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Oregon Trail schools continue to raise graduation rates through student engagement

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN  - Sandy High graduated students at a rate of 86.54% in 2019. For several years now the Oregon Trail School District has surpassed the state graduation rate. In 2019, the district bested the state average by 6.26%. Overall in Oregon, 80.01% of students graduated this past year, but in the Oregon Trail School District, 86.27% of students walked across the stage and received their diploma.

Last year was the first graduating year for the Oregon Trail Academy. With a class of five students, it's unsurprising that 100% of that class graduated at the ceremony at Timberline Lodge on June 7.

At Sandy High, 86.54% of 2019's seniors graduated, a 4.62% improvement from 2018's rate of 81.92%.

"Ultimately we're really focusing on meeting kids where they are," said Sandy High Principal Kim Ball. This effort, she added, begins before students ever enter the doors at 37400 Bell St. "The Sandy High School graduation rate is a kindergarten through 12th grade effort. We're really working to take care of kids all the way, not just in high school."

Ball noted that it is a district-wide effort to intervene in students' education before high school to prepare them for success. This happens throughout the grade school and middle school years, while the high school also offers multiple opportunities for students to "learn to be a high school student."

For the past three years, Sandy High has hosted a freshman seminar, during which incoming ninth graders essentially take summer school classes and learn the layout of their soon-to-be academic home. The first year of the seminar, only about 12 students participated. Last year, between 80-90 students opted to spend a few weeks of their summer vacation getting prepared for high school.

Through this program, the students also gain a glimpse at what career and technical education (CTE) courses are offered at Sandy High, another aspect of the school to which Ball attributes student success.

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN  - Sandy High has graduated students at a higher rate than the state average for several years. "CTE offers students an idea of what life could look like after high school," Ball said. "Let's get you interested and attached right away."

According to statistics from the Oregon Department of Education, students at Sandy who participate in at least one CTE course graduate at a rate of 90.7%. Sandy students who are more focused on CTE programs graduated at a rate of 93.13%.

Sandy High, according to Ball, offers more CTE programs than any public high school in this region of Oregon with nine programs and 54 in-depth courses.

At this point, Sandy offers classes in art production, automotive technology, business and management, computer science, digital design, engineering, health science, manufacturing technology and agriculture.

"We think this is an important way to get kids to think about their future at an early age," Assistant Principal Ladine Marquardt said.

Besides CTE, Sandy students can also gain up to 130 college credits through the high school.

"They can dip their toe in college water and realize 'I can do college. I just did,'" Ball explained. "Find something that makes school interesting, exciting to make school something they want to come to. We're working very hard to create opportunities for kids in high-demand, high-wage jobs and for kids to be able to have the life they want and deserve. Any time we can make school relevant increase chances of student success. Teachers are very dedicated to that success. We're proud of the work we've done and we know we won't be satisfied until we've fully supported every student."


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