RELEASE: Secretary Richardson Releases High School Graduation Rate Audit

SALEM, OR — Today, the Oregon Secretary of State’s Audits Division released an audit of the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). ODE provides oversight and support to individual schools and school districts in Oregon’s public K-12 education system. The audit found ODE should improve its practices and support to districts and schools to reduce the risk of students not graduating within four years. The findings are outlined in the report entitled: “The Oregon Department of Education Should Take Further Steps to Help Districts and High Schools Increase Oregon’s Graduation Rate.” 

“Last week, the Oregonian published an article highlighting that Oregon is ranked third-worst in the nation for graduating high school students on time,” said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. “We need Oregon’s Department of Education to step up its game and assume its leadership role to make Oregon a leader in education. Oregon students deserve a world-class education, and it’s ODE’s job to show how to get there.” 

ODE has been given the ambitious state goal of graduating 100% of our high school seniors by 2025. However, auditors found that the following ODE practices do not promote attaining this goal:

  • Students who transfer into a new school district at any point in their high school career struggle to graduate within four years, and have a graduation rate 30% lower than students who stayed in the same district. This analysis and reporting is not part of ODE’s normal tracking of student transfer data.
  • Schools with mid-range graduation rates receive limited improvement support from ODE, even though most non-graduates attend these schools.
  • More than half of Oregon’s students are classified as economically disadvantaged, and they make up more than 70% of students who do not graduate on time. Middle school performance or student transitions from middle school to high school have not been emphasized, even though students who struggle in middle school are already on a path to not graduate from high school.
  • ODE does not collect individual student grades and specific student credit attainment data. This data would help ODE analyze (1.) when students are most likely to fall off track, (2.) which courses have high failure rates, and (3.) how student success or failure in specific courses relates to graduation.
  • Many districts and schools contacted during the audit process indicated the need for additional community help in analyzing student data and communicating the importance of graduating to parents.

Drawing on education research and approaches from other states, the audit recommends ODE employ additional efforts to better support students who change school districts during high school, students at schools with mid-range graduation rates, and low income students. The audit also recommends ODE help districts coordinate transitions from middle to high school, collect individual student performance data, and provide districts with improvement tools and guidance for communicating with students, families, and the communities.

“The ODE must aggressively assess and assist school districts if they are to provide the help students need to be successful in school and graduate on-time,” said Secretary Richardson.  “Developing the next generation of leaders is critical to the future of Oregon.” 

Read the full audit on the Secretary of State’s website (http://sos.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx) or highlights on the Audits Division blog (https://oregonaudits.org/).