We are heartened by the news that Oregon’s on-time high school graduation rate increased to 77% in 2016-2017, and, in particular, the achievement gap for our state’s Latino youth is closing. However, we still have a long way to go in order to ensure that all of Oregon’s young people complete high school ready for success in college and career.
Nearly one in four students still do not graduate from high school on time and, of those, many never receive a diploma. Those who do graduate high school are often left unprepared to succeed in college or in the workplace. Last May, the Oregonian reported on a study showing that 75% of Oregon community college students had to take non-credit remedial classes when they arrived on campus.
Oregon voters recognized the dual challenge of graduating more students and ensuring that they graduated ready for college and careers when they passed Measure 98 in 2016. This year, districts are beginning to receive Measure 98 funds to help them focus on dropout prevention and recovery, access to college courses, and career and technical education.
The increased relevance of dual enrollment and CTE courses are critical strategies for keeping students engaged in high school and preparing them for postsecondary success. Research demonstrates that taking college courses while in high school significantly increases students’ likelihood and readiness to matriculate to postsecondary education after graduation. The effect is especially strong for low-income and first-generation college students.
One new program, PDX Bridge, introduced last year by Gateway to College National Network, is making dual enrollment opportunities available for our most vulnerable youth, those who have been in foster care, have experienced homelessness, or have been impacted by the juvenile justice system. Currently, only 50% of these students graduate from high school and few continue on to college. Those who do continue in college are unlikely to persist due to a whole host of barriers. In order to show continued improvement in our state’s graduation rates, our greatest opportunity is to focus on our most vulnerable youth.
PDX Bridge is a collaborative involving schools, state agencies, non-profits, and community colleges in Multnomah County, providing wraparound supports to help these young people prepare for and enroll in college courses while they are still in high school. Upon graduation, a PDX Bridge Coach continues to work with these students to ensure that they successfully complete their first year in college, a strong measure of future success. In 2018, PDX Bridge will serve even more of our community’s vulnerable youth as it expands from its original program at Portland Community College to Mount Hood Community College and east county school districts.
Oregon needs an education system that puts our students on equal footing with the highest-performing states, but we must make sure that our most vulnerable youth are not left behind. Collaboratives like PDX Bridge ensure that our schools, colleges, and agencies are working together to provide the necessary supports to ensure that they do succeed. And when given the opportunities and right supports, they can thrive in college and beyond.
Senior Manager, PDX Bridge