Raising graduation rates has been a key initiative for School District 58 Nicola-Similkameen for a number of years now.
“Our goal and it has been for the past number of years it to make sure we’re increasing those to bring them inline with what would be considered more the provincial average. Then also making sure we’re addressing the gaps between different cohort groups,” said School District 58 Nicola-Similkameen Superintendent Steve McNiven.
The exact numbers can be hard to determine, the formula used here in SD58 is the number of graduates divided by number of students who entered grade-8 five years ago.
Last year they graduated 83 percent for all students and 82 percent for aboriginal students. Back in 2016-2017 numbers showed 74 percent of students graduated on time. If you continue to go back that was nearly 10 percent better than 2015-2016 and a massive 20 percent better than back in 2004. For context the average graduation rate for districts across the province is around 84 percent.
“We believe that across the district we’re pushing to have 136 students graduate this year, that includes both Merritt and Princeton,” said McNiven.
Five years ago, 159 students began grade 8. Quick math tells us that this year’s graduation percent will reach 85.5 percent, eclipsing the provincial average of 84.
With the stark jump in percentage over the past few years McNiven spoke to one of the many reasons he feels the district has been able to improve.
“I believe it’s the fact that both our high schools know each individual student in a greater way than perhaps we have in the past,” said McNiven. “We’re looking at students on a regular basis, making sure they’re on the path to graduation. If we see that they’re struggling, then we know when that’s happening and we’re doing our best to intervene early, to make sure we’re meeting our students needs.”
While he didn’t have the numbers available to him, McNiven did speak to the continued effort to raise the graduation rates for Indigenous students.
“We have closed the gap last year and our hope is to have that happen again, which is substantively higher than the provincial average and we’re very proud of that,” said McNiven.
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