The Oregon Department of Education has released a list of graduation rates for all Oregon public schools. The list indicates the state graduation rate increased by nearly 1.4 percent to 74.83 percent for the 2015-16 school year.
Douglas County saw a higher graduation rate increase than the state, with a 3.5 percent increase up to 65.96 percent. But despite the increase, Douglas County still ranks among the bottom five counties, having the 32nd worst grad rate out of Oregon’s 36 counties.
Douglas Education Service District Superintendent Michael Lasher said that some of the possible causes of a low Douglas County graduation rate include a high poverty rate in the county along with increased trauma among children who grow up with crisis.
“There is research that strongly correlates a child’s ability to learn with previous sorts of trauma, but it can be different for every district,” Lasher said.
He said that all the school districts within Douglas County are currently working with the Ford Family Foundation to improve their graduation rates through grant programs.
“It’s an ongoing process and I don’t think the work will ever be done, but we’re getting better all the time at identifying what the sources (of the low graduation rate) are and what we can do about it,” Lasher said.
Roseburg High School, the county’s largest high school, saw a small increase to 76.85 percent in 2015-16, up from 76.59 the previous year. Although a meager increase, RHS was still above the state graduation rate.
The Roseburg school also saw larger increases in other areas. The school’s modified graduation rate for 2015-16, which includes students who graduated within five years and earned GED diplomas, was 84.07 percent. The state’s modified rate for 2015-16 was just under 78 percent.
Other significant graduation increases at RHS included almost a 17-point increase in the number of students with disabilities who graduated on time, up from 46 percent to 62.71 percent in 2015-16.
An additional RHS graduation highlight included a 3-point increase in the number of economically disadvantaged students who graduated on time, up from 66 percent to 69.57 percent in 2015-16.
Roseburg’s freshman track rate, which includes students with six or more credits by the end of ninth grade, increased from 73 percent to 80 percent during the last three years.
Schools with outstanding graduation rates in Douglas County include Oakland High which earned a 100 percent graduation rate for 2015-16, up from 96.88 percent.
Oakland School District Superintendent Nanette Hagen said, “For us that improvement was one student.” Oakland High has a student population of about 200 students compared to Roseburg High School with about 1,530 students.
“It’s easier for smaller districts to have a good graduation rate, unless there is some local issue that causes kids to drop out early,” Lasher said.
Oakland High attributed its successful graduation rate to several factors. One is making students feel important and noticed, while still holding them accountable. Another is ensuring that students have positive relationships with staff beyond the classroom. Student engagement is also a priority. Attendance is also encouraged with incentives.
At the other end of the spectrum, Reedsport Community Charter School with about 345 students in grades seven through 12, saw a decrease in its graduation rate, dropping to 53.13 percent from 64.10 percent.
Superintendent Dan Forbess attributed the decrease to an enrollment of a group of alternative education students from the Alternative Youth Activities program. Without the AYA students, the school’s four-year graduation rate for 2015-16 was 67.3 percent.
Lasher said that many issues can cause a poor graduation rate, which vary with each school district.
“Some of it is the school, but some of it is environmental, like the home life of children,” Lasher said. “Children drop out of school for many different reasons. It’s really a multifaceted issue.”