Graduation rates on the rise

The graduation rate for School District 57 high school students is catching up to that of the rest of the province.

Eighty per cent of students enrolled in Grade 12 in 2018-19 met the requirements for graduation, a 7.8 per cent improvement compared to the 2013-14 school year, while the rest of the province graduated an average 85.4 per cent, up 1.2 per cent from five years ago.

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Those findings, contained in a six-year completion rate study, were released this week by School District 57.

In 2013-14, the first year of the study, just 72.3 per cent of students in the Prince George area graduated, while the provincial average was 84.2 per cent.

Over the course of the study there was steady growth in SD 57 in all but one of those six years (2015-16), when the graduation rate dropped to 73.2 per cent, a decrease of 0.7 per cent from the previous year. The district rate sharply rose the following year to 79.7 in 2017-18.

"We continue to work hard and continue to see significant improvement for all our students on six-year completion rate," said SD 57 interim superintendent Rod Allen. "The six-year completion rate is sort of the gold standard. It gives students an extra year and captures the number of students who graduate within six years of entering Grade 8."

SD 57 schools also lag behind the rest of the province when the graduation rates are separated by gender. The six-year completion rate for female students improved 6.5 per cent, from 75.4 per cent in 2013-14 to 81.9 per cent last school year, while the rate for females in the rest of the province improved one per cent over the past five years, from 86.4 to 85.4 per cent.

Male completion rates in SD 57 jumped 8.9 per cent, from 69.6 per cent in 2013-14 to 78.5 per cent in 2018-19, compared to the provincial averages of 82.1 per cent in 2013-14 and 83.4 per cent last year.

"The trades (skills) trailer and those kinds of things that we work hard (on) to find ways to engage males, we're seeing that in statistics like this," said Allen. "So we can see that while the province over this period of time has improved 1.3 per cent, the district's improved 8.9 per cent."

The six-year completion rate for Indigenous students continues to improve province-wide. The rate for SD 57 students climbed 16.3 per cent, from 48.8 per cent in 2013-14 to 65.1 per cent in 2018-19. The provincial average improved 7.5 per cent, from 61.6 per cent in 2013-14 to 69.1 in 2018-19.

"It's not where we'd all like it yet, but there has been significant improvement," said Allen. "That (16.3 per cent improvement) speaks to the hard work of folks in the district and the commitment of the community to work collaboratively."

The findings of the study were presented at Tuesday's school board meeting. Board chair Tim Bennett was especially pleased to see graduation rate got better last year after a 6.5 per cent gain the previous year. Trustee Sharel Warrington said all school staff in the district, including teachers, support staff and maintenance workers, deserve thanks for the work they do to create innovative programs and better learning environments for students.

"The magic happens in our classrooms and our schools and everyone is working hard to improve the outcomes," said Allen.

"I think often graduation statistics seem to get pinned to Grade 11 and 12 teachers. This is also the work of kindergarten teachers and Grade 1 and Grade 2 teachers. That's why these long-term trend lines are so gratifying, when you have that steady growth over time."

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