More Alberta students making the grade

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High school completion up as St. Albert schools beat provincial average

More Alberta students are finishing high school and St. Albert students are beating the provincial average according to statistics released this week.

The government released high school completion numbers that shows 74.1 per cent of Alberta students completed high school in the school year that ended in 2011. That is a rise from the 72.6 per cent who completed the year before and the 71.6 per cent average the province achieved in the three years before that.

Completion includes students who receive their diploma, get an equivalency diploma or go on to register at a post-secondary institution. It tracks students who complete within the three-year window after entering Grade 10.

A failure to complete doesn’t mean students aren’t finishing high school; it just might be taking them longer than the standard three years.

“It is moving in the right direction, it is trending in the right direction, but we still have more work to do,” said Education Minister Jeff Johnson.

Johnson said there are a lot of challenges for school boards in keeping students in class and working toward their diploma. He expects one of them will be the growing economy, which could lure some students away, but he hopes schools will be able to cope with that.

“Alberta’s economy has been very strong for a while, that it does create other opportunities for the kids that might otherwise complete high school,” he said. “I think we need to continue to look at ways that students don’t have to see that as an either-or.”

St. Albert schools fared better than the provincial results with the public board hitting a completion rate of 78.3 per cent. That is down slightly from the prior year at 81.1 per cent and the three-year average of 79.8.

“We are not complacent about it. We are really very committed to trying to always raise those high school completion rates,” said Glenys Edwards with the Protestant school board.

Edwards said the board approaches the problem with programs that aim to ensure students are really engaged in their classrooms.

“We really believe that the more engaged and connected students are, they are much more apt to persevere and complete.”

The Catholic board also exceeded provincial results with a rate of 81.1, down slightly from the year before at 82.6, but up from the prior three-year average, which was 78.2.

Board superintendent David Keohane said the board is pleased to be above the provincial average, but will keep working until all students complete.

“High school completion is a very important thing, so on that front the road to success is always under construction.”

Keohane said the board tries to have flexible schedules and engaging classrooms, while trying to make sure that marking evaluates students without discouraging them.

“We don’t use assessment as a mechanism to punish kids, but use it as a method to learn where they are at and to establish high expectations for the completion of work.”

Keohane said when faced with a booming economy, the board concentrates on how important a high school diploma is for the long-term.

“We stress the importance of students completing high school as a way to them having greater success in terms of their career path.”

Johnson said the government will continue to work on boosting the numbers and he aims to keep increasing the numbers of Albertans with high school diplomas.

“There has been some good work done and there are some great examples around the province where I think we are learning how to do a better job of that.”

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