May 4, 2018: Quebec has lowest high school graduation rate in North America

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Quebec has lowest high school graduation rate in North America

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

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When a bachelors degree has become the standard to get a good job, one location in the North American continent lags behind in their high school graduation rate. Only 64 percent of public high school students graduate in the Canadian province of Quebec according to The Institut du Quebec studyreleased on Tuesday, May 1, 2018,, in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada and HEC Montréal. Mia Homsy, the director of the Institut du Québec co-wrote the study with economist Simon Savard. While the number only rises to 69 percent when private school students are counted. The study looked at the graduation rates for students that complete their studies within a five-year period divided between public and private schools and overall going back to 2008 through 2015. When looking at the public school numbers Quebec, it has the lowest graduation rate in the entire continent, Canada, and the United States.

Quebec’s high school system is different than anywhere else in Canada and the US. Students start in grade seven or second one and go to grade 11 or secondary 5, a full grade less than us the norm. This is because before entering university in the province, high school graduates are required to attend a junior college called Cegep where they can take either the pre-university stream or a career diploma. Additionally, Quebec’s school system is not only divided by public or private or in the US charter schools but by language where students either go to an English or French system, with the majority in the French as it is the provinces official language. The graduation rates are greatly affected by the language disparities.

The study found that in Quebec that the overall graduation rate was between 68 and 69 percent, with 64 percent graduating within five years in the public school system and nearly 84 percent from private schools. In the last ten years, Quebec’s rates have dropped from 65 to 64 percent, while neighboring province Ontario’s rate increased from 72 to 84 percent. Ontario has instituted a number of reforms that have contributed to their increased rate including starting school at four-years-old while making attendance mandatory until 18 the age of students graduating grade 12 and requiring teachers to continue their education. During high school, they have made it easier for students who fail to redo just a part of the subject with a credit-recovery program. They also have a hands-on learning program and the option to take specialized courses, which keeps students interested. Students are the most at risk of dropping out in grades 9 and 10.

Quebec argues that they have determined their graduation rate is 71 percent for 2014 according to their calculations. They are also objecting to the comparisons with Ontario. One of the reasons is the different marks required to pass in Quebec it is 60 percent versus 50 percent in Ontario. Education Minister Sébastien Proulx was angered by the report. Proulx told the press, “I’m not saying these distinctions justify anything. What I’m saying is that you have to compare apples to apples.”

The overall public high school graduation rate for Canada is 77 percent. The graduation rate in Quebec is 8 percent lower than the next province Saskatchewan, whose rate is 72 percent. In addition to Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick all have an 84 percent graduation rate. Canada and its provinces all pale to the graduation rates in the US. High school graduation rates in the US have reached an all-time high, in the 2014-15 year, the same last year in the Canadian study, the rate was 83.2 percent for public high school graduates who complete their studies in the normal four-year period. There numbered have been rising in the US for the last five years reported. The highest rate was in Iowa with 90.8 percent, while the lowest was in the District of Columbia at 68.5 percent, which was still four points higher than Quebec’s public school rate. The rate increased to 84 percent in 2016.

Unlike in the United States where graduation rates are determined more by poverty, in Quebec language, gender and disability are the factors that are lowering the rate. Only half of the boys that go to high school graduate. The biggest problem is with male students, where only 51.4 percent graduate within five years as of 2014. Quebec public schools have the largest disparity between the genders, 14 percent, with 71 percent of females compared to 57 percent of males graduating by the time they are 18. The national average in Canada of students, who complete their studies by age 19 since there is a grade 12, is 81 percent of females, and 71 percent of males. While in Ontario, it’s 87 percent of females and 82 percent of males graduating high school.

The numbers shrink in Quebec, when looking at the students graduating on time, to 67 percent of females and only 51 percent of male students. The differences increase when comparing the school language systems. In the Anglophone board, there are the largest graduation rates in the public system with 80 percent of female students and 70 percent of males. Proulx also believes French parents are not emphasizing the importance of education enough which is why students do fare as well in the Francophone schools. The education minister told the press, “We need people to get involved. Historically, on the francophone side, yes we’ve had school dropouts but there is also a parental-dropout problem. It is not valorized enough. We have to look at ourselves in the eye as a society.”

Disabilities is another factor. While only 31 percent of students with disabilities graduate although they represent 30 percent of all students in the province. Special needs students also face a gender disparity with 70 percent being males. One of the problems leading todropouts is the province does not mainstream the students enough.

One of the reasons that the rate is so low in public schools is because the provincial government continues to cut their funding, with 1.5 billion less in the budget from 2010 to 2016. Quebec spends less on its students than Ontario. The teachers’ union Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) commented to the press, “How could the authors of the report claim that the chronic underfunding of the public school system in Quebec hasn’t hurt Quebec students.” The federation represents 34,000 teachers. The teachers saying they are teaching with austerity measures. This is despite the province investing 1.8 billion to increase the graduation rate to 85 by 2030.

