Every Native American student in Chiloquin Junior-Senior High School’s 2019 senior class received a diploma in 2019, pushing the school’s graduation rate for their student group to among the top in the state and nation.
In the last three years, on-time graduation rates for Native American students at Chiloquin Junior-Senior High School have jumped more than 33 percentage points from 66.7 percent to 100 percent. Overall, the school graduated 95 percent of its 2019 senior class, a jump of nearly 27 percentage points from 2017.
Chiloquin teachers and administrators attribute the increasing graduation rate to improved school culture and an overall effort that focuses on the needs of individual students.
“We have made an effort to increase student engagement and rigor in the classrooms, and a part of that effort is building positive relationships with our students,” said Scott Preston, who is in his third year as principal. “Because of those relationships, staff can provide personal interventions and assistance to help our students earn credits and graduate.”
The Klamath Tribes credited the hard work of students and commended positive changes made by former Chiloquin administrator Jordan Osborn and the work of tribal member Nicole Barney, who headed up the Tribal Attendance Pilot Project known as TAPP.
“The Klamath Tribes are proud and honored by the academic achievements of our Native students and all the students at Chiloquin schools,” the Tribes said in a statement. “We appreciate and celebrate the deep commitment of our principals, teachers, and staff. Although he has moved on to a principal position at another school, we commend former high school Vice Principal Jordon Osborn for his contribution to the many positive changes made during his time in Chiloquin. We are also proud of the stellar job tribal member Nicole Barney did as the Tribal Attendance Pilot Project Officer before moving to Eugene to pursue a Doctorate Degree in Education. The Klamath Tribes look forward to working with the Klamath County School District leadership to improve conditions at our schools and build on this hard-won community success.”
Nationwide, Native American students are among those who are struggling. In Oregon, only 67 percent of the 2019 cohort graduated on time; nationwide that number was 65 percent. Districtwide, about 74 percent of the Native American 2019 cohort graduated in four years, an increase of more than 23 percentage points over five years.
The Oregon Department of Education breaks down graduation rates by student groups, including race, special needs, and poverty, among other categories, as a way to ensure that all students are receiving the resources they need.
Because of its Native American student population, Chiloquin High receives funding through a federal program called Title VI, which is used to support additional staff and cultural activities. The district also works with the Klamath Tribes to plan projects for TAPP – Tribal Attendance Pilot Project –funding. The Klamath Tribal administration offices are based in Chiloquin and more than 50 percent of students in Chiloquin schools are Native American. The Oregon Legislature set aside $1.55 million for the 2017-19 biennium to operate TAPP projects to reduce chronic absenteeism of Native students in nine preselected Oregon school districts,
In Chiloquin, TAPP provides for additional staff to monitor attendance and work with families to identify and remove barriers that may negatively affect attendance. Funds have been used to create school-wide attendance goals in which students are challenged over a six-week period to improve on or continue high attendance rates. TAPP funds also provide professional development training to staff, including Character Strong community-wide training, and participation in Oregon Indian Education Association and National Indian Education conferences.
Chiloquin High, thanks to a teacher provided by the Klamath Tribes, last year started offering a class that teaches Klamath, the native language of the Klamath people.
A change in the school culture – which started about three years ago – also is making a difference implemented this year is a program called PRIDE – Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, and Excellence – that builds on the Chiloquin Rising and Character Strong programs from the last two years.
“We have a motto that we’ve embraced: We Rise by engaging as students. We Rise by lifting others. We Rise together as one,” said Jenny Dunham, Chiloquin math teacher, and student leadership advisor. “The goal is to create a culture within our school that makes this a place that students want to be, a place that they look forward to coming.”
Chiloquin in 2016 implemented the program AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which teaches skills to help students be successful in the classroom. That, combined with the emphasis on meeting individual needs, keeps students on track to graduate, administrators say.
“We have increased our efforts in the area of higher expectations in the classroom,” Dunham said. “There has been a focus on helping our students learn specific strategies to get more out of what they are learning.”
That cultural shift encompasses not only the junior-senior high but also Chiloquin Elementary School, which offers behavioral and attendance awards for students and is training staff in behavioral interventions and trauma-informed practices, said Principal Rita Hepper. “We have worked with our staff on building positive relationships with students,” she said.
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