BEND, OR -- Graduation rates are increasing in Oregon. Following changes made after the pandemic, the Oregon Department of Education's Jon Wiens says they're making progress. "Overall, as a whole, the graduation rate for the class of 2022, which is last spring, is 81.3%" he says. "That is the second highest graduation rate we've reported and it is .7% higher than last year."
Wiens adds, "Graduation rates, on time graduation rates, increased for every student group that we report." He says, "We reached all time highs for on-time graduation for American Indian/Alaska Native students, migrant students and English learners." Graduation rates were also up for Black, Hispanic, and homeless students. But, Wiens says more is needed to get those rates higher.
ODE's Marc Siegel believes several factors played a role in the improvement, "I think a lot can be attributed to the resilience of Oregon's youth, the tireless work of our educators, and the individualized student centered resources made available through the Student Success Act." Despite the increase, Oregon's graduation rate remains lower than the national average of 85%.
In Central Oregon, Bend-La Pine Schools recorded its second-highest graduation rate ever: 83.5%. That's about 1% higher than 2021 and more than 2% above the statewide average. But Superintendent Steven Cook tells KBND News more work is needed, "While we’re super excited to see that we’re continuing the trend of kind of this about a decade-long trend generally upward, our ultimate goal is to make sure every student is reaching their passions and finding their purpose and building their plan for their future."
The region's largest district also recorded the lowest rate in the tri-county area. Cook says there are factors not felt by neighboring districts, especially in the wake of COVID. "The impact of the pandemic, of the students that were in the high school when that happened, is where we see those most acute examples, I think, and it changed the trajectory of their high school experience," says Cook, "There’s a strong correlation with graduation rates and students from poverty struggling with that. And we want to make sure that every kids’ needs are being met. We also have quite a few alternative learning organizations that we are the authorizer for, which traditionally are taking some of the most at-risk students in the state and trying to provide them those services. So, those are baked into our rates, as well." Specifically he notes the Oregon Youth Challenge Program can influence the district's rate by around 3%.
Cook admits La Pine High is the most troubling, with a school-wide graduation rate of just 59.2%, "We had several kids at La Pine High, for the last couple of years, who disengaged from the school. They didn’t just disappear but their engagement during the pandemic went down; they essentially went to work."
Elsewhere in the region, Redmond Schools' four-year graduation rate rose to 87%, Jefferson County 509J averaged 88.6% and Crook County's overall rate rose to 91.95%. CCSD is also touting Crook County High's school-wide rate of 99.39%. “We’re so pleased to see these results because it shows the dedication of our staff and the extra support they give students who need a boost to get across the finish line,” Crook County Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson said in a statement, “This district is about raising the bar around student achievement through intentional systems that work, and it’s paying off.”
Culver and Sisters both saw slight declines, but remained above 90%.