Ontario’s drop-out rate is starting to decline because of the province’s aggressive plan to turn struggling students into successful graduates, says Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The number of students who graduate after five years in high school has gone
up — from 68 per cent in 2003-04 to an estimated 72 per cent in 2004-05.
“We have lots of work to do and we need to keep working together, but we are starting to see a turnaround, and that’s encouraging news,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“Ontario won’t give up on its youth. Instead, we’re working to challenge and engage young Ontarians by making school more responsive to their needs.”
Premier McGuinty made the comments as he and Education Minister Gerard Kennedy visited Westview Centennial Secondary School to encourage students involved in several initiatives to ensure their success.
Phase One of the government’s plan to improve high school graduation rates, launched in 2004, included a variety of approaches such as: a student success leader at each school board to coordinate new programs, an updated Grade 9 and 10 math curriculum for students in applied courses, six new locally developed compulsory credit courses to provide greater choice for struggling students in Grades 9 and 10, and $18 million for innovative lighthouse projects.
These projects, in high schools today, include on-line learning, extra help for struggling Grade 9 and 10 students, courses designed to prepare students for apprenticeships, and programs that encourage students who left school to return and get their diploma.
Phase Two, launched last spring, includes:
-Another $18 million to expand existing and add additional lighthouse projects
-$89 million for 1,300 newly hired high school teachers this school year, including more than 800 Student Success teachers, solely dedicated to helping struggling students
-Class size limits for some applied courses.
Phase Three, highlighted in this week’s Throne Speech, will include:
-Legislation that will, if passed, require our young people to keep learning — in a classroom, apprenticeship or workplace training program — until at least age 18, instead of being allowed to drop out at age 16
-An alternative secondary school diploma, one that gives prominence to the ability to develop a skill or trade
-Specific targets for improving the graduation rate.
Minister Kennedy also released the final report in a study led by Queen’s University Professor Alan King. The study tracked the progress of high school students between 1999 and 2003, warned of high drop-out rates, and repeatedly called for government intervention.
“The King Report is a lesson that no government should ignore. Together, with students, parents and educators, we are taking action, and we are making progress,” Kennedy said. “By making sure struggling students get the help they need, we’ll ensure more students finish high school and keep learning beyond high school.”
The Premier stressed that Ontario needs everyone at his or her best to succeed.
“In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, building a well-educated, highly skilled workforce is crucial to our future prosperity,” the Premier said.
“And ensuring every young person has the opportunity to succeed, to reach his or her full potential, is vital to building a stronger society.”