The numbers could be discouraging or encouraging depending on the schools in question: graduation rates and math learning outcomes in Klamath Basin schools are slightly on the rise, though so are chronic absenteeism rates across the board.
Overall, several Klamath Basin schools are behind on Oregon benchmarks to reach by 2025, though district officials say they continue to make incremental progress across several areas.
The latest Oregon report cards, released on Wednesday, included updated data sets on outcomes for five-year completion plans, progress on specific school subjects and other metrics to help reflect how schools are progressing in the long run.
These results followed pressure from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to have the Oregon Department of Education release more at-a-glance results and accountability details before the Nov. 6 election. The Oregonian previously reported that Brown intended to hold off, which also drew criticism from the public and Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler.
Klamath Falls City Schools and Klamath County School District officials are in agreement: it’s good news across the board, though staff from each say they still want to better boost overall outcomes and continue to lower absenteeism rates at certain schools.
What the numbers show
Each school district has a comprehensive at-a-glance report, in addition to individual cards for each elementary, middle and high school.
Oregon schools in general continue to struggle with goals to meet the expectation of at 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2025. The state average is 77 percent.
In contrast, 78 percent of seniors in the Klamath County School District are reported to be on track, while Klamath Falls City Schools have a rate of 66 percent, though still up 4 percent from last year.
Third-grade level English language skills dropped in each district, with a 2 percent decrease to 36 percent for Klamath Falls City Schools and a 3 percent decrease to 43 percent in county schools.
More detailed reports, however, show that the majority of KCSD schools have either met or exceed the state’s math learning outcomes to be reached by 2025.
Absenteeism metrics at a glance
Chronic absenteeism rates across the board continue to be some of the more standout trends among both districts. Each school in KCSD and KFCS, with the exception of Ferguson and Chiloquin Elementary, had declines in attendance percentages.
Traditionally, chronic absenteeism is defined as missing to percent or more of school days, while severe chronic absenteeism could be described as missing more than 20 percent.
Factors include unexcused absences, excused absences and exclusionary discipline for a variety of reasons.
Keno Elementary is the school with the most successful attendance rate so far at 93 percent, while Chiloquin High School appears to have the lowest number at 65 percent.
Smaller alternative schools or charter schools including Eagle Ridge, Sage Community School and Falcon Heights appear to have relatively low numbers as well, though this could be for a variety of other reasons.
Data on Falcon Heights, for instance, does not take into account that many students are non-traditional and there to complete GED programs, district officials say.
Potential causes, gaps in data
Currently, Henley High School has the highest attendance rate in the county district at 88 percent. The school also has a rating of 89 percent students who are on track to graduate, which is 4 percent higher than the state average.
Gearheart Elementary School has an attendance rate of 30 percent, or 70 percent chronic absenteeism. There are, however, only 12 students total at the school, which is located in Bly, a more remote area of Klamath County that has a population of just under 500.
District officials say there could be a variety of reasons for chronic absenteeism, some factors that the schools themselves could be harder pressed to control.
Many families in the Klamath Basin struggle as lower income household families, or migrant populations that may come and go from the area. This could easily lead to children staying home to help their parents or, in some cases, working other jobs, according to Klamath County School District Superintendent Glen Syzmoniak.
Syzmoniak, who was hired on as superintendent just months ago, said this is exactly why his district continues to take more individual outcome approaches. He says that the district also observes what works best for many teachers and works to build on that.
“Life happens to them maybe earlier than some other kids,” Syzmoniak said. “They have to work, they have to babysit — there’s a lot of reasons we get phone calls when kids are out of school for that day.”
Challenges to learning outcomes
Gerard Collins, director at the office of federal programs and K-12 Instruction at Klamath Falls City Schools, said that he understands the need to increase attendance and decrease chronic absenteeism for the sake of other outcomes in each report.
He and other district officials say they understand that students who continue to be chronically absent are at greater risk of falling behind. This is where other challenges for each district could arise.
“We like to, across the board, see our regular attendance rate improve at all the grade levels,” Collins said in a phone interview Thursday.
Roosevelt Elementary has one of the best attendance rates in the Basin: it’s at 89 percent overall, though there was a 1 percent decrease from last year. It also has a “level 4” ranking priority from the state, which means it’s on target to hit 2025 goals.
Mills Elementary, which still has a rate of 74 percent attendance and sits in what has traditionally been known as a low-income neighborhood, has still been marked as a “level 1” priority by the state. The state also gave Mills a “low” individual student progress rating.
In an additional media release sent Friday, the city schools district said that “support for and the tracking of absences every day.”
“This is not to increase disciplinary actions,” Collins said in the release. “It is to identify students who need increased support getting to school.”
The official database for each school district and specific schools can be found online at ode.state.or.us/data/reportcard/reports.aspx.
The Oregonian has also compiled and released an easier to read series of tables with each full report attached at schools.oregonlive.com/performance.