SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's statewide graduation rate for the class of 2022 was 81.3%, the Oregon Department of Education reported Thursday, the second-highest rate ever recorded in the state.
In a news release, the department said the rate signals that Oregon's school systems are recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 graduation rate was 80.6%, a 2% decrease from a year before.
"When we combine the tremendous resilience of Oregon's youth, the courageous, tireless, work of our educators, and the individualized, student centered resources made available through the Student Success Act and other key initiatives, we're able to make meaningful progress for Oregon's students," ODE Director Colt Gill said in a statement. "There is more work to do, and we are ready to keep working to make sure all students have what they need to succeed."
Some individual districts saw greater-than-average improvements in 2022, while others saw their graduation rates fall. The rate for Portland Public Schools, the state's largest district, rose from 84.4% in 2021 to 85.7% in 2022, while the rate for Salem-Keizer Public Schools, the second-largest, fell from 80.9% to 79.8%.
In an interview on KGW's Straight Talk this week, PPS superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry discussed the challenges that districts and students have faced in recent years.
"What we're noticing is that the pandemic has amplified disparities — academically, certainly, but what we're observing are all the readiness-to-learn challenges," Guerrero said. "And so our students and their families have not been immune from the trauma and instability of homelessness and addiction and gun violence and mental, behavioral health."
Teaches and administrators feel tremendous pressure to make up for lost time during the pandemic, Perry added, and she said her district has focused heavily this year on making sure school environments are safe and welcoming for kids to learn.
Statewide, the graduation rate rose for every student group compared with the class of 2021, according to ODE. Specialized programs also yielded above-average results, with a graduating rate of 93% for students who completed two credits in Career and Technical Education programs and 86.3% for students who completed English Learner programs before starting high school.
American Indian and Alaska Native students, pre-high school English Learner students, English Learners students in high school, migrant students and students in foster care all saw record-high graduation rates for their student groups in 2022, ODE said.
"Each graduate represents an individual and family success story, a point of pride for their community, and a stronger future for Oregon," Governor Kotek said in a statement. "It will take focused leadership and increased accountability to continue our recovery and ensure that all of Oregon’s children are better served by our investments in K-12 schools. All of our education investments must be paired with specific strategies to ensure we know how the dollars that are spent are connected to the education priorities that Oregonians care about. Every child is full of promise, and I am committed to creating the conditions for them to thrive."