Seaside sees dip in graduation rate

There was one bright spot in the county’s school graduation rate statistics: Over the past five school years, Warrenton High School has steadily climbed from the worst to nearly the best in Clatsop County at graduating students in four years.

Seaside, which has historically had a stronger graduation rate, increased from 69 to 74.4 percent over the past five years. But over the past year the grad rate dipped a point. Over the same period of time, Astoria High School has increased from less than 60 percent to a nearly 73 percent four-year graduation rate.

Knappa, which boasted the second-highest graduation rate five years ago at more than 72 percent, fell off into the mid-60s for three years, but built graduation back above 70 percent last year. The state as a whole has increased graduation from 68.4 percent in 2012 to 74.8 percent last year.

“Based on our fairly small population, we frequently see some fluctuation in our numbers since a percentage point is almost exactly one student,” Seaside School District Superintendent Sheila Roley said Monday. “We also had a few more students than our typical amount last year who decided to pursue a GED.”

Roley said new strategies implemented by Principal Jeff Roberts are aimed on increasing student engagement in the high school this year.

“In terms of addressing graduation rate, we would like to see all students graduate, so we are always evaluating our programs to improve our practice,” Roley said. “This year we have a K-12 team of educators participating in a program sponsored by the Oregon Department of Education and University of Oregon to create a K-12 system of College and Career Readiness. We know the earlier we can address barriers that students have to graduation, the more successful our students will become.”

Since 57.9 percent of the Warrenton class of 2012 graduated in four years, the worst mark in the county, the school has seen continual gains, with more than 63 percent in 2013, 66 percent in 2014 and more than 69 percent in 2015. Last year, more than 74 percent of Warrenton students graduated on time, nearly the highest rate among the county’s three larger school districts.“I’ve put a lot of emphasis in math over the last five years,” Jeffery said. “That’s one area that the majority of kids will struggle with coming into high school.”

Principal Rod Heyen said Warrenton brought in retired math instructor Kate Gruetter part time to work with students, and provides after-school opportunities for students to make up homework and tests. “That has become really beneficial and become part of our culture here.”

Heyen said he gets many of his ideas from other districts, including Principal Lynn Jackson at Astoria High School, who, he added, is good about pulling in kids who might be falling through the cracks, regardless of the effect on the graduation rate.

Astoria regularly takes students from around the county into the Gray School Campus Alternative Education Program, a self-paced, largely online school for students who need to recover credits on their own schedules.

Heyen said he recently consulted with a fifth-year senior, living on her own with a job, who had been to several different high schools without finishing, but wants to try again.

“Behind the grad rate, you have a kid walking in the door saying he wants to try,” Heyen said. “You’ve got to go after that.”

—R.J. Marx contributed to this report.

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