For many students across Greater Victoria, graduating from high school can seem an insurmountable task.
Stresses from family, substance abuse, peer pressure, poverty or learning disabilities can erode the chances a youth will graduate on time, or at all. Outcomes from this are predictable and dire, and Dogwoods are the bare minimum for most jobs higher than minimum wage.
For the past decade, the Greater Victoria School District has recognized that with a specific grade structure, and a focused effort, it could boost what was a truly lousy graduation rate (called the completion rate) of less than 70 per cent. For 2012-13 it hit an all-time high of 84.5 per cent.
There is no magic formula, and SD61 has seen declines along the way, but it has recognized that traditional approaches of punishment and threats are no longer seen as useful tools to get a student to change bad habits.
Educators and administrators now strive to find the root of students’ problems and challenges. Teachers can’t force kids to go to school, but they can give them resources and strategies to change bad situations and realize what’s in their best interest.
Keeping kids coming back to the building can be key, and SD61 superintendent John Gaiptman is proud to point out that the district has made it very difficult to drop out of school.
Administrators in the district also comb databases of student attendance and achievement to gauge very early on who will be at-risk of not graduating without intervention and monitoring.
Other school districts and educators in the region work hard to have their students graduate on time, but they might want to look at what SD61 is doing differently.
Other than Greater Victoria, completion rates in the other local school districts remains below the provincial average of 83.6 per cent. Sooke district hit 73.3 for 2012-13 and Saanich district 69.7.
Of course, any number below 100 per cent means kids are entering society without a basic education, and all school districts are still far from that ideal.