Crook County High School fares far better than the statewide dropout average

by: KEVIN GABOURY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Contrary to statewide statistics, and a turnaround from previous years, efforts by Crook County School District administrators have lowered the local high school dropout rate to 1 percent

In contrast to statewide results for 2006-2007, the dropout rate at Crook County High School was significantly lower.
   In the span of just a few academic years, CCHS teachers and administrators have slashed the dropout rate from more than 9 percent down to 1 percent.
   CCHS is now below the state average, which was 4.4 percent, for the 2006-2007 school year.
   "Tuesday evening Steve (Swisher) had pulled it off the ODE (Oregon Department of Education) Web site and we are ecstatic to find out," said a proud Principal Jim Golden. "The reason I'm ecstatic is that three years ago, when I came in and began working with our staff, I said there are three areas that define a school of excellence. One is a low dropout rate of 2 percent or below. Second is (an attendance rate) of 93 percent or above. And the third is academic rigor, measured by state tests and ACT. So kids performed at the state level or above."
   The news has also been good for the Crook County School Board.
   "I think Jim Golden has done a great job for improving the dropout rate at Crook County High School, but in the same term, I would like the dropout rate for all the kids in the Crook County School District to improve, not just the high school," said Board Chairman Jeff Landaker. "I think the dropout rate is quite high at Pioneer."
   Landaker said Golden has done an excellent job at the high school and he also referred to Pioneer High School Principal Brian Lemos.
   "I'm hoping he can pass this along to Brian Lemos, so they can achieve the same goal at Pioneer," Landaker added.
   Oregon defines a dropout as a student in grades 9-12 who withdraws from school without receiving a diploma, a GED, modified diploma or who transfers to another school. Across Oregon, dropout rates increased for all subgroups except for Latinos. Dropout rates across Oregon were: Asians, 3.2 percent; Native American 7 percent; African-American, 7.4 percent, Hispanic, 7.9 percent and Caucasian, 3.6 percent.
   "And I told the staff that it would take us five to seven years to reach the benchmark," Golden said. "We went from 9.4 percent to 1 percent in three years."
   "We were at 2.5 percent last year and to get from 2.5 percent to 1 percent is phenomenal," Golden said. "It shows we're doing a good job of connecting with kids, 'cause we're holding onto them."
   He touched on several reasons the dropout rate has significantly decreased.
   "I think Student Connections is a piece of this puzzle in that students have a significant adult contact daily in their life," he said. Part of the progress can also be tracked to staff checking to make sure students are making progress in class and there are also computer tracking systems.
   Student Connections is a class in which all students are matched with a faculty mentor all four years of high school.
   "I'm extremely proud of the work that our teachers have done to connect with the kids," Golden continued. "And secondly, we have the best kids in the state of Oregon....."
   He added that the only school in central Oregon with a lower dropout rate than CCHS was Sisters High School, which had a dropout percentage of .5 percent. By comparison, at Redmond High School 3.2 percent of students left school this past school year and 7.6 percent dropped out of Madras High School.
   Golden said some event will be held to honor the students' accomplishment.
   "You know, we've begun to do that student connections stuff," Golden said, referring to ice cream socials and other ways of honoring those students who were on the honor roll.
   What still needs to be done
   Despite the progress made in the last three years, Golden said more remains to be done. He said more students must be at school and attending regularly. Currently, 90 percent of students have regular attendance, but a 93 percent attendance rate is for a school of excellence.
   "By not missing school, you get the benefit of instruction," he said, adding that, in turn, students don't fall behind in class. "We have too much absenteeism," Golden said. "Our absentee rate is a concern to me."
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