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Nearly 77 percent of students graduated in four years in Oregon. Statewide, the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers is narrowing.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Pictured are graduates in the Woodburn High School Class of 2017.Oregon four-year high school graduation rates, released Thursday, show continued modest improvement. The percentage of high school students in the state who graduated on time reached 76.7, a nearly 2-point gain from last year's figure. The graduate rate, widely reported to be one of the worst in the nation, has been slowly rising since changes three years ago to include students who earn modified diplomas.

Even with the modified diplomas added, however, students with disabilities continued to graduate at a very low rate, 58.8 percent.

Oregon officials say they are particularly proud of the improvement for students of color, who have for years experienced an achievement gap with their white peers.

"We are encouraged by the work underway to make our schools welcoming and effective for all students, which has contributed to better performance for those who have been historically underserved," said Acting Deputy Superintendent Colt Gill — the leader of the state education department — in a statement with the release of the data. "However, there is much more to be done to make sure all students have the tools and support necessary to reach graduation."

Hispanic and Latino students, for example, experienced a 7 percentage point jump in the last three years. Statewide, their graduation rate now stands at 72.5 percent, nearly on par with their white peers.

Black and Native American student groups continued to struggle on the whole. Graduation rates for those groups were the lowest at 67.6 percent and 59.1 percent, respectively. Asian students were the ethnicity with the highest graduation rate, at 88.9 percent. White students (66.5 percent of potential graduates) graduated at a 78 percent rate.

But the newest data set that the state is now tracking seems to be the most indicative of trouble at school. Out of the nearly 4,000 high school seniors considered homeless (this could include doubled-up in housing), only half graduated on time.

On the bright side, there continues to be a correlation with graduating after career-technical education (CTE) classes. Even students with small amounts of these hands-on programs, such as woodshop and mechanics, seem to succeed. A student with just half a credit of CTE graduates at a rate of 86.3 percent; those who concentrate on CTE, with a full credit or more, graduated at a 91.7 percent rate.

"Hands-on learning awakens students to the power of their own potential, and connects classroom with career," said Governor Kate Brown in a statement. "That kind of engagement helps students cross the stage at graduation and equips them for next steps, whether that's college or a job. I am dedicated to ensuring that students, communities and districts have what they need for all students to graduate with a plan for their future."

Brown was criticized last year for not fully funding the requirement of Measure 98, which voters passed in 2016 to create an earmark for high school graduation boosters, like CTE programs. The budget passed by the legislature only funded half of the cost, according to Measure 98 proponents Stand for Children.

According to the state data, 59 percent of high schoolers received a half-credit or more of CTE programming.

TRIBUNE GRAPHIC: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - Graduation rates for the four-year cohort of students who started high school in 2012-13, by district in the Portland area.


Shasta Kearns Moore
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