Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Graduation statistics highlight Saskatchewan Rivers annual report

Jason Kerr

Prince Albert Herald

Prince Albert students are ahead of their provincial counterparts in math and graduations rates, but are struggling with credit attainment, according to the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division’s annual report.

The school division issued the report on Monday at their annual general meeting, using statistics from the 2012-2013 school year.

According to the report, First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students in the school division are more likely to graduate on time than similar students around the province. FNMI students graduate 39 per cent of the time compared with 37 per cent around Saskatchewan. Also, non-FNMI students in Sask. Rivers graduate 87 percent of the time compared with 84 for the province.

When you add in extended time graduations, students who complete Grade 12 within five years of starting Grade 10, the number jumps up even high. According to the report, the numbers are 61 per cent for FNMI students, compared to 50 per cent for the rest of the province.

Sask. Rivers director of education Robert Bratvold says the students deserve most of the credit for putting in the work to graduate, but he also says the school division has taken steps to ensure that they do.

“Sometimes there are life obstacle pieces that we can address through our mentorship program,” he says. “Sometimes it’s connection to outside support that they need, to get to school and be successful in school. Those are the pieces that I think help us to have the successes that we do.”

If you look at both numbers added together, Sask. Rivers actually graduates a smaller percentage of its students than the rest of the province, despite both FNMI and non-FNMI students outdoing their provincial peers. The statistic is a reflection of Prince Albert’s large First Nation population, and the challenge Sask. Rivers faces in reaching out to them.

“That’s obviously not only our goal, but it’s (the government’s) goal too, to eliminate that achievement gap between First Nations and Metis students and the rest of the students in province,” says Barry Hollick, the Sask. Rivers board chair. “It’s something that, because of our large First Nations population here, we have been working on for several years now.”

The school division acknowledges that not all students graduate and they say they’re working to improve that. The focus is on mentorship and attendance, which they hope will give students the motivation and confidence to succeed.

“That is one of the most crucial things in ensuring that they’re going to graduate,” Hollick says. “That they attend classes and are there for assignments and evaluations. That is adding success to our numbers and our percentages in comparison to what other school divisions have.”

The school division also gets its students to use a self-tracking software program called Blueprint, which shows students the courses they need to graduate, as well as the courses they need to take to get into a certain post-secondary program or career.

“That can help them get credits, but also can keep them inspired and motivated to finish the graduation part of it as well,” Bratvold says.

These programs have helped place Sask. Rivers in an enviable position, but there have been a few setbacks. Graduation rates in the division were down compared to previous years. Only 66 per cent of students due to graduate in 2013 received their diplomas, compared with 69 per cent in 2012. The problem isn’t unique to Prince Albert, as graduation rates slightly dipped across the province.

It’s not going away either, as credit attainment, which the report says serves as a leading indicator of graduation, is down among FNMI students. The drop is small, less than a percentage point.

Still, Bratvold says the school division is concerned, although they are confident about where they are headed.

“We see greater things in the future in terms of more of our kids graduating, both First Nations and non-First Nations,” he says.

Despite that setback, Sask. Rivers students are still having a lot of success. The report says both FNMI and non-FNMI students are easily out-performing their provincial counterparts in math.

“A big part of that is ensuring our assessment and instruction programs are well integrated,” Bratvold says. “The other piece is there’s strong support from the community around expectations for kids to succeed, so we’ve got that piece of the puzzle that we rely on as well.”

Bratvold says the division’s focus on developing, training and connecting teachers has lead to the difference in marks, which are large. Some courses see local students beating the provincial average by as much as 10 percentage points. The number is even higher for FNMI students, who beat their provincial peers by as much as 16.

“I think, really, what it comes down to is we’ve got great teachers in the classroom,” Bratvold says.

Saskatchewan Rivers school division contains 32 schools in the Prince Albert area. It stretches all the way from Big River Community School in the northwest, to Kinistino School in the southeast. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education provided all statistics in the report. Copies of the report are available on the school division website.

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