Proud families snap shots of the Agassiz Centre for Education’s graduating class of 2018. (File Photo)

High school completion rates up in Agassiz and Hope

2017-2018 school year shows 10.7 per cent increase in graduating students

More Agassiz and Hope students are graduating high school than in recent years, according to data provided by School District 78 Fraser Cascade (SD78).

In the 2017-2018 school year, 74.4 per cent– or about 96 students out of a 127-student cohort – were graduating within six years of starting grade eight.

That’s a jump from the 2016-2017 school year, where 63.7 per cent of the 162-student cohort received high school diplomas within a six-year time frame.

The six-year completion rate is based on the number of students who graduate with a B.C. Certificate of Graduation or B.C. Adult Graduation Diploma within six years of enrolling in eighth grade in the school district. The rate is adjusted based on “a formula that accounts for students that leave and go to other provinces,” said SD78 superintendent Karen Nelson, adding that students who stay in the province and don’t register at another school district are still registered to SD78.

“It’s really hard for us to track all of the students, we try to keep track of them, try to encourage them to come back so they are successful,” Nelson said.

But Nelson is pleased with the 10.7 per cent increase.

“The improvement is a result of the collective efforts on behalf of all of our educational partner groups and is a true example of the board of education’s vision of: “Everyone pulling together to improve the achievement of all learners,” she wrote in an emailed statement to the Observer.

Higher rates of Indigenous students are crossing the stage too.

At its lowest in 2015-2016, when only 41 per cent of First Nations students finished school, last year saw 39 of the 61-student cohort complete their education – pushing that number up to 64.1 per cent.

Still, the rate of SD78’s Indigenous students completing their education is 10.3 per cent lower than the total completion rate.

In a phone conversation, Nelson said one of SD78’s partner groups is the Aboriginal Education Council (AEC), which provides in-school First Nations support workers and on-reserve tutors for Indigenous students.

Nelson said regular meetings foster a “wonderful working relationship” between SD78 and the AEC.

Related: Aboriginal education report released for Fraser Cascade school district

While the overall rate of graduating students is up from the previous school year, it has only gone up .1 per cent since 2013-2014, when 74.3 per cent of the 151-student cohort graduated within the six-year time frame. Nelson said more research would be required to determine the cause of the dip in completion rates between 2015 and 2017.

But alongside “collective efforts” to improve graduation, she thinks SD78’s focus on trades programs could be a factor behind this year’s improvement.

“If [students] don’t feel that there’s anything for them in the future, they tend to drop out,” said Nelson. “We really have a focus on the trades, so just making sure kids know even from an earlier age what sort of career options and opportunities are out there for them when they graduate.”

Related: SD78 board meeting: Careers program grows

Related: SD78 enters ‘cooperation’ with ICBA despite reservations from teachers’ association

The 2017-2018 data also shows that male graduation rates are down from 2013-2014, when 75.8 per cent completed school in a six-year time frame. And it reveals that currently, male students remain slightly less likely to complete their schooling than their female cohorts, with 75 per cent of eligible female students finishing school compared to 73.9 per cent of males.

Still, in recent years, the male graduation rate has improved dramatically, rising 15.7 per cent since 2016-2017.

And the rate of special needs students completing school is at its highest in the last four years, with 48.7 per cent of a 36-student cohort getting their diploma.

Nelson attributes that to the District’s focus on special education assistance and child care councillors.

“Our teachers are amazing in our District, they really work hard with our students,” she said. “And we found that collaboration is one of the most powerful practices to support student learning.”

Related: More students seeking mental health support, says SD78 school board

Related: AESS graduating students shine at Friday ceremony



nina.grossman@ahobserver.com

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