The Oregon Department of Education has released district and school report cards for the 2011-12 school year. Corbett Schools did very well again this year. The state testing regime has seen dramatic changes in the last two years with passing scores being ratcheted up considerably in the lower grades. The nearly yearly tinkering with the state tests makes comparison across time difficult at best. However, there is one benchmark that escapes most of the “adjusting” of scores that happens each year at the state level and that benchmark is graduation rate.
On the second to last page of the report the state has released about Corbett School you will see that Corbett has posted a four year graduation rate of 84.8% and a five year graduation rate of 90.2%. (Download a pdf copy of the report a this link: 2011-12 State Report Cards) These scores will, once again, place Corbett among the top schools in the area with regard to graduation rate. Although I do not know for sure, my sense is that there will be very few schools who have a free and reduced lunch population that is pushing 42% this year that were able to post such high graduation rates last year. Most would argue that this is the most important metric displayed on the report; most would say that in fact graduation is the main point of the thirteen years of education we are expected to provide to each student and that all the other benchmarks are only that, and that graduation is the goal that matters. I tend to agree with that sentiment and I feel a sense of pride at what we are doing for kids.
BUT, despite being one of the best graduation rates around a graduation rate of 90% is not good enough. Some have heard me talk at Board Meetings about an area that we need to improve in and that is graduation rate. I know those 10% who are not graduating. I can picture their faces, I run into them pumping gas 2 years after they should have graduated and I know there is more that we should have done.
With regard to our at risk populations we have not been utilizing the leverage we have because we are a small district. It is a rare gift that a Superintendent can actually put faces to the 10% of their students who are not graduating on time. Because we are small and because we operate in multi-age environments not only can we picture our non-graduates in our mind’s eye we can PREDICT in ADVANCE which students will likely have problems accomplishing the most important goal of these entire enterprise; graduating. We have not fully taken advantage of this leverage in the past, but this year we are determined to start systematically using that leverage!
With a 100% graduation rate as an aspirational goal Mr. Pearson began brainstorming ways we can better leverage our assets. Under Mr. Pearson’s guidance we are moving forward with a program I affectionately call the Shepherd Program. Officially it is called “intervention support” but unofficially I call it the Shepherd Program. We have hired a wonderfully gifted teacher, Mrs. Duprey, to help shepherd or guide students that we can predict in advance will struggle with the most critical aspect of school; graduating. Mrs. Duprey is working with students in grades 6-12, I am sure it will take years to fully manifest itself into what we hope it will be, however after 6 weeks of “Shepherding” the results are very promising.
Beyond the targeted intervention work Mrs. Duprey is shouldering Mr. Pearson is working hard to establish school level interventions that will further support the goal of a 100% graduation rate. For instance each day at lunch Mr. Pearson is inviting around five juniors to visit with him, discuss their progress towards graduation, and enjoy a slice or two of pizza. Mr. Pearson is also building several after school programs to support boosting our graduation rate and college attendance rate including an SAT test prep opportunity, help with applying for admission to college as well as for scholarships. Given the quality of work I am seeing from Mrs. Duprey and Mr. Pearson I am very enthused that soon I will picture more graduates in my mind’s eye and less non-graduates.
The lesson from the state reports cards is a good one; despite doing great things for lots of kids, there is room for improvement, especially on the most important metric we measure, graduation rate. We are aiming at being perfect on this particular metric, I can’t imagine why we would aim at anything less.
Enjoy the last day of sunshine!