Oregon Struggles With On-Time High School Graduation


Oregon is in the unenviable position of being the lowest state in the nation in percentage of on-time high school graduates.

In 2013, Oregon’s on-time graduation rate was 69%, according to the US Department of Education. At this time, that means Oregon has a ranking of 49th, only because Idaho has been unable to report its high school graduation rate. The year before, Oregon was ranked 46th, with Nevada ranking worse, with three states unable to calculate graduation rates.

Betsy Hammond, writing for The Oregonian, says Nevada improved from 63% in 2012 to 71% in 2013. New Mexico had 70% of students earning a diploma within four years in 2013.

Oregon school officials say that the definition of and requirements for graduating are not identical from state to state, so comparisons may not be completely accurate. For example, when Oregon changes its definition of  what determines a high school graduate to be more inclusive by recognizing Modified Diplomas issued, the percentage will be different, resulting in at least a 3 percentage point rise in graduation rates.

For the most part, Modified Diplomas are given to students with significant special education needs. Oregon will also add to its graduation definition students who met all graduation requirements, but stayed for a fifth year in order to attend community college. When a student takes this path, the district is given state funding of nearly $7,000 for the student to enroll in a community college, but a diploma is given to the student after the first year is completed.

Oregon’s failure to combat chronic absenteeism is one factor that leads to students dropping out of school. Another is that young men still believe that they do not need a diploma to find a well-paying job cutting timber, fishing or working in the mills, which is becoming less and less true.

Gov. John Kitzhaber and state lawmakers have set a goal of 100% graduation rates by 2025.  To do so, officials are focusing on early literacy instruction and innovative methods for monitoring students who are frequently absent.

The ForwARd Arkansas education partnership released a state of education report which showed that although the state is ranked 20th nationally for Pre-K access and has a high school graduation rate which is above average, the college graduation rate is at 39%, which puts the state at 48th in the country, says Marine Glisovic reporting for KATV. The achievement gap is reflected in the state’s economic, racial, and regional inequalities. The ForwARd Arkansas program was established as part of a partnership of the Winthrop Rockeller Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Arkansas Board of Education.

We have to be clear that we have a state of urgency, in that we have more schools that are in distress or threatened to be distressed than we do that are performing well,” said Sherece West-Scantlebury, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation president and CEO. “Therefore we need a strategic plan whereby we can methodically, strategically, and systematically ensure that all our students do well, not just pockets of our students do well.”

Maryland ranks at about 58% in college graduation, which puts them higher than the national average. That is a good thing, but Alissa Gulin of The Daily Record suggests a website that offers more information about college statistics. Collegis Education, a consulting and IT firm, is developing a website that will more easily show the user the rates of high school graduation, college acceptance, college enrollment, and college graduation.

The reason this data could prove to be important is that a parent, or a prospective student, can use it to predict the chances of college graduation depending on the stats of the college selected. Researching colleges based on this data may show which institutions of higher education are helping students succeed. As of now, the site is still in its draft version, but will be finalized next month.

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