Two Central Alberta school divisions are partnering up — and putting their money up — to help their graduating students score higher on their diploma exams.
Clearview School division of Stettler has joined with Wolf Creek School division of Ponoka to bring in a private firm that offers the Rock the Diploma exam preparation courses.
Both school divisions also opted to pay the $135 per-course cost for each area of study (math, social studies, biology or others subjects) for any Grade 12 student interested in signing up.
Within Red Deer public and Catholic schools, it remains up to students’ families to pay for these extra courses. Both of the school divisions will only cover the fees for students who either say they are not financially able to pay, or if counsellors or teachers discover this is the case.
Mark McWhinnie, assistant superintendent of Wolf Creek, said his school district is paying across the board to increase student participation in the Rock the Diploma by eliminating any financial obstacles.
So far, it seems to be working well, he said, as 86 per cent of graduating Wolf Creek students took the Rock the Diploma courses, which got great word-of-mouth. McWhinnie said it made the difference between pass and fail for some students, and for others, the ability to achieve marks to get into university.
Of the 90 Clearview students who took Rock the Diploma in math, social studies and biology in Lacombe and Coronation, “results clearly indicate (they) performed extremely well,” said superintendent Peter Barron.
He noted Rock the Diploma students achieved a 74 per cent average on the Math 30-1 exam, compared to an average of 49 per cent for those who didn’t attend.
In Red Deer, three-day Rock the Diploma prep courses are offered at Lindsay Thurber High School and are open to students from all public, Catholic and Christian high schools in the area who register for each $135 course.
Certified teachers (contracted from outside the school division) will do intensive reviews with these students in preparation booklets that help them ace the exams.
Nicola Golby, associate superintendent of learning services for Red Deer public schools, said it isn’t financially feasible for her very large school district to pay for Rock the Diploma for each graduating student. By comparison, rural school divisions have relatively few Grade 12s.
In any case, Golby believes there’s good attendance, requiring two to three Math-30-1 Rock the Diploma courses last June. She doesn’t believe finances stand in the way of students attending, noting Red Deer Public Schools Foundation Step Up Fund is available to pay the fees for anyone who can’t afford to.
As well, she said some high schools offer free exam preparation courses led by their own teachers.
Dave Khatib, associate superintendent of inclusive learning for Red Deer Catholic schools, said notice was put on school websites that the division would pay for any students who are not financially able to attend the Rock the Diplomas.
“We don’t believe anybody would not attend because of financial problems,” he said.