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The Oregon Trail School District has reason to be proud of its graduation rate for 2017-18. The determination of teachers and administrators, along with new programs designed to engage students and keep them in school, is working.

School districts — such as those serving students in Sandy and Estacada — carry a great responsibility. It's their mission to usher students along the education pathway beginning in kindergarten, and all the way through to their graduation day when they proudly clutch their diplomas.

They aren't successful with every student.

    But in the most recent report issued by the Oregon Department of Education, we can find reason to celebrate that the Oregon Trail and Estacada school districts are narrowing the gap. The number of students making it to their commencement ceremonies is on the rise. Even better, the efforts of these local school districts are paying off with graduation rates that exceed the state average.

There are all sorts of studies that have been done that examine the negatives associated with high school dropouts:

• Half of the people on public assistance are high school dropouts.

• 80 percent of people in prisons are high school dropouts.

• Wages for dropouts lag far behind their peers who complete high school, and even further behind those who pursue college or job training after high school. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that dropouts bring in about $20,241 annually, which is $10,000 less than high school graduates and more than $36,000 less than a person holding a bachelor's degree. The poverty rate for dropouts is twice as high as college grads, and the unemployment rate for dropouts is generally 4 percentage points higher than the national average.

• People who receive their high school diplomas are less likely to lose their job.

• Beyond the economics benefits, there's a sense of pride that comes from the accomplishment of completing high school. It's a pivotal moment that can leave a person behind, or catapult them forward into further education and interesting occupations.

In short, it's in everyone's best interest to advocate for improvement in graduation rates.

Local school districts have much to be proud of for these improving numbers. Their determination and programs — designed to engage students and keep them in school — are working.

Oregonians themselves can be proud of having a hand in improving graduation rates through passage of Measure 98 in 2016, which provided funding to establish or expand career and technical education; establish and expand college-level educational opportunities for high school students; and bolster efforts at dropout prevention. Measure 98 is working, and it wouldn't have without voter support.

Congratulations to the Oregon Trail and Estacada school districts for your dedication to students.

Overall, the improving graduation rates are more than mere numbers on a state report; they are proof that when the public and schools work together, great things happen.


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