Editorial: Madras High teaches the state a lesson

Students sit together and talk while eating lunch during their midday break at Madras High School on Jan. 29, 2019. (Andy Tullis/Bulletin photo)

Teachers at Madras High School have pulled off an astounding increase in graduation rates. The school has gone from having an abysmal 57 percent rate in 2015 to a 91 percent rate in 2018.

High school graduation rates have been one of the most intractable problems of the state’s education system. How did such an improvement happen at Madras High?

Everybody — teachers, students and parents — helped, as described in Jackson Hogan’s story in The Bulletin.

Co-principals H.D. Weddel and Mark Neffendorf are due a lot of the credit. The change kicked off after they took over.

Staff put a sharp focus on identifying and helping students that looked like they were going to fall through the cracks. They tried to get more students involved in extracurricular activities that help keep them in school.

Madras High made marked improvement among the 31 percent of students who are Native American. The graduation rate for those students went from 39 percent to 81 percent over the same period.

Staff at the school deserve whatever gratitude they can get for their accomplishments, because one thing the teachers at Madras High don’t get is nice bonus checks when they do so well.

They essentially get paid the same if the graduation rate is 57 percent or 91 percent.

The Oregon Education Association, the state’s teacher union, fights against pay for performance. So Oregon’s education system is basically stuck in a system where teacher pay is generally designed to ratchet up every year irrespective of how well students do.

Weddel and Neffendorf plan to retire at the end of the school year. Don’t let the improvements at Madras High retire with them.

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