More reasons to celebrate

Members of Pen-High’s 2017 grad class celebrate at the close of ceremonies at the SOEC. 

School officials will be diving into student profiles to try to figure out what’s behind a significant decline in graduation rates.

 “Six or seven years ago, we took a look at who are our non-completers and what’s their story,” Okanagan Skaha superintendent Wendy Hyer told trustees at their meeting Monday.

“It made us look at those groups and have conversations around how we could better support those groups to improve their chances of getting through Grade 12. We will focus again on that work to raise our (graduation) rates. We’re going to be going back to that drawing board again.”

Hyer also suggested the dip may be an anomaly.

“Every once in a while, you will get those blips. Hopefully it’s a brief trend, not a full-time drop,” she said.

According to data presented Monday, the six-year completion rate – which shows what percentage of kids graduate within six years of starting Grade 8 – dropped from 87.1%  in 2014-15 to 79.4% in 2018-19.

The completion rates for all male students over the same time period dropped from 86.7% to 80%, while the number for all female students dropped from 87.4% to 78.9%.

(The numbers are slightly skewed in the all-students category as it includes international students, many who come to this region and study for only one year before returning home and are then classified as not having completed their high school studies, said Hyer.)

The figures for Indigenous students over the same time period dropped from a high of 75.5% in 2016-17 school year to 65.4% last year.

But most alarming was the graduation rate for special needs students, which fell from 71.4% in 2017-18 to 58.5% last year.

Trustee Barb Sheppard said while she understands the concerns over decreasing completion rates, she also wanted to point out that 64% of high school graduates last year finished their studies with honours, meaning they scored an average of at least 80% in all their classes.