Graduation rate reaches new high in Greater Victoria school district

The Greater Victoria school district posted its highest graduation rate on record for both aboriginal and total student populations last year, says the latest superintendent’s report on student achievement.

The graduation rate for all students rose to 78 per cent from a previous high of 76 per cent recorded in 2011 and 2005.

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The aboriginal rate rose to 53 per cent and has been steadily climbing over the past five years after dipping to 33 per cent in 2008.

“We’re not resting on our laurels by any stretch of the imagination, but yes, we feel we’re moving in the right direction,” said superintendent John Gaiptman on Friday.

The district’s graduation rates still trail the provincial average of 82 per cent for all students and 56 per cent for aboriginal students.

Gaiptman said Greater Victoria’s statistics skew downward because its total enrolment of more than 18,000 includes hundreds of international students who attend school in B.C. for a few years and then withdraw to return home.

The district has more foreign students than most districts and expects its completion rate to jump significantly when the province releases true graduation rates later this year that exclude those students.

Still, Gaiptman said it’s the ongoing improvement that district officials find encouraging.

“In the end, a district has to look at its completion rate,” he said.

“All students want to graduate. All parents have an expectation that their son or daughter will graduate. So those numbers are very important to us.”

He said the district’s focus on individual students played a key role in the improvement.

“We have a person in student support services that is responsible for making sure that he is tracking each and every vulnerable student,” he said.

“The fact that a student might leave us is never a surprise; what we have to do, once we’ve identified a vulnerable student, is to track them, to encourage them, to keep them on a program toward graduation.”

The district also ensures that learning materials contain aboriginal content to hold the interest of aboriginal students.

In addition, the district’s aboriginal nations education department works closely with the language department to translate aboriginal materials into French for students in immersion programs.

Gaiptman noted that, besides graduating a higher percentage of aboriginal students than ever before, 29 per cent of those students also graduated with honours — nine per cent above the provincial average.

“The more success a student encounters, the more success he or she wants to encounter,” he said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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