The number of students graduating high school in School District 8 (SD8) has rebounded after a worrying decline.
Statistics released by the district on Wednesday show 76 per cent of students in the 2017-18 school year earned a Grade 12 graduation equivalent within six years of finishing Grade 8. That’s an increase from 69 per cent of the previous year.
The rate is still below the provincial average of 85 per cent, which is the highest it has been since 2004-05, but Kootenay Lake superintendent Christine Perkins said the latest stats are encouraging.
“I think it took a lot of different things to make this turnaround happen at this point in time,” she said. “Now what will be important, and that’s why I say we’ve got a lot of work to do yet, is that it keeps moving forward.”
The six-year completion rate increased for female students from 69 per cent in 2016-17 to 81 per cent last year. For male students the increase was from 70 to 72 per cent, and for self-identified Aboriginal students the increase was from 58 to 64 per cent during the same period.
The completion rate for students with special needs increased from 49 to 59 per cent, while the rates for immigrant students fell from 98 per cent to 92 per cent.
The overall first-time graduation rate, which focuses on students who start and finish Grade 12 in one year, increased marginally from 74 to 76 per cent.
A total of 332 students graduated from SD8 secondary programs last year, which include Nelson’s L.V. Rogers, Creston’s Prince Charles, Kaslo’s J.V. Humphries, Slocan Valley’s Mount Sentinel, Crawford Bay School, Salmo Secondary, DESK (Distant Education South Kootenay) and the REACH alternate program.
Perkins said a strategic plan focused on the needs of struggling students from kindergarten to Grade 12 improved the district’s numbers.
“Who’s not in line to graduate? Let’s see how we can get them to graduate. Who’s not in line to complete X-Y-Z course? How can we help them? What is impacting their learning so they’re not having success at this time? Do they need different environments, do they need some assistance, do they need some technology?” she said.
“We really tightened up and looked at everyone who was struggling one by one and I think that’s the biggest thing is inspiring and asking everyone to look at the kids one at a time.”
Province-wide, the Indigenous completion rate climbed four per cent to 70 per cent last year, the highest it has been since 2004-05. Six-year rates for special needs students also rose to 71 per cent.
Six-year completion rates for School District 20, which includes Castlegar and Trail, saw decreases for all students (93 to 87 per cent), as well as for Aboriginal students (88 to 81 per cent) and special needs students (88 to 80 per cent).