Superintendent reports vulnerable children on the rise

The number of vulnerable children entering schools in the region is on the rise, according to School District 27 Supt. Mark Thiessen.

The number of vulnerable children entering schools in the region is on the rise, according to School District 27 Supt. Mark Thiessen.

Thiessen made the announcement while he was presenting his student achievement report to the newly-elected school trustees at their inaugural board meeting, and said vulnerabilities include poverty, language, health, cognitive development and physical health.

In the Cariboo Chilcotin district, Thiessen said the number of vulnerable children sits at about 35 per cent.

“We assess kids in kindergarten and will be doing that again so we can find out very early in their school career if they are vulnerable in one of those areas,” Thiessen said. “Instead of improving in those areas we are seeing that we actually have more kids that are vulnerable that are coming to school.”

Programs like StrongStart continue to work with parents and caregivers, but the school district needs to partner with the community and other organizations to keep working with families to help kids prepare for coming to school, he said.

Every six months Thiessen is expected to present a student achievement report, however, he said it’s frustrating because he has to base his reports on data from the Ministry of Education that’s already a year and half old.

“I and many others have suggested to the ministry it would be nice to have information that is a couple of months more before we have to submit a report,” he said, crediting staff for helping him prepare the reports.

Basing his findings on the Foundation Skills Assessment tests taken by students in the 2009 and 2010 Grades 4 to 2012 and 2013 Grade 7 cohort , Thiessen said the district improved by 3.5 per cent.

“That’s higher than the rest of the province who improved by 1.5 per cent,” Thiessen pointed out.

Focusing on the higher grades, Thiessen said if students can make it to Grade 11 they have a better chance of completing Grade 12.

“We’ve seen improvement from Grade 11 to Grade 12 from 70 to 81 per cent and our First Nations rate has gone from 59 to 66 per cent.”

There is a gap between First Nations and non-First Nations in all achievement rates that needs to be a main focus, he added.

The board unanimously approved Thiessen’s report, which will be submitted to the ministry in January. The full report is available on the district’s website.