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New report cards issued amid controversy reveal myriad statistics on school, district performance

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Schools strive to prepare students for success in life. Fewer students in East Multnomah County's four school districts were on track to graduate than Oregon students statewide, data just released by Oregon Department of Education amidst a storm of controversy reveals.

Only tiny Corbett School District was ahead of state averages of ninth-grade students on track to graduate. In Corbett, 92 percent of ninth-graders were on track to graduate in the 2017-18 school year, compared to 85 percent of students statewide. Corbett routinely surpasses Oregon averages in many areas of academic performance.

Ninth-grade students are considered on track to graduate if they have one-quarter of the credits they need to graduate, according to ODE.

Oregon has one of the worst graduation rates in the country.

Centennial School District came close to the state average with 81 percent of students on track to graduate, up one percentage point from the year earlier, but four percentage points shy of the state average in the 2017-18 school year.

In the Gresham-Barlow School District, 76 percent of ninth-grade students were on track to graduate, an improvement of one percent from the 2017-16 school year.

Reynolds School District chronically lags in academic performance reported a seven point decline in the number of ninth graders on track to graduate in 2017-18 school year.

Only 61 percent of Reynolds district ninth graders were on track to graduate, 24 points lower than the state average.

One of the keys to boosting student success and graduation rates is making sure children come to school every day. ODE recently launched a new campaign and website to help schools and families reduce chronic absenteeism. A student missing more than 10 percent of school days is considered chronically absent.

Corbett was the only district that bested state averages in having students in school routinely, with 91 percent of Corbett students in kindergarten through second grade showing up 90 percent or more of the time. Statewide 83 percent of the youngest students were regularly at school.

In Gresham-Barlow 81 percent of kindergarten through second-grade students attended regularly, in Reynolds 74 percent and Centennial 73 percent did so.

The release of the data itself was controversial.

The Oregon Department of Education initially was set to release the school data on Oct. 25, but then told the Oregonian newspaper the release would be delayed until mid-November, which would be after the Nov. 6 election.

Colt Gill, head of ODE, said the delay had nothing to do with the election or politics and was not ordered by Brown, who is running for Governor. Gill said the delay was because ODE had not yet finished a tutorial and other tools to help educators analyze the huge amount of data.

But on Wednesday, Oct. 24, Gill announced that Gov. Kate Brown, facing stiff pushback, ordered him to release the school information immediately.

The state released the data Wednesday afternoon. Additional information will be released by Nov. 13 that will allow people to more easily compare school performance.

Republican candidate for Governor Knute Buehler tweeted: "It shouldn't take the threat of the governor losing her election for her to do the right thing. Her instinct for secrecy — from school report cards to her entire 2019 legislative agenda — is very troubling."

Reporter Aubrey Wieber from the Pamplin Media Group/Capital Bureau contributed to this story.

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