Increasing Graduation Rates by Supporting Transitions

By August 5, 2014AESN, transitions
When flipping through the latest Canadian Education Association bulletin, I came across this article regarding action steps that schools and districts can take as an attempt to reduce dropout rates for secondary students.  The article, from a Quebec perspective, presents some interesting ideas.  But it particularly caught my attention because it made me think of the innovative steps Network schools are taking to address the same issue, using an inquiry based approach, and one that focuses less on dropout and more on ‘every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options.’ 

Recently, Network leader Kim Boettcher, District Principal of Curriculum & Assessment with School District #60, shared their approach to helping students transition from middle school to secondary and beyond.  This work was part of their inquiry last year, focused on Aboriginal Transitions and ensuring students are supported as they craft their Learning Journey. 

It starts with laying out a proposed learning plan in Grade 9 for each student.  Kim (and often an Aboriginal Support Worker) sat one on one with students at the computer, and typed the proposed steps in the learning journey as the student described their plans.  Not only does this give the student something tangible to refer to when thinking about their future, but as Kim pointed out, it’s also a good step in getting to know the students as people – especially what they hope and dream for the future.  When students enter secondary school this coming September, they will have access to their plan electronically, and can make changes and additions as their interests/goals/learning needs change.  Throughout their time in secondary school, the document will be a way for them to plan for their dual credit, apprenticeships, work experience, university transfer, scheduling for post-secondary requirements, etc. 

On a district wide scale, SD #60 is also supporting the transition from middle to secondary school through Transition Night dinners with school district staff, support workers, Band Councils, Elders and other community members.  This helps everyone get to know each other, as well as develops a community support system that students can draw from as they make this transition.  And having noted that math is often a barrier to graduation for many of their students, the district is also supporting additional professional learning for their secondary math teachers to build their capacity in addressing this area of student need. 

It’s amazing to see this layering of support for students as they transition to the next phase of their learning.  We’ve included a sample plan here to give you a sense of what this can look like in practice.  

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