COVID-19 caused a three-month shutdown of Nanaimo-Ladysmith district schools in 2019-20, but the year-over-year graduation rate remained consistent.
Completion rates were discussed at the district’s Jan. 27 board meeting and according to B.C. Ministry of Education numbers, 84 per cent of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ resident students and 68 per cent of Indigenous students received high school diplomas last school year, compared to 83 per cent and 69 per cent respectively in 2018-19.
When asked whether temporary stoppage of in-class instruction affected students who graduated last year, Ted Cadwallader, district director of instruction for Indigenous learning, told trustees, there is only anecdotal information.
“I was in a meeting with one of our community representatives who said that it’s been really difficult because our post-secondaries are operating in an online environment … we’ve also heard reports from other community members who’ve said of the students that live in her community that graduated last year, the majority of them are doing nothing,” Cadwallader said. “They graduated, but they’re not going to post-secondary because they just don’t see that as a viable alternative being online all day.”
Scott Saywell, superintendent and CEO, told trustees Nanaimo’s child poverty has an effect in the district. Citing “early development instrument” questionnaire data from UBC, between 35-40 per cent of students in the district are vulnerable in terms of physical health, cognitive development, social competence, emotionally maturity and communication skills, said Saywell. Forty per cent of children in Nanaimo’s north end, 47 per cent of children in the south end, 46 per cent in the Townsite/downtown Nanaimo area and 53 per cent in Cedar, Wellington and Gabriola Island are considered vulnerable, he said.
“That’s just a little information about the context with which we live and work and a very good argument to suggest that children from poor backgrounds face many obstacles to accessing education,” said Saywell. “These include not having educational organization to attend and not having access to educational materials or teachers at some point, but even when these are in place, children living in poverty usually do not have their basic needs met.”
Students with English as a second-language graduated at a 78-per cent rate, compared to 70 per cent in 2018-19, while 66 per cent of special needs students graduated last year, compared to 61 per cent the year previous.
Cadwallader said the district seems to be moving in a positive direction.
“You can see that, compared from 2018-19, we’ve gained in three of those demographics and dropped slightly with our Indigenous graduation rates, 69.2 to 67.8 per cent … it looks like we’re trending in the right direction with our completion rates,” he said.
Ministry requirements for a B.C. certificate of graduation consist of a minimum of 80 credits, according to a district staff report. Fifty-two must be for requisite courses, including eight for career education, and at least 28 credits for elective courses. Students must also pass provincial numeracy and literacy exams.