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Crook County High School graduation rates hike up to 94.74% for the 2019 class

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - 2019 Crook County High School graduates Ashlyn Hacker, left, and Daisy Forseth were part of a class that enjoyed a 94.74% graduation rate. The school has taken a sharp focus on improving graduation rates, and those varied efforts have seen positive results.

The culmination of hard work by the Crook County School District staff is being celebrated as Crook County High School announced its 2019 graduation rates.

The Oregon Department of Education recently reported that the Crook County High School graduation rate for the class of 2019 came in at 94.74%.

"As long as I've been here, the graduation rate has never been as high as 94%," said Crook County School District Curriculum and Special Programs Director Stacy Smith, noting that this is an increase from 92.44% for the CCHS class of 2018.

Of the 152 students in the CCHS class of 2019 cohort, 144 graduated. Administrators believe relationships and a hard-working staff have contributed to the increased graduation rate that CCHS has achieved in recent years.

"We have good systems in place to make sure kids don't fall through the cracks," said CCHS Assistant Principal Jake Huffman.

CCHS Principal Michelle Jonas emphasized that staff has focused on relationships and Character Strong training for the past two years.

"Knowing that every single data point is a student and knowing that student's face and their name is important," Jonas said. "Making sure every kid has an adult in the building that they can connect to and that they can go to if they need something, and they can help advocate for them."

She noted that the high school has a data tracker that originates from the district office, and it tracks data from every student and keeps track of risk factors.

"It tells us how many absences they have, how many Fs they have, and how many Ds they have," Jonas said.

From the tracker, staff assemble a risk core. They assign mentors to students who are in that risk core and check on the students every other week. This group of mentors includes teaching staff and the leadership team at CCHS. They check in with the students, help them with self-advocacy and make calls home. They are especially focused on freshmen students.

"We are starting to see the payoff on that," Jonas said. "Research shows that the biggest indicator of graduation is that you are on track by your freshman year."

The district has a staff member who checks in on seniors to ensure that they are on track.

"The district has a champion for our students — graduation coach McKenzie Kudlac, who continues to work with individual students to help them reach their potential," Jonas added.

ODE also reported that CCHS students in the underserved races and ethnicities subgroup had a 96.15% graduation rate, which CCSD director of school improvement Joel Hoff said was very high.

CCHS students who participated in career and technical education classes also graduated at a high 96% rate. CTE workforce development coordinator Ryan Cochran said studies over time show that students who are involved in career and technical education classes have a higher graduation rate.

"I think that is one of our big positives here at CCHS — having a lot of diversified career and technical education in a lot of different areas," Cochran said.

He added that this spring, the school will have eight different CTE pathways for students, which is one of highest in Central Oregon.

"Getting kids tuned in and finding a passion for them is really important," Cochran added. "It's a village approach to having our students complete things, and graduation is a big part of that. I definitely think our CTE programs help with that. It's finding those pathways for students to see beyond high school, and CTE is way for a lot of our students to connect."

The district's overall graduation rate has lost some traction, however. ODE reported the district graduation rate for the class of 2019 at 72.85% — down from 78% for the class of 2018. The district rate includes students who graduated from CCHS, but also Pioneer Alternative High School, Rimrock Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and the Crook County Online Option, FuelEd.

All of the students in the CC Online Option are district students, with no students from out of the county. 

"In one way, the CC Online Option is critical for our graduation efforts, in the sense that we use online classes in spots where students need one or two classes via credit recovery," Smith said. "As far as full-time, online students, we have very few seniors, and they are listed as a district program student, and their graduation rate is calculated along with Pioneer, Rimrock and COIC."

Smith added that the district continues to monitor each of these programs and look for ways to improve them. 

"We have increased staffing at Pioneer in the last few years and are considering the potential for more. We will continue to seek improvements until we reach 100% graduation. We still have room to grow for those student populations, and our job isn't done," Smith said of the alternative education graduation rates. "We are working hard to improve the graduation rate of our community students from vulnerable student populations."

Overall, administrators are pleased with the ODE graduation rate report.

"The five-year trajectory has been fantastic, and we'll continue to make small refinements until all students graduate," Hoff said.

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