According to a press release several weeks ago from Portland Public Schools, the on-time graduation rate increased by five points from 2010 to 2011, with 59% of students now graduating on time. Within that overall five-point gain, certain groups of students experienced higher increases. Among Hispanic students, graduation rates improved by 12%. Native American students saw a 7 point gain in on-time graduation rates. The two high schools with the biggest jumps in graduation rates were Roosevelt High School and Cleveland High School, with 14-point and 10-point gains, respectively.
Despite these positive gains, not all students saw improved graduation rates. Pacific Islander students' graduation rates, for example, are lower than the citywide average, and currently stand at 57%. Since 2007, Portland Public Schools has conducted targeted interventions for students at risk of dropping out. The ultimate goal is to ensure that every Portland Public Schools student earns a diploma.
The Oregonian published an article on January 27, 2012, announcing that 11,000+ students statewide dropped out of the class of 2011. The article notes that at 59%, Portland Public Schools continues to have one of the lowest graduation rates in the state of Oregon. Clearly, despite significant gains, there is much work left to be done to help each student reach his or her full potential. A later article suggested better tracking of whether students transfer or drop out accounts for some of the stated improved scores. But as this Op-Ed points out, that factor doesn't explain all the gains. And it certainly doesn't account for other objective benchmarks, such has better than 100 more students enrolling as freshmen/freshchicks (the latter is my daughter's term) at Roosevelt High School in 2011, compared with 2010.
I will continue to partner with all three school districts located entirely in Portland, and with the four other districts with some students living in Portland, to sustain and improve upon the gains. The 2009-12 Council under Mayor Adams has been unanimous in our support for school funding, internships, apprenticeships, and scholarships. Even in this dark recession, we funded 9th Grade Counts, Future Connect, business tax credits for internships, early childcare programs, SUN schools, and expansion of the Portland Public Schools Foundation to cover all of Multnomah County as "All Hands Raised." We consolidated multiple leadership groups into the Cradle to Career collaborative. And Council members show up repeatedly at school events, all over Portland.
The evidence is clear that these strategies are working to improve graduation rates.