Friday, February 3, 2012/lk
Hood River Valley High School is not the largest high school in Oregon, but it is, today, ranked as one of the best at graduating its students.
State Schools Supt. Susan Castillo announced last year's student graduation rates for 296 Oregon high schools on Jan. 27, with an improving but rather stark overall picture.
The four-year on-time graduation rate for Oregon high schools in 2011 was 67 percent, up from 66 percent in 2010.
In glaring contrast, during the 2010-11 school year, HRVHS netted an impressive 86 percent school-site on-time graduation rate and an 84 percent district rate (which included six non-traditional enrollments).
According to Principal Karen Neitzel, "Close attention to each student is the key."
Along with that, a system of effective programs also keeps students on the path to success.
Those programs include scheduled home visits when students show dips in grades or frequent absences, mental health counseling services, on-site day care for children of teen parents, bilingual attendance contacts and prevention outreach workers who establish helpful relationships with students.
And remediation isn't the only solution. HRVHS is noted for innovative and engaging community building through school-wide activities and events that give students a chance to connect.
"We care about all our kids, and take care of them as individuals, ensuring that they have everything they need," Neitzel said. "We have a really great community that supports our high school kids. All of that helps us to be as successful as we are."
Outreach funded by the County Commission on Children and Families is on example, Neitzel said.
Overall, there still may be room for improvement, but against other Oregon schools with cohort enrollments larger than 80 students, HRVHS came in at the number 7 rank statewide with the remaining 136 large schools ranking lower.
Against all Oregon high schools of any size, Hood River received a shared top 10 ranking.
Of the top 11 large-size schools, HRVHS's student demographics include one of the highest enrollments of students on free or reduced-price lunches (56.2 percent).
Comparing HRVHS against other large schools with that low-income factor included, Hood River jumps to share the number 1 slot - nearly matching Cottage Grove and McNary high schools, both of whom share similar economically challenged students and an 86 percent on-time graduation rate.
Lake Oswego schools enjoy a 92 percent graduation rate, but carry between just 8.2 and 9.8 percent free and reduced-price lunch students.
West Linn, with just 12 percent free and reduced-price lunch students, netted the top slot for large schools, demonstrating a rate of 94 percent on-time graduation.
Reaching a 94 percent graduation rate versus the HRVHS current 86 percent rate would mean successfully graduating about 24 additional students per year within the four-year time frame. Not a small task, but one that Neitzel and staff hope to achieve.
"I have never met a parent who didn't think getting a diploma was a really important thing," said Neitzel to Betsy Hammond of the Oregonian, in OregonLive.com.
Against all schools statewide, regardless of size, HRVHS ranked above 269 others in on-time graduation rates.
All reported graduation rates are from data on the group of students who entered high school in the 2007-08 school year and then tracked how many graduated with a regular high school diploma within four years.
Students who received a modified diploma, GED, adult high school diploma or alternative certificate are not counted as graduates in this model.
"Oregon teachers are working incredibly hard to support our students throughout their educational journey and we are starting to see that hard work pay off in today's results," said Castillo in her official press release. "But we have to stay focused on our goal of all kids not only graduating from high school but graduating with the skills to succeed whether they go on to college, join the military, or go directly into workforce training.
"I am very pleased to see the continued gains in minority and low-income graduation rates, but despite these gains we still have close to half of our Native American, African American and Hispanic students who aren't graduating on time. These (statewide) results are a clear reminder of the work left to be done to ensure that all of our students graduate from high school ready for college and career," wrote Castillo.
"The good news is that more of our students are graduating within four years and fewer of our kids are dropping out of our state's high schools."