Looking for solutions in the classroom

As students prepare for the time-honoured traditions of graduation next month, a disproportionate number of Chilliwack students won’t be joining them.

As students prepare for the time-honoured traditions of graduation next month, a disproportionate number of Chilliwack students won’t be joining them.

That’s because the high school completion rate in Chilliwack falls below the provincial average – something it has done consistently for several years.

Over the last four issues, Chilliwack Progress education reporter Katie Bartel has tried to go beyond those numbers and identify some of the faces behind the statistics.

What becomes clear is that the reasons for Chilliwack’s poor showing are as diverse as the people affected.

Roughly one third of Chilliwack students who start Grade 8 won’t get their high school diploma within the allotted time frame. That doesn’t mean they won’t graduate. Many students who leave school end up returning, or gaining their Dogwood through other means.

Nonetheless, for many more, once they’re gone, they are gone for good.

It would be a mistake to assume anyone who fails to finish high school will be a failure in life.

However, life without a high school diploma is decidedly more difficult. In lost income alone, a high school dropout earns $104,000 less in his or her lifetime than someone with a diploma, a 2008 study done for the Canadian Council on Learning estimates. The study also found that “high school leavers” are more likely to draw on social assistance, experience poor health and wind up in jail.

The overall costs to society are enormous. The costs to individuals, incalculable.

But finding solutions is much harder than identifying the problem.

Educational experts have been ruminating this topic for decades.

One theme that has emerged is “student engagement” from an early age. Part of that responsibility, of course, falls with the schools. It is something every teacher struggles with as class composition becomes complex and resources more scarce.

But the responsibility also rests in the home. The success of any student is made more likely through a strong partnership between home and school.

As we call on the Chilliwack school district to explore innovative ways to improve local high school completion rates, it is important we remember that educators cannot do it alone; that our success in encouraging our children will ultimately lead to their success.

Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress

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