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Medford School District Celebrates Second Year Graduation Rate Gain

smhs grad

Superintendent Brian Shumate smiles as a 2016 South Medford High School graduate greets keynote speaker Justin Baldoni.

Jan. 26, 2017

More students are graduating from the Medford School District (MSD), according to new data released by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). For the second year in a row, the district is celebrating a significant increase in the number of students graduating in four years. The data shows 77.15 percent of MSD students graduated in the class of 2016, a 2.2 percentage point increase over 2015. In 2015, 74.95 percent of students graduated, a 9.7 percentage point increase over 2014 resulting in a 11.9 percentage point improvement in two years. Among specific student groups, graduation rates had significant increases among Latino, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged youth.

Watch MSD's press conference here.

“I’m extremely proud of the work of our staff and the Class of 2016,” said Superintendent Brian Shumate. “We attribute these gains to the hard work and focus of students, support from families and the hard work and dedication of our staff to get all students across the stage in four years!”

Dr. Shumate credits both short and long-term strategies in helping increase the graduation rate. One short-term strategy paying off is a strategic credit monitoring system at high schools.

“We are monitoring every student in every course and every grade they receive throughout the school year,” he said. “Our staff intervenes quickly when students fall behind or become off track for graduation.”

Long-term strategies include implementing more rigorous curriculum and intervention K-12, continuing the development of MSD’s Pathways program, and increasing the relevance and personalization of high school for each student.

“We are enhancing the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) K-12, where teachers collaborate on how to best serve students, adopting effective curricula, implementing innovative instructional practices, intervening early to support students’ academic achievements, and implementing effective attendance strategies,” said Dr. Shumate.

Notable gains in the graduation rates of Latino students and students experiencing disabilities are due, in part, to the district’s unwavering commitment to equity and opportunity for all. The number of MSD’s Latino students graduating in four years grew by four percentage points in 2016, going from 65.28 percent to 69.39 percent. Students experiencing disabilities graduated at a rate of 56.25 percent, up nearly 12 percentage points from 2015.

Federal Programs Supervisor, Terri Dahl, applauds the work of the teachers and support staff supporting English Language Learners. She calls them the “dream team” who provide high quality instruction, extended day and substantial summer school opportunities for students. MSD also provides significant family outreach and weekly education classes for Latino families to support their students’ education.

Special Education and Student Services Director, Tania Tong, said the results demonstrate the perseverance and grit of students and staff, and credits a number of success strategies including analyzing discipline rates and working to reduce suspensions and expulsions.

“Finding reasonable alternatives to suspensions and expulsions not only keeps kids in school, but helps to maintain relationships between students and their school communities,” said Tong. “We’re assisting students in problem-solving, developing solutions, and repairing the harm caused as a result of their behavior.”

While the district is celebrating surpassing the state average in graduation rates, there is more work to be done.

“Our staff has such high expectations of what we can accomplish for our students,” said Chief Academic Officer Michelle Zundel. “For the Class of 2017, our goal is to have 80 percent of students graduate on time. For the Class of 2020, our goal is to have 90 percent graduate on time. We want students to graduate from high school, prepared for college and careers; this improves opportunities for a lifetime.”

It takes a village to improve graduation rates. The Medford School District honors the work of K-12 students, teachers, support staff, families, as well as business and community partners who are supporting student success.