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Estacada freshmen lag state average on road to graduation

Fewer of Estacada High School's freshmen are on course to graduate than their peers statewide or at similar schools, statistics released by the Oregon Department of Education show.

Some 72.4 percent of Estacada High School freshmen were on track to graduate at the end of the 2015-16 school year, compared with 83.5 percent of freshmen statewide and 82.6 percent of freshmen at similar schools.

“We feel very equipped to address this,” said Ryan Carpenter, principal of Estacada High School. He explained that although some freshmen are not on track with the credits they need to graduate, during the four years at the high school, they catch up and graduate at rates better than the state average.

Indeed, Estacada graduated 74.6 percent of its students in in the 2015-16 school year, a higher rate than the 73.8 percent statewide.

The high school has multiple programs to keep students on the road to a diploma. The high school is in the second year of a program called Student Voice. It focuses on encouraging a feeling of self-worth and belonging among students. “We've seen improved results from this in just the first two years,” Carpenter said.

Teachers are working closely together in small groups, called professional learning communities, to create common tests and quizzes in each subject to more closely track student progress. If a student is falling behind or a certain lesson has not worked well for a number of students, teachers can go back and reteach the lesson or give students individual attention.

Many high schools give students an opportunity for “credit recovery” to make up classes they failed or dropped. Estacada does not. Instead Estacada High School this year founded an alternative school-within the high school school for students who are not thriving at the traditional high school.

It's called Road to Success. Ryan said credit-deficient students will get the extra help they need at Road to Success.

To make sure every student is engaged, Estacada High School is offering programs appealing to various kinds of students. One is a culinary arts program, which has 200 students enrolled now. Some of the classes are taught by a professional chef. EHS also is reinvigorating its manufacturing program. “The kids are really loving this,” Carpenter said.

The “on track” statistics measure freshman who are behind in the number of credits they need to graduate because they failed or dropped a class. If a student is already behind in credits at the end of the freshman year, research shows, it is difficult for them to catch up. The numbers also do not mean that students on track as freshmen will stay on the road to graduation.

Estacada did better than the rest of the state in keeping English language learners and Hispanic freshmen on track to graduate, but lagged the state performance with economically disadvantaged freshmen and first year students with disabilities.

In Estacada 72.9 percent of economically disadvantaged students were on the road to graduation, compared with 76.1 percent statewide. About 65 percent of Estacada freshmen with disabilities were on track to graduate, compared with 68.6 percent in Oregon.

Among Estacada's freshmen learning English 89.3 percent were on track to graduate, compared with 79.8 percent statewide. Of the Hispanic freshmen, 88 percent were on the road to a diploma, compared with 77.8 percent statewide.

Oregon significantly lags the rest of the country in the share of students graduating from high school. Rankings released Monday, Oct. 17 by the U.S. Department of Education, show that Oregon has the third worst graduation in the nation behind only New Mexico and Nevada. Iowa's 90.8 percent graduation rate is the best in the country with New Jersey's 89.7 percent second.

The freshman-on-track statistics are part of a recent deluge of data on the state’s 1,239 public schools and 197 school districts. The numbers provide valuable insights into how public schools and districts are doing statewide and supply data on everything from standardized test results, to vaccination rates, to percentages of minority teachers.

Unlike years past, schools and districts did not receive a single number “grade” this year because schools are changing to the new standards of the federal education law called Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed by Congress in December 2016.

The state is in the middle of redesigning these school and district report cards to make them more useful and relevant. The new report cards are expected to debut by the fall of 2018. As part of the reworking, ODE said it “is engaging stakeholders in its redesign process to understand which school success measures will help them communicate with families and communities while supporting a system of continuous improvement.”