Members of the Desert Sands Community School graduating class of 2018. The six-year completion rate throughout the district has consistently increased, with more students graduating each year. Photo: Barbara Roden.

School District 74 sees significant increase in completion rates

Large gains made by Indigenous and male students when it comes to graduation rates

The Ministry of Education recently released the six-year completion rates for 2017/18 for each of the province’s school districts, and while School District No. 74 (Gold Trail) is slightly behind the provincial average in its overall completion rate, its Indigenous student completion rate is well above the provincial average.

The six-year completion rates show the proportion of students who graduate with a BC Certificate of Graduation or an Adult Graduation Diploma within six years from the first time they enroll in Grade 8.

The overall completion rate for SD74 in the 2017/18 school year was 85.1 per cent, not far behind the provincial average of 86 per cent. It marks an increase of 17.8 per cent for all students in the district over the past five years.

SD74’s Indigenous completion rate of 79.8 per cent in the 2017/18 school year increased from 60.5 per cent in the 2013/14 school year (an increase of 19.3 per cent). The provincial average completion rate for Indigenous students in 2017/18 was 70 per cent.

Large gains were also seen in the graduation rate of male students. That group had a completion rate of 83.2 per cent, a rate that has increased from 63.4 per cent in the same five-year period (an overall increase of 19.8 per cent).

“We’re really moving forward from when I started [with SD74],” says Board of Education co-chair Valerie Adrian. “We’re seeing a difference in the schools in how Indigenous knowledge and culture are delivered, and that’s probably part of the reason we’ve had an impact on Indigenous students.

“They see drums used as both a cultural and an academic tool, and I wonder ‘Why didn’t we do this before?’”

Adrian also notes the changes to the curriculum and the fact that learning is now more active. “Everything is changing in how people are being taught. Kids are more hands-on. For Indigenous students and males in particular, it really captures their attention. But we have to not go so extreme one way that we leave behind another group.”

“It’s exciting, and I’m happy to see the completion rates go up every year,” says co-chair Nancy Rempel. “It’s shows we have good staff, good students. Lots of effort went into the Indigenous community to get the completion rates up.

“And it’s great to see the male completion rates up. We’re trying to encourage male students to go into the trades, get into the dual credit program. We want to get something that they’re interested in, keep them interested, and keep them in school. And we really try to give the kids an overall picture of what’s out there for them.”

Like Rempel, Adrian also praises the district staff, from the superintendent on down. “Across the board, I always hear about what a great job they’re doing. It makes me so proud.

“The only thing I’m concerned about now is the lack of staff,” she adds. “We can’t get the hires.”

Rempel says that the news about the completion rates came out just before the Christmas break, so the Board has not yet had a meeting to discuss the results. “But I know everyone is very excited. It shows that there’s a lot of hard work going on, and that it’s paying off.”

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