Oregon high school graduation rate improves


PORTLAND — Oregon's high school graduation rate improved in 2015, but still lags the national average and remains a long way off from the state's ambitious goal of attaining a 100 percent mark by 2025.

Figures released Thursday by Oregon education officials reveal that 73.8 percent of students earned a diploma in four years, a jump of nearly 2 percentage points from 2014.

Most demographic groups saw their rates rise, with Latino, black and economically disadvantaged students all enjoying a gain of more than 2 percentage points. Only two groups saw a decline: Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students and those learning English who were not proficient when entering high school.

Oregon regularly has one of the nation's lowest graduation rates, and the uptick still leaves it well below the national average of more than 80 percent. With so far to go, it appears increasingly unrealistic that Oregon will boost its rate to 100 percent in 2025, particularly since no state approaches that level.

State officials chose to focus on the positive.

“This increase moves us closer to our goal of having every Oregon student complete high school with a plan,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. “We have work to do as a state to reach that goal, and I am committed to making sure our education system delivers better outcomes.”

Income remains a key factor in determining who will graduate on time.

This year's statistics show one-third of Oregon students from low-income families failed to get their diploma in four years. Students who are not low income graduated at an 83 percent clip.

About 88 percent of Asian students graduated in four years, but white, black, Hispanic and American Indian students all fell well short of 80 percent. Seventy percent of boys graduated in four years compared with 78 percent of girls.

Oregon's largest school district, Portland Public Schools, had a graduation rate right at the state average.

In southern Oregon, the Medford School District saw its graduation rate soar by 10 percentage points — to 75 percent. The district's Latino graduation rate jumped by an even higher percentage. The district credits a focus on data-driven decision making, establishing a college-going culture and improving its approach to English language development.

“We met as an English-learner team and developed a three-year plan which targeted professional development, student achievement, equity, and the graduation rate,” said Terri Dahl, Medford's supervisor of federal programs and school improvement. “We're very excited that our department goals and strategic plans have impacted student learning.”

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