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State releases graduation, dropout rates, with little improvement statewide


by: LINDSAY KEEFER - This chart shows the difference between graduation and dropout rates from the 2011-12 school year to 2012-13 for local high schools.Gervais High School has a 0 percent dropout rate, according to data released by the state last week regarding the graduate and dropout rates for the 2012-13 school year.

While 3.98 percent is the state’s average dropout rate, all five local districts had fewer students dropping out of school: Woodburn School District’s rate is at 2.24 percent, North Marion School District’s is 0.82 percent, Gervais School District’s is 2.87 percent, Mount Angel School District is 1.44 percent and St. Paul School District is 0.94 percent.

Oregon Department of Education released the graduation and dropout rates for Oregon school districts last week, and data indicates that local districts are faring better than the state average.

The state’s four-year cohort graduation rate is 68.7 percent, up just 0.3 percent from last year. While in Woodburn, that rate is slightly lower, at 65.12 percent, three of its five schools saw an improvement from last year: Academy of International Studies went from 41 to 55 percent graduating in four years, Wellness, Business and Sports School went from 56 to 84 percent and Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy went from 64.84 to 75.68 percent.

The state’s four-year graduation rate has increased 2.5 percent over the past five years.

In a press release, Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton identified an issue relating to the reporting of dropout data. Previous years’ reports did not include students who dropped out during the month of June. Including these June dropouts, a total of 3.98 percent of students dropped out of high school last year. This is a more accurate dropout count than counts from previous years and should be considered a new baseline, he said.

“While I’m pleased to see our graduation numbers increasing, we simply aren’t seeing the pace of change we need,” he said in the press release. “However, true systems change — including how well we support our students on their path to higher education and workforce training — takes time and starts early. Our recently released kindergarten assessment results are an excellent reminder of the importance of giving students that strong early start. Improving our graduation rate begins with getting students prepared for kindergarten, ensuring they are strong readers by third grade, making sure to address issues of chronic absenteeism, and finally helping students connect to the world of work and earn college credits while in high school. We have laid the foundation for these critical efforts, and I believe that if we keep moving forward with intention and urgency we will start to see more significant gains. But change will not happen overnight, and it will not happen without all of us working to improve the opportunities and outcomes for our students.”

Oregon has set an ambitious goal, known as 40-40-20, that calls for a 100 percent high school completion rate by the year 2025. This means that 100 percent of students would earn a high school diploma or equivalent within five years of entering high school. In order to capture how well the state is doing in getting all students to the high school completion mark, the Oregon Department of Education tracks both a four-year and five-year high school graduation rate and a four-year and five-year high school completer rate. The graduation rates look at the number of students who receive a regular high school diploma within four or five years of entering high school. The completer rates are broader than the graduation rates and also include students who received a GED, modified diploma, extended diploma, or adult high school diploma within that timeframe. Last year, Oregon’s five year completion rate was 81.5 percent, up 1 percent from the previous year.

“As we work toward reaching the state goal of 100 percent of students completing high school by 2025, these results certainly aren’t in line with where we hoped we’d be,” said Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden in a press release. “That said, meaningful systemic change does take time, and I believe deeply in the alignment, collaboration and focus we’re building throughout the system in support of student achievement. For example, we know that students are four times more likely to graduate high school if they are reading by third grade so, among other efforts, our collective laser focus will be on preparing students early for future success.”