A recent report, compiled from 2012 Department of Education data, ranks Oregon second to last in the country with a 68 percent graduation rate.
And Southern Oregon is even worse.
Six districts in the area come in below the state average. Those districts are Klamath County (46%), Eagle Point (62%), Phoenix/Talent (63%), Rogue River (65%), Medford (67%) and Three Rivers (67%).
Only three come in above average, including Grants Pass (69%), Central Point (70%) and Ashland (83%).
But there are some individual schools that are doing well. South Medford High School, Ashland High School, and Eagle Point High School are all above the 80 percent threshold.
Dr. Brian Shumate, the incoming superintendent for Medford School District, says the big challenge will be to replicate some of the things schools like South Medford are doing right, and, more importantly, find ways to engage students by creating educational pathways that align with their interests.
“I just believe in pathways for every type of kid we have and to look internally to create those structures,” said Shumate. “A lot of times you can do this with the current resources you have.”
Meanwhile, lack of continuity continues to plague public schools.
According to Medford School District leaders, a student who either transfers or drops out and then returns at any point from first through 12th grade will have a 40 percent chance to graduate. Those who stick around fare far better.
“It is about stability,” said Todd Bloomquist, Director of Secondary Education for Medford Schools. “For those kids that we see continuously from first grade all the way through 12th grade, they have about a 94 percent graduation rate.”
The district is currently working to expand summer education and credit transfer to support kids who leave and return, as well as others who are falling behind.
Dr. Shumate, who is expected to take his new post in July, says he wants to include more creative solutions as well. That includes taking parts of the career academy model to tailor education to student interests.