NEW: Graduation Rates are Up in Oregon, But We're Still No New Jersey

Newly-released data shows that 80 percent of the class of 2019 graduated after four years in high school.

By Julia Silverman January 23, 2020

Oregon’s statewide high school graduation rate nudged up to 80 percent for the class of 2019, a modern-day highwater mark that nevertheless still leaves the state running behind the national average, according to the most recent data available from the federal government.

Contrary to popular narratives about kids these days (have you seen an episode of Euphoria?), the high school graduation rate in Oregon has been on an upswing for five years, and Thursday’s numbers continue that trend. Just 5 years ago, only 72 percent of Oregon teens were completing high school within four years.

Education officials hailed the numbers, and progress made among different cohorts, but noted that there remain significant gaps in on-time graduation rates for white students versus students of color, those with disabilities and those who are learning to speak English, among other groups.

For example, just 67.7 percent of Native American members of the class of 2019 graduated on time last June—that’s a big jump from five years ago, when only 50 percent of Native students met that goal, but still well behind their white peers, who have a 81.2 percent graduation rate within four years.

And in yet another sign of the pending death of the patriarchy, 83.3 of the girls of the Oregon class of ’19 graduated on time, compared with just 76.7 percent of their male counterparts.

Despite the improvement, Oregon still lags behind the national graduation rate averages, which is 85 percent, according to the most recent figures available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

So why is Oregon’s rate so much lower than states like Iowa and New Jersey, where 91 percent of kids graduate within four years? The answer’s complicated, but it’s worth looking back at a 2015 deep dive into this topic by National Public Radio, which pointed out that states use different methodologies to calculate their graduate rates, which might make some states appear to be doing better than they actually are. For example, kids who are classified as “likely dropouts,” the NPR team found, can be shuffled off the books, while other places offer “alternative” diplomas to struggling students, and then include them as four-year graduates.

In Oregon, education officials say they are pleased with the latest figures, but that there’s more work ahead.

“This year’s graduation rate increase means nearly 600 additional students earned a diploma,” says Colt Gill, the director of the state Department of Education.

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