High school completion rate here worst in province

  • Dec. 20, 2006 2:00 p.m.

The Ministry of Education has singled out our school district as the worst in the province when it comes to last year’s high school completion rate. While 79-percent of students across BC completed high school last year, the same rate as the year before, the percentage here plunged to just 50-percent , the lowest of any district in BC. In the previous school year, 63-percent of students on the islands finished high school. The high school completion rate is the percentage of students who graduate with a dogwood diploma from public schools within six years of starting grade 8 for the first time. The completion rate is different from the graduation rate. The Ministry of Education defines the graduation rate as the number of students who are enrolled in grade 12 and who graduate at the end of that school year. In a news release sent out by the ministry earlier this week, Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte is singled out twice: for having the largest decrease in its completion rate, and for having the lowest rate in BC. School district superintendent Mike Woods said the statistics are troubling. “Of course we’re disappointed,” he said. “We were hoping to be in the 60-percent range.” One piece of positive news is that the completion rate for aboriginal students in this district was up last year, he said, rising to 42-percent from 37-percent the year before. However, Mr. Woods said our district’s small student numbers mean it’s often difficult to discern a trend. The completion rate for aboriginal students has fluctuated over the past several years. Across the province, 47-percent of aboriginal students completed high school last year, down a bit from the previous year. Mr. Woods said it’s also difficult to understand how the province calculates the completion rate. “We can’t really figure out how they computed the numbers,” he said. “I’ve asked that question of the ministry many times.” In the previous year, the district had an extraordinarily high rate of non-aboriginal students completing high school, 97-percent, which just points out how challenging it is to draw conclusions based on statistics, he said. The school district is trying hard to keep students in the classroom, Mr. Woods said. As long as students stay in school, they usually graduate eventually. “The drop-out rate is really the most troubling,” he said. “Trying to keep kids in school is a big part of our job.” The district has a variety of programs and initiatives aimed at this end, including outdoor education, literacy programs, extra support, small class sizes, and the new imaginative learning program, Mr. Woods said.

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