District grad rates improve

Written by Dick Mason, The Observer February 04, 2013 10:00 am

by DICK MASON / The Observer

La Grande High School sees its graduation rate jump to 74 percent, well above state average

The graduation rate at La Grande High School is climbing. 

 

Statistics released by the Oregon Department of Education indicate that the graduation rate at LHS jumped from 68.72 percent to 74.14 percent between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.

This puts LHS well above the state average of 68.4 percent. A high school’s graduation rate is determined by taking the number of students who entered it four years ago and then looking at how many received a standard diploma four years later.

“We have been working hard to keep kids in school,” LHS Assistant Principal Brett Baxter said.

The graduation rate at LHS looks even better when its four-year “completer rate” is taken into account. LHS had a completer rate of 85.63 percent in 2011-12, significantly above the state average of 75.1 percent.

A high school’s completer rate is essentially its percentage of students who entered four years ago and then went on to receive a standard diploma, a modified diploma or a GED within four years. 

Modified diplomas are issued to students for whom lower graduation requirements were set because they had consistently performed below grade level. Modified diplomas are not recognized by many colleges and universities. Students receiving modified diplomas are not eligible for some types of college financial aid and may not be able eligible to enter some branches of the military.

Baxter credits the school’s higher graduation rate to a number of factors, including efforts to help students meet new essential skills standards set by the state. Students must meet these standards before they can graduate.

“We have focused a lot on getting students to pass the essential skills tests,” Baxter said.

Essential skills requirements are now being phased in by the state. A reading standard had to be met for the first time in 2012. Students will have to meet graduation standards for reading and writing this year and standards for reading, writing and math in order to graduate in 2014.

LHS Principal Andrea Waldrop said her school’s counselors deserve a lot of credit for the improved graduation rate. 

“They do an excellent job of keeping students on track to graduate,” Waldrop said. “They are making sure that they have the opportunity to complete requirements.”

Waldrop said completing graduation requirements is much more complicated than it once was. This means it is harder for counselors to keep students on track to graduate. 

“Counselors have a huge responsibility,” Waldrop said.

The graduation rate statistics recently released by the state  also indicate that LHS had a drop out rate of 3.61 percent, slightly above the state average of 3.4 percent. 

LHS’s dropout rate may be a little deceiving because it runs its  own alternative school for at risk students, Waldrop said. Every time a student at the alternative school drops out it counts against LHS. 

In many other school districts, alternative schools are operated separately from high schools. Dropouts at these alternative schools do not count against any of a district’s high schools.