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Graduation rates in Crook County have improved as have those throughout the state

Watching young adults march into a venue, donning a cap and gown to the majestic melody of "Pomp and Circumstance" is something that never grows old.

Students who have worked hard, undoubtedly endured high stress and anxiety at times, and persevered get to celebrate the conclusion of their hard work, celebrate their accomplishments in a large crowd of family and friends, and in an exuberant expression of relief, hurl their caps into the air as the crowd roars in approval.

A few years back, statewide and in Crook County, the number of students making it to this rite of passage had begun to shrink to troubling levels. For a variety of different reasons, graduation rate numbers had declined, putting the onus on schools to figure out what was happening and respond.

Last week, people learned that the narrative has changed for the better. Graduation rates throughout the state had improved, and the same was true in Crook County. Local graduation rates had risen 4 percentage points in one year to 72.13 percent. This figure factors in vulnerable student populations from Pioneer Alternative High School, Rimrock Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council. Singled out, Crook County High School had the second-highest graduate rate in all of Central Oregon high schools at 90.06 percent.

This is great news and a welcome change for the better. The Crook County School District staff and those who shepherd these students to their big day should be commended for their efforts. Job well done.

But at the same time, let's be clear that this is not a time to hit the cruise control and expect more of the same. Hard work by students and school leaders alike made these numbers possible, and keeping them there will require the same diligence. Furthermore, there is still room to improve, and that should be the ongoing goal.

One area where struggles continue is students with disabilities, which has a graduation rate of 58.8 percent statewide and 54.5 percent in Crook County. While Stacy Smith, the district's curriculum director, makes a good point that these small populations of students result in widely varying results, it's still an area to improve.

The district could also consider new ways to increase the graduation rate of vulnerable populations. While these students along with disabled students face some unique challenges and a more difficult path to earning a diploma, any incremental improvement the district can make is worth the effort. More young adults could enjoy that big day that the majority of adults who have experienced it will never forget.

Great job, Crook County educators. The graduation rate improvement is fantastic news. Keep up the good work and maybe next year, the numbers will look even better.

by Jason Chaney, news editor

Contract Publishing

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