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Only one school district in Columbia County remains below state average as reported for 2016-17 data

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - While St. Helens School District continues to improve its graduation rate, the district lags behind the state average. St. Helens High School did boast an 84.6 percent graduation rate for the 2016-17 school year, however. New data from the Oregon Department of Education released Thursday on graduation rates show improvements throughout the state and in Columbia County schools.

State averages of graduation rates for the 2016-17 school year show a 2 percentage point improvement over the prior year. Many districts in the county followed similar trends, although some continue to lag behind the state graduation rate of 76.6 percent.

Scappoose

Graduation rates in the Scappoose School District continue to outpace the state, coming in at 93 percent, well above the 2016-17 average. The graduation rate improved slightly from the previous year, continuing a general trend of improvement since 2014-15.

Interim Superintendent Ron Alley, who took over for ousted former Superintendent Stephen Jupe at the tail end of the 2016-17 school year, provided reflections on the district's performance when data for 2015-16 were released last October, and stated many of those sentiments apply to current data as well.

"The district has many positive qualities that contribute to the success of all our students. One of the primary factors is our engaged parent community and the connection between home and school," Alley stated in October by email. "We have a dedicated staff that is continually building their skills to provide a quality education."

St. Helens

The St. Helens School District is slowly closing the gap between its on-time graduation rate and the state average, but numbers continue to fall below state average. The district's graduation rate came in at 74.3 percent, marking the third year of improvement, but the rate still falls 2.4 percent-

age points below the state average.

"The misconception of changing something at the high school will immediately improve graduation rates is difficult to overcome. The fact of the matter is that it is a pre-k through 12 effort," Superintendent Scot Stockwell stated in an email to the Spotlight, noting that graduation rates for the district's Columbia County Education Campus pull

down rates for the district as a whole.

"We have a number of interventions and supports in place at the high school to mitigate and help students graduate, one of them is CCEC and that

is why you see the lower

graduation rate," Stockwell stated.

St. Helens High School boasted an 84.6 percent graduation rate, but the district's alternative high school campus, CCEC, reported a 19.5 percent graduation rate for the 2016-17 school year. When students took five years to complete the program at CCEC, graduation rates increased to 32 percent, but those numbers are far below the state's five-year average of 78.9 percent.

"The St. Helens School District and CCEC, in particular, believes every student can earn a high school diploma given the opportunity and an environment that meets their needs," Stockwell stated. "CCEC students typically don't graduate on the traditional timeline for high school students, but take a year or two longer."

Trends across the state

Four-year high school graduation rates across the state continued modest improvement. The state graduation rate, now reported at 76.7 percent and 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.

Homeless student data now being tracked

The report from ODE now includes graduation rate data for homeless students, the first time it has been reported. Out of the nearly 4,000 high school seniors considered homeless, only half graduated on time.

In Columbia County, of the 50 seniors reported as homeless, 30 were awarded diplomas while four received modified diplomas, bringing the average graduation rate to 66.7 percent. Data are not broken down by school district.

Effects of CTE participation on graduates

The state data suggest a continuing correlation between graduation success following student involvement in career-technical education classes. Across the state, a student with just half a credit of CTE graduates at a rate of 86.3 percent, while those who concentrate on CTE, with a full credit or more, graduated at a 91.7 percent rate. Columbia County data indicated a similar trend.

Report highlights

Scappoose School District

? Improved graduation rate by 1.22 percentage points from 2015-16. Boasts the highest rate in the county at 93 percent.

? Dropout rate reported at 2.2 percent. The state average is 3.9 percent.

St. Helens School District

? Graduation rates increased over the past three years, but remain below the state average 74.3 percent.

? Dropout rate reported at 3 percent.

Rainier School District

? Reported graduation rates of 77.3, an increase from previous year's rate of 76.3 percent.

? Dropout rate reported at 4.2 percent.

Vernonia School District

? Graduation rate in Vernonia reported at 85.4 percent for the school year, a slight jump from the year prior.

? Dropout rate reported at 2.63 percent.

Clatskanie School District

? Had one of the highest graduation rate gains in the county, jumping by 7 percentage points for a rate of 77.8 percent.

? Dropout rate reported at 2.5 percent.

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