The School Improvement Project (SIP) was a series of pilot projects designed to promote better education outcomes for First Nations children in Manitoba.
SIP was implemented in four Manitoba First Nation communities - two northern communities (Fox Lake Cree Nation and Northlands Dene First Nation) and two southern communities (Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation and Long Plain First Nation). In total, approximately 350 students, 55 teaching and support staff participated in the project.
The initiative focused financial and human resources on baseline testing for all students in Grades 1-8, professional development of teachers, increased capacity for student transition, teacher mentoring and increased teacher/principal support for its pilot communities. The objectives of the project were to improve teacher instructional practices in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Information and Communication Technology through professional development activities, provide the schools with the necessary material and resources to support these programs, and improve student achievement scores in both English Language Arts and Mathematics.
Starting in September 2007, SIP began assessing each student's level of learning and corresponding environmental impacts to determine how a student best learns. This information was used to help teachers tailor their teaching style and materials to best meet students' needs. Students were also grouped into clusters to address varying academic levels. Portfolios with assessments will travel with each student to aid them during their transition to new schools. As students progress through the education system, this testing will be done regularly to ensure that each child is learning and progressing. Tests will coincide with report cards in November, March and May.
The Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) led this initiative in conjunction with the Province of Manitoba, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, University College of the North, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, and Southern Chiefs Organization.
The initiative was conducted over 18 months with an INAC investment of $2.7 million. The Province of Manitoba contributed approximately $250,000 through staff time and expertise to provide the four First Nations schools with professional development and teacher training.
All project schools have received shared professional development, ICT support and resources technology hardware (laptops, work stations, LCD projectors, printers, scanners and switchers), English Language Arts tool kits (classroom reading centres, guided reading kits, chapter books and novels, First Nations stories, Scholastic series, teacher instructional text supports, headphones/microphones, memory sticks, Franklin Electronic Spelling and Thesaurus), and math tool kits.
Manitoba First Nations have the lowest educational outcomes in Canada. Sixty-five per cent of all Canadians have completed high school compared to 37 per cent of First Nation citizens on-reserve. In Manitoba the number of First Nation graduates is only 28 per cent.