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COOS COUNTY — After seeing the state graduation rate fall short of expectations, the Oregon Department of Education has in motion plans to raise that rate.

The Oregon Secretary of State released an audit on the numbers earlier this week, highlighting the “important work under way” at ODE.

“Many of the themes raised in the audit are consistent with what we have been identifying in recent years, and we look forward to continuing to develop and implement a variety of strategies to help more students graduate,” said Acting Deputy Superintendent Colt Gill in an ODE press release.

According to the release, the audit recommends providing targeted support to students in specific groups with lower graduation rates, specifically Native Americans. The state has previously identified low attendance rate in the Native American student populations and gave grants to selected school districts throughout the state. Two of those districts are Coos Bay and North Bend.

The audit listed other student groups that needed support, including mobile students who transfer between schools and districts, as well as kids who are economically disadvantaged.

It also suggests that the state provide support to schools with “mid-range graduation rates rather than emphasizing focus on schools with the lowest graduation rates.”

Even though ODE has already focused much of its work helping close the gap for other student groups, such as minority students and those with disabilities, the only groups that saw improvement were the African American and Hispanic students.

“There are still sizable gaps that exist for many groups,” the release pointed out.

“Addressing opportunity gaps between student groups is an ongoing priority, and we look forward to building upon recent success in narrowing those gaps,” Gill said. “This work includes providing guidance to districts on best practices to making schools a welcoming place for all students to get a relevant, well-rounded education.”

In response to the audit, the Oregon Education Association president, C. John Larson, issued his own press release that highlighted a suffering education system.

“This (audit) confirms what educators have known for years,” Larson wrote. “Far too many Oregon students are failing to graduate on time because our public schools lack the resources they need. Our students have suffered from some of the largest class sizes and shortest school years in the nation.

“Programs that keep students engaged in their education have been systematically cut and instead there has been an unhealthy focus on unproven standardized testing. Adequate and stable school funding is the only way we can ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed.”

County school officials could not be reached for comment regarding the audit.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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