Report from Advisory Committee on Equity Representative
This month’s ACE meeting was mostly taken up by a lively and interesting discussion of the Student Success program, especially the reengagement initiative for students who have dropped out or left school. Renald Cousineau presented.
Here are the details of the discussion:
Provincially, the grad rate has steadily increased from 68% in 2003 to 83% in 2011 which represents an additional 115,500 grads. The student success initiative has been instrumental in this change.
There are some concerns about the accuracy of the grad rate measure. It was developed as a comparative index, and so it is not very useful for the Board as a metric. It is a number that is not strictly representative of the actual success rate, as it only counts OSSD grads who were enrolled in the system in grade 9 and graduate on time. Children who enroll in later years, who are in the system in Grade 9 but leave for any reason, including changing school boards or dying; who graduate late; or are challenging for a certificate not a diploma due to capacity or ability issues are counted as ‘not graduating’. It is challenging to know who, of the remaining 17% not graduating, are actually students who have not completed their education versus students with a plan that doesn’t fit the criteria. For this reason, the OCDSB is developing a measure called the Annual Certification Rate which will count OSSC and certificate of achievement holders as graduates.
Studies have shown that having just one caring adult in the building makes a big difference in student success. A Student Success teacher will make a connection or delegate a staff member to the student. Generally, this will be a staff member who already has a connection, often one of the people who identified the student as needing some support. Staffing is an issue with this initiative and there is a gap in service around Grade 7 &8, as well as students that are underserved in Grades 9 to12. Each student’s story is unpacked by the teacher and intensive, holistic support is provided. This could be as simple as providing classes at a more convenient location, weekly checkups, or using a different format such as dual credit courses (where a high school and a college credit are earned concurrently) or SAL (supervised alternative learning) to achieve the credit.
There are many pathways to support. Examining the success rates of students who have used different strategies for recovering a credit, it is evident that a full repeat is the least effective option. Sending a kid who has failed back to redo the same program that they were unsuccessful in the first time is not our best option. Summer school, which often does not cover the subject in the same depth but highlights the main ideas, and credit recovery, which is customized to each student, are more effective and also creates more future success in the subject for the student.
There are some shortfalls in the system that are recognised and in the process of improving. Most notable is work with the FNMI community, the alternate sites and the adult and continuing education communities. The board is working on partnerships with other community groups, such as YSB (Youth Services Board).
The program represents a change between the old way of thinking (fixed mindset, people have predetermined capacity, if you don’t succeed once start over and try again), vs the new thinking (growth mindset, people have opportunity for growth in capacity, if there is a failure then change the environment or situation to set up success). We know that kids who disengage from education typically do this around Grade 2. Ultimately, it would be wonderful to see this as a Kindergarten to success program, rather than a Grade 9 to 12 program.