Aboriginal students' test scores soar



WOOD BUFFALO, AB, June 17, 2014 /CNW/ - First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) students in Northern Alberta's Wood Buffalo region logged test results above provincial averages for students of all backgrounds following enrollment in a breakthrough program, The Royal Conservatory of Music announced today.

The Conservatory's Learning Through the Arts® Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) integrates arts activities into teaching and learning the core school curriculum, yielding dramatic improvements in academic participation and achievement for 3,000 students enrolled in the program.

Among the findings of the YEP's evaluation of Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) scores of students in the region between 2009/10 and 2012/13 school years:

  • In 2012/13 PATs for Grade 9 Mathematics, FNMI students boosted their average scores from 44.7 to 66.1 per cent – beating the provincial average for students of all backgrounds in this demanding test, and surpassing the provincial average for FNMI youth by 23.3 per cent; 
  • In Grade 9 Language Arts, FNMI students' scores beat the provincial average for all students,  while the entire student body in district schools beat the provincial average by nearly nine per cent, after trailing in the years immediately before the program's start;
  • In Grade 6 Language Arts, FNMI students posted a 91.7 per cent average score, beating the average for all Alberta students by 9.2 per cent, while the entire student body in the district had an average score of 96.2, beating the provincial average by nearly 14 per cent; and
  • In Grade 9 Social Studies, FNMI students improved by more than 19 per cent over the previous three years, and the district overall beat the provincial average by nearly nine per cent, exceeding the provincial average for the first time in years. Compared with the provincial average of all FNMI students in Social Studies, FNMI students from the Wood Buffalo region scored more than 19 per cent higher.

"This is conclusive proof that the integration of arts activities into the core curriculum is the best way to boost the engagement level and consequently the academic success of all students," says Royal Conservatory President and CEO Dr. Peter Simon.

The Learning Through the Arts Youth Empowerment Program brings together Conservatory-trained dramatic and visual artists, musicians, dancers and writers to work creatively with teachers and community program coordinators to engage young people more deeply in their school learning, and stimulate life skills development through out-of-school activities. The program's goals are to foster enhanced school attachment and achievement; cultivate self-esteem and positive cultural identity; encourage pro-social activity; and build creativity and resilience.

"There is not a shadow of a doubt, according to the evidence in this study, that arts-based instruction is beneficial to a majority of at-risk students—the focus on FNMI youth bears this out," says Dr. Lee Willingham, of Wilfrid Laurier University, who reviewed the research report.

The next step is the creation of a centre in western Canada that will develop distance training programs, online instructional resources, and partnership capabilities to help other schools implement Learning Through the Arts youth empowerment programs.

Earlier this month, Suncor Energy, through the Suncor Energy Foundation, announced an additional $1.1 million investment to support the growth of the Learning Through the Arts program in Wood Buffalo. "As you can see from the results this innovative program works," said Mark Little, executive vice president, Upstream, Suncor. "By extending our support The Royal Conservatory of Music will be able to build on this program and help impact more students."

The Royal Conservatory of Music is one of the largest and most respected music and arts education institutions in the world.  Motivated by its powerful mission to develop human potential through leadership in music and arts education, The Royal Conservatory has also emerged over the last two decades as a leader in the development of arts-based programs that address a wide range of social issues. 

For more information about this initiative, including a copy of the three-year Summative Research Report on the program, please click here.

Supporting Quotes:

Dr. Peter Simon, President and CEO, The Royal Conservatory
"The Royal Conservatory gratefully acknowledges the support of the Government of Alberta, Suncor Energy Foundation, and in particular the vision and commitment of Wood Buffalo school districts."

"As a society, we have no greater responsibility than to equip our children with the creativity, knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in a globally competitive economy.  At the same time, we need to develop compassionate and socially well-adjusted youth in our schools – especially for those who face cultural or economic challenges."

"With educational innovations such as The Royal Conservatory's Youth Empowerment Program – and the commitment and support of governments, corporations and educators – we can achieve substantial improvements of the kind we have sought for decades."

Angela Elster, Senior Vice President, Research and Education, The Royal Conservatory
"Educators are seeking ways to equip the next generation with the knowledge and means to cope with the rapid pace of change, the increasing complexity of business and civic life, and a constant demand for creativity and innovation. We set out to deeply embed new teaching strategies in every district classroom in grades 6 to 9 in order to create the conditions for this kind of systemic change."

Hazel "Issapaakii" Derange, a local elder with an active classroom role in the YEP
"It's important for me to be in the classroom because I bring aboriginal awareness into the class for all students…I was deprived of my language and my culture, everything of who I really am.  It took me many years to bring that back and I want to share that with the children."

George McGuigan, Superintendent of Schools, Fort McMurray Catholic School District
"When we look at education today, especially when we're looking at the changes in education in Alberta that are coming forward and talking 21st century learners, we're looking at getting engaged thinkers, ethical citizens and entrepreneurial spirit. Anything we can do with art infused education through the LTTA certainly works well in that mindset because of the differentiating instruction and the opportunity for students to get up out of their seats and be engaged and be involved in the classroom. "

For broadcast quality footage to support this story please visit:

Video with caption: "Video - Inventive Education Program by The Royal Conservatory of Music Boosts Academic Engagement and Success". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20140617_C3554_VIDEO_EN_3694.mp4&poster=http%3A%2F%2Fphotos.newswire.ca%2Fimages%2F20140617_C3554_VIDEO_EN_3694.jpg&order=1&jdd=20140617&cnum=C3554

Image with caption: "Royal Conservatory of Music (CNW Group/Royal Conservatory Of Music)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140617_C3554_PHOTO_EN_3693.jpg

PDF available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2014/06/17/20140617_C3554_PDF_EN_3695.pdf

PDF available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2014/06/17/20140617_C3554_PDF_EN_3696.pdf

SOURCE: Royal Conservatory Of Music

For further information: Jeff Embleton, Manager, Publicity (416) 408-2824, ext. 461; jeff.embleton@rcmusic.ca; Nadine Saby, VP, Communications (416) 408-2824, ext. 453; nadine.saby@rcmusic.ca


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