Improving Canadian Indigenous Student Success: Three Martin Family Initiative Projects
Of the approximately 1.5 million Indigenous People in Canada, 50 percent are under the age of 25 — they are the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the country. A real concern for Canada is the low Indigenous high school graduation rate; the non-Indigenous high school graduation rate is about 90 percent while the Indigenous rate is about 50 percent.
The Martin Family Initiative (MFI), a charitable foundation, was established in 2008 to address this crisis. Three of MFI’s key strategies are:
Thanks to the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, MFI collaborated with the University of Toronto and 13 Indigenous education experts to develop an innovative course for principals of on-reserve schools.
Participants learn how to ensure that teaching and learning at high standards are the first priority of every school by participating in learning experiences that develop their instructional leadership skills in order to increase levels of student achievement by developing improved teaching performance. The nine-month, 200-hour program consists of 10 modules plus a 30-hour practicum.
The feedback from participants is very positive: the learnings are unique to on-reserve schools, the course helps principals learn to focus on what is important in their schools, and it inspires them to be better school leaders.
A virtual library of over 1,300 Promising Practices in Indigenous Education Website is updated monthly. Contents include curriculum, classroom practices, relevant policies, interesting initiatives and research related to successful practices in Indigenous education.
The focus areas are Kindergarten to Grade 12, Parent/Community Engagement and Early Childhood Education. Educators, researchers and others use the site to enhance learning opportunities and to improve educational success for Indigenous students
By the age of 10, children need to read well enough to read and write what they know and think, or they risk falling behind in all areas in school. School achievement relies on the ability to read and write well; reading proficiency by age 10 is the best school-based predictor of high school graduation.
A four-year MFI pilot project showed that with effective teaching Indigenous students can excel as speakers, listeners, readers and writers in two or more languages and enjoy the associated cultural, social, educational and economic benefits.
The pilot project has been expanded and will include 20 on-reserve schools by 2020.