Nelson’s Amy Schellenberg accepts her diploma from then-L.V. Rogers principal Ben Eaton in June. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson’s Amy Schellenberg accepts her diploma from then-L.V. Rogers principal Ben Eaton in June. Photo: Tyler Harper

Grade 12 completion rates hit five-year high in School District 8

Eighty-three per cent of students who began Grade 12 last year earned their diploma

School District 8 students appear to have excelled during the first full year of classes held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighty-three per cent of all students who started Grade 12 in September 2020 went on to graduate in June, according to annual statistics provided by the district and the education ministry.

That represents an increase of five per cent over the last three years, which had held steady at 78 per cent and is also a five-year high.

Superintendent Trish Smillie attributed the positive trends in part to a plan that is developed for each secondary student and reviewed twice per school year.

“That three-year graduation plan ensures that every student is on track to graduate and every student has a plan in place to make sure that they’re not falling through the cracks, but they’re doing everything possible and have the courses they need to have the future that they want after they leave our system.”

Eighty per cent of Indigenous students also graduated during their first attempt at Grade 12, up from 71 per cent the previous year. Diverse needs students also had a graduation rate of 76 per cent.

The ministry and district also track six-year completion rates, which track how many students graduate within six years of beginning Grade 8.

Among those students, 85.5 per cent graduated last year in School District 8. That’s short of the provincial average of 90 per cent, but also a significant jump from 74 per cent for the district during the 2019-20 year and a 16 per cent increase from the 2016-17 year.

SD8 also beat the provincial average for Indigenous students, with 75.5 per cent graduating last year ahead of the B.C. mark of 72 per cent.

“That really is amazing work done by our team of educators and having the focus on providing equitable learning experiences for all students and ensuring that we have really comprehensive programming for Indigenous students as they go through schools,” said Smillie.

Among diverse needs students, 71.9 per cent graduated within six years in the district. The provincial average is 74 per cent in a category that typically fluctuates depending on cohort size.

Although the district’s data has been trending upward over the last five years, Smillie said it doesn’t have a target percentage for what it would consider an acceptable outcome.

“We do know that if every student leaves our system with what they need to be successful, and for most students that will be a graduation certificate, then we will know our system is successful.

“So the provincial average is 90 per cent. I think we can do better.”

Graduation ceremonies

Students and their families may also expect a return to typical graduation ceremonies next year, albeit with some changes.

Interior Health dropped most of its capacity restrictions for gatherings on Dec. 1. Smillie said schools can currently have up to 50 per cent capacity for grad events, but added that could change in some way before next June depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limited cap and gown ceremonies have been held at secondary schools the last two years as opposed to larger venues such as the Nelson and District Community Complex.

Smillie said it is unlikely ceremonies will take place in locations that require proof of vaccination.

“While I assume we’re going to have a more normal look to grad, it may still have some differences just to ensure that all graduations are inclusive of all people that can attend.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Education