EUGENE, Ore. – Amid a pandemic, graduation rates for Oregon high school students reached an all-time high for the class of 2020.
According to the Oregon Department of Education, the statewide graduation rate for the class of 2020 notched 82.6%, the highest ever recorded in Oregon.
Over the past six years, Oregon's graduation rate has gradually risen more than 10 percentage points. ODE said many of those gains came among underserved groups, which generally saw better increases in graduation rates than the overall state average.
“While the Class of 2020 ended their high school careers in a way no one wanted or expected, the graduation rate shows how much work they put in over the past 13 years with the support of their teachers and families,” ODE Director Colt Gill said. “Seeing greater growth in graduation rates for most students of color, students with disabilities and students navigating poverty than the state as a whole means our continued efforts to foster equity and excellence for all Oregon students continues to yield positive results.”
But in Lane County, the Eugene School District 4J was more cautious about reading too much into the impressive results.
“I think it’s a difficult year to have complete reliability and faith in the data,” said Andy Dey, Director of High Schools for the district.
Dey said the results are a snapshot, and the pandemic had only just begun to affect learning at the time data was collected.
“Our school closure was the last trimester of last year’s senior’s four years, and so that is 1/12 of the effort that those students and those families have put into their high school experience. So, I can’t help but think that it had an impact. It’s really difficult to try to quantify that,” Dey said.
Eugene 4J and Bethel School District reported on-time graduation rate highs of 81.7% and just shy of 80%, respectively.
“We would attribute that to what we call multi-tiered system of support which is essentially a way to look at the data of our student performance in real-time and come up with strategic tiered ways to respond to individual student need,” said Kee Zublin, Director of Instruction for Bethel School District.
Springfield Public Schools came in behind average, with a graduation rate that has remained stagnant over the past couple years at 72%.
Mindy LeRoux, high school director for Springfield Public Schools, said there’s no telling yet how the pandemic will affect the district’s already below-average rate.
“We don’t really know what the effect is going to be moving forward. That’s why I think it’s really important we double down moving forward doing everything we can,” LeRoux said.
LeRoux said the district will continue with programs to help specific students who are not on track to graduate and work to engage families and students to improve outcomes.
The real test will be the coming years. Dey said how a student does in their first year of high school says a lot about whether they make it to graduation.
“We don’t just focus on the graduation rate. We are very focused on the percentage of ninth grade students that go into their sophomore year on track for graduation,” Dey said.