B.C. schools will no longer be able to award Evergreen completion certificates to high school students who do not have a special needs designation and Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) in place.

The change, announced Friday by Education Minister Mike Bernier, follows November's damning auditor general's report, which identified low expectations of aboriginal youth as contributing to poor graduation rates.

"Educators need to expect that all aboriginal students will graduate," B.C.'s auditor general, Carol Bellringer said at the time, underlining the fact that "low expectations" are also part of a systemic racist environment that needs to change.

The Evergreen Certificate is a completion certificate issued to some special needs students. It is not equivalent to a Dogwood Diploma and is not generally sufficient for post-secondary direct entry programs.

Today's announcement, restricting the issuing of Evergreen Certificates, is a direct response to Bellringer's report, which recorded a graduation rate of 62 per cent among aboriginal students, far below the province's stated target of 85 per cent graduating by 2015.

In 10 B.C. districts, the rate was below 50 per cent.

"All students in B.C. deserve the very best education we can provide and we are delivering to help ensure our First Nations students have equal opportunity to succeed," Education Minister Mike Bernier said in a statement Friday.

B.C. Teachers Federation spokesman Glen Hansman welcomed the changes, noting that there was still work to be done, "to address systemic racism faced by First Nations learners and ensure that the resources, services, and funding are put in place to ensure their success."