Aboriginal education students graduated in record numbers from School District 8 last year, according to an annual report.
The latest Ministry of Education statistics tracking six-year completion rates, or the percentage of students who graduate within six years of enrolling in Grade 8, show 73 per cent of self-identified Indigenous students graduated in June.
That percentage has been on the rise since 2016-17 when the district had just 58 per cent of its aboriginal education students graduate. This year’s number of 73 students is the most the district has graduated in over a decade.
In B.C., the provincial average for aboriginal education grads dropped one per cent to 69 despite a record 3,606 students graduating.
Superintendent Christine Perkins said the hiring of a district principal for aboriginal education, Gail Higginbottom, two years ago was a factor in the positive change.
But she also said more students are self-identifying as Indigenous, which has contributed to the success.
“We have a role model program, we have specific services for our Indigenous students, we are indigenizing the entire curriculum K-12,” said Perkins.
“I think when you see yourself reflected in curriculum and in culture and activities and welcomed at our schools, then of course you’re going to have more success.”
The district saw several gains in the latest report.
Its overall six-year completion rate improved two per cent to 78 per cent, which is also up from 69 per cent in 2016-17. The provincial average remains much higher at 88 per cent.
There were a total of 361 graduates in the district from secondary schools and programs including Nelson’s L.V. Rogers, Slocan Valley’s Mount Sentinel, Creston’s Prince Charles, Kaslo’s J.V. Humphries, Crawford Bay, Salmo Secondary, the REACH alternate program and Distance Education School of the Kootenays.
Among those, 81 per cent of female students graduated within six years of Grade 8 while male students improved from 72 to 75 per cent.
The six-year rate for students with diverse needs also increased to 73 per cent, but the rate for immigrant students with landed status dropped from 92 to 81 per cent.
Perkins said the district also needs to focus on first time Grade 12 rate, or rather on students who begin their final year in September and graduate the same year. That number fell from 77 to 73 per cent in the district last year.
“We’re not happy with that number and we’re going to work very hard to change that for next year,” said Perkins. “We want all of our numbers to be above 80 per cent and higher, as close to 100 per cent as we can get it. Our goal is higher and that will be our intention, to work very hard to figure out how we can turn that around more.”