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Statewide, 80.6% of the Class of 2021 graduated in four years, a 2-point drop from the Class of 2020's record high.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - The class of 2021 tosses their caps in the air at Mountainside High School in Beaverton in June 2021.The Oregon Department of Education released graduation rates for the Class of 2021 Thursday, Jan. 20.

Statewide, 80.6% of the Class of 2021 graduated in four years. That marks a 2-point drop from the record high recorded during the 2019-20 school year.

In Washington County, 14 of 23 public high schools saw decreases in their four-year graduation rates.

"There is no easy way to put it, this past year has been tremendously difficult. The recently released graduation numbers show an overall decrease in four-year graduation rates. While there were increases in a couple of the student categories, this is not the direction we want to be trending as a district," Forest Grove School District Superintendent David Parker said in an email. "Over the past several years, Forest Grove High School has steadily increased graduation rates. One of the key components of this increase has been the ability to build relationships with students and families, and to encourage students to stay after school to recover credits and complete homework and tests."

Parker added, "The shutdown, starting in 2020, didn't allow FGHS staff as strong of an opportunity to continue these efforts in person."

Data revealed by the state in the fall showed 74% of high school freshmen finished last school year on track to graduate in four years. Among Washington County school districts, that on-track rate was 67% in Forest Grove, 92% in Sherwood, 85% in Hillsboro, 84% in Tigard-Tualatin and 80% in both Banks and Beaverton.

"We know if you are on track after freshman year, you are in a really good position," said Beaverton executive administrator for high schools Jon Franco. "If you have 90% of freshman on track, you're generally going to get that number as seniors."

In March 2020, when school buildings first shut down, the state required districts to implement a pass-incomplete system instead of letter grades, so school administrators said they expected a slight dip in the 2021 rates.

According to state date, in Forest Grove, 76.5% of Hispanic and Latino students graduated in four years, compared to 83.5% of white students. In Beaverton, 78.6% of Hispanic and Latino students graduated in four years, compared to 91% of white students and over 95% of Asian American students. In Hillsboro: 76.6% of Hispanic students, compared to 85.1% of white students.

"Of particular concern is the disproportionate drop among historically underserved populations," Hillsboro School District Spokesperson Beth Graser said in a statement. "Data shows that the decline could be exacerbated over the next three years at least, due to the number of current high school students who are 'off track' — meaning they have not earned the minimum number of credits in the right subject areas to put them on a path to graduate within four years."

One Washington County school district actually saw an uptick in its on-time graduation rate from the 2019-20 school year: Tigard-Tualatin. Both Tigard and Tualatin high schools graduated more of their four-year seniors in the 2020-21 school year than they had the year before, state data shows — as did Creekside Community High School, the district's alternative high school.

Amber Fields, the Tigard-Tualatin School District's director of secondary education, said the district bases its progress on the University of Chicago's research that shows that ninth-grade students who are on track to graduate are more likely to graduate within those four years. In turn, the next cohort will be at or have improved the current graduation rates, based on that research.

"We have a pretty tight system where we pull our academic data every two weeks to know who is sitting in those different tiers of need of support, and then have a support team that wraps around providing academic support," said Fields, adding that a team ensures that students have social, emotional and basic needs support to move toward graduation. "With those consistent systems in place, we expect to see just as strong if not stronger (percentages) each year."

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fields said it has resulted in "probably the highest level of collaboration we've ever had in our system," she said. In turn, that staff-level collaboration has a big impact on student outcomes, she said.

Sherwood School District administrators also sounded a positive note. While Sherwood's on-time graduation rate dipped slightly, it is still among the best in the Beaver State at 97%.

"The resilience of our class of 2021 cannot be understated, particularly when you consider that these students spent the majority of their senior year participating in distance learning, as well as transitioning back to in-person instruction during their final months of school," said Superintendent Heather Cordie in a statement. "Despite the disruptions and obstacles faced by these students during their senior year, Sherwood High School's graduation rate demonstrates only a 0.59% decrease from 2019, the last class to graduate pre-pandemic."

By the numbers

Banks School District

• Banks High School: 97 of 106 students graduated on time in 2020-21; a rate of 91.5%, down from 95.6%.

Beaverton School District: 2,845 of 3,219 or 88.4%, down from 89.3%.

• Aloha High School: 395 of 460 or 85.6%, up from 85%.

• Arts & Communication Magnet Academy: 72 of 75 or 96%, down from 98.5%.

• Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering: 93 of 96 or 96.9%, down from 98.8%.

• Beaverton High School: 349 of 435 or 80.3%, up from 78.6%.

• Community School: 43 of 62 or 69.4%, down from 83.3%.

• FLEX Online School: 25 of 31 or 80.7%, no data for 2019-20.

• International School of Beaverton: 87 of 87 or 100%, up from 98.6%.

• Mountainside High School: 444 of 488 or 91%, down from 94.9%.

• Southridge High School: 302 of 351 or 86%, up from 85%.

• Sunset High School: 484 of 519 or 93.3%, up from 92.3%.

• Westview High School: 542 of 603 or 89.88%, down from 91.77%.

Forest Grove School District

• Forest Grove High School: 374 of 474 or 78.9%, down from 83.3%.

Gaston School District

• Gaston Junior/Senior High School: 47 of 50 or 94%, up from 91.1%.

Hillsboro School District: 1282 of 1551 or 82.7%, down from 87.1%.

• Century High School: 332 of 387 or 85.8%, down from 87.9%.

• Glencoe High School: 331 of 388 or 85.3%, down from 89.7%.

• Hillsboro High School: 252 of 311 or 81%, down from 83.3%.

• Hillsboro Online Academy: 43 of 56 or 76.8%, down from 81.8%.

• Liberty High School: 323 of 383 or 84.3%, down from 91.1%.

Sherwood School District

• Sherwood High School: 382 of 394 or 97%, down from 97.6%.

Tigard-Tualatin School District, 869 of 985 or 88.2%, up from 86.1%.

• Creekside Community High School: 37 of 68 or 54.4%, up from 48.5%.

• Tigard High School: 398 of 440 or 90.5%, up from 90%.

• Tualatin High School: 434 of 468 or 92.7% up from 92.5%.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with quotes from Tigard-Tualatin and Sherwood school district officials.

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