Benesh offers full report

Mark Benesh

The Chinook School Division continues to have good three-year and five-year graduation rates that exceed the provincial rates.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Benesh provided details about graduation and attendance rates during a regular Chinook School Division board meeting on May 11, which took place via video conference.

Chinook School Division has a three-year graduation rate goal of 90 per cent and a five-year graduation rate goal of 93 per cent. These goals are higher than the provincial goals of 85 per cent for three-year graduation and 90 per cent for five-year graduation.

The actual graduation rates achieved by Chinook School Division have been higher than the provincial rates. In 2018-19 the actual three-year provincial graduation rate was 77 per cent compared to 85.8 per cent for the Chinook School Division.

In 2018-19 the actual five-year provincial graduation rate was 85 per cent, while Chinook School Division achieved a five-year graduation rate of 91 per cent.

“So we're right on with our goal,” Benesh told the meeting, and he noted that the school division is projecting a three-year graduation rate of between 86 to 90 per cent for 2019-20.

Various factors can influence the graduation rates, and he referred to two things that will have an impact on the 2019-20 three-year graduation rate.

“We have extra students added to our cohort from out of the province, which is actually going to bring our rate down, because none of them were on pace to graduate, but we'll also see those kids who got their mark, no matter what, of 50 or above as of March,” he said. “So that might help us a little bit, because they're getting some credits that they may not have gotten in time.”

Graduation rates are affected by academic success in the early grades, student engagement, and student attendance. The Chinook School Division has implemented initiatives to address all these factors.

“The province watches our attendance in two ways,” he said. “They look at the number of kids who come 90 per cent of the time and they look at kids who come at least 80 per cent of the time, because we know there is a direct correlation between how often kids come to school and their ability to graduate.”

The Chinook School Division experienced a small decrease of 1.1 per cent in 90 per cent or above attendance from K-12, but their focus lately have been on the high school level, for which the 90 per cent or above attendance increased by 2.3 per cent from 66.8 per cent in 2018-19 to 69.1 per cent in 2019-20.

“So we have more kids coming more often from our Grade 10 to 12 students, which we see as a positive, because the more they're there, the better chance to graduation and understanding the material,” he said.

The average attendance by students in every grade was up 0.2 per cent across the board from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 in the 2019-20 school year. The average attendance was 93.1 per cent in 2019-20 compared to 92.9 per cent in 2018-19.

The Chinook School Division has implemented different measures to improve graduation rates. There are attendance policies, attendance dashboards and monitoring, credit recovery, student led conferences, graduation pathways and a graduation plan, and on-pace high school monitoring with custom infographics for each school.

This work has been done through a committee on graduation rates, which was created about five year ago. That made it possible to track attendance, credit attainment and graduation rates by school and individual student.

“Our focus was to do all that we can to identify the things that would allow our kids to be more successful,” he said.

The committee worked on some additional initiatives during the 2019-20 school year. They looked at options for final exams, they reviewed attendance policies to ensure more consistency across schools, and they looked at ways to make Adult 12 an available option in more schools.

Adult 12 is a Grade 12 equivalency that provides an avenue for a student to graduate. A student needs seven credits to receive their Adult 12, instead of the normal 24 credits.

“For our kids who struggled in school, who after Grade 11 may only have four, five or six credits, they’re not on pace to graduate normally with the rest of our kids,” he said. “Our focus then is to focus on the credits that they would require so that they have the opportunity.”

Benesh mentioned that the school division’s student engagement initiative has been a key factor along with the other graduation initiatives to provide support to high school students.

“Our high school teachers are really appreciative of the initiative at high school, because almost all our initiatives previously have been in balanced literacy or guided math or other areas that relate to elementary,” he said. “It's been a real positive, because teachers in the high school are being supported in that way.”

He also felt positive about the support from schools for the Chinook School Division’s initiative to improve and maintain attendance rates in the different grades.

“We've done some work there and they continue to do all they can to support kids who are struggling and families who struggle in supporting their kids to come to school consistently,” he said. “So they've done a lot of work around that and I got to give a lot of kudos to our schools in supporting those families.”

The school division has strong three-year and five-year graduation rates, but there are challenges to maintain those rates.

“It does move up and down a little bit related to our cohort, so how strong that group of kids are in those grades,” he said. “The other challenge is again around attendance, which then relates to how often they come, and it relates to their credit attainment, which then also relates to their graduation. So that's always going to be a challenge for those groups of students who do not come consistently.”

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