Graduation rates in School District 47 (SD47) are trending upward.
The graduation rate in the school district has been increasing over the last three years, moving from 70 per cent to 80 per cent, according to statistics released from the provincial government.
“While it’s important to be cautious of reading too much into statistics for small population sizes, the trend upward in graduation rates for Indigenous, diverse and English language learning (ELL) students in SD47 is heartening,” said director of instruction Allison Burt. “We know that completing a high school diploma is a key indicator for success beyond high school, but we also know there are various personal reasons and life circumstances that make this more difficult for some students.
“We continue to support all students beyond their cohort graduation year in order to meet their educational and transition goals, often enrolling students into dual credit and continuing education opportunities so they get both their high school graduation diploma and credits at various post-secondary institutions.”
Burt said that increasing graduation rates and improving the readiness of students for life after high school is a focus of the Powell River Board of Education/SD47 strategic plan.
Indigenous and BC resident student graduation rates increased from the previous 2018/2019 school year provincially and locally, according to Burt. In the 2019 to 2020 school year, the most recent for which statistics are available, BC resident student graduation rate reached 80 per cent in SD47, the highest it has been in five years. This is out of 192 students.
In 2019 to 2020, the graduation rate of Indigenous students was 65 per cent in SD47 (out of 26 students), up from 58 per cent in the previous 2018 to 2019 school year.
Burt said SD47 also saw substantial increases in graduation rates for students with disabilities and diverse abilities and ELL students in 2019 to 2020. The graduation rate for diverse students reached 70 per cent (out of 40 students) and 77 per cent (out of 14) for ELL students, an increase of over 10 per cent for both cohorts from the previous year.
Commits to improvements
Burt said SD47 is committed to improving student success and equity of learning outcomes for every student in the district.
“The graduation rate increases are promising, but we know we have a lot of work to do to reach parity of learning outcomes, especially for Indigenous students,” added Burt.
According to the six-year completion rates on BC Ministry of Education’s website, the typical graduation rate for Indigenous students across BC was 65 to 80 per cent last year.
“To address these parity gaps, we’ve committed to an equity in action project with the ministry of education and have started an equity scan to identify practices and policies that may be creating obstacles for Indigenous learners in our district,” said Burt.
COVID-19 restrictions this year prevented some of the face-to-face dialogues, but SD47 representatives were able to start some focus group discussions and preliminary information gathering with Indigenous rights holders, students, community partners and other stakeholders, as well staff in SD47.
“We’re hopeful that we will be able to gather more voices next year as we continue a self-assessment about the experience of education for Indigenous students,” said Burt. “Working collaboratively will help us respond in strategic ways to create conditions for success for Indigenous students. Other districts in BC further along in the equity in action project have seen positive shifts in both student achievement and well-being as a result of the collaborative project.
“We have also made improvements to the way we are monitoring student success across the district. This includes bringing staff and leadership teams together regularly to analyze the learning goals and records of each Indigenous student to help support their development.”
Invests in Indigenous learning
Burt said SD47 is also investing in a district principal of Indigenous education for the 2021 to 2022 school year. The district principal will provide leadership regarding the success of Indigenous learners and learning.
“Our goal is to see the improving trend in graduation rates and other student achievement data continue and reach parity for Indigenous students over the next five years,” said Burt. “All students deserve to graduate and cross the stage with dignity, purpose and options.”
Graduation rates for the current 2020 to 2021 school year won’t be available until this fall after the ministry of education has completed collating the numbers across the province
According to Indigenous success coordinator Jessica Johnson, the school district is committed to improving the Indigenous student success.
“The equity in action project has afforded the district the time and tools to help us evaluate our successes and critically assess the places we need to improve,” said Johnson. “The recommendations that come from this project will help guide the district’s direction on a clear path that supports and enriches the educational experiences of Indigenous learners. We are looking forward to more community engagement that will be possible in the coming school year as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lighten.”