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Oregon's Grad Rate Remains In National Basement — Across Income, Ethnic Groups


David Douglas High School has more than 3200 students from diverse backgrounds. A majority of students are ethnic minorities, with more Latino and Asian students than African-American students.

David Douglas High School has more than 3200 students from diverse backgrounds. A majority of students are ethnic minorities, with more Latino and Asian students than African-American students.

Rob Manning/OPB

Oregon remains close to the national basement when it comes to its high school graduation rate, according to a report out Monday.

Less than 74 percent of Oregon’s high school seniors graduated on time in 2015. That’s nearly 10 points below the national average. President Barack Obama recently touted the 83 percent national average as “the highest on record.”

Oregon’s four-year graduation rate for 2015, first published in January, is 73.8 percent. Monday’s report shows Oregon’s problem spans ethnic groups and income levels.  

Oregon’s majority white population is the second worst in the country at 76 percent, only ahead of New Mexico. 

For other racial groups, Oregon is also close to the bottom. Oregon’s black students graduated on time at a 63 percent rate in 2015. For Hispanic students, the rate was 67.4 percent. Both numbers are fifth worst in the country. The Native American graduation rate of 55 percent is fourth worst, nationally.

Oregon students who are low-income, regardless of ethnicity, graduate just two-thirds of the time — a graduation rate of 66.4 percent. That too puts Oregon fifth worst nationally.  

All states track high school graduation the same way — by comparing the number of entering freshmen with the number of diplomas four years later, while factoring in students who may leave the state. But graduation requirements do differ from state to state.

Graduation rates vary a great deal within Oregon, from near-perfect graduation rates at small rural high schools like Wallowa High and Adrian High School or suburban Riverdale High, to grad rates in the low 60th-percentile in places like Portland’s Roosevelt High and Brookings-Harbor High School on the south coast.

Opinions vary among Oregonians familiar with the state’s education system as to why the state’s graduation rate is as low as it is.

In recent months, the state’s chief innovation officer, Colt Gill, provided insight into his research on the state’s graduation problems. He’s planning to provide more information as Gov. Kate Brown finalizes her proposed budget for the 2017 legislative session.

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