Most high schools in Portland mirrored a statewide trend in slow, steady improvements to their graduation rates in 2016, but Wilson High School soared above the pack with a graduation rate that was 15 percentage points higher than the state average.
Data released by the Oregon Department of Education in January shows the state's four-year graduation rates during the 2015-16 school year increased by 1 percentage point to 74.8 percent. Students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency still lagged far behind at 55.5 percent and 52.9 percent, respectively.
This year, ODE added data for students who take courses in career-technical education (CTE), such as machinery and computers. Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 98 in November 2016, which carved out money from the state budget to boost graduation rates through CTE programs, and the results were dramatic.
Statewide, 90.7 percent of students who concentrated in CTE graduated on time. Portland Public Schools, which serves most of the city, did slightly better with a 91.1 percent graduation rate among CTE concentrators. Wilson graduated all but four of its 79 CTE concentrators.
Overall, PPS' graduation rate was 1.8 percentage points higher than in 2014-15, reaching 75.5 percent. This marks seven years of steady improvements for the district since its 2008-09 rate of 53 percent, and the first time it has surpassed the statewide average in many years.
"We're pleased with the progress we're making and know that there's still work to be done," said Interim Superintendent Bob McKean in a statement that thanked staff and students as well. "We hope the state will continue to make the kind of investments we need to accelerate our progress."
Wilson Principal Brian Chatard also credited increased investment in the Portland Public School district for a rate that exceeded the statewide average.
"Innovative programs like Mindful Studies, a wider array of hands-on, engaging CTE, dual credit and AP classes made available through our eight-period schedule have truly benefitted our kids," Chatard wrote in a note to Wilson High School parents.
Wilson's graduation rate hovered at 90 percent for the second year in a row. The Southwest Portland school's rate has climbed 13 percentage points since 2011.
Chatard lauded the efforts of Wilson faculty, counselors and support staff for their contribution to the high graduation rate.
"We are extremely lucky to have such a dedicated, caring and professional group of educators working here at Wilson," he said in the note. "We have embraced a philosophy of collaboration and shared leadership to ensure that passion, innovation and multiple perspectives are valued and encouraged."
Wilson's numbers are a departure from the state average — Oregon is known for having some of the worst graduation rates in the nation. But the last reported statistics, from the 2014-15 school year, showed a fifth year of record-breaking rates at 73 percent.
Connection reporter Hannah Rank contributed to this story.