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NHS graduation rate falls to 70 percent


School superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza says she is intent on getting better results at the high school

According to a report released Feb. 6 by the Oregon Department of Education, Newberg High School’s graduation rate for the class of 2013 was 70 percent, an 8 percent drop from the record rate set the previous school year.

Among those students losing ground were those facing additional challenges, such as disabilities, low income and English learners.

Newberg’s graduation rate remained just above the state average, which rose slightly to 69 percent from last year.

With a graduation rate that has historically fallen in the low 70s, district director of data and assessment Don Staples told the school board at its Feb. 11 meeting that part of the drop from last year can be accounted for the class of 2012 simply being an exceptional one.

Still, Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza said she is not satisfied with the results and engaged the board in a lengthy discussion during and after Staples’ presentation of the data at the meeting.

“What we are doing is not adding up to enough,” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “I’m going to be relentless in this. We owe it to these kids and our community.”

Graduation rate represents the percentage of students that graduated within four years of enrolling at any high school and were enrolled at NHS at any time in that four-year period. The class of 2013 entered high school in the 2009-2010 school year.

The statistic only credits students that received a regular diploma — not a GED, modified diploma or alternate certificate — and the cohort figures used to calculate it do not include transfer students.

Newberg’s five-year graduation rate for the class of 2013, which includes students from the class of 2012 that did not graduate in four years but enrolled at NHS for the fall semester in 2013, was 82 percent, well above the state average of 73 percent.

There was some discussion at the meeting which students are included in the graduation rates of high schools and districts, in particular that Newberg includes its alternative high school program, Catalyst, while other districts keep similar programs separate from individual schools.

Staples told the board that if Catalyst was not included in the 2013 cohort figures, the graduation rate would have risen around 7 percent.

With input from Newberg High School small school principals Karen Pugsley (Green) and Stafford Boyd (Yellow), as well as Chehalem Valley Middle School principal Jon Franco and CVMS assistant principal Larry Hampton, the board discussed the problems and successes those schools have had with attendance, which studies have shown is a key factor in whether kids graduate.

Additionally, LeBlanc-Esparza has already begun making changes to the high school that she believes will improve the graduation rate. Among them were expanding the Catalyst program, extending hours and increasing support for students needing to recover credits, restructuring the high school leadership, and providing tools to better equip instructional time at the middle school level.