The Parksville Qualicum Beach School District is already in compliance with strict new guidelines governing graduation and what are called school-leaving certificates, superintendent Rollie Koop told the board of trustees during its regular meeting last Tuesday.
Citing concerns over Aboriginal student graduation rates province-wide, the Ministry of Education announced in early February the reform of its Evergreen Certificate, a “Student Credential Order” granted to students who complete schooling but do not meet the requirements for a Dogwood graduation diploma.
Koop said he tasked assistant superintendent Gillian Wilson, First Nations principal Rosie McLeod-Shannon and Learning Services principal Carrie Steele with conducting a five-year review of School District 69’s history of granting Evergreen certificates.
“I wanted to make sure I had a clearer understanding of where we were, as a district, given those new requirements,” said Koop. “I’m pleased to say that all of the students that we had granted the Evergreen Certificate to in the last five years are in compliance with the new requirements.”
To be eligible for an Evergreen Certificate in the future, students must be a) designated as “special needs”; b) be on an individual education program (IEP; and/or c) be part of a program that does not lead to a Dogwood Diploma.
The guidelines were formulated in meetings between Education Minister Mike Bernier, the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) and the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC).
“It is our hope that these changes will help to increase Aboriginal student graduation rates, which have already shown considerable improvement in the past 15 years,” BCSTA president Teresa Rezanoff said in a Feb. 5 release that announced the reforms.
SD69 board chair Eve Flynn told The NEWS that the local school district’s Aboriginal graduation rates currently exceed the provincial average, but that it was important for the district to conduct a review of its procedures.
“I think the concern of FNESC was that, if Aboriginal students are being given (the Evergreen) in lieu of a diploma, that is not acceptable,” Flynn said. “I think they’ll be looking to see if there is a preponderance of Evergreen Certificates going to Aboriginal students and, if so, why?”
The five-year retrospective proved that was not the case in the local district, Koop said, either for Aboriginal students or others in the general population outside the written guidelines.
“There are a number of reasons why that position was being advocated,” Koop told the board last week. “In general terms, I think there was a concern that, rather than working hard for the success of all students, that sometimes we offered a path of less resistance.”