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Hamilton graduation rates are on the rise

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Hamilton graduation rates are on the rise

The following opinion piece from Manny Figueiredo, Director of Education, was published in The Hamilton Spectator’s print edition on December 8, 2021.
Click here to read the online version. 

More than four in five students at Hamilton’s public board are graduating as a result of quality teaching and innovative programming.

The latest provincial school board progress report indeed showed an increase in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s five-year graduation rate. The increase to 81.6 per cent in 2020 from 80.5 per cent in 2019 is a milestone worth sharing, as it represents the beginning of change taking effect.

Educators, both in the classroom and at the system level, are working toward a common goal: graduation.

New instructional, assessment and engagement practices are being implemented with a focus on improving the outcomes for all students in grades 7 to 12. Investments in people through professional learning on responsive and relevant teaching practices add a focus on engaging learners that are historically and currently underserved.

System-led initiatives, including the HWDSB student census, look to understand the needs of students and families, identify and address systemic barriers, and make evidence-informed decisions that create more equitable outcomes. HWDSB’s action plans in the areas of equity, special education, and Indigenous education will be foundational around closing the achievement gap and moving student achievement even higher.

Innovative programming is made available to meet our students’ needs and their educational goals. Student enrolment has doubled in the specialist high skills majors (SHSM) programs, where students develop skills and knowledge in an employment sector like hospitality or manufacturing.

A highly successful e-learning program enables students to take courses that may not be available in their home schools. Programs like ArtSmart and the audition-based performing arts programs are tailored to the interests of students.

We recognize that systemic barriers like socioeconomic status play a role in graduation rates. Child poverty rates in Hamilton remain higher than provincial averages, and the research being done by HWDSB is all in service of supporting students who are currently and historically underserved.

How to best support students facing these barriers in a sustainable, long-lasting manner will require more than a quick fix. Looking outward to compare HWDSB to other school boards will not address the issues our students face, but celebrating this milestone may show our communities that progress is happening and change is within reach. Celebrating the hard work of students and educators who have persevered through a prolonged global pandemic will help foster the motivation they need to succeed.

Graduation rates are improving, but change takes time. Small wins are a sign of progress happening. They are markers of success that motivate educators to keep evolving and investing in their students, and are opportunities to measure success, receive feedback, and align policies and procedures with best practices.

Small wins lead to more small wins, and little by little, can become big changes over time. Let’s celebrate the first steps toward success and keep our eyes on the long-term prize.

– Manny Figueiredo is Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

Updated on Wednesday, December 08, 2021.
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