Education for the Seventh Generation: A First Nations School Reform Model

Barry M. Montour
Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University
December, 2011
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The conditions and context of First Nations students attending on-reserve schools is markedly different from the general population who attend provincially funded and managed school systems. The historical, political, and fiduciary relationship between First Nations and the federal government, due in large part to the inequity in funding levels for education, are just some of the challenges that First Nations struggle with in their attempt to provide their students with an education comparable to their provincial counterparts. The ability to appropriately and accurately assess the achievement of First Nation students in on-reserve schools has been greatly hindered by these conditions. The purpose of this study was to develop, implement, and assess a research based comprehensive board-wide improvement plan in a First Nation school system, following the plan over a three year period. In addition to the research based practices advocated by the Ontario Ministry of Education, the plan included locally developed performance indicators to assess growth and student achievement between the 2006/2007 and 2008/2009 school year. The question posed in this study sought to find out if the plan would bring the First Nation school system to the provincial standard, and additionally, if it would improve the perception of the school system held by community members. The results from the provincial assessments over the three year period showed that the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education did not meet the provincial standard for either Grade 3 or Grade 6 in any of the assessed areas of reading, writing, or mathematics. The most significant amount of growth for both Grade 3 and Grade 6 occurred between Year 1 and Year 2 in the area of writing. However, all of these gains were lost in Year 3, when a political conflict in the community closed the schools for three days during the last week of the provincial assessments, which then led to the reconfiguration of the schools to the end of the school year. However, the results from the Canadian Test of Basic Skills showed improvements in all grade levels in the areas assessed.