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Jefferson leads upswing in Portland's graduation rate increases


Portland schools grant more high school diplomas

(Click on Portland high school locations in the map above to see detailed graduation information. The State of Oregon's dot is in Lake Oswego.)

Jefferson High School in North Portland has raised its four-year graduation rate up to 80 percent, a whopping 14 percentage point gain in the past year.

“It is a very impressive increase,” said Crystal Greene, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Education, which released data Thursday. In information provided by ODE, Jefferson Principal Margaret Calvert said the school’s collaboration with Portland Community College, Portland State University and nonprofit Self Enhancement, Inc. has reached a “tipping point” to push the culture there toward college-readiness.

The Jeff class of 2015 led the pack in rate increases for Portland Public Schools as the district followed a continued upward statewide trend in graduation rates.

In the data released by the Oregon Department of Education, the state’s largest school district is now at a 74 percent standard graduation rate, a 4 percentage point gain.

That means that of 3,222 possible graduates last spring, Portland Public Schools high schools handed out standard four-year diplomas to 2,326 students, plus another 49 with modified diplomas. Also last year, more than 100 students earned their GED high school equivalency. Many more earned a diploma or high school equivalency in five years.

The state also released drop out rates. PPS had a 4 percent drop-out rate, with 525 kids leaving school early. Alliance alternative high school lost the most students for a 13 percent drop-out rate. Being homeless made Portland kids most at risk of dropping out. Fourteen percent of the district’s 501 homeless students dropped out by the end of the year.

SOURCE: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, GRAPHED BY THE PORTLAND TRIBUNE - Graduation rates from last school year compared to the year before in the areas 15 high schools and alternative programs shows most improving. The graph does not include data of high school completers, such as those who earned a GED.

State posts modest gains

Statewide, Oregon’s more than 33,000 high school graduates bumped the state’s total graduation rate up to 74 percent. That is 2 percentage points more than last year, but still 7 percentage points off the most recently available national rate of 81 percent from 2012-13.

The Parkrose School District lost ground last year, slipping 3 percentage points. The district struggled particularly to graduate students identified as American Indian, Native Hawaiian and English language learners. Each of those categories slipped more than 20 percentage points from last year.

David Douglas School District students graduated at about the same rate as last year: 75 percent.

This year’s data from the Oregon Department of Education was broken into fine demographic detail, including categories such as “economically disadvantaged” and “underserved races.”

The Portland school that graduated the highest percentage of black students was Benson Polytechnic High School with 92 percent of its 39 black students finishing in four years. Lincoln High School graduated the most economically disadvantaged students, 87 percent of its 63 low-income students. Lincoln and Benson also both posted more than 80 percent of their students with disabilities graduating, 30 points more than the state average.

English language learners have a rough time graduating from high school. The statewide rate is 51 percent and most Portland schools stuck around that figure. In PPS, Franklin High School ranked highest, with an impressive 85 percent of its 55 English learners graduating.

The Riverdale High School in Southwest Portland found the holy grail, graduating 100 percent of its 64 students, an increase of 5 percentage points over last year. The district as a whole had a 97 percent graduation rate.

Along with the massive data release, the Oregon Department of Education outlined steps it is taking to improve the graduation rate, including creating a Graduation Advisory Committee to help create a state graduation plan and keep posting higher gains.

“While our graduation rate is far from where we want and need it to be, this increase means we are headed in the right direction and is truly something to celebrate,” said Oregon’s Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor. “We must ensure that the promise of a bright future is afforded to all of our students regardless of ZIP code, race, income, language, or disability status.”

SOURCE: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, GRAPHED BY THE PORTLAND TRIBUNE - Portland-area graduation rates from 2015 graduates, including the 'completer' rates, those who got the equivalent of a high school degree in four years.

See previous coverage:

New Position to Address Oregon Poor Graduation Rate

Portland Graduation Rates Continue Climb

Shasta Kearns Moore
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