UMATILLA COUNTY — The Oregon Department of Education released its At-A-Glance Profiles for schools and districts Thursday — brief dashboard summaries of how schools are doing, with data on attendance, student achievement and whether students are on-track to graduate.
Umatilla County’s biggest school districts have been measured up to state expectations for proficiency, attendance, readiness and graduation for the 2018-19 school year.
Variations from year prior are minimal for Pendleton and Hermiston school districts, minus a few key areas.
Hermiston School DistrictA slight increase in the percentage of freshman students on-track to graduate has administrators at Hermiston School District smiling, as the district meets the state average.
“We’re excited about that. That’s a predictor of overall graduation rate,” District Superintendent Tricia Mooney said.
She said the district’s new graduation coach is likely in part responsible. The coach, Omar Medina, was hired in 2017. His role is to identify at-risk students in their early high school years and to provide extra support for them.
“For some of our kids, it’s just about having a conversation regularly,” Mooney said.
Across the board, the district’s At-A-Glance results level up with state averages. The district is nearly to the state average for English Language Arts proficiency at the third-grade level, and is behind slightly for eighth-grade math.
Math proficiency dropped by 11% for eighth-grade migrant students and 9% for Hispanic and Latino students.
“We do have some room for growth,” Mooney said.
She said that for the district, tracking each cohort of students as they progress through the school system is more valuable than taking a peek at how eighth-graders do each year.
“This is great information, (but) we look so much deeper at our kids. We look, not just at the subgroup, we try and track on a more individual basis,” she said.
The At-A-Glance report also showed a spike in graduation rates, but Mooney said this number is from the 2017-18 school year. The 2018-19 rate will be out in January.
“We’re excited about that number, but it’s not new,” she said.
Since the alternative program facility — the Innovative Learning Center — merged with the high school in 2016, the school has seen lower graduation rates. Before the merger, the school’s independent graduation rate was at 87.6%. It’s now at 74%.
Pendleton School District
As with past years, Matt Yoshioka said the Pendleton School District’s report card was a “mixed bag.”
Yoshioka, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the district was encouraged by the slight boost in attendance, noting that children who avoid chronic absenteeism tend to do better in school.
A modest increase in English scores also helped push the district’s progress rating into the upper end of “average,” he said.
But the district is also well aware of some precipitous regressions in the other data categories that are considered key by the state.
The district’s double-digit drop in eighth-grade math is concerning, Yoshioka said, and staff have already held internal discussions on the issue.
Yoshioka said most students eventually learn the requisite math skills, but many aren’t proficient in it until after eighth grade.
“We don’t all run the 40-yard dash and get the same time,” he said. “But we all finish.”
Yoshioka said high school can be similar, where the state expects students to graduate in four years but some students take longer.
Pendleton’s on-track to graduate rate took a hit this year by falling by more than 10 points.
Yoshioka said the district has had success in making up ground by the time students reach their senior year, but school officials are taking the statistic seriously.
Pendleton High School staff are now meeting every month to track the performances of individual ninth-graders. If a student is struggling with their academics, faculty then takes steps to correct the student’s trajectory.
The district’s class of 2018 graduated 81% of its students in four years. The on-track rate from 2014-15, when those same students were freshmen, proved prescient: 81.2%.