Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Baker High School has shown a 5-percent increase in the number of students who graduate on time in four years over last year’s numbers, according to the latest Oregon Department of Education report issued last week.

About 84 percent of Baker High School seniors graduated on time in 2018. That included 112 students. The number who dropped out before graduation day totaled 16, the report states.

The Baker statistics are 5 percentage points above the state average of about 79 percent of students graduating in four years.

The BHS on-time graduation rate has fluctuated over the past three school years — 84 percent last year, 79 percent in 2016-17 and 87 percent in 2015-16.

Assistant Superintendent Betty Palmer pointed to programs in place at Baker High School aimed at improving the graduation rate. Principal Greg Mitchell and his staff have developed a student-led Jostens Renaissance program to improve school climate, developed a trauma-informed approach to help students experiencing difficulties in their lives and personalized learning plans to help students navigate toward graduation.

“They are spending time with kids and being more aware of how to approach kids who are not being successful,” Palmer said.

Chelsea Hurliman, assistant BHS principal, also works to track student attendance and academic success, she added.

Palmer pointed to other gains throughout the District in this year’s report. Baker Web Academy, Baker Early College and Eagle Cap Innovative High School all showed on-time graduation rates above the state average as well.

The four-year graduation rate at Baker Early College has increased from 87.9 percent in 2015-16, to 92.6 percent in 2016-17 and to 95.6 percent in 2017-18. Baker Web Academy’s four-year graduation rate jumped 10 percentage points in each of the past three years, from 43 percent in 15-16 to 53 percent in 16-17 and then to 63 percent this year, Palmer pointed out.

Baker Web Academy Principal Roland Hobson has boosted the program with several strategies, she said.

“He is proud of this movement — and he should be proud,” Palmer said.

She noted that the Oregon Department of Education admits that it has not provided much support to charter schools over the years.

“It has been a 10-year experiment that has grown on its own,” she said. “We’ve put a lot of pieces in place to develop a high-quality program to serve online learners.”

Likewise, Eagle Cap Innovative High School has shown steady increases over the past three years, from 50 percent of the four-year cohort graduating on time in 2015-16, to 70 percent in 16-17 and 85 percent in 2017-18. Tracie Smith oversees the program and works with students and their parents to ensure progress is being made toward graduation, Palmer said.

She noted that the District is topping state averages in almost every area detailed in the report.

The statewide five-year cohort trends show an 80 percent completion rate in 2017-18, up from 78.9 percent a year earlier.

At Baker High School, the five-year cohort completion rate was at 87.5 percent in 2017-18, up just slightly from the 87.2 percent in 2016-17.

See more in the Jan. 30, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.