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The Estacada News supports efforts to improve the graduation rate at Estacada High School, though paying the fees associated with Advanced Placement tests seems to miss the point.

First off, there isn't one person at The Estacada News who can claim to be an expert on K-12 education matters, so it's with more than an ounce of apprehension that we wade into this conversation. But here goes:

The News reports in today's edition that Estacada High School will utilize Measure 98 funding, approved by voters in 2016, with the intention of improving high school graduation rates and also addressing college and career readiness.

Those are good things, considering that Estacada High School's ability to see students all the way through to graduation lags just a smidge behind the state average at 76 percent. That's not the worst in the state, but clearly there's room for improvement.

But how to inspire that improvement is probably the bigger conversation.

We learned through our reporting on the April 11 School Board meeting that plans are in place to use Measure 98 funds for career and technical education programs, college-level educational opportunities and drop-out prevention strategies.

We like the sound of funding programs geared toward students who are not on a college trajectory. And, or course, targeting efforts to prevent drop-outs makes all the sense in the world.

But we do question the benefit of paying the full costs associated with Advanced Placement (AP) tests for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, or half the cost for all others.

If anything, these dollars would be better spent on students who aren't enrolled in AP classes; those who may want to attend college but who are struggling academically to make the grade in lower-level classes.

Think of it this way: If a student is enrolled in AP classes, it seems unlikely that they're planning on dropping out any time soon, and it seems highly likely that they're already on a path toward college. So besides cost, what are you solving?

From a lay person's point of view, it seems to make more sense that the school should direct all — or a big majority — of Measure 98 funds toward intervention with students who are struggling socially or academically to make it to the high school finish line or careers or college.

We like Estacada High School Principal Bill Blevins' idea of a ninth-grade success coach, who will connect with at-risk freshman who are falling behind academically. We also support plans to expand the school's automotive and manufacturing teachers to full-time positions and allowing students to receive college credit for some courses. And we applaud the creation of the high school homework club, where students connect with tutors.

So while we think the money will be misspent if used to pay AP fees for students already destined for graduation and college, we are also optimistic that this plan will pay off in other ways for Estacada High School's academic success.

— Estacada News Publisher Steve Brown

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