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Sandy High School graduation rates trail state average

Officials cite attendance rate as hopeful sign for future grads

The Oregon Department of Education released its 2014-15 graduation rates on Thursday, Jan. 28, and while the figures show a minor improvement for the overall state, they also indicate that Sandy High School students lag behind the Oregon average.

Statewide, 74 percent of students in the class of 2015 graduated in four years, an increase of two percent over the previous year. At SHS, the four-year graduation rate for the class of 2015 was 68 percent, a decline over the school’s 2013-14 four-year graduation rate of 71 percent.

SHS administrators said Monday they have worked to boost graduation rates for some time, and evidence of these efforts should soon be measurable.

“I think we should see some payoff as early as next year,” said Sandy High Principal Kim Ball.

Among these efforts are such initiatives as Freshman Academy, an early intervention program geared at academically vulnerable students, as well as math and English skills support classes.

“We have added six support classes and we are seeing a strong improvement in the percentage of students passing math, already in a semester,” Ball said.

Additionally, Ball noted that the school has experienced a marked success in combating chronic absenteeism, which research from the state’s education department links to the failure to graduate. In 2014, a five-person team of SHS administrators began working more closely with students to understand and correct the factors that may be affecting chronic absenteeism. In the past, attendance had been the responsibility of one individual at the school.

The Oregon Trail School District defines chronic absenteeism as a percentage of students attending at least 90 percent of school days per year. A student who is absent for 10 percent or more days per year is also considered chronically absent. In the 2013-14 school year, SHS’s student attendance rate was 36 percent, while in 2014-15, that rate swelled to 75.5 percent.

“I’m hopeful and excited,” Ball said. “I believe those rates will go up again, but we won’t know that until the end of the year.”

SHS officials are being sure to celebrate attendance wins with the study body by holding assemblies as rewards, and are making a greater effort to communicate with parents regarding their child’s schooling.

“We’re working diligently to help parents know what’s going on with their students academically and with attendance,” Ball said.

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