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Statewide, race and ethnicity still have an outsized impact on high school completion.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Graduating seniors at Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School in Portland wait for their 2021 commencement ceremony to start. Portland Public Schools and the state marked incremental progress on increasing on-time graduation rates over the past decade.While the overall graduation rate in Portland Public Schools continues to climb, data released by the state shows Portland and the rest of Oregon still have educational gaps to close.

Across Oregon, white and Asian students are graduating at higher rates than their Black, Native American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Latino counterparts. The same is true within PPS, Oregon's largest school district.

PPS's 2020-21 graduation rate remained virtually unchanged since the 2019-20 year. Last spring, 84.4% of PPS students graduated on time. Statewide, 80.6% of students graduated on time, a two-percentage-point drop from the 2019-20 school year, which set a record for Oregon. Still, education leaders note it's the second-highest graduation rate ever recorded in the state.

"The data released today both demonstrates the tremendous resilience of Oregon's youth and makes it clear that COVID-19 not only had a disproportionate impact on the health of Oregon's communities of color, it also had a far greater impact on students of color," Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education said. "We know districts continue to work hard to help those students still making progress toward graduation."

State figures do show progress for Oregon's students of color and those with disabilities or language barriers. Over the past decade, Hispanic and Latino, Native American, Black, English learners and special education students are graduating at 12% or higher rates than those demographic groups who entered high school in 2010. The exception is Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students, who saw just a 1% increase in on-time graduation over the past decade.

According to ODE, Oregon districts spent $24 million over the summer in state-allocated money to help more than 18,000 high school students earn credits toward graduation.

Though PPS saw a modest increase over the prior school year, the district celebrated its incremental progress and highest graduation rate since the adoption of the four-year cohort graduation model in 2010.

"We are proud of our students for their resilience and tenacity during a time when the pandemic has brought about significant disruptions to public education and their learning experience," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero stated in a news release. "We attribute the continued positive and incremental growth in our students earning a high school diploma at PPS to the dedicated efforts of our educators, staff and community partners to wrap around each one of our students' success."  

Within PPS, Alliance High School, which provides support to students who are close to graduation, but may need assistance, has the lowest four-year graduation rate, at 43.6%. Roosevelt High School in North Portland has the next lowest overall on-time high school completion rate, at 77.2%, whereas Grant High School in Northeast Portland and Lincoln High downtown tied for the highest at 95.5%, well above the state's overall grad rate.

PPS high school graduation rates:

Alliance: 43.64%

Benson: 93.25%

Cleveland: 88.4%

Franklin: 88.3%

Grant: 95.5%

Wells-Barnett: 92%

Jefferson: 90.1%

McDaniel: 82.5%

Lincoln: 95.5%

Roosevelt: 77.2%

Across racial and ethnic groups, only half of the 26 American Indian and Alaska Native students within PPS graduated on time in 2021, a 7 percentage point drop from the year prior. That rate was even lower — 47% — for the district's 17 migrant students. Of the 30 Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian students in PPS, 73% graduated on time last year, while 75% of Hispanic and Latino students graduated. For Black students in PPS, that rate was 75.5% last year. White students had an on-time graduation rate of 88.5%. Asian students showed a rate of 92.8%.

Of the 204 homeless students in the four-year cohort, half graduated on time. Students with disabilities saw a 68.8% on-time completion rate.

Across the state, students who took part in a concentrated career technical education program boasted consistently higher grad rates across nearly all districts. In PPS, more than 95% of the high schoolers who were part of a CTE-focused program graduated on time.

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