After initially deciding to postpone the release of Oregon school ratings until after Election Day, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill abruptly released the school and school district report cards Wednesday afternoon.

Gill, who was selected by Gov. Kate Brown, said Tuesday he’d delay the ratings’ release from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15, adding that he was “not comfortable” sharing the reports with the public until there was a “complete package of supports ready for both parents and for educators and districts,” according to The Oregonian newspaper. Department spokesman Marc Siegel also said the release was pushed back so the agency could launch a chronic absenteeism campaign Tuesday.

The move created political backlash. Knute Buehler, the Republican challenger to Brown’s governor seat, tweeted Tuesday that hiding the scores “is another broken transparency promise.”

Education is seen as an important campaign issue in the governor’s race. Oregon has the third-worst high school graduation rate in the country.

Wednesday afternoon, Gill announced the school and district report cards would be made available immediately. In a tweet, he said Brown “requested we make these profiles available as soon as possible.” Buehler quickly reacted to the news.

“It shouldn’t take the threat of the Governor losing her election for her to do the right thing,” he tweeted. “Her instinct for secrecy — from school report cards to her entire 2019 legislative agenda — is very troubling.”

In an email sent to The Bulletin, Brown’s office sent a statement from the governor, confirming that she told the Department of Education to release the data.

“We should all remember that at the end of the day, this data is not about an election or politics,” Brown said in the email. “It’s about improving our schools. My top priority as Governor is to give Oregon’s students the tools they need to succeed.”

The state report cards are intended to give a broad overview of schools and school districts in Oregon for the 2017-18 school year. The reports show statistics such as four- and five-year graduation rates, percentages of students who meet grade-level expectations in math and English, and racial/ethnic breakdowns of every school and district.

According to the state report cards, which are available online, all three comprehensive Bend high schools had more absenteeism than the statewide average, but all three schools also had higher four-year graduation rates than Oregon’s average. Bend and Summit high schools saw four-year graduation rates of 90 and 91 percent, respectively, each seeing a 4 percent rise. Mountain View High School has an 83 percent graduation rate, a 2 percent drop from last year. The state four-year graduation rate average is 77 percent.

La Pine High School trended in the opposite direction, with its four-year graduation rate dropping 6 percent from last year to 70 percent. The percent of ninth-graders on track to graduate fell 4 percent, to 77 percent.

Sisters School District saw its scores rise in nearly every category, particularly in third-grade English language arts. The number of third-graders meeting state-level expectations in the subject jumped to 67 percent from 38 percent. The state average is 48 percent. Furthermore, 89 percent of Sisters ninth-graders were on track to graduate, a 12 percent jump from last year (85 percent of ninth-graders statewide were on track). Like last year, Sisters still has little diversity in its teaching ranks — 100 percent of teachers in the district are white.

Jefferson County School District saw its four-year graduation rate skyrocket, jumping to 72 percent from 60 percent. However, the percentage of Jefferson County eighth-graders meeting state math expectations fell from 22 percent to 11 percent. The state average is 41 percent.

Redmond School District’s percent of eighth-grade math students meeting expectations fell as well, from 45 to 38 percent. Its four-year graduation rate stayed steady at 79 percent, just above the state average.

Crook County School District’s four-year graduation rate had a slight boost to 72 percent, and it also saw slight bumps in the percentage of students meeting expectations in third-grade English and eighth-grade math expectations.

For the fourth year in a row, there are no grades on the state-issued report cards. The high schools’ report cards do promise that for next year’s grades, the Department of Education will show the number of students enrolling in a two- or four-year college within one year of graduating high school.

School and district report cards can be found at www.ode.state.or.us/data/ reportcard/reports.aspx.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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