By Gaiel Farrar
While Aboriginal graduation rates are climbing in British Columbia, School District 27 continues to lag behind the provincial average when it comes to Aboriginal and overall graduation rates.
The six-year completion rate for Aboriginal students in B.C. climbed to 59.4 per cent in 2012/13, according to a recent Ministry of Education report.
The six-year completion rate for Aboriginal students in SD 27 improved marginally to 44.2 per cent in 2012/13, according to schools superintendent Mark Thiessen’s 2013/14 Report on Student Achievement released in December and due in Victoria this month.
The six-year completion rate is the percentage of students who graduate with a Dogwood diploma within six years of starting Grade 8 for the first time.
According to the provincial report, the Aboriginal student completion rate has steadily improved during the past 10 years, rising from 45.9 per cent in 2002/03 (up 13.5 percentage points or a 29.4 per cent increase).
Thiessen’s report also indicates a steady rise in the six-year completion rate for First Nation students in SD 27 during the past few years: 44.2 per cent in 2012/13; 43.4 per cent in 2011/12; 38.3 per cent in 2010/11; 42 per cent in 2009/10; and 33 per cent in 2008/09.
He said the six-year completion rates for all students in SD 27, and especially for First Nations students, while continuing to show improvement, are still far too low.
According to the provincial report, the six-year completion rate for all B.C. students was 83.6 per cent last year, up from 79.1 per cent in 2002/03.
In SD 27, the six-year completion rate for all students was 69.7 per cent in 2012/13; 65 per cent in 2011/12; 67.7 per cent in 2010/11; 65 per cent in 2009/10 and 64 per cent in 2008/09.
Thiessen noted the achievement gap between First Nations students and non-First Nations students is shrinking, but still remains a concern for the school district.
The achievement report outlines numerous initiatives to improve the graduation rates of all SD 27 students, including in-school suspension programs to keep students at risk connected to their school; new initiatives in reporting and monitoring attendance; comprehensive school health plans that promote a student’s sense of belonging; and a number of literacy and numeracy initiatives designed to help students succeed and stay in school to graduate.
The schools superintendent said the district continues to have evidence that all students (including First Nations students) who are successful in reaching Grade 12 have a very high graduation rate.
According to the provincial report, 53 school districts in B.C. have signed an Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement, which supports a partnership between Aboriginal communities and school districts that involves shared decision-making and specific goal-setting to meet the educational needs of aboriginal students.
SD 27 is one of them.
Thiessen said there is a link to the school district’s Aboriginal enhancement agreement on the district’s website as well as a link to the latest annual report on the agreement on the same page.
Gaiel Farrar is a reporter for the Williams Lake Tribune.