Graduation numbers don’t really tell story for SH, officials say

Sean C. Morgan

In 2013-14, School District 55 graduated 63.81 percent of students who entered high school in 2010-11.

Including adult diplomas, extended high school diplomas and GEDs, some 70 percent of those students were counted in the “completer” rate, based on data released Jan. 27 by the Oregon Department of Education.

But what that means isn’t entirely clear.

Graduation rates for 2012-13 were handled differently and are not comparable to the 2013-14 rates. In 2012-13, Sweet Home had a cohort graduation rate of 49.22 percent, with a completer rate of 56.99 percent.

Statewide, the graduation rate for those students was 71.98 percent, called the “cohort graduation rate,” with a completer rate of 76.4 percent.

The district’s dropout rate for 2013-14 was 5.28 percent, up from 3.13 percent in 2012-13, which was lower than the statewide dropout rate. The statewide dropout rate fell slightly in 2013-14, from 4 percent to 3.95 percent.

In Sweet Home and other districts, many students qualify for their diploma but do not receive a diploma. Instead, they remain enrolled in the district, which pays their tuition at community college. The school continues to collect funding from the state K-12 budget for those students. Those students are not reflected in data prior to the 2013-14 school year, according to the ODE’s summary of graduation rates.

The state has also begun counting “modified diplomas” as “standard diplomas” in the cohort graduation rate.

The cohort graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year includes students who entered high scholl for the first time in 2010-11. It is adjusted for students who transfer into the Oregon public school system, transfer out to private or home school, leave the state or country, or are deceased.

The cohort graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of students who earned a standard diploma within four years and dividing that by the total number of students in the adjusted cohort.

The ODE began tracking the cohort completer rate in 2012-13, following students in their fifth year. The rate includes students who earn a standard high school diploma, extended high school diploma, adult high school diploma or GED within the four or five years being measured.

“It’s not a real strong graduation rate, and when you put in the completer rate, it’s only 70 percent,” said Supt. Keith Winslow.

Based on past junior year test data, Winslow said he believes that the graduation rate should increase and the dropout rate should decrease for the 2014-15 school year.

In math, reading, writing and science tests in 2012-13, the junior year for the Class of 2014, had fewer students meeting the state standard than the previous two years and the Class of 2015.

“The last four years, this particular group of students has the lowest scores of all four of the years,” Winslow said. “It doesn’t mean we didn’t have some sharp students in there, but it does show there are some pretty weak students in there.”

The graduation and dropout rates are not accidents, he said. When students aren’t meeting the standard, “you get this and have a 5.3-percent dropout rate. Not to put a spin on this, but there’s a reason our graduation rate this year wasn’t as strong.”

For this year’s class, graduation rates “should spike,” Winslow said.

Student Achievement Director Cathy Hurowitz said that diplomas are getting more difficult to obtain. The Class of 2014 was the first to have to meet state standards in math, reading and writing to graduate, and that class had lower success statewide.

“We’ve had some discussions for a few years now about different programs that we might be able to do here in our district to work with kids that maybe school doesn’t necessarily match,” Winslow told the School Board Monday night. He has had numerous conversations with high school staff about bringing back the Community Services Consortium to Sweet Home.

The district needs to develop some programs that attract students meet their needs, he said.

“I look at the dropout rate, whether it’s statewide or not, I’m not happy with that dropout rate,” said Chanz Keeney, board member, Monday evening during the regular board meeting.

“We do everything in our power except write the essay for them to help them pass their classes,” Winslow said. “We try everything.”

That includes credit retrieval, Friday school and many more programs, he said. If there’s something else the district can offer, then he wants to find it and see what it costs.

“It’s a great thing we have going with the people we have in place right now,” said Jason Redick, board member. “They take this very personally when they start talking about these kids and getting them to graduate. They’re doing everything they possibly can to graduate.”