Graduation rates rise for most Portland high schools
Statewide numbers give local educators something to cheer about
Local education leaders are celebrating progress found in new statewide and school district graduation data, while focusing on the work still to be done.
The new data, released Friday by the Oregon Department of Education, shows that 59 percent of Portland Public Schools' students earned a regular diploma in four years, compared to 54 percent last year.
The rates are considered extremely accurate, since they examine the cohort, or group, of students who entered high school in the 2007-08 school year and tracked how many graduated with a regular high school diploma within four years.
Most of PPS high schools saw marked gains; two stood out with significant success.
Roosevelt High School, now in its second year of using federal school improvement grant money, bumped its four-year graduation rate up 14 percentage points, from 38 percent to 51 percent.
The infusion of $7.7 million during three years - as well as steady leadership by Principal Charlene Williams, a reinvigorated staff and parent community and a motivated student body - is apparently paying off.
Cleveland High School saw its rate soar from 68 percent to 78 percent this year, a gain Principal Paul Cook attributes to many things, two of which are the school's ninth-grade academies and credit retrieval program.
In 2002, Cleveland became the first PPS high school to create freshman academies; now they're present at every district high school. At Cleveland, they grew from just a select group of students to all 400 freshmen, as well as 15 core teachers, four special education teachers and four counselors who work together to identify students who need more help early on and keep everyone on track.
'That's a lot of adults that are creating a strong, positive and personalized learning atmosphere for our newest students to CHS,' Cook says.
The credit retrieval program allows students who've failed a class to retake it during the school day, during a computer lab class with software that goes at the student's pace. The class lets students avoid night school and keeps them on track to graduate.
Here's how the other high schools fared:
• Benson Polytechnic High School's graduation rate jumped from 77 percent to 80 percent.
• Franklin High School fell from 68 percent to 64 percent.
• Grant High School remained flat at 79 percent.
• Jefferson High School, now redesigned as the district's Middle College for Advanced Studies, edged up from 50 percent to 52 percent.
• Lincoln High School rose from 80 percent to 85 percent.
• Madison High School climbed from 51 percent to 57 percent.
• And Wilson High School gained a point, from 74 percent to 75 percent.
• The Marshall Campus, which closed just after its Class of 2011 graduated, ended with a 42 percent graduation rate, compared to 45 percent the year before.
The data also points out glaring achievement gaps in graduation rates by students' race. The biggest gaps between black students and white students are at Lincoln, a gap of 48 percentage points; at Madison, 26 percentage points; and Grant, 21 percentage points.
The largest gaps between Hispanic and white students are at Jefferson, Madison and Wilson, which each have gaps of 20 percentage points.
Statewide, the new data shows that graduation rates are also on the rise, and Oregon is seeing an all-time low in the number of high school dropouts. Statewide, the four-year graduation rate for 2011 was 67 percent, up from 66 percent in 2010.
All of the state's historically under-performing groups of students saw increases in their graduation rates, the latest ODE report says, and in many cases their graduation rates grew faster than for the state overall, indicating a slight closing of the graduation gap.
Since some students need more than four years to complete graduation requirements, the state also calculates a five-year graduation rate. For the students who entered high school in 2006-07, 70.5 percent graduated in five years.