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Pendleton scores high on grad rate, but mixed performance among schools

PHS nears 95 percent grad rate, Nixyaawii rate cut in half from previous year
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on January 25, 2018 8:00AM


For the second straight year, the Pendleton School District’s graduation rate significantly exceed the state average. But the district’s relatively high graduation rate belies a growing disparity between Pendleton’s three high schools.

Matt Yoshioka, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, was excited about the 83 percent graduation rate for 2016-2017, only a point below the year before.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled,” he said.

Anchoring that overall statistic was the performance of Pendleton High School, which graduated 94.7 percent of its seniors.

PHS’ success wasn’t limited to a single demographic. No race, gender, socioeconomic background or other subgroup graduated at a rate less than 85 percent.

Pendleton High School’s dropout rate was a paltry 0.5 percent, much smaller than the 3.6-percent rate district-wide.

Principal Dan Greenough said the key to Pendleton High School’s success is the teachers and counselors who worked with the students along the way. Counselors were assigned to each subgroup to make sure students were doing what they needed to graduate on time.

Yoshioka expanded the scope further, saying district staff as far back as kindergarten and first grade deserve credit for a strong class of 2017.

The district’s other two high schools — Hawthorne Alternative High School and Nixyaawii Community School — weren’t nearly as successful.

After graduating 88.2 percent of their students in 2015-2016, Nixyaawii’s rate fell to 42.11 last year, although its five-year completer rate, a metric that includes students who received a diploma or GED within a year after their targeted graduation date, was a much more respectable 83.3 percent.

Hawthorne, a school for students who have trouble learning in a traditional setting, saw a modest rise from 27.6 percent in 2015-2016 to 30.8 percent in 2016-2017.

Yoshioka acknowledged the gap between schools and said district officials will have to focus on Hawthorne to raise the district-wide rate above the low 80s.

Greenough, who also serves as the principal of Hawthorne, said counselors will need to hone in on Hawthorne students and their needs.

District administrators will have less direct influence over Nixyaawii, a charter school with its own governing board — a “district within a district” — as Yoshioka called it.

How Nixyaawii performs is important to the district’s overall graduate rate for American Indian students, which was 53.6 percent, more than 5.5 points below the state average.

While Pendleton High School graduated nine out of 10 tribal students, Hawthorne only graduated one out of four and Nixyaawii five out of 14.

Nixyaawii Principal Ryan Heinrich said the class of 2016 mostly stuck together and graduated while the class of 2017 was more transient. Students would enroll for a few weeks or months before dropping out.

Those students would go on to leave the state, become parents or join the workforce, but they wouldn’t re-enroll at Nixyaawii or another school.

Heinrich said this year is already different because an enrollment surge means Nixyaawii isn’t able to accept any middle-of-the-year enrollees.

In response to the poor graduation rate and the increase in students, Heinrich said the school made two support staff full-time and added a part-time certified position.

Other measures Nixyaawii took to improve graduation include extending summer school, adding a study hall period and issuing a student survey to see what they want to see improved.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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