Graduation rates in Oregon at 2nd highest in state history

MEDFORD, Ore.- Graduation rates in Oregon are at the second highest in the state’s history.

In a report released today by the Oregon Department of Education, the graduation rate for the class of 2023 is 81.3%.

“These students have shown the resiliency to get to this point. [It] is remarkable,” Medford’s School District Superintendent Bret Champion said.

North Medford High saw 86% of its 2023 class walk last year. Now, they’re working toward increasing that number for the 2024 class.

“There is nothing more important to us than our students graduating with a plan to go and do their next thing,” Champion told NBC5, “we’re excited whenever our graduation rates come out and continuing to show growth”.

According to Grants Pass High School, the school saw its highest graduation rate ever of 88.3%. Grants Pass School District’s Director of Secondary Education Trisha Evens says they’re trying to look at things through the bigger picture.

“Working with student on ‘what’s your post-secondary plan? What do you want to do after high school?’,” Evens said, “That carrot of seeing how graduation ties to what they’re going to do next is also a real key motivator”.

Not only are there higher graduating rates for the entire class of 2023, but specific groups of students are seeing higher rates as well. In Oregon, English learners, students in Special Education, and migrant students’ graduation rates are at an all-time high for 2023.

School districts told NBC5 the best way to prepare these students is to connect with them one on one.

“It’s not one thing we’re doing, it’s a combination of things and really, our counselors helping identify for that student ‘what’s that thing that’s going to help them?’,” Evens said.

“I was just with the principal here at North Medford High School, and tacked up right beside his door when he walks out is his list of students who need some additional credits.” Champion said, “Like we’re keying in on those individual students because that’s where it really matters”.

But getting these kids in their caps and gowns is no walk in the park. In fact, the graduates in the class of 2023 faced some major challenges.

“I feel like my counselors really made sure that like I had the right credits and the classes and Covid kind of messed up some stuff so they really, like, had to hone in on what I needed to do to graduate,” North Medford High School Senior Cooper Cox told NBC5, “I really thank them for that”.

“Mental health issues in our youth today I think is… expanded,” Evens said, “We are not mental health professionals, we are educators”.

Champion says one of the most important things for students is having engaging opportunities available, like CTE programs.

“When you get students connected to school, it’s incredible the success that they make,” Champion said, “For example, those CTE completers have over a 95% graduation rate in this year’s data”.

“I feel like… I’m more connected than ever, like I love just being at school. Like it makes my day,” Cox said.

Both school districts expressed they’re constantly looking for new ways to connect with their students to give them the right push out of the high school doors and into adulthood.

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NBC5 News Reporter Lauren Pretto grew up in Livermore, California and attended University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with a double major in Film/Digital Media and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Lauren is a lover of books, especially Agatha Christie and Gothic novels. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she knits, bakes, and writes.
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