In 2019, 83.81 percent of Molalla High School students graduated on time, according to recently released graduation data from the Oregon Department of Education.
That rate is lower than surrounding schools', with Oregon City at 90.61 percent, Colton at 96.08 percent, Silverton at 91.72 percent and Canby at 87.73 percent.
However, it is Molalla's highest in the last seven years, going back to the class of 2013, which is the furthest ODE data goes back using the current rate calculation, according to MHS Principal Brad Berzinski.
Molalla's graduation rate is also more than 4 percent higher than its 2018 rate and nearly 4 percent higher than the state average, which now sits at an all-time high of 80.01 percent.
What's more is that nearly every student group made strides.
For instance, that graduating class as-a-whole improved substantially compared to where they were at in 9th grade, when only 71.8 percent of the students were on track to graduate on time.
"Typically, we see a strong correlation between the 9th grade on-track rate and the eventual graduation rate, but this group was able to make significant gains," Berzinski said.
If that trend were to continue, Berzinski pointed out that Molalla's graduation rate could skyrocket.
"Note that our next three cohorts have had 9th grade on-track rates of 85 percent, 95 percent and 89 percent," Berzinski said. "We have a real opportunity to establish a very high standard for graduation rates at MHS."
Another student group that showed improvement was the males, who graduated on time at a rate of 81 percent in 2019, compared to a range of 68-74 percent in the previous five years. This is the highest male graduation rate on record for MHS, per Berzinski.
"The gap between males and females this year was less than 6 percent," Berzinski said. This is compared to recent years where that gap has ranged from 10 percent all the way to 26 percent."
Other groups that showed improvement were former English learners at 94 percent, migrant students at 90 percent, Hispanic students at 76 percent (another record high for MHS), CTE participants at 89 percent and CTE concentrators at 90.6 percent.
And what is the key to helping students graduate? Berzinski said the solution is simple, but can be challenging to achieve.
"Students that feel a connection to the school community are far more likely to attend school on a consistent basis," Berzinski said. "This may be achieved through positive relationships with staff and classmates, or through a sense of belonging to something beyond oneself. For some students, this feeling of community occurs within a specific classroom, or through a student activity, or through athletics."
According to Berzinski, student attendance is a priority at MHS, and the school has made progress, but there's still more work to do.
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