Graduation rates in Kootenay Columbia School District 20 continued their upward trajectory in 2020.
Recent data from the B.C. Ministry of Education shows the district is above provincial averages when it comes to graduating students.
“It is definitely something we are proud of,” says SD20 superintendent Bill Ford.
“We continue to be a high-performance school district well above the provincial average.”
The overall six completion rate for SD20 last year was 89 per cent for students. Over the last five years, the district’s completion rate has ranged from 87 to 93 per cent.
The six-year completion rate measures the success of students who graduate within six years of starting Grade 8.
The average provincial range was from 77 to 88 per cent. In Kootenay Lake SD8 (Nelson) the five-year range was 69 to 78 per cent.
For the 2019-2020 school year, the graduation rate for both non-Indigenous and Indigenous students in SD20 was 91 per cent.
“That is significant,” says Ford. “In this province, it is more typical for districts to have a significant gap between the two.”
The Indigenous graduation rate for 2017-2018 was 81 per cent and for 2018-2019 it was 85 per cent. Over the last five years the rate in the district has ranged from 73 to 91 per cent.
During the same time period, the provincial graduation rate for Indigenous students ranged from 64 to 71 per cent. In SD8 the five-year range was 58 to 75 per cent.
Ford says it should be noted, however, that the district does have a smaller Indigenous population compared to some other districts and that just a few students can make a statistical difference. The same holds true for the special needs category within the district.
There was a bit of a dip in graduation rates for special needs students last year to 73 per cent. But Ford is not too concerned as the overall graduation rate for special needs students in recent years has been climbing. The 2017/2018 rate was 73 per cent and the 2018/2019 rate was 83 per cent.
Provincially the five-year graduation range for special needs students was 67 to 74 per cent. In SD8 the five-year range was 49 to 71 per cent.
“The trend line is still up,” explained Ford. “A decade ago, the rate was in the 50 per cent range.”
He says the district will be monitoring special needs data and looking at its processes to see if there is anything they could be doing to improve the rate.
“We want to make sure that every kid that can graduate, does graduate,” said Ford.
“From our perspective, graduation rates are the penultimate indicator of success. Graduating students is the ultimate goal.”
Ford says holding a graduation rate in the 90-per-cent range is something that has taken a lot of hard work over the last 13 years since he joined the district.
At that time, graduation rates were much lower. But Ford credits several bold moves from the administration, the school board and teachers alike for making a difference.
“It took a lot of brave and hard work to accept the fact (that we needed to change things),” said Ford.
The board then shifted funding to look at how the district could increase its graduation rates, bringing in experts and investing in teacher training.
The district also made a shift from having each school working in silos to a district-centric approach, which moves away from what Ford describes as a lack of synergy to a unified vision for the district as a whole.
“We are now reaping the benefits of all that work,” said Ford.