Hamilton public school board graduation rates increase slightly, but continue to fall short of Ontario average

·2 min read

New Ministry of Education data shows that more than 80 per cent of high school students at Hamilton’s public board are graduating within five years of starting Grade 9.

The latest provincial school board progress reports shows a slight increase in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s five-year graduation rate — 80.5 per cent in 2019 — up from 79.7 per cent in 2018.

The board’s four-year graduation rate is about 74 per cent.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), which uses a different measure than the Ministry of Education, paints a slightly different picture.

A March 4 HWDSB media release shows that 82 per cent of students who began high school in 2014-15 graduated by end of August 2019 — within five years. The release notes that the figure represents students who started “and remained with HWDSB,” marking a “fifth consecutive cohort with a graduation rate at or above 80 per cent.”

Based on the board’s numbers, the five-year graduation rate rose from 79 per cent in 2014 to 80 per cent in 2015, and has been fluctuating between 81 and 82 per cent since 2016.

The board says achievement results from the first semester of the current school year “show continued progress.”

Peter Sovran, associate director of learning services for the HWDSB, attributes the overall upward trend over the last six years to the board’s “relentless focus” on helping students graduate.

“We are proud of the gains that our students have made over the years and we will continue to support our schools in assisting students as they make progress toward graduation,” he said in an email to The Spectator.

The graduation rate is up from last year, but it remains well below the provincial average of just over 87 per cent.

According to the province, the HWDSB has the 12th lowest graduation rate in the province.

Hamilton’s Catholic board, whose 2019 figure — 86 per cent — matches the ministry’s number, falls just below the provincial average.

As reported by the province, graduation rates at neighbouring school boards vary — Halton District School Board has a five-year graduation rate of nearly 93 per cent, while Grand Erie District School Board’s rate is about 76 per cent.

“We are aware of the gap and we have been working very hard to close it,” Sovran said.

Ongoing strategies include ensuring professional learning and resources are in place for staff to support students, “effective practices” in schools from classroom instruction to opportunities and pathways for students, and monitoring progress.

“What we need to do next is identify what the trends are there, the groups of students, and ensure that we address those gaps so that if there are there are particular groups of students who have not been making the type of progress that you would expect, that we then circle back,” he said.

Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator