At first glance, it’s heartening to see that several Douglas County schools are above the curve in rankings recently released by U.S. News and World Report.
We’re worried, however, about just how low the bar has apparently been set.
Three local high schools — Oakland, Roseburg and Yoncalla — received bronze medals in the 2017 rankings released in July.
That puts them ahead of about 14,000 lower-ranked schools across the country.
U.S. News and World Report evaluated 20,487 schools for its ranking. It looked at a variety of statistics for those schools, including English and math scores, percentage of disadvantaged students earning good scores, college preparedness and graduation rates. In all, 3,432 schools received bronze medals nationwide, while 2,019 received silver and 500 received gold.
No Douglas County high schools received silver or gold medals. Most didn’t medal at all.
Those who did win medals deserve some recognition for prevailing against the odds in a poor, rural county with limited funds.
Still, a closer look at the statistics makes the victory seem a bit hollow.
About three quarters of the 11th-grade students at each school met state standards for English proficiency — not horrible, but not great either, since it means that a quarter of the juniors in those schools are apparently not proficient in English.
If the English scores seem less than stellar, the math scores are dismal. At Yoncalla, the best of the bunch, 47 percent (by our math fewer than half) of the students meet state proficiency standards. At Oakland, the figure is 39 percent. And at Roseburg, 31 percent (fewer than one third) of the students are proficient at math.
What’s worse, remember, is these are the good schools. They’re well above the Oregon and national averages and far above the lowest-ranking schools in Douglas County. In Glendale, the worst in the county on these measures, math proficiency is at 11 percent and English proficiency at 30 percent.
One genuinely good mark is Oakland’s graduation rate of 96 percent. Now there’s a statistic deserving of praise.
Seventy-four percent of Roseburg students graduate high school, and Yoncalla 79 percent. This puts them ahead of the county, state and national curves, but leaves a lot of students out — students who are ill prepared for the job market and will likely be dependent on government handouts for life.
Overall, we’re discouraged by the state of education reflected in these rankings — locally, statewide and nationwide it appears that most of our schools are not preparing students for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs of the future.
The bronze schools, if their percentage performance received a letter grade, ought to be given “C” grades in English and “F” grades in math. The 14,000 schools below them, including the other 11 high schools here in Douglas County, are even worse.
It seems to us that we ought to look at these scores as a challenge. We all — students, teachers, administrators, parents and community — need to aim higher.
Our future depends on it.