Nelson’s L.V. Rogers is among the schools being examined as the SD8 staff try to find answers for graduating students’ low six-year completion rate. Photo: Tyler Harper

School district investigating low completion rate

Data management, it turns out, may have something to do with it

Incomplete data may have played a part in School District 8’s poor grad completion rate.

In February, statistics released by the Ministry of Education showed only 69 per cent of SD8 students had completed their graduation within six years of enrolling in Grade 8 for the 2016-17 school year. That number was in stark contrast to the provincial success rate of 84 per cent.

A request for individual six-year completion rates for every SD8 school by the Star was denied by the Ministry of Education, which said it only makes district-wide numbers public.

Lorri Fehr, SD8’s director of innovative learning services, said staff have since investigated the low completion rate. That’s meant meeting with each of Kootenay Lake district’s secondary principals to check in on the current status of students set to graduate this year.

“I would say (there are) some problems with the data but I’m not going to say that’s all we need to do,” said Fehr. “We need to know the story on every one of these children. We need to make sure we’re following them carefully from Grade 10, 11 and 12. We pride ourselves on knowing our kids and this is a piece that we need to make sure we’re keeping track of carefully.”

The district’s secondary programs 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 and DESK (Distant Education South Kootenay).

Related: Number of students graduating from Grade 12 on the decline

Related: Clarifying graduation and completion rates

Fehr said inconsistent tracking of students’ progress, as well as their whereabouts, played a part in her findings.

For example, the ministry does not track students who move out of the province. If the school isn’t notified about the move, the student technically stays within the completion rate stats.

The same occurrence also happens with international students who enter a cohort but leave before graduating. Fehr said the ministry is recording those numbers separately for the next data year.

“Some of this that we’ve learned with the ministry is a data-entry issue, so there’s a couple technical solutions,” said Fehr. “Number one, we are increasing training for our staff on data entry. We are putting in checks and balances to make sure we check and re-check our data, especially within the graduation program. And we are working with the ministry to pilot a tool that actually ensures the data we’re entering is what we’re using.”

Fehr said she also proactively checked in on the progress of every student set to graduate this year. One of the issues she found was students who cross-enrolled in multiple schools but weren’t receiving credits.

“If your child decides to take (an online class) but takes it through a distance education school on the coast, we don’t know if that child passed or failed until that school enters pass or fail in their system, and then it shows up in our system. So children can get a little bit lost in that.”

Some of the changes, Fehr said, are being made include: increased data-entry training and support for staff, tracking of students who leave the district and improved communication about how the Grade 10-to-12 credit system works so students aren’t missing required courses.

She added a plan is also in place to increase staff capacity that will ensure higher success rates attached to literacy and numeracy beginning in earlier grades.

“It’s about more than completion,” said Fehr. “We want our kids to thrive as they go out into the world.”

Kim Morris to leave SD8

School District 8 also announced secretary-treasurer Kim Morris is leaving the district in July to join New Westminster’s School District 40 in the same role.

“Kim was instrumental in leading SD8 through our facilities review process, annual budgeting processes, and demonstrated excellent leadership in our student symposiums,” board chair Lenora Trenaman said in a statement on April 25.

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