The overall rate accounts for nearly 800 students in charter schools and district and community-based alternative programs, as well as the almost 3,000 students at neighborhood high schools, Benson High School and Metropolitan Learning Center. Of the students who started in a regular PPS high school (non-charter and non-alternative school), 70 percent earned a regular diploma in four years.
The statewide on-time graduation rate for the class of 2011 was 67 percent.
While the overall on-time graduation rate was up 5 percentage points for all students, some groups of students saw even greater increases. Graduation rates rose by 12 points for Hispanic students and 7 points for Native American students.
New this year, PPS looked explicitly at the graduation rate for Pacific Islander students; that rate was 57 percent. Previously, Pacific Islanders were included in the Asian count.
Graduation rates are calculated using a cohort method. That essentially tracks students who entered ninth grade in 2007 (the class of 2011) and those who joined the class in higher grades to find out the outcome for individual students.
2007 marked the first year of targeted interventions for students who were academically lagging their peers and at greater risk of dropping out.
Superintendent Carole Smith said, “No one at Portland Public Schools will be satisfied until every student completes school with a diploma. However, this gain in our graduation rate tells us that we are making progress through the hard work of teachers, principals and community partners.”
Two PPS high schools had double-digit increases in graduation rates: Cleveland High School with 10 points and Roosevelt High School with 14 points. Principals at both schools attribute the gains to hard work by students and staff, and targeted support for students.
At Cleveland, freshmen move as a group with a team of teachers, building peer and student-teacher relationships in that crucial first year and enabling teachers to collaborate. The school also has built into the school day time for students to catch up in subjects they have failed or missed so that they don’t have to attend night school or find other ways to recover credits.
At Roosevelt, teachers are tailoring instruction to fit the different ways students learn. They are collaborating and coaching each other, and building a college-going culture throughout the school. Community partners provide additional support to students and the school, and strengthen ties between Roosevelt and the St. Johns neighborhood.
The graduation rate for the class of 2011 was also bolstered by improved data collection, a by-product of school-based efforts to account for individual students and help them stay connected to school.
This year and in 2010-11, outreach teams at Roosevelt, Franklin and Madison high schools contacted those students who were at risk of dropping out — even visiting their homes — to make sure they returned to school and stayed enrolled. Efforts like this enabled high schools to identify a larger number of students who had transferred out of state and who could have counted as dropouts in the past.
ODE tags student outcomes to the last PPS-operated or charter school the student attended.
Students who start at a neighborhood school, but later drop out of a community-based alternative school, are counted as dropouts from the neighborhood school. Students who start at a non-neighborhood high school, but then return to their neighborhood school and drop out, count against the neighborhood school.
In the same way, students who leave a neighborhood school and graduate on time from an alternative school count toward the neighborhood school's graduation rate.
After four years of high school, the state accounts for students in one of eight categories: regular diploma, adult diploma, modified diploma, extended diploma, alternative certificate, GED, continued enrollment or dropout. This graph illustrates the outcomes for the class of 2011.
The class of 2015, which entered high school this year, will be the first class to benefit from systemwide high school changes, designed to further improve graduation rates. These changes include guaranteed access to a well-rounded core program at all neighborhood schools, as well as changes to strengthen college- and career-oriented programs at Jefferson and Benson.
School district leaders will continue to identify ways to better meet student needs. In the coming year, they will dig deeper to learn what happens with each high school student, successful graduate or not, through a research partnership with Chalkboard, ECONorthwest and other partners.
"Increasing graduation rates has been a priority for our entire community, starting with our teachers and principals and including parents, elected officials, community leaders, nonprofit partners, our teachers association and businesses," said Superintendent Carole Smith. "It will take the ongoing commitment of all these partners to sustain the encouraging progress we're making."
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