Kootenay Columbia student graduation rates decline

The graduation rate for Grade 12 students has dropped in School District 20 by nearly 10 per cent within the last academic year.

The graduation rate for Grade 12 students has dropped in School District 20 by nearly 10 per cent within the last academic year, according to recent results from a B.C. Ministry of Education Foundational Skills Assessment (FSA).

After a high of 354 students graduating in the 2007-08 school year, the amount of students graduating in the district dropped to 297 during 2010-11, with the percentage of graduates dropping from a high of 86 per cent in 2007-08 to 80 per cent last year.

The drop did not go unnoticed by school district hierarchy.

“Yes, there is a concern,” said Darrel Ganzert, the board of trustees chair. “But I think it’s important to look at trends, especially if they’re repeating for two or three years in a row. Personally, I do not respect those (FSA) tests at all.”

The FSA is an annual assessment of student achievement based on reading, writing and numeracy results.

Ganzert explained that his concerns with the FSA test are because the provincial test often covers topics expected to be taught to students throughout the entire academic year, some of which students have not been exposed to before it takes place.

According to Ganzert, it can also include questions about curriculum that are no longer part of the provincial teaching requirements. He explained that some students intentionally miss the test.

However, the province indicated that very few exceptions are made for student absences. All Grade 4 and Grade 7 students are also expected to participate in the FSA and this year roughly 84 per cent of students province-wide participated in the assessment.

“With my background, I do not like them for valid reasons,” Ganzert said. “Teachers are not afraid of testing, we test all the time but we use standardized tests and rely on homegrown resources that are more valuable for planning. Like working groups of teachers who meet up to discuss problems and solutions regularly.”

Local flavour

While the remainder of the province met or exceeded expectations in this year’s FSA, the annual assessment of student achievement in reading, writing and numeracy does not carry much weight by school officials in the Greater Trail region.

Ganzert explained that declining numbers and resources should trigger some tough decisions from the community, and he is optimistic about finding solutions to problems during the upcoming facilities review this fall.

“Don’t take the (FSA) seriously,” Ganzert said. “We rely on other forms of testing that we think are more valuable. The future looks very bright for SD20, FSA’s are a fairly minor plan of what we have in place for planning and they continue to be part of it, but we rely on other homegrown information too.”

Students are tested regularly, but teachers write questions in a way that broaches topics they have covered more accurately.

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