Graduation rates climb in Molalla and Colton
Statewide four-year high school graduation data, released Thursday, shows improvement for Molalla River School District. The percent of students at Molalla High School who graduated on time was 79.6, up more than six points from the previous year and nearly three points higher than the statewide rate. The only other high school in the district, Renaissance Public Academy, had a 100 percent graduation rate across the board with their small cohort of just five students.
"The fact that students in the Molalla River School District are more likely to graduate on time than students across the state is something that our students and our families should be proud of and are entitled to know—that this is a community that supports young people making progress toward bright futures," Superintendent Tony Mann said.
Oregon's graduation rate has been widely reported to be one of the worst in the nation, but has been slowly rising since changes three years ago to include students who earn modified diplomas. Even with the modified diplomas added, however, students with disabilities continued to graduate at a very low rate, 58.8 percent.
Molalla High's graduation rates are higher than the state's average though, not only for the total student population, but also for every sub-group, including students with disabilities, as 71.9 percent of Molalla's students with disabilities graduated on time.
"When we are focused on measurable improvements, it's nice to be able to see that those efforts pay off on behalf of students," Mann said.
Molalla is seeing improvement among other historically underserved groups as well. The graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students climbed from 63.6 percent to 71.8 percent, and the rate for underserved races and ethnicities climbed from 66.7 percent to 75 percent.
With those improvements, the district is taking a deeper look at graduation data to discover the behaviors of students who do not graduate on time.
"...what is it that keeps students coming through our door every day?" -Principal Brad Berzinski
"We have taken a look at our last three years-worth of non-graduates and have tried to create a profile of: who are those students that we're losing along the way?" Principal Brad Berzinski said.
Berzinski highlighted three trends that they noticed among students who do not graduate on time: chronic absenteeism, falling behind on credits during freshman year and transferring into the district during high school years. As he and other staff members consider how to most effectively use funding from Measure 98, the High School Graduation and College and Career Readiness Act of 2016, they are focusing on addressing these trends.
"What is it that would hook those students and keep them coming back for more?" Berzinski said. "I think that's a really, really good question for us to examine as a school…what is it that keeps students coming through our door every day?"
Colton High School's graduation rate is up from the previous year as well, from 79.3 to a whopping 85.5 percent, almost 9 points higher than the state average.
"We are very excited about our graduation rates as they are up since last year," Superintendent Koreen Barreras-Brown said. "We also know we have lots of work because we want 100 percent of our students to graduate. This is actually a school goal for the high school."
Colton High School Principal Tori Hazelton echoed that sentiment.
"...at the end of the day we want to see all of our students walk that stage and receive that diploma." -Principal Tori Hazelton
"We are very excited to see that our graduation rate went up last year," Hazelton said. "There was a lot of hard work on the part of district teachers and staff, parents and families, and our students to achieve that goal. Of course, we are hoping to increase that number again this year because at the end of the day we want to see all of our students walk that stage and receive that diploma."
Colton is also slightly exceeding the state average when it comes to economically disadvantaged students. Statewide, 70.1 percent of economically disadvantaged students graduated on time, and in Colton 72 percent did.
But just as the state of Oregon as a whole continues to graduate students with disabilities at a low rate, 58.8 percent, Colton also could stand to improve the graduation prospects for students with disabilities. Down more than five points from last year and below the state average, 57.1 percent of students with disabilities graduated from Colton on time. According to the data, that figure represents just seven Colton students with disabilities. Two graduated on time with regular diplomas, two graduated on time with modified diplomas and three did not graduate within four years.
Hazelton said they will use Measure 98 dollars to support the traditionally underserved populations, which includes students with disabilities. She added that the plans they are implementing are best practice for all students.
"We are working hard to put in place systems of support for all students in order to increase the number that are on-track," Hazelton said. "We are piloting a new schedule this next semester that builds in a study hall for all students every day, which we are very excited about offering and excited to see the outcomes of. Our hope is that this time helps students stay caught up and therefore, remain on-track for graduation."
In addition, Hazelton said that Colton has been focusing on "collecting and analyzing" student data to help ensure the school is meeting student needs and adjusting when necessary. Hazelton also expects the district's efforts toward having trauma-informed classroom practices will help support students.
"Ultimately, graduation is a K-12 effort and, while we are not where we want to be yet, this year we are celebrating that increase because it takes everyone at the table to get our students there and it is hard work," Hazelton said.
Shasta Kearns Moore contributed to this report.