The co-author of the study and the director of the Institut du Québec, Mia Homsy thinks Quebec needs to do more or else they will continue to lag behind. Homsy told the Globe and Mail, “We have to do a better job of following our students, we have to rethink every decision we’ve made in the past decade. Something’s not working but nobody knows what the problem is. It’s a black box. And as long as advanced data are lacking, Quebec’s long-term efforts to catch up will be incomplete.” Among the basic suggestions, Quebec needs to cut class sizes, make kindergarten for four-year-olds olds mandatory, integrate special needs students, and keep better records of data for starters.

Although, high school students in Quebec do not complete their studies in five years, most eventually receive it. Within seven years the graduation rate is 80 percent and among those aged 25 to 34, 89 percent have a degree. Still, Quebec is behind British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, where the provinces have a 93 percent high school graduation rate by 34-years-old. However, the later one completes their studies the fewer opportunities for higher education and reaching one’s earning potential. Quebec has one consolation, the dropout rate has decreased from 20 percent in 1999-2000 to 12 percent in 2015.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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Education December 6, 2017: US high school graduation rates at all-time high

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US high school graduation rates at all-time high

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

American high school students are focusing on their studies more than ever before and their graduation rates are the highest in history. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released graduation data for the class of 2015–16, which found that 84.1 percent of students graduated in four years the highest rate in American history. The 84 percent was just shy of a percentage point more than the previous year’s rate of 83.2 percent. The numbers continue a five-year trend that saw increases in graduation rates for every demographic group in the country.

According to the data, every group reached their highest graduation rates. Black students’ rates rose 1.8 percent to 76.4, those with English as a second language rose the same amount to 66.9. Hispanic students’ graduation rose also an impressive 1.5 percent to 79.3 percent. Additionally, students from economically challenged background rose the same rate up to a 77.6 percent graduation rate. Native student’s graduation rates also improved to 71.9 percent.

Students with disabilities still, had the lowest graduation rates with only 65.5 percent graduating, proving that more has to be done to help the group graduate. White students, however, were not the demographic group with the highest rates. Despite their 88.3 graduation rate, White students came in second to Asian students who have the nation best rates with 90.8 percent of students graduating high school.

Phillip Lovell, the vice president for policy and advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education
Was pleased with the results. Lovell told Edweek, “This shows we are still heading in the right direction. You can argue that the pace of improvement is slower than we’d like it to be, but there are more graduates this year than last. That’s a good thing.” Lovell was especially impressed that the number rose across the board for all demographic groups, saying it was “super important.” Lovell added, “We don’t want to increase the national grad rate and leave behind kids who are struggling to be served.”

Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute credits President George W. Bush bipartisan education achievement the No Child Left Behind Act for the rise in rates with are now seeing. The test and assessment focused law education law was passed in 2001, Bush’s first year in office. Petrilli commented to Edweek, “There is a plausible case to be made that the education system is doing a better job for more of these kids, especially for disadvantaged subgroups.”

Despite the graduation increase of five percent overall in the last five years, and for all groups, there are still problems and graduation gaps. Black students lag behind most ethnic groups, with the exception of Native students, seeing a 14 percent difference with Asian students, who are at the top of all groups. The economically disadvantaged are also remain more educationally disadvantaged than their wealthier peers with a six-point difference between the two group’s graduation rates.

The graduation rates might be improving, but college readiness still has a lot to be desired. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEP) remains unchanged or has declining rates when it comes to reading and math. Additionally, students are not meeting benchmarks for the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.

The Washington Post reports the problems are exacerbated by some school districts who are using questionable means to “inflate” their graduation rates. The Post explains, “Some districts have used questionable methods to get students to the finish line, including softening grading scales and using credit recovery programs, which allow students to take abbreviated versions of courses to make up for failing grades.” Robert Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University researcher says that rate inflation is still a problem that needs to be combated. Balfanz told Edweek, “We can devalue anything if we give it away. We need to be sure these kids are earning honest diplomas.”

The data includes a break down for each state and also by demographic data. Iowa topped the country with the highest graduation rate at 91.3 percent; in second place is New Jersey with 90.1 percent. Iowa and New Jersey are the only two states with over 90 percent of the students graduating in four years. In third place is West Virginia with 89.8 percent. At the bottom, Washington, the District of Columbia has the worst rates with an average of only 69.2 percent. DC is followed by New Mexico with a 71 percent graduation rate, while the third worst state is Oregon with a 74.8 graduation rate.

Despite the highest graduation rates in history, the US is hardly a world leader and still lags behinds many of the world’s democratic countries. According to older Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, the US ranks out of the top 20 at only the 21st position in the world. Portugal and Slovenia each tie for the highest graduation rate with 96 percent of the students graduating. Finland, Japan, and the United Kingdom round out the top five each has a rate of above 90 percent. The UK has a 92 percent graduation rate, while fellow North American country Canada also ranked higher than the US coming in the 20th position worldwide.

