Sixty percent of North Wasco County School District 21 high school seniors graduated on time with a regular diploma in 2012, and 12 percent more received a modified diploma or other alternative.
Statewide, Oregon’s on-time graduation rate was 68 percent, with districts performing anywhere from 43 percent in Lebanon to 95 percent in Adrian.
North Wasco superintendent Candy Armstrong said the district’s graduation rates are too low and the district is working hard to improve them.
Most of District 21’s numbers followed predictable trends: low-income students had lower graduation rates, and so did English language learners. As they do across the country, girls graduated in higher numbers than boys.
But in District 21, 71 percent of females graduated from The Dalles Wahtonka High School on time in 2012 compared to only 50 percent of males. That’s compared to 73 percent of females and 64 percent of males statewide.
Armstrong said administrators are keeping close track of data in different subgroups, including males and females, but are also beginning to break things down even farther by looking at individual students’ barriers to an on-time graduation.
“We are really trying to look at what’s going on for each student and not just subgroups,” she said.
Armstrong said starting next year each incoming freshman will be assigned a teacher to sit down with them and help map out their path to graduation. Those mentors will then continue to check in with students throughout high school and help them address the things that are holding them back from graduation, in the hopes that individual attention will be more effective than general programs.
“They will really have a lot of intensity from an adult helping them chart their course and being an advocate for them, making sure they stay on course,” Armstrong said.
A news release from the district also named other efforts the district is implementing, like expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.
According to the news release, “The District is currently working with partners in the areas of economic development, government and higher education to formalize a Columbia River Gorge Regional Center of Innovation that will provide additional options for STEM education and training.”
Another major effort by the district is working with preschools and other groups to create an aligned “P-3” curriculum that will ensure a seamless transition between preschool and elementary school.
Armstrong said that she hopes those efforts, along with a host of others, will improve graduation rates and education in general. She said as requirements for graduation rates rise she sees more students opting for an alternative path like a GED, and that it is contributing to the lowering of the district’s “on-time” graduation rates.