Indigenous and special needs graduation rates in the Abbotsford School District hit an all-time high in the 2017-18 school year as overall grad rates stagnated, according to recent figures published by the Ministry of Education.
The completion rate for Indigenous students hit 80 per cent for the first time last spring, two percentage points over the previous record of 78 per cent in 2012-13.
At the same time, the completion rate among special needs students cracked the 70 per cent mark last spring, a four-percentage-point rise over the previous record of 66 per cent in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.
In both groups, which have historically lagged behind the overall completion rates throughout the province, the rates have been steadily rising since the early 2000s. Until the 2008-09 school year, Indigenous graduation rates never cracked the 60 per cent mark, while special needs graduation rates never beat the 50 per cent mark.
Recent graduation rates mark a significant increase since then, even as overall graduation rates stagnate. The overall grad rate climbed from 75 per cent in 2004-05 to 90 per cent in 2012-13. But that rate has trended marginally downward since, at 85 per cent last year, the lowest since 2008-09.
This year also marks the smallest gap between the overall graduation rates and that of Indigenous and special needs students. Previously, the overall rate had always held an advantage of at least 10 percentage points over Indigenous grad rates and at least 23 percentage points over special needs students.
This year, the gap was closed to five points for Indigenous students and 15 points for special needs students.
Looking more broadly, the Abbotsford School District was about on par with provincial graduation rates – 85 per cent for all students in the province – but was well ahead of the Indigenous graduation rates, at 70 per cent provincially.
For students with special needs, Abbotsford fell just shy of the provincial rate, at 71 per cent.
Indigenous and special needs students are still lagging behind on foundational skills assessments, conducted with students from Grades 4 to 7, in all three categories: reading comprehension, writing and numeracy.
In numeracy skills, for example, among all students, 66 per cent met or exceeded expectations in Grade 4. That compares with 61 per cent for Indigenous students and 54 per cent for special needs students. That gap is fairly consistent in the other two categories, but becomes more pronounced when looking at the Grade 7 scores.
Looking again at numeracy skills, 66 per cent of all students met or exceeded expectations in Grade 7. That compares with 55 per cent of Indigenous students and just 26 per cent of students with special needs.
This gap is noticeably more pronounced than in writing and reading comprehension skills, but provides an example of the extremes in which students with special needs are falling behind as school progresses.
Last year was no anomaly either. The range of results over the past five years only shows similar trends to that of the last school year.