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'We still have work to do': Superintendents of Oregon's biggest school districts react to new graduation rates report

A new report shows Oregon received its second highest graduation rate ever in 2022. Portland Public's superintendent said the numbers are promising but need work.

PORTLAND, Ore. — After years of setbacks because of the covid pandemic, a new report shows more high school students are graduating in four years across Oregon.

Oregon saw its second-highest on-time graduation rate ever in 2022. It went from 80.6% in 2021 to 81.3% last year.

"We are pleased, we are not totally satisfied until every single student is walking across the stage. So, clearly, we still have work to do," said Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. 

Guerrero sat down with Brenda Braxton on this week's episode of Straight Talk and said these numbers are promising but still need some work. 

PPS is one of the largest school districts in Oregon and its four year graduation rate grew by 1.3%. From 84.4% in 2021 to 85.7% last year.  

"If we stay focused, and we make sure that our efforts and our investments in the adequate resources to be able to do that work we think every student can be successful," said Guerrero. 

The state saw graduation improvements among Latino and Indigenous students — both groups saw a 2% increase.

But that, unfortunately, wasn't the case over at the Salem-Keizer School District, a high Latino-populated school district, where they saw a graduation decline of 1.1% compared to 2021. 

RELATED: Oregon education officials ask for community input on high school graduation requirements

"As educators, we know what to do,” said Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry. “So what I would say, is we need to join as a state, commit to high-quality education, fund that appropriately make sure we have funded mental health systems for our kids and give us the time with kids."

Salem-Keizer schools saw an 11% increase in migrant students throughout 2021. While many are learning English as their second language, Superintendent Perry says with better resources and time, positive change is ahead. 

“For us, we have a lot of English language learners so we are not only looking at third grade for fifth grade reading because we want our kids to be bilingual kids and so we need a little bit more time," said Perry. 

RELATED: Oregon's 80.6% graduation rate, down 2% from last year, draws praise from education leaders

Statewide, Black students showed a much smaller graduation growth. Their rate grew only 0.2% from last year with just 74% of Black students graduating on time. 

At the local level, PPS saw a nearly 4% graduation rate increase among their Black students.

The Hillsboro School District also released some of their graduation rate numbers and found 86.27% of their high school seniors graduated in 2022—that's less than 1% away from the district’s all-time high of an 87.07% graduation rate in 2020. 

Oregon continues to rank among the lowest on time graduation metrics in the nation—with at least 41 states performing better. 

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