Oregon’s graduation rate improved nearly 2 percentage points for the 2016-17 school year, according to the Oregon Department of Education on Thursday.
The 2016-17 ODE graduation rate report showed that 76.7 percent of Oregon students earned a regular or modified high school diploma within four years. Oregon’s graduation rate, among the lowest in the nation, has been ticking up recently, and this is the largest year-over-year improvement since ODE changed the way it calculated graduation rates for the 2013-14 school year.
“It shows we are working toward the right things, but we are not there yet,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green. “Seeing the graduation rate increase is encouraging, but we need to do better for all our students across the state, particularly our students who have been traditionally underserved.”
Oregon had the third-worst state graduation rate for 2015-16, when the national average was 84.1 percent. The National Center for Education Statistics has not released data for 2016-17.
States calculate their graduation rates using different standards. Oregon’s requirements are more stringent than most, Oregon officials say. The graduation rate does not include students who earn GEDs or take more than four years to graduate.
Oregon’s 2016-17 data showed gains for every student group except Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, but most historically underserved groups still trail the state average. For the first time, the report includes the graduation rate for homeless students (50.7 percent).
Acting Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Colt Gill said Wednesday the graduation rate improvement shows a concerted statewide effort, and he praised OSBA’s leadership with graduation-rate focused projects and programs.
“It says to me that school districts – from board members to teachers to school bus drivers to everybody – are focused on the graduation issue,” he said. “They’re using data to aim their resources in ways that make a difference for students.”
New data about students from ODE and increased funding opportunities, such as Measure 98 grants, are key to continuing the progress, he said.
School district officials, while proud of their gains, expressed a commitment to doing even better for all students.
Newberg Public Schools increased its graduation rate 4.4 percentage points to 83.7 percent. The district saw strong gains in its historically underserved populations, particularly Latino students (80.2 percent graduation rate). The district attributed the increases to targeted programs and interventions.
“Through building an understanding of our patterns of achievement and success, we began to realize where we needed to put our energy,” Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza said in a news release.
The Medford School District has improved its graduation rate from 65.2 percent in 2013-14 to 78.1 percent in the most recent year.
“We pushed ahead of the state average last year and have done a lot of strategic things to improve,” said Superintendent Brian Shumate. “We’re glad the state is moving, and we’re glad we are moving as well.”
Medford credits a mix of short-term strategies – such as analyzing credit acquisition and emphasizing attendance – and long-term strategies, including expanding personalized learning options, developing career pathways and offering more mental health supports.
Medford has set a graduation rate goal of 90 percent by 2020. To do that, Shumate said, Medford is shifting the way it structures high school to allow more personalized learning time.
“Our current high school structure across America is built for only about 80 percent of kids,” he said. He says schools need to reconsider how they think about seat time, credit requirements and teaching methods to tailor for individual student engagement needs.