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BSD Graduation Rates on the Rise: Beaverton High School Spotlight

Graduation season is approaching and students, staff and families in the Beaverton School District have a lot to celebrate. Graduation rates in the District are at a 12-year-high at 83.%. While most schools saw an increase in their four-year cohort graduation rates, there's one school in particular that stands out.

There's something in the air at Beaverton High School. A shift in mindset and a focus on the future. A deliberate effort to move the dial on graduation rates and lower dropout rates. An effort that appears to be paying off.

The BHS graduating class of 2015-2016 had a graduation rate of 79.5%, up from 73.9% the previous year. That nearly 6% increase equals 35 more students. Thirty-five more students who now have a much brighter future, whatever college or career path they choose. "Our graduation rate had been flat for a long time. I believe this has to represent a cumulative effect," says Principal Anne Erwin.

The numbers are even more dramatic when you look at Beaverton High School's dropout rate. Down from 4.1% or 71 students in 2014-2015, to 1.9% or 34 students in 2015-2016.

Erwin asked staff to try to identify what they think is behind the changes. While there was not one clear answer across the board, a few rose to the top.

The first is the advisory period. They call it Beaver Lodge at BHS. The 2015-2016 class was the first to graduate with four years of Beaver Lodge. For their four years at BHS, they met every other day during 8th period with the same group of students and the same teacher. Erwin believes Beaver Lodge helps build relationships among students and with the advisory teacher. "Relationships create a strong incentive for being here and a strong desire to do well," says Erwin. "The relationships that are forged with teachers, counselors, administrators and staff are essential."

Beaver Lodge also provides teacher access time, where students can check out of their advisory class to get help from a teacher in another subject area. Periodic grade checks and college and career-going enrichment opportunities are built in as well.

Another program is the Beaver Achievers program, offering academic support every Saturday. From 9 a.m. to noon, students can work on homework, get help from a teacher in four different core content areas or receive tutoring. The school provides food and bus passes to remove any possible barrier for students who need extra support.

With the help of business partners like Nike, BHS developed a framework called "Future You" with a focus on college and career readiness "The power of a sense of future is where we're trying to get the biggest impact. It's adjusting the mindset a little bit that high school is not a destination, but a stopover to get where you want to go," says Erwin. That focus on college and career readiness is carried through a two-day conference called "Future Days."

Erwin says the graduation and dropout rates demonstrate that the school is on the right track, but there's more work to be done and it will only get harder. "Our goal is to get to 90% by 2021, which is a lot of hard work. It gets more challenging the closer you get to 100%."