Gearing toward graduation
Woodburn High School maintained a strong trend last spring when it graduated a comparatively high percentage of its seniors.
Oregon Department of Education released graduation numbers for all of the state's school districts last month, along with data citing "the four-year cohort graduation rate," which follows students from freshman through senior years and determines what percentage graduate. The 2017-18 numbers reflected students who entered high school in 2014-15.
ODE data show the overall average graduation rate in Oregon this past year was 78.7 percent, two-percent higher than the previous year and 6.7-percent higher than 2013-14.
For the second straight year, Woodburn's graduation rate for all students was about 88.9 percent, up from 84.1 percent in 2015-16 and 84.5 percent in 2014-15. The trend over the past several years has been well received.
"Yes, we're very pleased and confident that we will continue with the trend," Woodburn School District Superintendent Chuck Ransom said.
When WHS reached the 88.9 percent mark a year ago, Ransom cited long-term strategic initiatives based on proven methods in conjunction with a supportive community as key factors contributing to the favorable numbers.
One area school pitched a perfect game: St. Paul, achieved a 100 percent graduation rate in 2017-18, up from just over 92 percent the previous two years and 89 percent in 2014-15. District officials go into each year expecting nothing less.
"Our goal in St Paul is to graduate 100-percent of our students each year," St. Paul Superintendent Joe Wehrli said. "Our middle and high-school staff does an excellent job of monitoring each student's progress closely as they work toward graduation, and they provide additional support as necessary to give each student the opportunity to be academically successful.
"The St Paul School Board continues to set high expectations of success for both academic excellence and active involvement in activities from our students," Wehrli added. "Their expectations are coupled with a willingness to find ways to fund the programs necessary to support student success."
North Marion also topped the state average with its four-year cohort graduation rate at 82.9 percent in 2017-18, close to its 2016-17 mark of 83.7 and significantly higher than its 77.4 rate of 2015-16.
"We are a small district compared to our neighbors, like Wilsonville, Canby and Woodburn. But sometimes being small has its advantages," North Marion Superintendent Ginger Redlinger said. "We are very proud of our ability to give struggling students the attention and support they need so they can all graduate.
"We look closely at our demographic groups in order to determine which students need more help."
Among specific North Marion student groups Redlinger highlighted within the 2017-18 graduating class are career technical education (CTE) concentrators, 96 percent; CTE participants, 92 percent; English learners program, 100 percent; former English learners, 93 percent; Hispanic/Latino, 87 percent; economically disadvantaged, 80 percent.
Mt. Angel School District hovered around 75 percent for the second straight year after seeing more than 91 percent graduate in 2015-16.
Mt. Angel Superintendent Troy Stoops said one factor in small-district fluctuations is class size. For example, the district's current 8th-grade class has 39 students; the 7th-grade class has 79.
"With a class of 39, one student equals 2.6 percent," Stoops said. "No excuses for students not earning their diploma in 4 years, just a demonstration of how every child makes a difference in small districts."
MASD adopted its first strategic plan in 2017, which Stoops said has provided vital guidance for district staff.
"It has changed how we focus our efforts," he said. "We have adopted the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) system to help us focus on college and career readiness for all students. Our efforts are focused on effective instructional strategies that engage all students. Our professional development is focused on AVID Leadership and Instructional practices."
Stoops cited programs such as agriculture science and technology CTE programs and increased focus on social and emotional needs of students as areas the district is fortifying.
"We are seeing growth as a district; we are anxious to see that growth translate into a graduation rate of 90-plus percent," Stoops said.
Gervais School District's 2017-18 graduation rate numbers show 70.4 percent among all students, but almost 94 percent among Gervais High School students in 2017-18. The district's Samuel Brown Academy, 22 percent, accounted for the lower overall number
In keeping with other area schools, Gervais experienced high rates among CTE participants at 95 percent, and 100 percent of its migrant-family students graduated. Other high-percentage groups included the district's economically disadvantaged, 94 percent; Former English learners, 96.5 percent; Hispanic/Latino, 95 percent.
Woodburn by the numbers
Woodburn's ODE data can reveal more precision breakdowns than other schools as they are sectioned off by institutions within the larger school: Academy of International Studies, Success High School, Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy and Wellness Business and Sports School.
School-wide breakdowns of the data in show that girls graduated at a higher rate than boys in 2017-18: almost 95 percent compared to just over 83 percent. The 95-percent achievement is more than 10 percentage points higher than it was in 2014-15, while the percentage for boys is about the same as that year.
Another breakdown indicates significant improvement at the Woodburn Success Alternative High School; that program graduated just around half its students from 2014 through 2016, but rates soared to 79 percent in 2016-17 and increased to around 87 percent in 2017-18.
The district opened a new Success High School building last fall, located near WSD offices and WHS.
Woodburn saw 96.5 percent of its CTE participants graduate, along with almost 90 percent of its economically disadvantaged students, 87.5 percent of students from migrant families, 88 percent of its Hispanic /Latino students, and nearly 91 percent of its former English learners.
ODE provided a summary of four, and five-year cohort groups, noting that "cohort completer" data are also gathered and reported. That completer group includes students who earn a high school diploma as well as those who were awarded an extended high school diploma, adult high school diploma or GED, within four or five years of being measured.
"(The) students who did not earn a diploma or other completion credential are not necessarily dropouts. This category includes students who are continuing for an additional year of enrollment, as well as students who earned an alternative certificate," the summary stated.
A data table with the summary lists 46,081 Oregon students in the adjusted cohort from 2013-14 to 2017-18. The four-year cohort numbers reveal 34,647 diplomas, 51 students in a post-graduate scholars program, 1,559 modified diplomas, 1,775 other completers; deriving the 78.7 graduation rate and an 82.5 percent completer rate.
The five-year cohort numbers for those same 46,081 students are 35,215 diplomas, 76 post-graduate scholars, 1,602 modified diplomas, 2,105 other completers; yielding an 80 percent graduation rate and 84.6 percent completer rate.
Both four and five-year cohort graduation rate trends have seen modest, yet steady, increases over the past half-decade. ODE emphasized that this past year's 2-percent increase translates into 950 more students receiving a diploma than the year before.
"It's important to remember that we are talking about students, not statistics," Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said. "In this case, a two-point increase in graduation means an additional 950 students getting their diplomas within four years of starting high school."
Gill underscored the state's "equity-focused" approaches, and maintained the success of those are manifested in ODE data indicating students across various racial and economically challenged groups are situated firmly within the overall state 2017-19 increase; in some cases eclipsing it, such as the 2.1-percent increase among Hispanic/Latino students.
An ODE media release addressing the 2017-18 graduation rates said Oregon Governor Kate Brown is proposing a $2 billion investment in education that dedicates $794 million to reduce class sizes in early grades and lengthen the school year, $133 million to fully fund the High School Success (Measure 98) program, $7.7 million for Native American student programs and a $6 million increase for the African American/Black Student Success program.
"How our state provides for the needs of our children is a marker of who we are as a community," Brown said. "Every student in Oregon deserves an education that sets them up for success and helps them graduate from high school with a plan for their future. These graduation rates show our work to close opportunity gaps with targeted investments is making a difference in the lives of students.
"To build on this progress, I am dedicated to re-investing in our schools to bring them back to a level we can be proud of."