Lost River achieves 100 percent graduation rate; district rates remain above state average Three high schools in the Klamath County School District boasted graduation rates above 95 percent in 2019, and one of those – Lost River Junior-Senior High School – had a perfect graduation rate of 100 percent.
Henley High School at 97.93 percent continued its four-year trend of graduation rates above 97 percent, and Chiloquin Junior-Senior High School’s graduation rate hit 95 percent, a jump of nearly 17 percentage points from the year before. Two other county high schools – Mazama and Gilchrist – were near 90 percent, logging 89.04 percent and 89.47 percent, respectively.
Overall, the county school district’s four-year graduation rate in 2019 was 82.37 percent, up 3.17 percentage points from the year before and more than 2 percentage points higher than the state average of 80.10 percent, according to data released Jan. 23 by the Oregon Department of Education.
The district’s four-year cohort completer rate, which includes students who finish high school with an extended diploma or GED, hit 90 percent in 2019, more than 6 percentage points above the state average of 83.7 percent. KCSD with its 2019 rates continues a five-year upward trend, topping 2015 graduation rates by 6.5 percentage points and 2015 completer rates by more than 10 percentage points. Click here to see rates from all KCSD schools.
Klamath County School District administrators were pleased with the rate increases and recognized the ongoing improvement as a team effort.
“Behind each student is a person or team of people encouraging them to navigate barriers and celebrating the smaller accomplishments along the way,” said Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District. “In Klamath County, the larger community plays an active role as partners with the schools supporting our students.”
Ultimately, the students deserve credit, he said. “The student needs to do the work. Nobody can do it for them. Therefore, graduation rates reflect each person’s determination to successfully complete the challenge we call the school.”
Jeff Bullock, KCSD secondary curriculum director, agreed. “Everyone is playing a part in this,” he said, “from the bus driver who gives a smile first thing in the morning to the senior English teacher agreeing to grade that essay paper just one more time. I’m so impressed with our schools, the staff, and our community working to keep students focused on this important milestone. A 90 percent four-year completer rate means 90 percent of our students are completing their high school diploma or GED in four years. That is excellent work.”
PERFECT AT 100 PERCENT: Lost River
Every one of Lost River Junior-Senior High School’s 40 seniors in its four-year cohort graduated in 2019, a feat that the school’s principal attributed to the combined efforts of the community’s students, educators and parents.
“All the teachers, from the kindergarten teachers on up to all the support staff in all the buildings, everyone deserves a pat on the back,” said Jamie Ongman, who took over the reins of Lost River Junior-Senior High School in 2016. “The amount of time and effort and care it takes to achieve a 100 percent graduation is astounding. It takes an all-in, do-whatever-it-takes to support students mentality.”
Lost River, which serves students in the rural agriculture communities of Merrill and Malin, first saw a major jump in graduation rates between 2016 and 2017, from 84.62 to 97.22, which was maintained in 2018. Ongman said teachers and support staff at the school go above and beyond to help students, including meeting with them on weekends and after school to assist with homework, study for tests, and work on senior projects. The extra effort fits with the school’s motto: Increase student achievement through intentional relationships.
“We just kind of stayed the course on what we’ve been doing the last few years as far as investing in every student individually — where they’re at academically, where they’re at socially, and where they’re at emotionally,” Ongman said. “As students approach obstacles or barriers, we just figure out what to do to help them.”
The school features strong CTE (Career Technical Education) programs in business and agriculture as well as welding and mechanics. Since 2017, it has celebrated its senior class with a signing day – an event in which seniors sign letters of intent to go to college, into the military or into the workplace. All the underclassmen, including the junior high school students, attend the ceremony.
“There’s no magic bullet,” Ongman said. “The 100 percent is the climax of what you can do. If graduation rates are in the mid-90s or above in any size school, they’re doing a phenomenal job. Every year, 100 percent is the goal. In reality, is it always something you’re going to achieve? Probably not. But we’re going to do our best to get as close to 100 percent as possible.”
NEAR THE TOP: Henley and Chiloquin
The county has two high schools – Henley and Chiloquin – that ranked near the top of the state, graduating more than 97 and 95 percent of their students, respectively, and topping the state average by 15 to 17 percentage points. Henley High School’s rate dropped slightly from its 99 percent rate the year before. The school has consistently graduated more than 97 percent of its four-year cohort since 2016, and in 2018, its graduation rate was ranked top in the state among 4A-6A schools.
Chiloquin Junior-Senior High School compounded its 10-percentage-point jump from 2017 to 2018 with a nearly 17-percentage-point increase in 2019.
Scott Preston, principal at Chiloquin, said the numbers reflect hard work by staff and students. “Because of our size, we’re able to concentrate our efforts on individual students,” he said. “We implemented AVID (an academic program) a couple of years ago, and that has helped. We’ve increased expectations for our students and implemented organizational strategies.”
Chiloquin in 2019 had 20 students in its 2019 four-year cohort.
UPWARD TRENDS AND ONGOING EFFORTS
Gilchrist Junior-Senior High School and Mazama High School with 89.04 and 89.47 percent, respectively, were above the state average by more than 9 percentage points. Gilchrist’s 2019 rate represented a nearly 7-percentage-point increase from 2018; and its completer rate jumped 6.5 percentage points to 94.74, the highest recorded in the past several years. Completer rates include students who earn an extended high school diploma or GED. Mazama’s 2019 completer rate of 93.84 percent was more than 10 percentage points above the state average.
At Mazama, the district focuses on its completer rate rather than the four-year cohort graduation rate because the high school houses several district-wide programs with unique student needs. Some of these programs offer an extended diploma, which although recognized as a four-year diploma, does not factor into the regular four-year graduation rate. Like a GED, extended diplomas are defined as a “completer.” Completer rates at Mazama have risen nearly 10 percentage points since 2014 to nearly 94 percent in 2019.
Bonanza Junior-Senior High School’s 2019 graduation rate decreased from the year prior, dropping 8 percentage points to 78.99, putting it slightly below the state average. Bonanza, with 33 seniors in its four-year cohort, is an example of a small, rural school. Since 2015, its graduate rates have fluctuated between 94 and 78 percent.
Small schools such as Chiloquin, Gilchrist, Bonanza and Lost River often see fluctuating graduation rates because each student in the graduation class represents 5- to- 8 percentage points. The district’s alternative high school, Falcon Heights, improved both graduation and completer rates, continuing a five-year trend. The school doubled its four-year graduation rate from 2016 to 2017 and continued to make gains. Its 2019 four-year graduation rate jumped nearly 8 percentage points to 29.49 percent; its four-year completer rate jumped 13 percentage points from 52.27 to 65.38 percent.
Falcon Heights educates students who have difficulty finishing in four years or face extreme challenges at home. The typical Falcon Heights student arrives as a junior or senior, unlike in a traditional high school where class groups enter as freshmen and graduate four years later as seniors.
KCSD administrators also point to the support of community organizations and Klamath Promise, a community initiative that forges connections between schools, higher education, community organizations, businesses, and local leaders to support improving education outcomes beyond the classroom. Goals include includes 100 percent high school graduation, increased school attendance, and community-wide training.
“Along with our staff, students, and parents, I would like to commend the efforts of the Klamath Promise,” Bullock said. “Our community has really backed this effort and they’re helping make it happen.”
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