Getting to Graduation

Earlier this year, I asked for fresh ideas about how to get more students to walk across the stage on graduation day. Over the last few months I have heard from students, parents and educators of all kinds who have a passion for seeing students succeed in school.

At the top of the list, Oregonians who responded said schools should have teachers or administrators who track the progress of struggling students. Right now, schools with low rates of absenteeism and high graduation rates have a specialized counselor -- or a team of counselors -- who tracks the progress of struggling students to ensure they make it to class each day and complete their schoolwork.

That’s a smart idea that could yield real results if applied statewide.

Here are some other big ideas I heard from Oregonians:

  • Make class sizes smaller – Struggling students fall even further behind when they get lost in large classes.
  • Hire more teachers, mentors and counselors – The more support staff that surround a student, the better chance they have to graduate.
  • Increase funding for special education – Special education classrooms need adequate funding so the school’s main budget isn’t used to compensate for shortfalls in special education funding.
  • Fund diverse elective courses - Students excel when they are enrolled in classes they love – construction classes, computer science, art and music keep kids showing up to school and increase graduation rates.
  • Encourage parent involvement – Students who do well in school have interested parents who are meeting with teachers and in touch with administrators.
  • Extend the school day/school year – Oregon’s school year is just too short. Students should have more options for afterschool programs and summer learning programs to make sure they’re learning all year long.

Everyone has an interest in getting our state’s graduation rates up, so I want to send a big thank you to all those who took the time to send in ideas.

It has always been my goal to give low performing students the attention and support they need to get through to graduation day, and I look forward to working with you to achieve that goal.