The Ministry of Education recently published the six-year completion rates for 2018-19, and School District 28 (SD28) has mixed results.
This number represents the proportion of students who graduate within six years from the first time they in enrol in Grade 8.
SD28’s 2018-19 six-year completion rate was 82.7 per cent, up from 80 per cent the previous year, but the six-year completion rate for Indigenous students has dropped six per cent.
“We’re pleased we have an improvement in our overall graduation rate from 80 per cent to 82.7, which is an improvement over last year — not as good as we want it to be, and, again, we continue to improve that rate for everyone,” superintendent Sue-Ellen Miller told trustees during the Dec. 18 board of education meeting. “The struggle we see in this data that we’re really concerned about is that our six-year completion rate for Indigenous students decreased from 71.5 per cent to 65.5. But we did see our first-time Grade 12 graduates, that number is continuing to improve, so when we have kids who are really on track and seem to be moving forward, them getting to that Grade 12 graduation rate just a little bit quicker than other students. One of the other pieces that we do have some data on is children are tracked for a number of years, even into college, but we do see kids who haven’t made the six-year mark actually persevere and finish at the seven-year mark.”
The first-time Grade 12 graduation rate for Indigenous students improved to 69 per cent in 2018-19.
To work toward improving Indigenous graduation rates, some of the targeted funds for the Aboriginal Education Department were set aside this year for coach-mentor positions in high school.
“We believe kids get through Grade 7, transition into Grade 8 and 9, often transition into Grade 10 and then that’s where the struggle begins because we see a number of social factors and other factors that they need support around,” explained Miller. “So those coach-mentor positions, our hope is that is that person who does that touch base between the teacher and the student and helps kids stay on track and do some work.”
SD28 recently hired someone for that position, and coach-mentor blocks are now being provided at Correlieu Secondary School to work with students and their teachers to support course work competition. That program is just being developed, with one block in first semester and two blocks in second semester, noted Miller.
McNaughton Centre continues to have an Indigenous focus in the school and is also offering a flex block that provides support for students returning to school, Miller told the board.
“McNaughton Centre has done a really good job at doing some reach out to their students,” she said. “They’ve added a new flex block to bring kids back in who have kind of stopped going to school completely, and we’re doing a reach out into the community and trying to bring kids back.”
As well, SD28 continues to work closely with the First Nations, who are providing many supports for their students, including counselling services through the Jordan’s Principle funding for Dakelh students and Deni Siqi providing support to ?Esdilagh students, explained Miller.
“The First Nations are doing some really great work to support their students,” she said. “We see that’s really helping, but we know there’s still so much work to do in this area, and that’s why we’re so pleased about what happened on Nov. 29 at Aboriginal Focus Day at schools, where staff looked at who these individual students are and what we can do to support them. We know this needs to continue, and it’s never good to have a decrease, we know that, and we just need to keep doing the work.
“It’s going to take some time to get kids to parity, but we always hope we’re moving forward and not slipping backwards.”
Miller says there are a number of factors that can affect completion rates; however, school and district staff believe it is critical to provide support for students to improve their chances to reach graduation.
“As part of our district commitment to equity for Indigenous students, we have identified students who are eligible to graduate and are focused on providing supports throughout this school year,” Miller noted in her report to trustees.
Miller says the data used to calculate completion rates is not 100 per cent pure because some students do go and graduate in other districts, which can complicate the data.
Trustee Cyril Tobin noted the data is year-to-year, and you want to look at a trend over time to see if you’re moving in the right direction.
Miller pointed out the data can change a lot from year to year, based on the strength of that year’s cohort and the fact that the size of the cohort varies each year.
“I think one of our struggles is with the Indigenous data, we kind of go up and down based on the cohort, so sometimes we’ll have a really strong cohort and we move forward, and we want to celebrate that,” she said. “At one time, we were among the highest in our northern region for our success of our students, and then it will be something different the next year. We feel that. Like you say, it really needs to be trends over time for sure, but we feel it each year when we see it’s not where we wanted those kids to be.
“The other part for us, which is different from a big district, is [Aboriginal Education principal Patty Kimpton] and I go through the list, we know it’s 58 kids, and we know who they are, and we know where they are or we know where they aren’t.”
Miller says often, they know when a student is not in high school because they are out in the community or there are other things going on in their lives, and sometimes, it’s hard to get them back to school. If there was a pathway through the college where they could earn credits or get into some other type of program or training so they could complete their school outside of high school, that is a hope for SD28 as well.