SD42 grad rates beat B.C. targets

89 per cent of students graduate high school within six years

The six-year graduation rate for local high school students is well above provincial targets, according to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District.

The six-year grad rate in the local school district for the 2010/11 school year was 89 per cent for resident students, well above the target of 81 per cent set by the Ministry of Education.

The local grad rate has improved steadily since the 2004/05 school year, when just 75 per cent of students were graduating in six years after entering high school.

“That’s two whole schools worth of graduates more than we had in 2004,” said Stewart Sonne, the district’s director of instruction for secondary education. “In the mid ’60s we lost 400 kids a year, now we’re down to less than 200 kids a year, and we have more kids than we did back then.”

Sonne presented the information to school trustees at their board meeting last Wednesday.

“The teachers deserve all the credit for the increase in grad rates,” Sonne said.

The district launched the Keeping Kids in School program in 2007, which offers students a variety of options to stay in school and graduate, including the Connex half-day program. Students are no longer able to withdraw from classes until they contact the district’s Keeping Kids in School program.

The diversity of programs offered by the district has also played a role in raising grad rates by offering students an education relevant to their needs.

“Every time we have a student that’s engaged by learning, they are going to have greater success,” Sonne said.

Of the 189 students who dropped out of local high schools last year, Sonne said the vast majority were dealing with depression, anxiety, and drug issues.

“That’s where I think our next big push has to be, to reach those kids” he said.

The large number of international students brought down the overall six-year grad rate for all students in the district to 79 per cent. However, Sonne warned that number is skewed by the large number of international students studying locally.

The province’s reporting practices count a visiting international student who stays for a semester and returns home the same as a dropout, he said.

Local aboriginal students continued to out perform the provincial benchmark, but Sonne believes there is plenty of room to improve. Aboriginal students had 62 per cent six-year graduation rate, compared to the 52 per cent provincial target.

What’s telling is that of the aboriginal students who make to Grade 12 and are eligible to graduate, 94 per cent do.

“Once you get to Grade 12 as an aboriginal student, you’re going to graduate, at the same rate or higher as non-aboriginal students,” Sonne said.

The district’s aboriginal education office assigns case workers to every aboriginal student who drops out to follow them after they leave school, and offer them an opportunity to re-enroll.

The district also improved its Grade 11 to 12 transition rate from 77 to 83 percent between the 2005/06 and the 2009/20 school year, the most recent year data was available.

“We’re one of the two most improved districts in the province as far as [grade-to-grade transitions],” Sonne said.