Wolf Creek division tackles low aboriginal grad rates

Fewer than one in seven aboriginal students who entered Grade 10 in the Wolf Creek School Division in 2009 graduated three years later, a shockingly low rate that leaves the division looking way up at the already low provincewide 44 per cent completion rate.

Fewer than one in seven aboriginal students who entered Grade 10 in the Wolf Creek School Division in 2009 graduated three years later, a shockingly low rate that leaves the division looking way up at the already low provincewide 44 per cent completion rate.

School divisions across the province recently compiled their Annual Education Results Reports (AERR), displaying data from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. The data shows things like dropout, high school completion, and post-secondary transition rates for entire division populations and First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) students.

While Central Alberta jurisdictions such as Wild Rose School Division and Chinook’s Edge School Division show well when it comes to FNMI metrics, Wolf Creek’s marks based on 2011-12 data fall well below provincial averages.

The high school completion rate (within three years) fell 30 per cent below the provincial average to 13.7 per cent, the dropout rate was 10.6 per cent, and the post-secondary transition rate of 21 per cent was significantly lower than the provincial average.

In the Ponoka area, over one-quarter of students in Wolf Creek schools are aboriginal, while other FNMI students are spread throughout the division. Superintendent Larry Jacobs said the division has to “build a bridge” between cultures to engender greater success.

“It’s incumbent on jurisdictions like mine that border up against a First Nations area, the Hobbema reserves, to tackle this concern,” said Jacobs.

He said the district is putting together a literacy plan for all at-risk learners that will not only improve reading and writing, but students’ ability to solve complex math and science problems and understand technology at a high level.

And Jacobs said the division will look to hire someone who can act as a liaison with FNMI students, communities, and staff to make sure school curricula works in a First Nations cultural context as well.

Wild Rose’s FNMI education statistics, on the other hand, showed achievement nearly equal to the larger school population.

The FNMI completion rate of 72.7 per cent was well above the provincial average, and dropout and transition rates showed improvement and were above average as well.

In Chinook’s Edge, the high school completion rate was 69.7 per cent for FNMI students, while the entire school population achieved a mark of 78.2 per cent. The latter figure represents a significant accomplishment for the division, said associate superintendent Ray Hoppins.

“We’re very proud that we’re at an all-time high. We’re having students complete high school to a greater extent than ever before,” said Hoppins.

While the results show a solid performance for the division across many metrics, the transition rate — the percentage of students who have enrolled in post-secondary education six years after entering Grade 10 — of 53.7 per cent remains below the provincial average.

Hoppins said current dual credit opportunities with Olds College and future opportunities with Red Deer College should improve that figure.

Clearview School Division had too few FNMI students in the division for statistics to be compiled for the 2011-12 school year. For its entire population, the results were very positive.

Clearview’s dropout rate of 2.9 per cent is below the Alberta average, while its high school completion rate was 10th best in the province at 81.6 per cent, and its transition rate registered at 63.4 per cent.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com