Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson released his department’s audit of the Oregon Department of Education’s efforts to improve high school graduation rates Tuesday. There was nothing particularly surprising in the auditors’ recommendations, so much so that ODE agreed with each one of them.
That’s reasonable: The state’s graduation rate, at 73.8 percent, is the third lowest in the nation. While it’s a bit higher than it was just a few years ago, it’s hardly anything to brag about.
The problems the audit found were predictable: Kids who move, kids who are absent often, hungry kids, minority kids and poor kids all are less likely to graduate than their middle-class white peers who’ve gone to the same schools throughout their lives. Lack of communication at several levels — between schools and students, schools and parents and school districts and the ODE — made finding solutions more difficult.
It’s hard to find much new in the audit. Oregon’s low graduation rates, and many of the reasons for them, go back at least to the 1980s: In fact, since then the state’s rate has been at or below 70 percent most of the time, according to a 2003 study done by ODE.
Education officials, teachers and others continue to try to change that picture, as they should. Richardson’s audit offers a variety of steps his office believes would help, and ODE officials, in their response, not only agree but say they are working on each one.
Meanwhile, parents and others who believe a high school diploma is critical in this era of declining skilled labor jobs can help; parents that can do everything they can to assure their own children finish high school. They, and non- parents, can show up at school board meetings in Bend, Redmond — around the state — and demand results, not once, but over and over again. School boards will listen if parents show up, but they must show up.
Education reforms come and go. Unless parents get involved, get vocal and stay that way, the system won’t improve.