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Great job Centennial, Gresham, Barlow, Reynolds and Springwater Trail high schools!

OUTLOOK GRAPHIC: JOSH BRADLEY - This is great news and a welcome change for the better.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, commemorate 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 here at home, 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 have improved, and the same is true in our school districts in East Multnomah County. (See the accompanying graphic to see how your child's high school performed.)

This is great news and a welcome change for the better, especially in districts that struggle year after year with monumental language barriers and with students who all too often arrive to school hungry and lacking in basic necessities.

Across the board, our local high schools — Centennial, Gresham, Barlow, Reynolds and Springwater Trail — managed to improve their graduation rates above the previous year. In a twist of irony, perennial graduation leader Corbett was the only local district to see a decline in its grad rate, even though it still led with the overall best result.

To all of the parents, guardians, teachers, counselors and administrators who work tirelessly to keep these kids on task and in school, take a bow for a 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.

Not to diminish the success of Reynolds High School, but with a graduation rate of 69.3 percent, it still ranks among some of the state's worst. It would be tempting to cut Reynolds some slack because of its high perentage of poor students and students who don't speak English. But reality says efforts at Reynolds should be intensified.

Still, any improvement is well worth celebrating.

Great job Centennial, Gresham, Barlow, Reynolds and Springwater Trail. The graduation rate improvement is fantastic news. Keep up the good work and maybe next year, the numbers will look even better.

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