about what actual grade levels they’re attaining in the small communities and maybe in some of the larger centres. It’s very critical for the future of the education in NWT. We need to know that so we need to know what we have to fix moving forward. And I’m wondering why the Minister is having a hard time getting that information, because you’re going to build a university and we don’t have students that are attaining the grade 12 level to attend them. You know, that’s going to be a problem. I just wondered if the Minister’s got any comments on that. Mahsi.

HON. R.J. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I’ll say that there is information out there. If the Member would like to know how many students in small communities scored at acceptable, below acceptable, or excellent levels on their English language arts 30‑2 diploma exams, we have that information. It’s publicly available. So there is a level of detail that people can dig down into. I can’t tell ‑‑ I don’t have that information, but I can’t tell you what a particular student in a particular community, I can’t tell you what their grades are. But we have ‑‑ there’s a lot of information that it is publicly available.

And I will say there are lots of students who could go to a university. A lot of students do go to university. I went to university. My dad went to university. A number of Members in this building grew up in the Northwest Territories; we all went to university. So I don’t think we need to put down students and say that they are not achieving. A lot of students are achieving. There’s students at med school. There’s students who are in law school. There’s engineers. There’s all sorts of students; there’s all sorts of success stories in the Northwest Territories. I fully agree that there are students who we can do better to assist. But I don’t want to paint a picture of all students in the territory as underachievers. We have a number of very successful future leaders right now in the JK to 12 system and off at university. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary, Member for Deh Cho.

MR. BONNETROUGE: Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I don’t agree with the Minister. We still need the statistics for many of our education bodies, even in the local levels, and even at this level too so I can do my job properly. I don’t have any stats. He doesn’t have any stats himself, you know, of all the grade levels that we have in our schools. He hasn’t come to visit Fort Providence or looked at the stats in the Fort Providence school over the last several years.

When I came into this House in 2019 and I told that story to everybody, that many of our students are heading through the colleges and universities that he’s talking about in the South, and they are all returning within a month or so with sad faces and crying because they don’t have the education level to continue in that post‑secondary education. I’ve stated that many times. They all applaud that everything is good on that side. Where’s the stats? Give us some statistics. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

HON. R.J. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So here I have a document; you can see there’s stats all in it, and I know I’m not allowed to use props so I apologize for that. But I want to show people this document does exist. It exists in the real world. There are numbers in it. Those numbers are correlated with outcomes in schools. So there are stats. There are stats. I promise you, Mr. Speaker, if someone wants to go online and click a couple links, you will find stats. They are not hidden. They are easily accessible.

We understand that we can do a better job with stats though; the Auditor General pointed out. So we are taking steps to make information more accessible so that we can provide more information to make better decisions. That work is underway. I don’t want to say that we don’t recognize it’s an issue. We do. But it is incorrect to say that there are no stats available. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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