In a recent article on Hooked on Schools days, the Montreal Gazette cited Ministry of Education data about drop out rates in Québec school boards. The article noted the drop out rate at some English school boards as being the highest in the province, specifically the Western Québec School Board at 30 per cent. However, just as it has for years, the WQSB continues to challenge the Ministry of Education statistics on school leavers without qualifications or certifications.
The Ministry of Education views a drop out in Québec as any student who leaves the system without a qualification or diploma in a given year and whose permanent code does not reappear in the following year. This includes anyone from secondary 1 to 5 who has left the province, returned to an Indigenous band controlled school or died. In a 2011 study of its drop outs, the WQSB demonstrated that the statistics generated by the ministry do not accurately reflect the migration rate of families to Ontario and elsewhere. For example, between 2005 and 2008 the study found that the migration rate for its families was 5 to 8 times higher than the 2.6% put forth by the ministry. While our report was greeted with interest, to date, the ministry has not changed its tracking methods.
Out of our 30 per cent drop out rate in 2013-2014, 41.2% of these were secondary 1 and 2 students, aged 12 and 13. It is unlikely that these were drop outs. Each year, the school board contacts (or attempts to contact) every leaver from secondary 3 to 5 to determine if they have simply left the province or have in fact quit. Invariably our data does not match the ministry statistics. But we work with our internal data, as that allows us to reach out to the students who have truly disengaged and focus on re-engaging and supporting them in a return to learning.
James Shea, Chairman, Western Québec School Board