Deputy Supt. for Public Instruction Rob Saxton announced this week that Oregon’s student graduation rates for 2012 were up slightly over the past year.
In 2012, 68.4 percent of Oregon high school students graduated as compared to 67.6 percent in 2011. These graduation rate looks at cohorts, or groups of students, who enter high school in the same given year.
For the second year in a row, Hood River Valley High School graduation rates scored well above state averages with a 77 percent cohort graduation rate for four-year term students and an 87 percent cohort rate for five-year term students.
“We have a dedicated and creative staff that is constantly looking for ways to improve our practice,” said HRVHS Principal Karen Neitzel.
The 2011-12 graduates were the first Oregon students required to demonstrate proficiency under standards of the Essential Skills of Reading guidelines in order to earn a diploma.
This year’s graduates will need to demonstrate their skills in both reading and writing, with the Essential Skill of Math standards being added for this year’s junior class.
According to Bob Dais, district communicator, the staff at Hood River Valley High School is committed to student success and Neitzel has embraced these additional challenges.
Last spring Neitzel and vice principals Rich Polkinghorn and Todd McCauley, along with HRVHS support staff, presented the school’s story of success, entitled “Every Student Counts,” at the statewide administrative conference in Seaside. Their program has since become a model and resource for many districts around the state.
“We are constantly looking at student data in an effort to refine our intervention classes and to improve outcomes for all kids. We care about all of our kids and want all of them to have the best chance of post-secondary success,” said Neitzel.
According to Dais, Neitzel readily acknowledges that commitment from students, staff, and parents, working together, has made the improved graduate successes possible.
Neitzel also recognizes that students come to HRVHS academically prepared.
“That speaks volumes about the work of the entire team of teachers and principals in the valley who preparing students throughout the elementary and middle school levels,” stated Dais.
As in any system, there are areas for improvement. English Language Learners and Hispanic students at HRV still lag slightly behind their peers’ graduation rates and male graduation rates are slightly lower than female rates.
Neitzel and her team are working hard to impact those more challenged populations.
“Our commitment to provide a welcoming environment for our Hispanic families — that includes an informational evening just for our Hispanic families and outreach in a variety of forms — is another way we can support greater academic success for our students,” she said.
As for the gender differential, Neitzel said, “Improving the graduation rates for our male students is even more challenging in a community with our poverty rates; there is conflict between staying in school or getting a full-time job to help provide for their families. We stress the long-term value of getting a diploma in the meetings with these families.
“We also offer opportunities to explore post secondary options with our career fairs, guest speakers, and with our dual-credit classes that give students real-life experience to engage in the job market directly after graduation. Maintaining extracurricular opportunities and a full elective program is key to keeping many of our at-risk male students engaged,” said Neitzel.
HRVHS has maintained a dropout rate of just 1.8 percent. The state rate is 3.4 percent.
In some cases, alternative completion methods and extra time also help students vault over their graduation hurdles.
When looking at a five-year completion term and adding in those who have received GEDs, modified diplomas, alternative certificates and other completion pathways, the district reaches 90 percent graduation rates, almost a full 10 percent higher than comparable graduating students across the state.
— Bob Dais of the Hood River County School District contributed to this article.