Improving graduation rates might mean blowing up the current formula

October 17, 2017

graduation rates

Representatives from the various education stakeholder groups got together to grapple with the issue of how to help create greater momentum in terms of realizing the province’s graduation rates goal.

MOOSE JAW–Ever since the provincial government announced its ambitious goals for graduation rates by 2020, there has been a heightened sense of importance affixed to what has for the most part seen overall rates remain flat.

As a result of the time frame drawing ever closer, the Provincial Leadership Team, which is comprised of directors of education in Saskatchewan; First Nations and Métis education authority leaders; and the Ministry of Education, has targeted this as a cornerstone of the Education Sector Strategic Plan.

So with that in mind, a group of education stakeholders, including a relatively small delegation from the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, attended this two-day Bending the Line symposium.

According to co-organizers Tony Baldwin and Todd Robinson, directors of Prairie South and Lloydminster Public respectively, this symposium was purposely intended to bring a heightened sense of urgency to the graduation issue. Both have grown frustrated at the lack of tangible improvement and so they were seeking to create some momentum.

This was the second such event, and according to both, there’s a shared sense of urgency to make inroads in what is a long-standing and complex issue affected by numerous factors.

This year’s event drew 170 participants from 27 school divisions and another eight First Nations agencies, which exceeded the 120 who attended the inaugural event last year. Both organizers were all smiles as they saw the level of engagement at the various tables, even if not everyone was necessarily singing off the same song sheet.

“This is a place we have to go, and collectively we need to absolutely disrupt what we’re doing. We’re not looking at being satisfied with maybe a half or one percent jump. Let’s go to maybe four percent so we can see the kind of progress we’re looking for. I’m proud of the people in this room. Even though they come from all different sectors of the education community, there’s a commitment and they are working hard on this. I sense a feeling that they are okay with shaking things up,” Baldwin offered.

“I’ve seen a commitment to blowing this up and we have to do this for our kids. What we’re doing right now isn’t working and we’re determined not to be chasing our tails or try to recreate the wheel, but we have to find a new approach that’s going to work,” he added.

Robinson acknowledged that tackling this issue is a big job. “It requires collaboration from everyone involved, and an acknowledgment that we have to do things differently in order to move this forward. Today speaks to that. I think it’s fair to say we’re all trying to get to the same end because everyone has skin in the game, and so there’s a strong sense of accountability.”

Baldwin insisted that “we’re far down the road in looking for change and providing solutions. It’s very different from last year because then we just had our foot in the door, but we didn’t know the road. Now I would say we have a clear game plan and we can start to see progress.

“It’s a reality for all of us in the sector. If we’re going to make the improvements we all want, we can’t worry so much about whose job it is because our kids are depending on us to get this right.”

Robinson said this symposium left him feeling inspired about the possibilities. “I’m very optimistic for the opportunities and what the future holds. I feel we have a road map and by working together, things are possible and we can make great gains.”