Grad rates show no gain

POLK COUNTY — Local school districts’ 2012-13 graduation rates held steady or dropped compared to the year before.    Oregon Department of Education released its annual graduation rate report Thursday, showing a similar pattern statewide in four-year graduation rates, growing only slightly from 68.4 percent to 68.7 percent.    The report includes the percentage of students who enrolled as freshman in 2009-10 that graduated with a regular high school diploma on time, the four-year graduation rate. Also included are four-year and five-year completer rates, for those who earn a GED or modified diploma in four or five years; five-year graduation rates; and dropout rates. Graphic by Kathy Huggins 2012-2013 Four-year Cohort Graduation Rate   For Polk County schools, Dallas and Central percentages showed little change in four-year graduation rates from 2011-12. Perrydale’s four-year graduation rate fell from 95 percent to 90 percent.    Falls City’s four-year rate tumbled to 20 percent from 48 percent last year.    Superintendent Jack Thompson isn’t worried about the rate because a portion of those not receiving a diploma are part of a fifth-year program allowing students to attend one year of college for free.    “A good percentage of my kids are going into that fifth-year program, so I have kids going to college, but they are reported as (non-completers),” Thompson said.   Of last year’s cohort of 10 2009-10 freshman, six made it to the end of their senior year. Art Houghtaling, Falls City High School vice principal, said two earned a regular diploma, three enrolled in the five-year program, and one was half a credit short of earning a diploma.   Houghtaling said with several seniors interested in the five-program, that rate won’t change much.   “Am I hoping it goes up? Not necessarily, because I want more kids going to college through the fifth-year program,” Thompson said. “I wish the state had a way to report that.”    Dallas School District can relate. Its 52 percent four-year graduation rate is largely due is a similar program, called Extended Campus. A partnership between the district and Chemeketa Community College, the program offers students a chance to take up to two years of college classes for free. Graphic by Kathy Huggins The above chart shows the various 2012-13 graduation rates for Central, Dallas, Falls City and Perrydale high schools. The statewide, four-year grad rate is 68.7 percent.   Superintendent Christy Perry said the rate adjusted for Extended Campus students is nearly 76 percent. That rate is down from nearly 77 percent last year.   Of the 24 percent of students who aren’t graduating on time, some are included in the four- and five-year completer rates. Others, though, the district just hasn’t been able to reach.    “We still need to figure out what are the right solutions for them,” Perry said.    She said schools have been trying to work with parents of struggling students to help inspire more commitment and focus earlier in a student’s school career.   “We are really working to create that since of urgency sooner,” she said. “Parents and students need to have that sense of urgency way before they start high school.”   Creating a sense of urgency sooner is something Central is doing to try and improve its rate of 66.34 percent, down from 66.83 percent last year, said Superintendent Buzz Brazeau.   With less school funding available, it’s more difficult to support and challenge kids, he said.   Brazeau said Central’s staff is using the achievement compact to help students meet targets at grade levels throughout their K-12 career.   Many things have been implemented in grades K-12 to help increase Central’s grad rates, including a counselor at every school, Brazeau said.   Also, a new help center at Central High’s library has just opened. A similar program at Glencoe    High School in Hillsboro increased grad rates by eight points, Brazeau said.   While not the 100 or 95 percent it has received in recent years, Perrydale’s 90 percent four-year graduation rate is still one of the best in the state. Of 30 students who were freshmen in 2009-10, 27 of them graduated on time with a regular diploma. Another received a modified diploma, for a 93 percent four-year completer rate. Perrydale’s five-year graduation is a perfect 100 percent. Perrydale’s dropout rate is .96 percent.   Dallas has a 2.4 percent dropout rate, Central’s is at 3.8 percent and Falls City’s is 5.26 percent. The statewide average is 3.98 percent.    


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