Century High School led the district, Hilhi hit a milestone, according to Oregon Department of Education

Hillsboro School District saw more than       Oregon's four-year high school graduation rates, released Thursday, Jan. 25, show continued modest improvement.

The Hillsboro School District followed suit.

Overall, the district's graduation rate rose from nearly 78 percent in the 2015-16 school year to about 84 percent in the 2016-17 school year.

Hillsboro's graduation rate is more than 7 percentage points above the statewide rate of 76.7, which showed a nearly 2-point gain from last year's figure. The state graduation rate, 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, which students with physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities can earn.

Century High School led the rest of the Hillsboro school district with a nearly 92 percent graduation rate in 2016-17, up nearly 10 percentage points from the previous year.

Glencoe High School's graduation rate is also relatively high. About 86 percent of their students graduated in 2017, up from the previous three years.

Liberty and Hillsboro high schools both ranked at the bottom of the district four high schools. Both graduated nearly 82 percent of seniors last year, still higher than the state average.

Hillsboro High School rose about seven percentage points from the previous year, the first time Hilhi has crested a graduation rate higher than 80 percent, Spitzer said.

"I think they should be commended for their progress," she said.

Hillsboro High School's student population has a higher rate of poor students, and students of color. The two populations are historically are less likely to graduate from high school.

The Hillsboro School District's Hispanic graduation rate is nearly 80 percent – compared to nearly 73 percent of Hispanic students who graduate statewide. About 86 percent of white Hillsboro students graduate, compared to about 78 percent of white students statewide.

In addition, about 87.5 percent of Hillsboro students eventually their GED (General Equivalency Degree) or received their diploma in five years.

Districts points to relationship building for rising numbers

Hillsboro School District Assistant Superintendent Dayle Spitzer credits the overall graduation rate increase largely to building consistent relationships between students and adults who care about them.

A few years ago, district staff interviewed middle and high school students to find out what they needed to be successful. Those interviews gave them three main takeaways, Spitzer said: Students need adults who believe in them, engaging lessons, help when they're struggling and concrete reasons for why the skills they're learning are important.

Staff have been trying to provide students with those elements, she said. In recent years the school has adopted a new mission statement to know students "by name, strength and need" to better understand what students need to succeed.

When a student doesn't show up to school for more than 10 days, she said, a districtwide email goes out to staff. That way, Spitzer said, if the student's former fourth-grade principal now works elsewhere in the district, they can contact the student with perhaps better insight into what's needed to get them back on track. They may have more knowledge about their family, too.

After voters passed Measure 98 last fall, which works to prevent drop outs and increase career readiness, the Hillsboro School District plans to add two additional graduation coaches at each high school, to work with students.

Spitzer said Century High's high graduation rate is thanks to a handful of ideas the school has rolled out over the past several years.

At Century, Spizter said, one counselor follows the same class through all four years of school at Century. Each counselor is responsible for more than 400 students, but Spitzer said this model akes a big difference, because counselors can have personalized relationships with their charges over the course of their high school careers.

Century has been playing around with this idea longer than some of the other Hillsboro high schools, Spitzer said. In addition, Century has been using AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, for nearly a decade. The program offers intensive support, creates peer support groups and teaches skills necessary for academic success.

They also have "options teachers," who offer individualized support to students who are struggling with a class or who did not pass a class on the first try. These teachers come early, stay late and offer personalized, flexible tutoring to help students catch up without falling behind in their other classes or credits.

Sometimes students retake a whole class, she said, other times they just need help with a specific unit.

By Stephanie Haugen
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