Many recent policy documents have outlined the challenges of delivering high-quality education in remote First Nations communities and proposed that boarding schools are one important solution. These documents have influenced the increasing uptake of boarding options and there has been considerable public investment in scholarships, residential facilities and transition support. Yet the outcomes of this investment and policy effort are not well understood. The authors of this article came together as a collaboration of researchers who have published about boarding school education for First Nations students to examine the evidence and develop a theory-driven understanding of how policies drive systems to produce both desirable and undesirable outcomes for First Nations boarding school students. We applied complexity theory and post-structural policy analysis techniques and produced a useful tool for the evaluation of boarding policy and its implementation.