Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit November 07, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Student attendance data under scrutiny at Nunavut’s legislative assembly

“It is no secret that several communities have seen reductions in the number of teacher positions allocated to their schools in recent years”

Allan Rumboldt, Nunavut's MLA for Hudson Bay, asks the territory's education minister about allegations that his department under-counted students, and gave out less money for teachers and school programming as a result. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)
Allan Rumboldt, Nunavut's MLA for Hudson Bay, asks the territory's education minister about allegations that his department under-counted students, and gave out less money for teachers and school programming as a result. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)

Nunavut Education Minister David Joanasie has been in the hot seat in the legislature over allegations that his department has under-counted students, resulting in less money being doled out for teachers and school programming.

On Monday, Nov. 5, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone brought up the fact that the student-educator ratio in Iqaluit currently exceeds the maximum 13.8:1 required by law. One English class has more than 40 students.

And last Thursday, Nov. 1, Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumboldt asked Joanasie how his department monitors enrolment data on the Maplewood Student Information System. The Department of Education is supposed to retrieve that information at the same time each year.

Things like school lunch programs and the size of classes depend on its accuracy.

“It is no secret that several communities have seen reductions in the number of teacher positions allocated to their schools in recent years. This often seems to come as a surprise to school administrators as they see that their school populations are increasing in size,” Rumboldt said last Thursday.

He asked Joanasie to clearly explain how his department addresses concerns when school administrators’ records show different numbers than what’s found in the department’s database.

Joanasie replied that data for all Nunavut schools needs to be retrieved all at once. His department aims for Sept. 30 as a deadline, Joanasie said, but delays are sometimes caused by principals taking longer to put in their information.

When the Iqaluit District Education Authority noticed a discrepancy of 44 students last year, his department scheduled structured dialogues and an internal audit, Joanasie said.

When Nunatsiaq News first asked Joanasie, he said he did not know about an audit.

He later told the legislative assembly that the audit determined there was only one kindergarten student miscounted.

However, according to the internal audit documents, it was more complex than that.

The Iqaluit DEA had found Inuksuk High School had 18 students left out, Aqsarniit Middle School had 16 and Nakasuk had nine.

In the conclusion of the audit report, the Department of Education writes that some of the miscounted students had withdrawn after Sept. 30 but before Nov. 15, so the department stood by not counting them.

This is not supposed to happen, Iqaluit DEA chair Doug Workman says.

Of the 16 students at Aqsarniit who were not counted, the Department of Education admitted in the audit report that it was only able to identify 12 students who withdrew later. Four others went unexplained.

For three of the schools, the audit report said that the department had requested principals provide documents “to support the department in investigating further” any uncounted students they could not explain.

The audit then concludes that because the principals did not respond, the Department of Education stands by its numbers.

However, Workman calls this “a complete and total lie.”

“There was never a follow-up request for these documents, for any of the schools,” Workman said.

In fact, he said the principals had brought those documents to the meetings last spring but the Department of Education had said it didn’t need them.

He also said that the DEA did not receive the audit report, so it had to resort to an access-to-information request to obtain it.

Workman said that the Department of Education had at one point admitted to taking the data at the wrong time.

“They told me they were wrong and that our numbers were right back then….They just promised it would not happen again,” Workman said.

Workman said he’s lost all trust in the department and regrets believing the audit “would be done in good faith.”

Workman said he’s spoken with Iqaluit school principals who feel the same as he does about the matter, but who aren’t able to speak publicly. He said a lack of transparency is part of the department’s problem.

“Pinocchio’s nose is getting very long. The hole is getting deeper so they can’t get out,” Workman said.

The Department of Education has maintained, in a letter to the editor, that student attendance data can be retrieved any time between 30 to 60 days after Sept. 30. But a Department of Education email from the DEA’s access-to-information request states that this snapshot is done yearly within 10 days of Sept. 30.

Last year, it was done more than a month late.

Workman also said he knows all the city’s principals had their data in before Oct.18—a month before the data was retrieved.

“It is not true that they did their calculations dated as of Sept. 30,” Workman said.

“I don’t believe anything the minister and the Department of Education say at this point… They think that if they say it enough times you have to believe it.”

