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Catholic school division working to improve completion rates

Impacts of shifts in learning via the COVID-19 pandemic has affected high school graduation rates
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Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools' three-year high school completion rate in 2021-22 was higher than the provincial average. File photo

INNISFAIL - Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) will be exploring ways to improve overall high school completion rates, including through targeted intervention measures, say officials.

The division’s 2021-22 annual education results report was reviewed and accepted by trustees at the recent board meeting. The 10,271-student RDCRS includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.

The report is prepared annually for Alberta Education and examines such things as student achievement.

While the division’s three-year high school completion rate in 2021-22 was higher than the provincial average – 84.8 per cent compared with 83.2 per cent provincewide – the RDCRS rate was down from 88 per cent last year.

The 2021-22 five-year high school completion rate in the division was 89.6 per cent, compared with the provincial average of 87.1. The rate in the division in 2020-21 was 92.2 per cent.

“We recognize that a more significant decline has taken place in the three-year high school completion rate and conclude that this correlates with current educational research, outlining the impacts of shifts in learning via the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ryan Sawula, associate superintendent of curriculum with RDCRS.

Through its school improvement planning, the division has put plans in place to target the completion measures with interventions, he said.

“In examining our own data, a concerning trend is a correlation between absenteeism and course completion,” he said. “Our high schools are targeting their interventions to address this, including InReach models to support students with chronic absenteeism as they transition back to the classroom with increased support.”

The division plans to continue to increase and adapt its approach to personalized learning for students through a number of measures, he said.

Those measures include opportunities for dual credit, registered apprenticeship, career and technology courses, and online program, he said.

“Overall, our division is exploring ways to enhance flexible programs for students, allowing them to access resources that improve both their ability to succeed academically and socially,” he said.

The reports also noted that the division made good use of Alberta Education grant funding to assist students impacted by the pandemic when it comes to reading levels.

“The division made use of the provided intervention resource from Alberta Education in order to maximize funding for intervention rather than purchasing resources,” he said. 

“The schools make use of other literacy interventions to supplement this in the universal classroom setting, paying careful attention not to duplicate interventions, but rather supplement the program with students.”

Regarding student growth and achievement, RDCRS students scored higher than the provincial average in student learning engagement (90.7 per cent compared with 85.1), citizenship (89.7 compared with 81.4), provincial achievement tests acceptable (78.6 compared with 67.3) and provincial achievement tests excellence (19.8 compared with 18.0).

The complete annual education results report is available on the division’s website.