Grad rates in Polk County remain steady

Graduation rates in Polk County schools for 2016-17 school stayed flat or fell slightly.

Graphic by Kathy Huggins
Graduation rates in Polk County schools for 2016-17 school stayed flat or fell slightly.

POLK COUNTY — Graduation rates for the 2016-17 school year stayed mostly flat for Central, Dallas, Falls City and Perrydale school districts.

Oregon Department of Education released graduation rate data Thursday, which shows slight improvement statewide.

This is the first report to include the graduation rate for homeless students: 50.7 percent statewide.

Dallas four-year graduation rate essentially stayed the same at 75 percent, including Dallas High School and Morrison graduates.

“One of the things that is difficult for us is every year is a different group of kids, a different cohort,” said Steve Martinelli, Dallas’ director of instructional services.

Martinelli said Dallas launched or expanded programs that should help raise graduation rates in the future.

Dallas now has an AVID Program, which focuses on lowering the achievement gap and preparing students for success in high school and after.

DHS implemented “guide groups” this year, which has groups of student meeting with advisers for 25 minutes each day.

Students will have the same teacher adviser throughout their four years.

He added expansion in the career and technical education programs, and the increasing enrollment in those programs should help keep students interested.

“That’s another big program change that we think is going to make a huge difference, because when kids engage in and see relevance in what they are doing, they tend to come to school and do really well,” Martinelli said.

Students who earn at least one credit in a CTE program have an average four-year graduation rate of nearly 92 percent, according to ODE.

Martinelli said many students who don’t graduate on time stay on for a fifth year to earn their diploma.

Dallas’ five-year grad rate is 78 percent and completer rate — for those who earn GEDs — is 84 percent.

Falls City’s 2016-17 graduation rate is down from 82 percent the year before to 75 percent.

Superintendent Art Houghtaling said the high school added a second language arts teacher who also is in charge of implementing a CTE program funding and helping students decide what to do after high school.

“The idea is we want to develop plans through our partnership with our after-school program (FACES) and during the regular school day to get our kids out there explore post-school ideas,” Houghtaling said.

The high school careers class also brings in guest speakers to talk more in-depth about professions and careers, and has students visit college campuses, even if they don’t intend go to college, to see if it might be a good fit for them.

“We are trying some new things,” he said.

Houghtaling said developing a CTE program should add to the district classes and after-school offerings that spark interest in students.

“Some kids come to school for sports. Some kids come to school for music,” Houghtaling said. “We don’t have a lot of options for students, so hopefully with the CTE program, we’ll add another option to get kids interested.”

The district’s four-year completer rate is 75 percent, five-year graduation rate is 88 percent and its five-year completer rate is 94 percent.

Perrydale’s rate was down from 96 percent to 94 percent.

Its five-year completer and grad rates are both 96 percent.

Perrydale Superintendent Eric Milburn said the district has been able to maintain a high graduation rate because of attentive teachers and staff members who work together to track student progress and help those who need it.

“We believe we create a learning environment that encourages, challenges and inspires our students,” Milburn said. “This cannot be done without a great staff and a supportive community.”

One year after seeing its rate jump 14 points to 86 percent, Central’s rate slid slightly to 84 percent.

Its five-year graduation rates fell from 92 percent to 88 percent, while its four- and five-year completer rates are 85 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

Superintendent Jennifer Kubista said she's been analyzing the data, and believes the decrease can partially be explained by the need for better student tracking, both in knowing where students go if they transfer out of the district and finding those students who aren't on track for graduation.

Kubista, who is new to the district this year, said she would like to develop a system that allow staff to easily find information on students and check it frequently.

"I think that is what we need to do, so we can have those systems in place," she said.

Statewide, the on-time graduation rate grew about 2 percent to 77 percent.

Oregon’s rate has increased nearly 5 percent in the last three years.

That growth is highlighted by gains in historically underserved student groups — Hispanic/Latino, Black/African-American, multiracial, special education, ever English learners and migrant students — whose graduation rates have increased by 7 percent in three years.

The state’s four-year completer rate is 80 percent. Five-year graduation and completer rates are 78 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

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