President Barack Obama emphasized increasing the high school graduation rates during his tenure. Starting in 2011, the Education Department under the Obama administration required all high schools to report their data in a “standardized way.” With the numbers, rising and steadily soaring to new heights in the latter part of Obama’s term, his administration saw the graduation rate increase according to the Washington Post “among its most important achievements in education.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education March 15, 2016: Senate confirms new education secretary John King Jr. that will oversee ESSA law

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Senate confirms new education secretary John King Jr. that will oversee ESSA law

By Bonnie K. Goodman

March 15, 2016 2:42 PM MST

 The Senate confirmed John B. King, Jr. officially making him the new Secretary of Education; he  will lead the implementation of the new education law Every Student Succeeds Act, March 14, 2016
The Senate confirmed John B. King, Jr. officially making him the new Secretary of Education; he will lead the implementation of the new education law Every Student Succeeds Act, March 14, 2016
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Education February 23, 2016: What students should expect on the newly redesigned SAT exam on March 5

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What students should expect on the newly redesigned SAT exam on March 5

By Bonnie K. Goodman

February 23, 2016 1:20 PM MST

Anxious students, gear up to take the newly redesigned SAT exam on March 5, educators are most concerned about the heavy text exam
Anxious students, gear up to take the newly redesigned SAT exam on March 5, educators are most concerned about the heavy text exam
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

 

 

Education January 24, 2016: College Board reschedules last old SAT exam Feb 20 after snowstorm cancellations

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College Board reschedules last old SAT exam Feb 20 after snowstorm cancellations

By Bonnie K. Goodman

January 24, 2016 1:38 PM MST

SAT test centers in the East Coast states affected by the massive snowstorm cancelled the exam on Saturday, Jan. 23 rescheduling it for Feb. 20
SAT test centers in the East Coast states affected by the massive snowstorm cancelled the exam on Saturday, Jan. 23 rescheduling it for Feb. 20
Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

Education January 17, 2016: College Board problems PSAT/NMSQT score delays only a quarter received results

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College Board problems PSAT/NMSQT score delays only a quarter received results

By Bonnie K. Goodman

January 17, 2016 8:50 PM MST

 Problems persist with the College Board's new score system; nearly three million high school students cannot access their results from the October 2015 PSAT/NMSQT exam, Jan. 17, 2016
Problems persist with the College Board’s new score system; nearly three million high school students cannot access their results from the October 2015 PSAT/NMSQT exam, Jan. 17, 2016
The College Board

Education January 11, 2016: Detroit schools close as teachers take sick out protesting pay and conditions

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Detroit schools close as teachers take sick out protesting pay and conditions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

January 11, 2016 5:26 PM MST

Teachers at over 60 Detroit, Michigan schools went on strike calling it a "sick-out," the teachers are protesting their pay, teaching conditions and lack of funding for the public schools, Jan. 11, 2016
Teachers at over 60 Detroit, Michigan schools went on strike calling it a “sick-out,” the teachers are protesting their pay, teaching conditions and lack of funding for the public schools, Jan. 11, 2016
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Education December 17, 2015: US high school graduation rates at record high, still lag behind global averages

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US high school graduation rates at record high, still lag behind global averages

By Bonnie K. Goodman

December 17, 2015, 5:41 PM MST

The United States recorded their best high school graduation rates, but the country is still behind the rates of most western countries, Dec. 15, 2015
The United States recorded their best high school graduation rates, but the country is still behind the rates of most Western countries, Dec. 15, 2015
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

 

Education September 16, 2015: Obama begins back to school bus tour unveils education agenda

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Obama begins back to school bus tour unveils education agenda

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, September 16, 2015, 9:46 AM MST

President Barack Obama speaks to parents and students at a town hall in a Des Moines, Iowa High School about higher education access and affordability, Sept. 14, 2015

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President Barack Obama speaks to parents and students at a town hall in a Des Moines, Iowa High School about higher education access and affordability, Sept. 14, 2015
Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images / The White House

Education September 2, 2015: Teacher shortage crisis leaves school year in trouble in many states

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Teacher shortage crisis leaves school year in trouble in many states 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, September 2, 2015, 8:06 AM MST

Nationwide states are experiencing teacher shortages just weeks and even days before the start of the new school year, some states are finding temporary solutions, but the state governments need to solve the problem before it is too late, Aug. 2014
Nationwide states are experiencing teacher shortages just weeks, and even days before the start of the new school year, some states are finding temporary solutions, but the state governments need to solve the problem before it is too late, Aug. 2014
Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

Universities May 21, 2014: Obama’s review plans to rate and improve teacher education preparation programs

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Obama’s review plans to rate and improve teacher education preparation programs

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, May 20, 2014, 8:44 PM MST

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Obama administration's plans to improve teacher preparation programs by creating an alumi job performance feedback and rating system in each state, April 25, 2014
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Obama administration’s plans to improve teacher preparation programs by creating an alumni job performance feedback and rating system in each state, April 25, 2014
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Universities March 14, 2014: Bachelor’s degree value rises becomes new high school diploma

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Bachelor’s degree value rises becomes new high school diploma

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, March 14, 2014, 1:39 PM MST

Two new studies from the Pew Research Center in the US and Council of Ontario Universities in Canada determined that a bachelor's degree is the minimum and best education necessary for career sucess
Two new studies from the Pew Research Center in the US and Council of Ontario Universities in Canada determined that a bachelor’s degree is the minimum and best education necessary for career sucess
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images