Mount Douglas secondary vice-principal Phil Pitre

Greater Victoria keeps students on graduation track

Aggressive strategy in SD61 yields highest completion rate in district history

Two years ago, Adam Johnson had a bad habit of skipping classes at Mount Douglas secondary.

Hanging out with friends and procrastinating on schoolwork lured the teen away a few hours per week, enough to raise red flags with school administration.

“It wasn’t an everyday thing, but skipping one or two classes per week builds up,” said Johnson. “You don’t realize until the end how much you’ve missed.”

Vice-principal Phil Pitre intervened and started asking questions to drill down to the core problems.

“The administration, especially Mr. Pitre, keep a close eye on me. It’s a school of 1,200 kids and he dedicates a lot of time keeping everyone on a straight path,” said Johnson, who is now on track to graduate next year.

“He questioned why I was missing quite a few classes. It wasn’t hostile, there weren’t threats, but it was embarrassing. He helped me realize skipping isn’t the way … to succeed.”

The 17-year-old is one of many students in SD61 who have shown “at risk” tendencies – poor grades or poor attendance – in terms of graduating on time, and who fell under an ongoing and aggressive strategy to make sure they stay on track. SD61 superintendent John Gaiptman calls it a “whatever-it-takes” mindset.

“We make it very hard to withdraw from school,” Gaiptman said. “We track at-risk students involved in things not helpful to graduate, or who are absent a lot, or are failing courses or are in danger of failing. Anything that might trip up a student who might not graduate.”

It’s a long-running policy that’s finally starting to pay off. For 2012-13, SD61’s six-year Dogwood completion rate hit a record high of 84.5 per cent, a measure of how many students graduate within six years of entering Grade 8.

In the 2000-01 school year, SD61 struggled with a completion rate of less than 70 per cent, more than six points below the provincial average. The following year, the district undertook fundamental reconfiguration to its grade structure – adding elementary grades to middle school (grades 6-9) and extending high school to four years (grades 9-12).

Pitre said having an accurate and timely database of attendance and grades is key to catching students who might slip away, especially in a large high school.

Administrators can also see attendance records from primary and middle schools, which tend to be better indicators of who will be at risk of not graduating.

“We ID students at risk mainly in the middle school level, but the data picks up red flags in Grades 1, 2 and 3. It’s amazingly accurate,” Pitre said.

“We talk to their teachers and facilitate with their parents. We involve whoever they need. It’s about checking up, it’s about conversation.”

Gaiptman noted that while serious problems can emerge for students in high school, the war over graduation is usually won or lost in early grades.

“It’s a lot easier in elementary and middle school to give foundation and focus to a student who needs extra support,” he said.

“We couldn’t do it without support we get from elementary and middle school teachers. If you start this in high school, it’s too late.”

SD 61 Six-year completion rate

2009-10: 72.9 per cent

2010-11: 76.0

2011-12: 77.8

2012-13: 84.5

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

School strike: SD63 says grade 12 students ‘will not lose their graduation year’

Parents, students concerned about educational impact of CUPE 441 strike

Cineplex to show free holiday movies to support Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

Community Day will be on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m at select theatres

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority’s second steel shipment arrives safely

The GVHA’s original shipment was lost at sea in December 2018

VicPD arrest one person after alleged assault in Victoria

Officers responded to the 1000-block of Pandora on Tuesday

Victoria police pilot e-tickets for its traffic division

Digitized tickets can now be paid for online

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Birthday boy: Pettersson nets 2 as Canucks beat Predators

Vancouver ends four-game winless skid with 5-3 victory over Nashville

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

Woman airlifted with serious injuries after being struck by car in Nanaimo

Woman, hit in crosswalk, suffers life-threatening injuries; driver co-operating with police

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

Most Read