About the FNSA Schools Assessment and Certification Process
The FNSA First Nations Schools Assessment Project began in 1999, based upon direction from First Nations schools that FNSA spearhead a process to satisfy the requirement for school evaluation. It is a process that aims to support continual school improvement and the project continues to evolve, with ongoing input from those who participate.
The FNSA Assessment and Certification Process involves a five-year cycle of review and follow-up. In year one, participating schools complete an “internal review” by considering all aspects of school operations, highlighting opportunities provided and indicators of success in areas such as school administration, language and culture programming, other academic programs, school/community relations, and library and technological resources. The internal process also involves surveying students, parents, school staff, and other community members to determine levels of satisfaction with the school and its programs. Schools then review all of the information collected, analyze their strengths and areas for improvement, and develop a School Growth Plan, which outlines intended activities for maintaining successful topics and addressing areas that require change.
Following that work, an FNSA-appointed external review team visits participating schools to assess the findings of the internal review and the School Growth Plan, and offer suggestions and feedback on the documents and the school’s programming.
The schools subsequently work to address the School Growth Plan during the next four years, before undertaking another School Assessment Project and beginning the cycle again.
Interested schools also may request “Certification” by the FNSA, which requires meeting a set of collectively established standards. Specifically, Certification by the FNSA is based on the external review team’s determination that:
- the Internal School Assessment Report has been adequately completed (including a review of performance measures to demonstrate student achievement);
- the school situation observed by the External Assessment Team is consistent with the content of the Internal School Assessment Report;
- there is clear evidence that the school is meeting expectations in Core Topic Areas (Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, First Nations Language and Culture Program, etc.); and
- the School Growth Plan is appropriate and feasible.
The FNSA strives to ensure the rigour and effectiveness of the assessment and certification activities by guiding First Nations schools through the step-by-step assessment process. In particular, the FNSA sponsors a mentoring initiative, which allows individuals with extensive experience with First Nations schools and the assessment process to directly assist the schools in undertaking their reviews. This support is meant to ensure that the process is implemented with fidelity, and with an appropriate integration of meaningful information and student performance data. The FNSA also facilitates the external assessment component of the project, by training and supporting external assessors in effectively fulfilling their roles.
Further, the FNSA supports schools that complete an assessment by providing funding grants in the year following the Assessment Project completion, to sponsor activities identified in School Growth Plans. A team of coaches hired and trained by FNESC and the FNSA assists in ensuring that the Growth Plan Grants are used as effectively as possible.
Schools that had received a School Growth Plan grant reported that they had referred to their School Growth Plan occasionally (32%) or often (68%), and that they were making some progress (60%) or significant progress (40%) in implementing their plan.
The validity of the assessment process and accompanying certification component has been recognized by a variety of education stakeholders. In particular, the School Assessment and Certification Process was a central factor in the negotiation of the new landmark reciprocal tuition agreement, which allows the provincial government to pay the tuition fees of off-reserve students attending First Nations schools. Additionally, the School Assessment and Certification Process has evolved over time to ensure that it adequately reflects emerging issues and priorities.
To learn more about the FNSA School Assessment Process, contact Marie Matthew, FNSA Director of First Nation Schools Initiatives, at email@example.com