Forty-two other states had higher graduation rates than Oregon, but CCSD ranks highest among Central Oregon districts


With recent reports from the Oregonian and the U.S. Department of Education that Oregon high school graduation rates are the eighth worst in the nation, there is some good news on the local front.
   In spite of the challenges that Crook County School District has faced, Crook County High School has the highest graduation rate of any school district in Central Oregon. Crook County graduated 191 students in 2011, an 83 percent graduation rate. Summit High School came in next at 76 percent, Bend Senior High at 74 percent, and Madras High School at 57 percent. Redmond High School now has a five-year graduation program, which skews the four-year graduation rate. Their four-year rate for 2011 was 48.8 and their five-year rate was 67.6.
   Statewide, only 68 percent of Oregon High School students earned a high school diploma. With the recent cohort rates, a student must earn a regular high school diploma to be counted in the cohort graduation rates. The cohort method identifies the year the student entered high school, and tracks the student for four years for “on-time” graduation with a regular diploma, which is reported in the 4-year Cohort Graduation Rates. Students who earn a modified diploma are not considered in the overall cohort rates.
   Crook County also has one of the lowest dropout rates in Central Oregon. Summit High School has a 20 percent dropout rate, with 64 students; Redmond High School has a 15 percent dropout rate, with 71 students; Madras is 29 percent, with 69 students; and Bend Senior High School is 20 percent with 76 students. Crook County is 15 percent, with 29 students.
   Crook County High School Principal Rocky Miner commented that he attributes the high rate of graduation numbers to the group effort of the entire district.
   “It is a kindergarten through 12th grade effort of all teachers,” said Miner.
   Duane Yecha, Crook County school District Superintendent, indicated that he believes that the size of the district is also a contributing factor.
   He said that they are able to track students individually and follow each one as they walk through the essential skill requirements. Yecha said that there is a lot of attention being put on students passing their OAKS tests (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) in reading, writing, science and mathematics.
    Miner said that having engaging instructional strategies from his staff has made a difference, as well as increasing the academic rigor by offering advanced placement and college-level classes. At the same time, they have increased the intervention and support for struggling students, such as writing and math interventions.
   Dennis Kostelecky remarked that the assistant principals at the high school have spent a great deal of time keeping seniors on track to avoid losing students the last few weeks of school.
   “I think the assistant principals have done a nice job staying on top of this,” said Kostelecky.
   He added that the school district has paid very close attention to attendance at all grade levels.
   “I think attendance is more important, because kids grow up knowing that if they skip school, they are going to get a phone call. It has changed the culture.”
   He also emphasized that there is a direct correlation between attendance and learning.
   Kostelecky cautioned that changes in state scores for reading, math, science, and writing will bring challenges in the years to come, as well as the fact that Crook County High School will be adding a five-year graduation opportunity for students graduating in 2013. An extended graduation rate, allowing one additional year for completion, is also tracked and reported in the 5-year Cohort Graduation Rates. Miner also added that the four-year graduation rate would drop in the next couple of years, but the five-year graduation rate would go up.
   Miner concluded that a common theme that he has always stressed is making connections and creating relationships with students.
   “This goes back to K-12, and we are all working on a common goal, and we are doing it collaboratively to help increase and improve student success.”
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