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(10) Comments:

#1. Posted by dm_orNot_minister on November 07, 2018

Where are the DM’s pointing Johnasie? This is there work and sounds like they are part of partnership with someone who is pushing them to this

#2. Posted by FormerTeacher on November 07, 2018

I can 100% attest to the fact that the government has been intentionally misrepresenting the amount of students in schools. The digital tracking system used called Maplewood efficiently tracks student attendance, but students are quickly removed from the system who are deemed as “non-attenders.” These non-attenders may show up later in the year for a few weeks here or there, which places more stress on the overcrowding of classrooms. This is how certain schools in Nunavut can maintain a facade of high student attendance. Schools simply remove the non-attenders, but in the long-run, this hurts the FTE allotment of teachers in schools. This devastation was seen in Arviat 5 years ago. Solution 1: When calculating teacher FTE count students on multiple days, then average the number. 2: Stop adding support and admin positions that aren’t vital. Schools don’t need “learning coaches” they need teachers in classrooms.GN, start caring about the 100s of children who are staying home!

#3. Posted by Bbff on November 07, 2018

Dear former teacher #2
You must know everything about teaching….except for the fact that learning coaches are funded outside of the set student ratio. Learning coaches have nothing due to this calculation problem, get real we all know many kids don’t attend school, so stop attesting that they do. The GN should collect attendance data every month all year and analyze staffing data in a more throuough manner. Too much fudging if the numbers going on!

#4. Posted by Get it right on November 07, 2018

Let’s get it right…the SER student educator ratio, only factors in the students that come to school 60 percent of the time, or more. So that ratio is suppose to be 13.8 to 1.
What is not factored in is, the the non attenders, those that come to school 40 percent or less. These students have gaps in their education but demand teachers time when they come to school. This is where the problem is, because funding is stripped from those that need it most, because they do not come school enough…how sad are we that count how many days they come to school….maybe MLA,s should be paid for only the days they serve in the leg… I bet the leg would be in session more.

#5. Posted by How Many Chances David? on November 08, 2018

Our students are the ones loosing with this ongoing issue.  I am disappointed that the department is being misleading about the audit and that there are so many contradictions in the Minister’s responses.  I admire Doug’s tenacity but eventually the IDEA and the department need to work together.  I completely agree with # 4 that non-attenders returning to school require so much extra support.  This whole issue is a mess and yet the Minister seems to have no accountability.  Why?  Right now I feel like no one within the Department of Education is accountable for anything.

#6. Posted by Crystal Clarity on November 08, 2018

Just wondering why some schools would take till October18 to enter information. Attendance is supposed to be entered daily so it should always be up to date.

#7. Posted by Solutions? on November 08, 2018

#4 you are right, but what do you suggest? It would be hard to presuppose precise figures of possible non-attenders who eventually go back into the system. How would one even begin to calculate that assumption before the beginning of the school year? I don’t think it would be fair to ask the Department of Education do do that, because of the double-bind. If they guess too low, students suffer/if they guess too high, they waste valuable and very scarce resources that could be allocated to programs/supplies, etc.

Their 100% needs to be supports for those coming back after missing attendance for longer periods of time and that is something that would be a great discussion point on this forum and ideally to be brought to the Minister or an MLA. But let’s be productive and try to figure out one together, rather than solely blaming Education, because we likely have some brilliant Inuit/Non-Inuit ideas that they have not thought of yet. #2 provided some possible solutions, a great start.

#8. Posted by FormerTeacher2.0 on November 08, 2018

#2 you are wrong
#3 you are a learning coach (qualified teacher) who sits in their office all day with little to no interaction with students. What am I missing?
#4 You are right ..these students need teachers the most
#5 DEAs only call snow days


#9. Posted by on November 08, 2018

The solution is easy look at the department of health; Birth numbers for the year for each community. Use those number. If you think Principals are dishonest. Or a simple one. Let’s fund every student who registers for school, should not matter about attendance. What matters is that the school is ready when the parents send them or when they decide they want to come. Counting the days they come to school is so Colonial. Let’s put more thought in this please. It is the future that is suffering.

#10. Posted by WhoAmI on November 08, 2018

Where is the DM on this no news on who the DM is there is a chain of command where is the break, what excuse does DM and ADM have? Is it “I know whats going on! whoops things change in half hour sorry I dont know? no consistent behavior its to create confusion so someone can blame others seen it before from none of it

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