How Medford high schools help struggling students graduate

MEDFORD, Ore. — One way Medford, along with other school districts in the state, are keeping kids on the path to graduate is by offering multiple diploma options.

The Medford School District has more rigorous graduation requirements than the state. And after a change in state requirements back in 2017, the district can now offer more diploma options to more students.

“Customizing education that way has been really helpful,” said Dr. Dan Smith, Principal of North Medford High School.

North Medford High School had a 91 percent, 4-year graduation rate in 2018.

Check all Oregon graduation rates HERE, courtesy of the Oregonian.

“It’s an important thing to look at each individual student and say how can we help you be successful,” said Smith.

The Medford School District has tougher graduation requirements than the state’s so-called Oregon Diploma. So back in 2017, they started offering both diplomas to help get as many students to graduate as they can.

“We’ve had students that really struggled with homelessness,” Smith said, “and will show up to enroll themselves in school with no parent to even be found.”

In 2017, a law prohibited schools from requiring an advanced diploma to several different groups of students including homeless, foster or migrant children, those in youth corrections and certain others. The difference between them is that the Medford Diploma requires computer literacy, career education and a senior project.

“We had students not graduate just cause they couldn’t get the senior project complete,” said Medford School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate, “when in fact they were completing the Oregon minimum requirements.”

Superintendent Shumate said the Oregon Diploma takes the pressure off students who might not have the support they need at home.

“When student’s don’t have those kinds of supports, we still have the Oregon diploma to rely on to get them graduated,” Shumate said.

While the district said the Medford Diploma is their standard, they’re happy to offer the Oregon Diploma as an option for students who need it.

“That’s really our future plans, is to really become a more modular and adaptable school district,” said Shumate, “so that we can meet the needs of all kinds of diverse learners.”

Of the Medford students who graduated in four years last year, 64 earned Oregon Diplomas, while 752 graduated with the Medford Diploma. 82 received alternative diplomas, one of which includes the GED.

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