Four high schools in the Klamath County School District boasted graduation rates above 90 percent in 2021 and one of those – Lost River Junior/Senior High School – had a perfect graduation of 100 percent for the third year in a row.
“I’m very proud of the work our high schools, our seniors, and their families did overcoming a lot of challenges last year,” said Jeff Bullock, KCSD secondary curriculum and school improvement director. “Our graduating seniors deserve to be recognized for their extra effort.”
Other schools above 90 percent were Henley High School at 97.50 percent, Bonanza Junior/Senior High School at 95.45 percent, and Mazama High School at 91.03 percent.
Overall, the county school district’s four-year graduation rate of 77.99% represents a 5.9 percentage point decrease from 2020, and comes in a couple of percentage points below the state average of 80.63 percent, according to data released Jan. 20 by the Oregon Department of Education. KCSD’s overall rate includes Falcon Heights, an alternative high school for students who are behind on credits and at risk of dropping out.
This is the first time in more than six years that the district has seen an overall decrease in graduation rates, a trend that was replicated statewide. The reason can be attributed in part to the pandemic, which forced schools into hybrid and distance learning models for much of last year. At-risk students, including KCSD’s growing houseless student population, saw a sharp drop in the percentage who were able to graduate on time, Bullock said.
“This group of students faced particular difficulty navigating COVID-19 disruptions and distance learning,” he said. “We are continuing to reach out to our houseless students and are confident many will complete their high school education before the end of the year.”
Students who do so will be counted in the state’s five-year completer rate for the 2021 cohort. Bullock encouraged fifth-year seniors who still need to complete credits for their diploma or GED, to contact their high school or Falcon Heights at 541-883-6699.
The district’s 2021 four-year cohort completer rate, which includes students who finish high school with an extended diploma or GED, also dropped from previous years, coming in at 82.91 percent, slightly above the state average of 82.79 percent.
KCSD Superintendent Glen Szymoniak credited 2021 graduates for their perseverance and hard work during more than a year of pandemic-related disruptions.
“These students did the work despite disruptions in in-person learning and canceled extracurricular activities,” he said. “That takes a lot of effort and we are proud of our students.”
At Lost River Junior/Senior High School, the now three-year trend of graduating every senior has become a community mindset, said Principal Jamie Ongman.
“We have been at this long enough that graduation isn’t the goal, but the expectation,” he said. “Even during the last year of inconsistent learning models, that expectation remained. Teachers provided the very best opportunities for students to be successful, no matter the platform, and students did the best with what they had and worked just as hard.
“Our shining light is not only our teachers but the commitment of our support staff, who work with students in small groups and have those needed conversations,” Ongman added. “It is very much a collective effort – staff, students, parents, and community — and we’re just fortunate enough to have everyone invested.”
Despite the challenges, three KCSD high schools saw increases in their graduation rates:
- Bonanza Junior/Senior High School increased the number of graduates by nearly 3 percentage points, boasting a 95.45 percent graduation rate. This jump is on top of a 14 percentage point increase between 2019 and 2020.
- Gilchrist Junior/Senior High School graduated 83.33 percent of its senior cohort, a 1.5 percentage increase from 2020.
- Mazama High School boasted a slight increase from 90.58 percent in 2020 to 91.03 percent in 2021.
Henley High School’s 97.50 percent graduation rate was down 1.8 percentage points from 2020, but 2021 is the sixth year in a row the school has boasted rates above 97 percent.
Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School saw the biggest percentage drop from 92.3 percent in 2020 to 80 percent in 2021, graduating 12 out of 15 in its senior cohort. Small schools such as Chiloquin often see large rate changes because one student can represent 8-10 percentage points.
Some schools focus on completer rates as well as four-year cohort rates because they offer programs geared towards more at-risk students.
Mazama High School, for example, offers several district-wide programs for unique student needs. Some of these programs offer the 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 92.95 percent in 2021.
Falcon Heights, the district’s alternative high school, saw a four-year cohort graduate rate of 32.46 percent, but a four-year completer rate of 47.37 percent.
To help mitigate learning loss at all grade levels from pandemic-related disruptions, the district and its board of directors have invested funds in summer school, tutoring and other interventions, as well as social emotional learning programs.
The district also is expanding its CTE (career and technical education) programs, which provide hands-on learning in the trades and other careers. Students enrolled in CTE pathways consistently boast higher overall graduation rates. KCSD students in CTE concentration programs had a 91 percent graduation rate in 2021; those participating in CTE classes graduated at a rate of 87.6 percent.
“We are working hard to provide extra supports to students who need them,” Szymoniak said. “The district will continue to invest in programs that engage and inspire young people to be successful.”