AIS graduation rate hits new high, Gervais HS boasts highest grad rate in county
Woodburn's districtwide four-year graduation rate in 2016 was virtually unchanged from the previous year, according to data released by the state last week, yet one small school saw considerable improvement.
Woodburn's graduation rate in 2016 was 84.1 percent, 0.39 percentage points lower than the 2015 rate, according to data for four- and five-year graduation rates released Jan. 26 by the Oregon Department of Education. While two schools — Woodburn Academy of Art, Science and Technology and the Academy of International Studies — saw increased four-year graduation rates, AIS saw a dramatic increase of nearly 12 percentage points, from 68.67 percent in 2015 to 80.33 in 2016.
Success Alternative High School, Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy and the Wellness, Business and Sports School all had lower rates in 2016 than they did in 2015. WeBSS's four-year graduation rate fell from 98.7 percent to 91.67 percent, WACA's rate fell from 91.67 percent to 84.06 percent and Success' rate fell from 54.55 percent in 2015 to 50 percent in 2016.
WACA Principal Greg Baisch said that the numbers don't reflect a downward trend for the schools but are rather the result of the individuality of each graduating class.
"We think it is important to note that graduation rates fluctuate because each class (and its students) is unique," Baisch wrote in an email, commenting on behalf of all Woodburn High School principals. "If you look at overall results, Woodburn is still leading the state in all demographic groups. We always look for ways to improve, but our programs continue to be effective."
Indeed, the four-year graduation rates of most Woodburn schools are markedly higher than the state's average, which in 2016 was 74.83 percent.
Superintendent Chuck Ransom said the mostly steady graduation rates reflect well on the district.
"We want to make sure that we see the trend that was established seven to eight years ago continue. That's the biggest evidence of validation for the entire program," Ransom said.
And, while Ransom said he wishes 100 percent of students graduated, he highlighted Woodburn's above-average graduation rates in demographics that are often underserved.
The four-year graduation rates for Hispanic/Latino, economically disadvantaged and limited English proficient students, for example, remain much higher in Woodburn than the statewide average, yet those numbers still show a slight decline from 2015.
The graduation rate for Hispanic/Latino students fell from 83.93 percent in 2015 to 81.95 percent in 2016. Though lower than the year before, the rate is more than 14 percentage points higher than the state average of 69.44 percent.
Economically disadvantaged students graduated at a rate of 84.35 percent in 2016, a slight drop from the 2015 rate of 85.2 percent. The statewide average for the subgroup is 68.5 percent.
And the graduation rate of limited English proficient students fell from 75 percent in 2015 to 72.73 percent in 2016 — still far above the state average of 52.9 percent.
Ransom said Woodburn's high graduation rates in those demographics result from a concerted effort by the district.
"We have tremendous outreach to families and community," Ransom said.
Ransom said the district's dual language program is a major factor in the district's high graduation rates. "It gives us a way to help kids develop academically while they're learning English," Ransom said.
Other demographics saw some shifts in graduation rates this year. While the districtwide, four-year graduation rates for male and female students were nearly equal in 2015 (84.43 percent for boys, 84.54 percent for girls), there was a bigger gap between genders in 2016. Female students graduated at a rate of 86.71 percent in 2016, while male students' graduation rate dropped to 81.5.
Woodburn's four-year graduation rate for students with disabilities fell by nearly nine percentage points, from 77.55 percent in 2015 to 68.63 percent in 2016. The rate remains significantly higher than the state's current average of 55.5 percent.
And while it may come as no surprise that students labeled as talented and gifted would have a high graduation rate, 2016 was a notable year for those students: 100 percent of the 53 talented and gifted students in the district graduated in 2016, an increase from the 2015 rate of 90.91 percent.
Meanwhile, Woodburn's 2016 five-year graduation rates, which include students who took longer than four years to get a diploma, fell in some areas.
Districtwide, the five-year graduation rate fell from 90.97 percent in 2015 to 88.06 percent in 2016.
Success saw the biggest drop in its five-year graduation rate. In 2015, 80.33 percent of Success students graduated within five years, dropping to 64.86 percent in 2016, a 19 percent decrease. It's Success' lowest five-year graduation rate since 2011, when 51.11 percent of Success students graduated within five years.
Ransom highlighted the uniqueness of each graduating class.
"No struggling student is the same," Ransom said. "At Success, we have kids in crisis academically. To prevent them from dropping out — to either graduate or get their GED — can be challenging."
Overall, Ransom said the graduation rates show the district's efforts are working.
"We're proud of our success," he said. "We predict that we will continue these kinds of results."
Gervais HS boasts highest grad rate in county
The other schools in northern Marion County fared well following the ODE's release of 2016 graduation rates, particularly Gervais High School, which graduated 98.59 percent of its students in four years.
Principal Mike Solem attributes the results to a personalized education and an ongoing effort since 2012, when the school was named a Breakthrough School.
"It really brought together all the efforts, and students started to gain that sense of pride and ownership in being a part of something special," he told reporter Phil Hawkins. "They didn't want to be the one that helped detract from our school success."
While Gervais High School's rates are flourishing, neighboring Samuel Brown Academy, the district's alternative school, still produced a very low graduation rate, with fewer than 15 percent graduating in four years. An additional 10 percent completed in four years using alternative means. According to five-year graduation data, only 38.1 percent of Sam Brown students completed high school in five years, whether through traditional graduation, obtaining a GED or modified diploma.
While still higher than the state average, North Marion High School's four-year graduation rate has declined between 2015 and 2016, from 81.29 to 77.38 percent. The percentage of students in the five-year cohort who graduated and/or completed high school was 87.66, roughly even with last year's five-year graduation rate of 87.05 percent. That number was even higher for students with limited English proficiency 91.67 percent) and ever English learners (89.58 percent).
In Mount Angel School District, with 48 graduates in 2016, the four-year graduation rate increased from 83.33 to 91.11 percent. Notably, all students with disabilities in the district graduated within five years, and ever English learners graduated in four years at a rate of 94.12 percent.
St. Paul School District four-year graduation rate also increased, from 89.29 to 92.86 percent. Ever English learners graduated at 90 percent in four years and 100 percent in five. The five-year cohort graduation rate decreased, from 95.45 to 89.29 percent.
Notably, all five districts in northern Marion County saw schools exceed the state average.
— Lindsay Keefer