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Can't lose for winning

Who says you need to win a battle in order to celebrate victory? Yukon's Liberals have shown you can do otherwise.

Who says you need to win a battle in order to celebrate victory?

Yukon’s Liberals have shown you can do otherwise.

Eric Fairclough claims the territory is now obliged to set targets to correct Yukon’s slumping number of high-school graduates, following the adoption of a motion he made on Wednesday.

But, in fact, his motion creates no such requirement at all.

And Education Minister Patrick Rouble has never agreed to setting graduation targets.

Instead, he dodged the request by saying “whatever goals we set will never be high enough ... until we have 100 per cent literacy at all levels.”

Fairclough’s motion lifts words from the damning report on the Education Department prepared by Canada’s auditor general, Sheila Fraser.

It calls on government to “establish performance targets for Yukon students overall and, to the extent possible, for each major student sub-group” and “develop comprehensive action plans to reach these targets.”

There’s no mention of graduation rates—only “performance targets.”

This could refer to several things other than graduation rates. It may refer to standardized test scores, for example, in which case the department already has targets in place—although it’s a long way from meeting them.

It aims to have 85 per cent of students score at least 50 per cent, and for 20 per cent to score at least 80 per cent. These targets were only met in six of 20 subjects in 2006-07.

Fraser’s report dwells a lot on how Yukon should do more to track the performance of students and help close the gap between those who succeed and those who struggle.

But she never outright calls for graduation targets, as Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell has suggested.

The closest Fraser comes to doing so is when she notes the department “does not specify how large a gap in graduation rates must be before it is considered significant, and it does not analyze root causes or prepare action plans with corrective measures to help close the gaps.”

Yukon’s graduation rate averages at just 58 per cent, averaged over six years. The rate for First Nation students is only 40 per cent, while the rate for other students is 65 per cent.

The Education Department has already agreed to do what Fairclough’s motion asks, which is why government members supported the request.

But, according to a Liberal news release, the motion’s passage means that Rouble has finally seen the light. “I’m glad he changed his mind and now supports our position,” said Fairclough.

So everybody wins. And nothing changes.

Contact John Thompson at