Improving high school graduate numbers in Alberta

Each year, without fail, the start of school marks the unofficial end to the summer. The new school year takes many youth off of the skateboard parks, backyards and beaches and puts them in a classroom for five days a week.

Each year, without fail, the start of school marks the unofficial end to the summer. The new school year takes many youth off of the skateboard parks, backyards and beaches and puts them in a classroom for five days a week.

For some it may be an exciting time for getting new school supplies and making new friends, while for others school can be seen as an end to their freedom and they dread the sound of their alarm clock in the morning.

Although the education system may not be fully compatible with some students there is still great importance to achieving a high school diploma. A diploma can mean a better job with good pay, self-confidence and an opportunity for post-secondary education.

There are many benefits to a diploma but in Alberta, the high school completion rate is not impressive compared to the rest of the country. The high school completion rate in Alberta remains among the lowest in Canada even though it is showing steady improvement in getting a larger portion of students to graduate.

According to the Alberta government website, in the 2002-03 school year 68 per cent of Alberta teenagers completed high school.

The province tracks students starting in their Grade 10 year and follows them over five years. It includes students who spend at least three years in the Alberta system and looks at the small number who enter post-secondary studies without actually graduating from high school.

The province’s website shows that 71 per cent of Alberta teens completed high school within three years of starting Grade 10 for the 2006-07 school year. It also shows that approximately 80 per cent achieved their diplomas within five years.

Why aren’t these numbers higher? It could be because of Alberta’s demanding need for more workers, minimum support and encouragement from family and friends throughout the early school years, bad report cards, or not fitting well in the education system. It could be many different reasons.

Addressing the province’s low high school completion rates are the Ponoka Composite High School and St. Augustine School. Both high schools are working hard with their grant money to help encourage their students to finish their high school education.

The schools are bringing in new technology, equipment and programs to keep students interested in completing their education and preparing them to integrate into the workforce. They are also trying to motivate students by broadening their courses to accommodate students with various interests and provide them with the tools and opportunities that coincide with their passions.

Though it is optimistic that the work of the schools will improve their completion numbers the dedication to education is not solely based on the efforts of the high schools. It takes the whole community to encourage a student in completing his or her education.

High school graduation usually begins in kindergarten and the support received from family and the community can prove to be a cornerstone to continuing with education.

Students recognize the support early on with selling chocolate bars, people coming to their school plays or sports games, fundraisers and being sponsored by businesses.

If a student feels encouraged and backed up by a network of support, chances are they will feel the confidence to finish high school.

So, for another school year, let us continue to work with parents, students and teachers to help with meeting the emotional and academic needs of the students and let them know that we, as a community are there to support them and encourage them in their studies and life goals.