School systems hoping recent changes will continue to improve graduation rates

As Central Alberta students graduate this month, school jurisdictions continue to look at how to improve the rate of students who finish Grade 12.

As Central Alberta students graduate this month, school jurisdictions continue to look at how to improve the rate of students who finish Grade 12.

The number of 2016 graduates is not yet available, but in June 2015 the rate of students who graduated three years after entering Grade 10 ranged from 69.5 per cent at Red Deer Public Schools to 84.5 per cent at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

The provincial graduation average was 76.5 per cent.

Red Deer Public had a drop in its graduation rate from 74.0 per cent in 2014, while its three-year average was 73.5 per cent.

Superintendent Stu Henry said there had been an upward trend for about four years in a row and the district was encouraged about where results would head in the future.

Several years ago public schools on Red Deer’s north side were reconfigured as kindergarten to Grade 8 to build connections and stability.

“We’re hearing rave reviews from parents and staff about that model so we do think long term that will really pay off for our high school completion,” Henry said.

Attendance tracking and supports are also in place starting in elementary school. Another program links high school students with an assigned staff member to help them with any issues they may encounter. And students who don’t complete Grade 12 in three years are contacted by staff to help them earn their final credits.

Red Deer Catholic had a slight decline in its graduation rate from 88.1 per cent in 2014. Its three-year average was 88.2.

“Compared to the province, we’re well above the provincial average. We’re quite proud of the success story and quite proud of contributing to the overall provincial success,” said superintendent Paul Mason.

To help students earn their diploma, Catholic high school staff are assigned to work with students to make sure they have enough and the right credits to graduate.

“It is a team effort, not only with the Grade 12 teachers, but throughout a students’ education career,” Mason said.

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Superintendent Kurt Sacher with Chinook’s Edge School Division said his jurisdiction was proud of the continued increase in its graduation rate that rose to 81.2 in 2015 from 80.1 per cent in 2014. Its three-year average is 79.3 per cent.

“We still have lots of work to do. We want to do better every year. But overall, it’s a real tribute to our staff and how much work they put into helping students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12,” said Sacher.

He said Chinook’s Edge had a plan for a number of years and was sticking to that plan to increase its graduation rate. Recently it included learning support teams in every school for teachers and more time for teachers to share their ideas and best practices.

The graduation rate at Wild Rose School Division dipped slightly to 74.1 per cent in 2015 from 76.0 per cent in 2014. But superintendent Brad Volkman said it was not a concern.

“It probably doesn’t represent very many kids when you look at a school division our size. We’re just not very, very large,” Volkman said.

Its three-year graduation average was 74.2 per cent.

But he was worried about having less students around to graduate in communities like Rocky Mountain House.

“We’ve got lots of families who have had to move over the year because they’ve lost their job,” said Volkman who estimated about 200 fewer Wild Rose students in the fall.

He said less students means less teachers while trying to offer the same range of programs, and less maintenance and cleaning staff while the number of buildings stays the same.

“(Homes) will fill up again once the economy rebounds then we’ll be on the upswing again. That’s just Alberta and the oil based province that we are. We’ll manage,” Volkman said.

Wolf Creek Public Schools saw graduation rates increase to 73.6 per cent in 2015 from 71.4 in 2014, with a three-year average of 71.8.

Jayson Lovell, acting superintendent at Wolf Creek, said while the majority of students graduate three years after entering high school, more students are choosing to graduate in four or five years to have more time or flexibility.

“It’s a trend that’s happening across the province,” Lovell said.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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