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Medford School District Celebrates Graduate Rate Gains

Jan. 25, 2018

The Medford School District (MSD) is graduating more students every year, with 78 percent of the class of 2017 graduating in four years, a one-percentage point increase over last year and a 13-percentage point increase over the last three years.  The MSD continues to graduate more students than the state average.

“This is a kindergarten through twelfth grade celebration,” said Superintendent Brian Shumate. “Across the district there’s a real commitment to removing barriers to learning while maintaining high expectations for all students.”

The state of Oregon has among the most rigorous graduation requirements in the country, mandating more credits to graduate and a demonstration of essential skills than are required in other states.

North Medford High School’s graduation rate reached an historic 90 percent this year, up 6.5-percentage points over last year. NMHS now has the highest graduation rate of public high schools in the Southern Oregon.

South Medford High School’s graduation rate dipped to 83 percent, but has been consistently in the mid-80s over time.

“This is the result of dedicated, caring, and effective K-12 educators, administrators, and support staff working day in and day out to develop relationships, support students, and engage them in learning,” said Chief Academic Officer Michelle Zundel.

The MSD is employing a number of strategies to increase its graduation rates.

Short-term success strategies include:

  • Analyzing credit acquisition for every student, every quarter, and providing interventions for credit recovery early in the process.
  • Continuing efforts to increase student attendance.
  • Continuing programs like Freshman Academy that help freshman acclimate to high school and be successful.

Long-range success strategies include:

  • Expanding personalized learning options with flexible menus for students that include combinations of online school, homeschool, traditional classroom, and college.
  • Expanding the MSD Pathways Program by adding plumbing, electrical, HVAC, carpentry, computer science and more health care options. This is in addition to pre-existing pathways such as pre-engineering, pre-law, and pre-education.
  • Supporting the whole student with increased mental health supports by hiring more guidance counselors and expanding its partnership with the Maslow Project, which serves homeless youth in Southern Oregon.
  • Increasing post-high school options for students by paying for students’ college tuition while in high school.

The MSD is narrowing the opportunity gap for historically underserved students.

The graduation rate for students who experience economic hardships increased nearly two-percentage points over last year. In the last two years, the graduation rate for students who experience disabilities went up 25-percentage points.

Special Education and Student Services Director Tania Tong credits a number of programs to the graduation rate of students experiencing disabilities, including:

  • The Check and Connect Program where trained, caring adults connect weekly with students on class work, assignments, and attendance.
  • Increased behavioral supports for students with social and emotional needs.
  • Increased academic support for students experiencing disabilities in traditional classrooms with a co-teaching model.
  • Implementation of restorative practices, which keeps students in school as opposed to exclusionary discipline.

While there is a science to improving graduation rates with improved course offerings and uses of time, we also employ personalized strategies to understand every student we serve.

“There is no substitute for relationship development,” said Zundel. “It takes educators believing in students, communicating with their families, being right alongside them, supporting them in their education. Medford School District staff are doing that so well.”

While this is the highest graduation rate in the history of the Medford School District, Dr. Shumate said there is more work to be done.

“We believe that in order to get to our goal of a 90 percent graduation rate, we must continue investing in flexible learning models for students,” he said.  “This may include traditional courses, college courses, online options, and internships