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Estacada High school grad rate drops in 2015

The graduation rate at Estacada High School dropped nearly two percentage points in 2015 while Oregon's overall rate increased by the same amount.

Estacada High had a graduation rate of 74.64 percent for the 2014-15 academic year, according to figures released Jan. 28 by the Oregon Department of Education. The previous school year, the graduation rate was 76.22 percent.

The Oregon average for 2015 showed that 74 percent of high school students earned a diploma in four years, up two percentage points from 2014.

“The nation isn’t high enough, and the state isn’t high enough,” said Marla Stephenson, superintendent of the Estacada School District. “When we brag that our graduation rates are higher than the state’s, and the state is at less than 80 percent, that’s not something to brag about.”

When the high school is combined with district charter schools — Summit Learning’s Early College program and Summit Learning's Virtual Academy — the graduation rate plummets to 38.45 percent. In 2013-14, the district’s overall graduation rate was 28.11 percent.

“I consider this year a plateau (at the high school), but that plateau isn’t high enough,” Stephenson said.

Estacada high principal Ryan Carpenter said the school has been working to use a variety of student learning styles in each class.

“In our daily lessons, we’ll start with a teacher addressing the whole class, and then students will break up into groups,” he said.

Carpenter said the school has found this approach beneficial.

“Students can really collaborate with their peers,” he said. “The A students can be in a group that digs deeper into the material, and students who are struggling can catch up.”

Carpenter and Stephenson said the availability of an alternative high school, which they hope to start next fall, should help increase graduation rates. The alternative high school would replace the high school’s current online credit recovery program.

Carpenter said many of the students enrolled in the credit recovery program should benefit from the face-to-face instruction that the alternative high school would offer.

The 2014-15 graduation rate at Summit Learning Charter’s Early College program was 26.62 percent, up from 11.83 percent in 2013-2014. Likewise, Summit’s Virtual Academy had a graduation rate of 35.21 percent for 2015-2015, up from 9.64 percent for 2013-2014.

Sean Gallagher, principal at Summit Learning Charter, attributed the higher graduation rates to increased student advising.

He noted that faculty of both programs have worked to make academic requirements clear to students, and an additional academic counselor was hired for the Virtual Academy.

Gallagher hopes to see continued student growth in both programs.

“We’re never satisfied until everyone graduates,” he said.

A high school diploma almost always means a better life.

A 2012 study by The Brookings Institute found that 16 percent of recent high school dropouts were unemployed, and 32 percent live below the poverty line. Among recent dropouts who are employed, the average wage is $12.75 an hour.

Moreover, the average hourly rate for dropouts at age 50 is $16.50.

“Having a high school diploma is no longer optional,” Stephenson emphasized. “It’s up to us to keep working to improve our (graduation rates).”