Oregon graduation rate improves, still lags

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Oregon graduation rate improves, still lags

5:42 p.m. PDT October 19, 2015

Oregon high schools improved their graduation rates last school year, but the state still has the fourth-lowest rate in country, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

Only Nevada, Alaska and the District of Columbia had lower rates than Oregon’s 72.0 percent. The national graduation rate for the previous year was 81  percent.

A state press release said that all states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English-learners.

However, Oregon’s  increase in graduation rates was third-greatest during this period.

“While most of Oregon’s growth can be attributed to methodology changes put in place to make our rate more comparable with other states, this is positive movement toward our state’s graduation goals,” said Oregon deputy superintendent Salam Noor.

The report is a first look at preliminary graduation rates reported by states for the 2013-14 school year.

The National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release final graduation rate data, which will include the nation’s newest graduation rates, in coming months, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Kelly Carlisle, assistant superintendent of the Salem-Keizer School District, said the district’s four-year graduation rate has been better than the state’s average rate for the past four years.

“Our five-year cohort graduation rate has out-paced the state the last four years by a consistent margin,” he said. “We attribute this to the hard work of our dropout recovery efforts, and the ability for our graduation coaches to re-engage students,” he said. “There’s always room to improve however, and we continue to find ways to help students reach graduation.”

The nation has posted record graduation rates for the last two years, the release states, with the highest rate ever of 81 percent announced in March and improvement across all student subgroups.

“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off, particularly after several years of intense work by educators transitioning to new, higher standards. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student, no matter their zip code, for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”

The vast majority of states saw increases in overall graduation rates, while six states saw decreases and another eight saw no change since 2012-13.

The majority of states also shrank the achievement gap for black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students.

States that saw the biggest gains include Oregon, Delaware, Alabama, West Virginia and Illinois.

Since 2010, states, districts and schools have been using a new, common metric, known as the adjusted cohort graduation rate, to promote greater accountability and develop strategies that will help reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide. The new data reflect that more accurate measure.

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

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Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is the education reporter for the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. Natalie has previously worked for organizations and publications such as Direct Relief International, Waging Non-Violence, and Amnesty International USA. She has had stories published with USA Today, Associated Press and Ozy, among others. Natalie earned her B.A. in Politics and French and Francophone Studies (FFS) from Willamette University. During her studies, she wrote a Politics thesis titled, "No One is Dying: How and Why the U.S. Federal Government Avoids Executing Prisoners on Federal Death Row" and an FFS thesis, in French, on cannibalism in the 16th and 17th centuries. Natalie is a journalist, performer, traveler, fiction writer and more. She is working to publish her dystopian novella, "Choice," which follows a man during 24 hours in solitary confinement for allegedly committing murder. For more information on Natalie visit www.about.me/natalie_pate, like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist, or follow Natalie on Twitter (@Nataliempate) or Tumblr (Nataliempate blog "In the Shoes of a Journalist"). Her reporting with the Statesman Journal can also be found at www.StatesmanJournal.com.

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