Across Oregon schools, more ninth-graders are on track to graduate from high school, many districts have rebounded in hiring, and class sizes are smaller.
Here are some of the key developments since the release of the 2021-22 Oregon At-A-Glance school and district profiles.
After two years in a row where profiles were changed due to COVID-19, this year’s release marks a return to incorporating nearly all information.
At-A-Glance Report Cards, published annually by the Oregon Department of Education, provide key information to local communities and are designed to inform families and educators about what is working and what is not within their school districts. has been
As Tim Boyd, the district’s director of ODE and school effectiveness, said in a news webinar Wednesday, it’s like a check engine light.
“The data doesn’t tell us the answers,” Boyd said. “It helps us ask better questions.”
Is rising ninth grade enough?
The rate of Oregon’s ninth-graders graduating from high school in four years increased significantly to 83 percent, according to data released Thursday.
However, this is after an 11 percent decline a year earlier. The latest rates have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, still two per cent below 2018-19.
ODE Superintendent Colt Gill said in an interview Tuesday that one of the biggest factors behind the drop in ninth-grade enrollment was the shift to distance learning. Subsequently, the return to individuals increased these numbers.
“(Online learning) has often made it more difficult to provide the same level of support for every student,” Gill said, adding that the special attention provided by faculty, staff and mental health professionals on campus is key to that growth.
Ninth grade completion rate is an important predictor of graduation outcomes and refers to students who have earned at least a quarter of their graduation credits by the end of ninth grade. ODE officials said the rates help teachers determine which students need extra support.
Additional funding sources such as federal COVID-19 funds will allow districts to hire more teachers and counselors, Gill said. He said that, along with career and technical education courses and summer credit programs, better prepared students for their first year of high school.
While the state as a whole has seen some progress, results vary widely among districts. The Eugene/Springfield metro areas saw mixed results.
In the Bethel district, 78% of ninth graders were on time to graduate, which is 8% lower than the state average. The Springfield School District had an even lower percentage, with 75% on track. Eugene 4J was slightly higher than the state average, which was 85 percent.
Of the three districts, 4J is the only district to see an increase in students compared to last year’s report in 2020-21. 4J is up 8%, while Bethel is down 1% and Springfield is down 2%.
Like the statewide numbers, all three districts are still below pre-pandemic results.
Historically marginalized students face additional barriers, as shown in the data.
Bethel has the highest rate of non-white students in the region, with 26% of its enrollment being Hispanic or Latino. The data showed that 75% of Latino ninth graders in the district are on track.
Bethel’s math score at the eighth-grade level is also 12 percent below the state average — an indication that students are having a harder time transitioning to high school.
As the number of classes decreases, the number of staff increases
The latest data shows that Oregon has rebounded in the hiring of teachers and counselors, with more employees in Oregon schools today than before COVID-19.
ODE officials said the number of Oregon teachers has increased from pre-pandemic levels and the number of counselors has increased by 20% since the 2018-19 school year. The number of teaching assistants is up from last year, but is still about 2% below pre-pandemic levels.
However, districts face national staffing shortages and replacement shortages, and the social, emotional, and academic needs of today’s students are greater.
“We have another 300, about 350,” Brian Turner, Salem-Keizer’s director of recruiting and staffing, told the Statesman Journal in a recent interview. “And it’s still not enough.”
According to the data, 4J has hired 105 more teachers from 2020-21. There are 53 teachers and one counselor.
There are 75 additional teachers in Bethel compared to 2020-21. 46 teachers and 4 counselors work here.
In Springfield, the district has hired additional positions from 2020-21. Three more teachers and one counselor.
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There was no increase in the number of licensed librarians in all three regions.
Gill said Oregon does not meet national ratio recommendations or the national average for school counselors to students, librarians to students and school nurses to students.
However, she confirmed that since 2018-19, the number of school nurses has increased across the country, with around 300 counselors added across the country. Some school districts prefer to hire mental health professionals with different titles than “counselor,” Gill added, so that may be a factor in the low numbers shown in the latest data.
“We also need to make sure that our students are truly prepared and emotionally prepared to deal with the challenges that the pandemic will bring,” Gill said. “That’s where the investment in school psychologists, counselors and mental health professionals comes in to help guide staff as a whole and school-wide efforts to serve students.”
The latest data also shows that Oregon’s average class size is two to three students smaller than it was before the pandemic.
“In Oregon, one of the primary calls to action was to reduce class size,” Gill said, adding that the Student Success Act has invested millions of dollars in the state. The focus on class size is an issue that pre-dates COVID-19.
“School districts are hiring more teachers to make class sizes smaller so teachers can connect more with students and provide better services,” Gill said. “It’s been difficult for school districts to fill those positions, even though we have more staff now. That’s also because of the lack of replacements.”
Before the pandemic, districts across the state, as well as ODE itself, spent a lot of time and money on ongoing campaigns urging families to prioritize making sure their children are in school.
Regular attendance is defined as students who attend 90% or more of their registered days. A student will be considered permanently absent if they miss more than that.
However, attendance was defined differently during hybrid and distance education. And the data released this week reflects the significant statewide impact of the delta and the increase in COVID-19 infections.
In fact, ODE officials noted a 16 percent drop in attendance last year compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Regular attendance in grades K-2 across Oregon is only 65%, and in some districts it is much lower.
At 4J and Bethel, regular K-2 attendance was significantly higher than the state average. 4J K-2 had a regular attendance rate of 73% and Bethel 72%.
However, Springfield’s regular attendance dropped to 62%.
Officials said that’s another area where they expect numbers to increase now that schools are operating in person.
“Daily personal tutoring helps students get the focused attention and support they need to learn and grow,” Gill said. “The more students that can come to school, the more we can meet their individual needs and help them succeed.”
Natalie Pate covers education for the Statesman Journal. Send him comments, questions and tips [email protected] or 503-399-6745. Follow her on Twitter @NataliePateGwin.
Miranda Cyr reports on education for The Register-Guard. You can contact him [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mirandabcyr.