High marks for schools

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 06, 2013 09:41 am

The crisis afflicting Oregon’s public education system looks pretty severe if you take a statewide view of the matter.

But narrow your perspective to focus on Baker County and North Powder schools, and you’ll have more reason to be pleased rather than dismayed.

The vast majority of students in our local public high schools earn their diploma within the normal four-year period.

Baker High School’s four-year graduation rate, for instance, was almost 78 percent for the 2011-12 academic year.

That’s 10 percentage points better than the Oregon average.

(And, incidentally, Baker High’s graduation rate equals the most recently calculated national average, for 2010, which is the highest in almost 40 years.)

In a related statistic, and one that’s also worth celebrating, fewer than 1 percent of BHS students dropped out of school last year — just five of 535 teenagers.

Pine-Eagle, North Powder and Burnt River schools posted even higher graduation rates. And Baker County’s other district, Huntington, had six of eight students graduate within four years, although a record-keeping discrepancy, related to the district’s discontinued exchange student program, resulted in an official graduation rate of just 38 percent.

The story behind the numbers is that with rare exceptions, our students don’t get left behind, or fall through the cracks, or any of the other clichés typically used to explain failures.

They earn their diplomas and in doing so vastly increase their chances of going on to a productive career and life.

Much of the credit goes of course to the students, who write the papers and take the tests and do the homework, and to their parents and guardians, who make sure their children are fed and clothed and ready to learn.

But these statistics are a tribute as well to our schools and to the professionals who work in them.

To ensure that most of our children successfully reach the vital milestone of graduating from high school requires a consistent effort in our homes and our classrooms.

We are fortunate indeed to live in an area where failure in this crucial endeavor is not treated as inevitable.