Rise in PPS graduation rate shows school, community resolve

January 27, 2012: Good news. This morning, the Oregon Department of Education announced that Portland Public Schools' on-time graduation rate rose 5 points to 59 percent last year and the achievement gap narrowed by the same amount.

Graduation rate 2010-11

Statewide, the graduation rate rose one point to 67 percent.

The PPS results call out that we have work left to do. Yet the results also affirm that the focused efforts of our schools and community are gaining traction – for all students. Today's news is about momentum – momentum that is, and will, make a difference in the lives of kids.

Schools making gains
Two PPS high schools saw double-digit gains: Roosevelt (14 points to 51 percent) and Cleveland (10 points to 78 percent).

The graduation rate across schools rose by 12 points for Hispanic students, 7 points for Native American students and 6 points for Asian students.

Among students who started high school at a PPS neighborhood campus, Benson or Metropolitan Learning Center (non-charter, non-alternative schools), 70 percent earned a regular diploma in four years.

Rate galvanizes action
For decades, Portland Public Schools and the state measured the graduation rate as the percentage of students in the senior class who graduated. By that measurement – which for PPS last year was 81 percent – we looked fairly good.

In 2007, we shifted to tracking a cohort of students over four years to see how many graduated on time. That rate, which had held steady at 53 to 54 percent, marked a startling contrast that did not square with our community's view of itself.

Yet that stark calculation focused the attention, the concern and the engagement of our entire community on changing the picture for students. Today we can see that these intentional efforts – from more focus on the needs of struggling students, increased teacher teamwork and family engagement to the work of school district, city and county leaders to align supports along the pre-K through college continuum – are starting to pay off.

As a community, let's celebrate this progress. And then let's reaffirm our resolve to build on this momentum for the sake of our children, our city and our future.