WALLOWA — Perfection is starting to become a theme in the Wallowa School District.
For the second year in a row, Wallowa had a 100% on-time graduation rate in the latest Adapted At-A-Glance school and district profiles, which the Oregon Department of Education released last week. The graduation rates are from the 2018-19 year, according to the ODE, though other data on the report is from 2019-20.
The ODE report listed the grad rate at “greater than 95%” but Wallowa Superintendent Tammy Jones said the rate was perfect. The rate also was perfect in 2019-20, giving the school a flawless three-year run.
Wallowa wasn’t the only school to have a spotless on-time rate, either, as Joseph also had a 100% graduation rate, according to Superintendent Lance Homan, in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.
All three of Wallowa County’s main school districts, in fact, were well above the state average, which was 80%. Joseph Charter School’s on-time rate increased from 93% to 100%. Enterprise High School’s rate of 90% was also above the state benchmark, though it was down from the previous year, which was 97%.
“That is the highlight — on-time graduation,” Wallowa Superintendent Tammy Jones said. “And I think the other piece … they highlight the on-time graduation for the different ethnic groups. We don’t have enough numbers in most of the areas, but the students that are free and reduced lunch (or) that are in poverty. They are 100%.”
Wallowa’s two-year flawless graduation run followed a year where the graduation rate was 88%, but Jones noted that in such a small graduating class one student not making it can drastically impact the numbers.
The community size, though, makes it more possible for students to succeed.
“Every kid counts, but I think what happens in these small communities … our rates are higher because of our size,” Jones said. “If you have 10 kids or 18 kids, then you know the kids, you know the families and you have a relationship with them.”
The teacher retention rate — it was 86% and 72% for Wallowa Elementary and Wallowa High, respectively — also play an important role, Jones said.
“Getting staff to stay, administrators to stay, for a long time is important,” she said. “If we’re looking for how do we improve our culture to ensure all students are learning at high levels, the more we’re together and we can learn and grow as a staff, the better the kids will do.”
Joseph’s graduation rate not only was perfect, but JCS reported a high teacher-retention rate of 95%.
Enterprise was at the same level when it came to keeping teachers, with EHS having a retention rate of 95% and the elementary school a touch higher at 96%.
Enterprise School District Superintendent Erika Pinkerton was pleased with overall performance the report showed.
“We were at 90%, (and) we continue to maintain that, which is exceptional,” she said.
Pinkerton explained that while the overall rate did drop, in a smaller school district a single student can sway the results.
“When you’re working with such a small cohort, one student will alter your outcome, and in that case, (the) 7% (difference) was one student,” she said.
Pinkerton noted that due to the COVID-19 shutdowns in March, there were no statewide assessments that typically would have been included in the data.
She also commended the staff for how it performed in spite of the shutdown.
“Our high school teachers did an excellent job at reaching out to students who were not on track,” she said. “We did intervene during the shutdown.”