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New premier should make education pledge

News that the completion rate for students in Alberta high schools is on the rise is great news for students, their parents and for the province as a whole. The provincial rate of completion increased from 71.5 per cent in 2009 to 72.

News that the completion rate for students in Alberta high schools is on the rise is great news for students, their parents and for the province as a whole.

The provincial rate of completion increased from 71.5 per cent in 2009 to 72.6 per cent in 2010, a jump that officials are attributing to the concerted efforts of many stakeholders, including teachers, parents, school boards, and, of course, the students themselves.

Equally good news is that the dropout rate for Alberta students aged 14 – 18 has fallen from 4.3 per cent in 2009 to 4.2 in 2010. As of this year, the percentage of students graduating high school within five years of entering Grade 10 is 79 per cent.

While not necessarily a guarantee of future success in adult life, a high school diploma has consistently been shown to be an important tool in future job success.

And as such, the more Alberta young people who can finish Grade 12, the better for the provincial economy and for all communities.

“A high school diploma helps set young people up for successful futures,” said Minister of Education Dave Hancock. “We've been working hard across the education system to keep students engaged in their education. Seeing the completion rate increase year after year demonstrates we're definitely focused on the right things.”

Acknowledging that finishing high school is important for Alberta, the province and Alberta Education recently created the very worthwhile High School Completion Framework program.

Under that initiative, educators and school boards work to identify barriers to graduation and develop plans to enhance existing programs. The framework includes five strategies: student engagement, successful transitions, collaborative partnerships, positive connections and tracking progress.

The program includes a number of initiatives that give students options when it comes to high school education, including mentoring partnerships and outreach programs.

As well, Alberta Education has launched the High School Completion website at www.education.alberta.ca/highschoolcompletion to provide parents with information and resources to support efforts to keep their children in school or return to high school themselves.

News that more than 72 per cent of Alberta high school students are now graduating is great news for the province. Hopefully all stakeholders will continue to work hard to make the completion rate even higher over the coming years.

So here's a challenge to the new Alberta premier when he or she is in place later this year: How about making a pledge to bring the completion rate up to 80 per cent by the end of the decade?