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District looks to improve MHS grad rate

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Graduation rate dropped 4.5 percent from Class of 2015 to 2016

PIONEER GRAPH: PEGGY SAVAGE  - A graph showing the number of high school graduates in the Molalla River School District, Molalla High School, and Colton High School compared to Oregon's overall rate.

Learning the Class of 2016's cohort graduation rate for Molalla High School dropped to 73 percent from 77.5 percent for the Class of 2015 was disappointing news for Molalla River School District Superintendent Tony Mann and Molalla High School Principal Randy Dalton.

Neither Mann nor Dalton will be satisfied until the high school graduation rate is 100 percent. Both men, along with the school board and district's staff, are working to achieve that goal.

Mann said the drop in graduation rate is "not acceptable," especially when the high school had been showing a trend of improving graduation rates.

Mann said the graduation rates were 75.2 percent for the Class of 2012; 80 percent for Class of 2013; 80.3 percent for the Class of 2014; 77.5 percent for Class of 2015 and 74 percent for Class of 2016.

"Our graduation rate obviously shows we have room to improve and we are not going to rest until we have every kid graduating," Dalton said.

Molalla High School's Class of 2016 graduation rate was lower than the graduation rate for all Oregon students in the Class of 2016. However, overall the graduation rate for Oregon students is improving.

Oregon's graduation rate for all students in the Class of 2016 is 74.8 percent, up from 73.8 percent for the Class of 2015 and 72 percent for the Class of 2014.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said her goal is that students graduate high school with a plan for their future.

"I remain committed to improving Oregon's graduation rates and will prioritize investments in the upcoming Legislative session that empower communities and educators to improve graduation rates, particularly for historically underserved and rural communities," Brown said.

Oregon Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor said the increase in the number of students graduating shows the dedication of teachers and school administrators.

"We are making progress, while recognizing there is still more work to do. We are pleased our state's focus on improving graduation outcomes for all students is making a difference," Noor said.

Dalton said if students attend high school and do their work, they will graduate.

Unfortunately, he said, some high school students either can't see the point of going to school or don't feel connected to the school. His goal is to find a way every student feels welcome at the high school and connected to it. One reason a student may drop out of high school is because he or she feels they can't recover lost credits.

"If a student gets behind in credits his freshman or sophomore year, it's tough for him to see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel he can graduate," Dalton said.

Keys to keeping students engaged in high school include hiring well-trained teachers, providing curriculum that appeals to a wide variety of students and having a variety of student clubs, Dalton said.

The high school recently added a manufacturing and contraction class. There also is a CARE team for students who are struggling in school.

"We want to find a niche for every student," Dalton said. "We want students to know we care about them and we are here to help them."

Dalton said he asks for students' input by having them complete a survey on what can be done to make the high school even better.

One new change at the high school this school year has been the restriction of all cell phones.

"We believe this has lead students to being more focused in class," Dalton said.

Mann said the changes at the high school from launching new classes to starting new clubs are examples of how the high school and the district staff are paying attention to what needs to be improved.

"Our goal is to have every student graduate from high school on time each and every year," Mann said.

Dalton said it takes teamwork from the school, parents and community to share with students the importance of graduating from high school.

"We need help so students envision graduating from high school and moving to the next level in their life," Dalton said.

Realizing there are numerous roadblocks in a student's life that may prevent he or she from graduating, that's why it's important the student receives the message and believes in the importance of achieving the goal of graduating.

Both Mann and Dalton want the community to know that they "own the problem" and are working to fix it.

"If a student doesn't have a feeling of belonging at the high school, that's our problem," Dalton said. "We have to adapt so every student wants to be here. If they are here, they are graduating."