The Medford School District deserves credit for increasing its four-year graduation rate above 80 percent for the 2017-18 school year. The district has improved its graduation rate nearly 15 percentage points in the past five years, from a lackluster 65.21 percent in 2013-’14.
Superintendent Brian Shumate credited district staff and community partners for the positive showing, and noted that the district saw gains among students facing special challenges. Groups categorized as economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities and migrant students all showed an increased graduation rate over the previous year.
The Medford district is on track toward its latest goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2025. The School Board had adopted goals of 80 percent by 2017, 90 percent by 2020 and 100 percent by 2025, but decided last spring to revise those benchmarks after missing the first goal by 2 percentage points. Still, the district’s 80.5 percent rate in 2018 was only one year late.
Education funding will be a major focus of the 2019 Legislature as lawmakers craft the state’s next two-year budget. High on the wish list for school districts is more funding for career and technical education, and for good reason: Students enrolled in CTE courses graduate at a higher rate, and those categorized as CTE concentrators at an even higher percentage.
Medford’s numbers reported by the Oregon Department of Education bear that out. CTE participants posted an 88.18 percent graduation rate, CTE concentrators 91.1 percent.
Since taking the reins of District 549c in 2014, Shumate has been a strong proponent of using student achievement data to drive district policy and improve outcomes, including boosting graduation rates. The superintendent also has emphasized figuring out what the district can offer that will keep students engaged and wanting to come to school every day.
Judging by the most recent numbers, it’s working. The Southern Oregon legislative delegation should see to it that Medford and all school districts get the resources they need to keep up the good work.