Graduation rates in western Washington County school districts remained at or above the state's average in 2019, according to new data released Thursday, Jan. 23. The statewide rate topped 80% for the first time last year.
Changes in graduation rates from the 2017-18 school year to the 2018-19 school year varied between districts, with the Hillsboro School District continuing a multi-year increase and the Forest Grove School District remaining about the same.
Hillsboro's five public high schools showed a 1.77 percentage point increase in graduation rates from the 2017-18 school year to 2018-19, rising from 84.4% to 86.2%.
The largest gain from a non-online school came from Hillsboro High School, where there was a 5.88 percentage point increase.
Liberty High School and Century High School had percentage point increases of 1.22 points and 1.31 points, respectively. Century's graduation rate topped 90%.
Glencoe High School was the only school that saw a decrease in its graduation rate, declining by 1.81 percentage points.
Statements issued by district officials about the data showed administrators celebrating the new numbers.
"We are seeing these results because we're chasing kids," said the Hillsboro School District's assistant superintendent, Dayle Spitzer. "We don't let go the students who are behind, struggling, or thinking about dropping out. We bring them in and support them in finding ways to earn credits, catch up, and graduate. We will continue innovating relevant solutions for students until 100% of them successfully complete high school."
Hillsboro Superintendent Mike Scott stated that school staff at all grade levels deserve credit for the increases in graduation rates.
"It takes staff at all levels, along with parents and community partners, to ensure students have the support, skills and knowledge they need to graduate," Scott said.
The data showed several disparities in graduation rates between students from different demographics, however.
District officials in a statement drew attention to the closing gap in graduation rates between white and Latino students.
More than 600 of the district's 1,778 students in the 2019 graduating cohort are identified as Hispanic or Latino.
The disparity between white and Latino students has decreased each of the last three years. In 2018, the gap closed from 6.4 percentage points to 5.5 percentage points, and in 2019, it closed to 4.8 percentage points, with 87.9% of white students and 83.1% of Latino students graduating.
The graduation rate for Latino students increased by about 3 percentage points in 2019 compared to 2018.
More than 1,000 students in the recent graduating cohort were considered economically disadvantaged. The graduation rate for students in that category was about 3 percentage points less than the overall rate.
However, the graduation rate of black students in Hillsboro last year decreased to its lowest level in four years at 72%.
With small numbers of black students in the district overall — 43 in 2019 — the data shows substantial variation from year to year.
In 2018, 85% of black students graduated, the highest rate since the 2013-14 school year.
Homeless students had the lowest graduation rate of any demographic in the district, graduating at a rate of 70%. There were 105 homeless students in the 2018-19 graduating cohort.
Although graduation rates at FGSD are on par with the state average at 80%, they have been at that level for the last three years. The district has one high school, Forest Grove High School.
Between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, the FGSD's graduation rate dropped 5 percentage points to 70.7%. The next year, it jumped by 6 percentage points, and the year after that, it jumped by more than 3 points to 80%.
In 2019, there was nearly a 10-point gap between the graduation rates of white students and Latino students in Forest Grove — 86% compared to 76.7%. There were 65 more Latino students than white students in the graduating cohort.
Economically disadvantaged students in Forest Grove graduated at a 75% rate, and 44% of the district's 31 homeless students in the cohort graduated, according to the state data.
Banks and Gaston
Smaller school districts in the area showed high graduation rates.
The Banks School District's 94-student high school had a 96% graduation rate. That's a 1-point decrease from the previous year. But that was an increase from the three years prior, when the graduation rate was about 90%.
The Gaston School District, with 55 students in the cohort, also had a 96% graduation rate in 2019. That represents a more than 15-point increase from the previous year. In the 2013-14 school year, only 50% of students in Gaston graduated.
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