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Majority of school districts show graduation rate increases, above state average

   Graduation rates in most Columbia County school districts increased from 2015 to 2016, data from the Oregon Department of Education released Thursday, Jan. 26, show.

Four of the five school districts in Columbia County have improved graduation rates for four-year graduates, and three districts report graduation rates greater than the statewide average of 73.82 percent.

The Scappoose School District maintains the greatest graduation rate at 91.3 percent, an increase from 87 percent the year prior.

While graduation rates in the St. Helens School District increased from 64.5 percent to 71.5 percent over a span of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, respectively, the rate remains below the state average.

St. Helens Prinicipal BG Aguirre said in an email to the Spotlight she attributes the increase in graduation rates to "dedicated hard working staff who come to work every day and put students and their learning first."

Multiple programs and mentorship opportunities have been established at St. Helens High School to continue the improvements of graduation rates for high school students, Aguirre explained.

Implementation of a college and career readiness program has been a vital tool to teach students more about educational and vocational opportunities available to them if they stay in school and complete requirements for graduation, Aguirre added. Other programs have included higher education prep classes like Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, that was grant-funded at the high school in early 2016.

Through direct mentorship with students, high school staff have also been able to help students complete scholarship and federal financial aide applications to help pay for higher education opportunities.

Scappoose High School Principal Jim Jones partly attributes his school's continued success to programs like partnerships with Oregon Outreach Inc., a Portland-based nonprofit that helps with high school credit recovery, and hiring a teacher on special assignment to monitor overall graduation requirements. The high school is also implementing an AVID program similiar to the program in St. Helens.

While the district boasts the county's highest graduation rate, Jones said he still sees room for improvement for those students who don't earn a diploma.

"We still have 9% of students who are not graduating," Jones stated in an email to the Spotlight. "Every student is important and we are hopeful that we can continue to strive

to meet the needs of all students."

The Clatskanie School District reported a decline in graduation rates from the year prior, down from 71.4 percent to 70.1 percent.

Graduation rates in the Vernonia School District increased by the greatest percentage, reporting an 84.8 percent graduation rate in 2015-16, up from 69.8 percent in 2014-15, and 64 percent in 2013-14.

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