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Crystal Greene, 503-947-5650

January 31, 2013

Little Growth in Oregon Grad Rates; State Leaders Call for Systems Change

New state initiatives aim to address gaps early and radically increase graduation rates by 2025

(Salem, Ore.)
– Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton today announced that Oregon’s 4-year graduation rate for 2012 was 68.4%, up only slightly from the previous year’s rate of 67.6%. The state also saw a slight increase in the dropout rate, with 3.4% of students dropping out of high school last year as compared to an all-time low of 3.3% the year before. These results provide base-line data for tracking progress toward the state’s 40-40-20 goal which calls for 100% high school completion by the year 2025.

“This year, we welcomed the graduating class of 2025 into our kindergartens,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “As a state, we have committed to an ambitious vision for education. That vision calls for all students completing high school and the vast majority of them going on to higher education or workforce training programs. Our current system just isn’t getting us there. Moving the dial on this will require rethinking how we serve our students from early childhood through higher education. It will take bold, transformational, and fearless action as we work to redesign and realign our education system to see the outcomes we need for our students.”

Getting to 40-40-20
By 2025, Governor Kitzhaber has called for a 100% high school completion rate. In order to help achieve this goal, the Governor has identified four areas of strategic investment. These areas are:
  • Oregon Early Reading Initiative – targeted, evidence-based interventions that improve Kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading proficiency
  • Developing a Representative Corps of Professional Educators – launching regional centers that create a statewide professional development network to ensure we have outstanding teachers and administrators in every school
  • Connecting Students to the World of Work – increased focus on Science, Technology Engineering, and Math (STEM) and increased collaboration between high schools and community colleges and/or 4-year institutions
  • Guidance and Support for Post-Secondary Aspirations – increased supports and interventions to ensure students are on track for graduation, earn a diploma, and have access to post-secondary and career opportunities
Oregon has set rigorous standards for high school graduation to help ensure that when students receive their diplomas they are truly prepared for future success. The goal is that all Oregon students will leave high school with the skills they need to succeed in higher education, work, and life. For some students, mastering these skills will take more than the traditional 4 years, for some less. Other students, for a variety of reasons, may choose to complete high school in a more non-traditional method (GED, Modified Diploma, Extended Diploma, or Adult High School Diploma).

In order to capture how well our state is doing in getting all students to the high school completion mark, the Oregon Department of Education tracks both a 4-year and 5-year high school graduation rate and a 4-year and 5-year high school completer rate. The graduation rates look at the number of students who receive a regular high school diploma within 4 or 5 years of entering high school. The completer rates are broader than the graduation rates and also include students who received a GED, Modified Diploma, Extended Diploma, or Adult High School Diploma within that timeframe. By 2025, the state aims to have a 5-year completer rate of 100% as part as our state’s 40-40-20 goal. To track progress toward this goal, school districts include information on both their 4-year graduation rates and their 5-year completer rates in their achievement compacts with the state.

A Closer Look at the Numbers
The graduation rate looks at a cohort, or group of students, who entered high school in a given year. Most of last year’s seniors were part of the 2008-09 cohort. Students who were in their 5th year of high school last year were part of the 2007-08 cohort.

Below is a look at the statewide graduation and completer rates for Oregon students. As these numbers illustrate, the state is still struggling with persistent, and in some cases growing, graduation gaps. Areas where graduation rates increased are bolded.

“These numbers paint the achievement gap in real time. We know the practices that will fix this, and we have the research, data, and pedagogical know-how to solve this problem,” said Rudy Crew, Chief Education Officer. “Not only must we increase opportunities and support systems to help all students become engaged with learning, but we must ensure schools have the capacity to respond appropriately to the unique needs of children and families and that leaders work with teachers and parents to ensure these figures look different a year from now.”

Student Group 2011-12
4 year grad rate(2008-09 cohort)
4 year grad rate(2007-08 cohort)
5 year grad rate(2007-08 cohort)
5 year grad rate(2006-07 cohort)
4 year completer rate 2011-12
5 year completer rate
All Students
68.4% 67.6% 72.4% 70.9% 75.1% 80.5%
71% 70% 74% 74% 78% 83%
Asian/Pacific Islander
79% 78% 82% 80% 81% 85%
53% 54% 60% 57% 62% 71%
60% 58% 65% 62% 65% 71%
Native American
51% 52% 56% 55% 60% 66%
69% 73% 77% 69% 76% 85%
Students with Disabilities
38% 42% 47% 47% 55% 66%
English Language Learner
49% 52% 60% 58% 53% 64%
Economically Disadvantaged
61% 61% 67% 65% 69% 77%
73% 72% 76% 75% 79% 83%
64% 63% 69% 67% 72% 78%

As the data above show, a number of student subgroups lost ground in terms of 4-year graduation last year, resulting in a widening of the graduation gap. However, the five-year rate was more encouraging, with gains being made by all student subgroups. There are also an increased number of students choosing to stay in school for a 5th year to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to graduate college and career ready.

The 2011-12 graduates were the first required to demonstrate proficiency in the Essential Skill of Reading PDF in order to earn a diploma. This summer’s graduates will need to demonstrate their skills in both reading and writing PDF, with the Essential Skill of Math PDF being added on for this year’s junior class. Students can meet the Essential Skills requirements in several ways including passing state tests or completing locally-scored work samples. A report on how this year’s graduates met their Essential Skills is available online. The proficiency-based Essential Skills, along with increased credit requirements and an emphasis on personalized learning, were adopted by the State Board of Education in 2007 to ensure that all graduates had a strong foundation in critical skills that would prepare them for college and career.

“We currently have a 68% four-year high school graduation rate and an 80% five-year completer rate,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton. “All of the education reform work our state is currently undertaking is tied to dramatically increasing these numbers and better preparing our students for their next steps. Whether you’re talking about full-day kindergarten, 3rd grade reading targets, student attendance, family engagement, or educator effectiveness, it all comes back to this. For our state to compete nationally and internationally in the years to come, we have to get this right and we need to get it right for ALL kids.”

Dropout Rates
While we track graduation based on four and five year cohorts of students, the federal government still requires states to report a one-year dropout rate. This rate is calculated by looking at the number of students who drop out (grades 9-12) in a given school year. This means that the dropout rate is not the inverse of the graduation rate. Students who receive GEDs, Modified Diplomas, etc., are not considered either graduates or dropouts but are included in the four- and five-year completer rates mentioned above. Click here for more information on dropout rates in Oregon.

Student Group 2011-12 2010-11
All Students
Asian/Pacific Islander
Native American
Students with Disabilities
English Language Learner
Economically Disadvantaged

For an audio clip of Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton, go to: http://video.orvsd.org/ode/Graduation_2012.MP3

For school district cohort graduation data, go to: www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2644Excel Spreadsheet

For dropout data, go to: www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=1

For the Essential Skills report, go to: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2042

To access an FAQ on the graduation and dropout rates, go to: http://www.ode.state.or.us/superintendent/priorities/cohort-faq-2013.pdf PDF

Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction
Crystal Greene, Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5650

Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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