Rockne Roll/News-Register##McMinnville High School teacher Joe Crafton, left, slides into the dunk tank after a successful toss from freshman Nalen Stephens in front of the school Thursday, Jan. 28. The school placed a dunk tank in front of the building during lunch and after classes this week to celebrate the end of final exams.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##McMinnville High School teacher Joe Crafton, left, slides into the dunk tank after a successful toss from freshman Nalen Stephens in front of the school Thursday, Jan. 28. The school placed a dunk tank in front of the building during lunch and after classes this week to celebrate the end of final exams.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Graduation rates show gains

The state average rose two full percentage points, but still stands at just 74 percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Oregon Department of Education. That’s more than 10 points below the Mac High rate.

Tony Vicknair, assistant principal at the high school, said he was pleased with the gain, and with the fact their school continues to lead the state by a wide margin.

He said he was especially gratified the local graduation rate for Hispanic students stands 16 percentage points above the state average — 83.4 percent, almost matching the school’s overall average, compared to just 67.4 percent statewide. And he noted Mac High’s grad rate for students with limited English proficiency is 18 points above the state average.

But there’s still room for improvement, Vicknair said, especially with students in special education classes. The school’s goal is for every student to cross the stage on graduation night, then on to further education or job training, he said.

Statewide, education officials have the same goal.

“This increase means we are headed in the right direction,” Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor said. However, he said, “Our graduation rate is far from where we want and need it to be.”

Gov. Kate Brown said she is “committed to making sure our education system delivers better outcomes.”

In McMinnville, educators have seen annual increases in the graduation rate over the past decade. They credit their success to a focus on making sure every student succeeds.

“We do a really good job working with our students in their senior year, so they stay engaged and there are no last-minute issues,” Vicknair said. “And we make sure they have a really good freshman year, so they stay on track to graduate.”

As freshmen, for instance, students are placed in small-group settings where teams of teachers make sure they meet their goals. Since math can be challenging for freshmen, teachers place special emphasis on that subject during the school year; in summer, they offer a credit-recovery program so students don’t fall behind.

As seniors, Vicknair said, students are encouraged to take career pathway classes and dual-credit courses. The latter allow them to earn college credits, as well as points toward their diploma. Last year, 152 seniors earned at least 24 college credits.

Such courses keeps students engaged and interested in school, he said. In addition,he said, “We focus on them passing essential skills, math, writing and reading.”

The state also released four- and five-year cohort graduation data based on groups of students who started high school in the fall of 2011 and graduated in 2015, and for those who started in 2010 and completed all requirements for a diploma, modified diploma, GED or extended program within five years.

Four-year cohort graduation rates for students starting in 2011 were, by high school: Amity, 89.29 percent; Dayton, 85.92 percent; McMinnville, 84.07 percent; Newberg, 76.61 percent; Sheridan, 87.8 percent; Willamina, 71.43 percent; and Yamhill-Carlton, 70.79 percent. The Sheridan School District also hosts the Japanese School, 87.5 percent; All-Prep Academy, 6.67 percent; and Spartan Academy, 16 percent.

Five-year cohort completion or GED rates for students starting in 2010 were, by high school: Amity, 84.38 percent; Dayton, 75 percent; McMinnville, 83.44 percent; Newberg, 77.1 percent; Sheridan, 92.59 percent; Willamina, 86.89 percent; Yamhill-Carlton, 86.17 percent; Japanese School, 100 percent; All-Prep Academy, 16.67 percent; and Spartan Academy, 50 percent.

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