A Call to Action: Lowering Oregon’s High School Dropout Rates

By Jessica McDermott, WANT Esteemed Contributor

As a high school senior in Portland eagerly anticipating my graduation in June, a hard truth I’ve been grappling with is the fact many of my peers in this state won’t have the same opportunity to graduate. Oregon has the 3rd highest dropout rate in the nation, about 10% worse than the national average. This crisis hurts our students and our state’s future as a whole. Reducing dropout rates can boost Oregon’s economy and reduce homelessness. Education is a fundamental human right, and all youth should have the opportunity to become productive and innovative members of society.

But what can we do? While many systemic factors influence dropout rates, breaking the solutions into smaller steps allows for tangible progress. There are simple actions we can all take to help support students through graduation.

Thus, I would like to call to attention House Bill 2657. If passed, this bill would declare a state of emergency regarding the high dropout rates in Oregon. It wouScreen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.10.04 AM.pngld also establish a task force to explore re-entry incentives. Many students drop out and don’t realize that they have the option to return to school; promoting re-entry gives them a second chance. This bill would force our community to seriously address the issue of dropout rates and work toward substantial reform.

Another important piece of legislation relating to this issue is Measure 98, which passed in 2016. It promised to afford additional resources to increase career and technical education—which are proven to raise graduation rates and motivate students to pursue post-secondary degrees, especially in communities of color. Encouraging students to aspire to careers allows them to see the economic benefits of graduating high school, and these students will later use their education to energize Oregon’s economy. Though Measure 98 passed by ballot in 2016, greater advocacy and awareness would push forth a more aggressive implementation.

Oregon’s youth hold the ambition and creativity to change the face of our world. Our community needs to rally around students and advocate to raise graduation rates. We can all help: write a letter or make a phone call to state legislators in support of passing HB-2657 and implementing Measure 98. Tell friends, neighbors, cousins, and strangers to do the same. While the challenge remains daunting, small steps toward helping more future visionaries graduate from high school is a push in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Michael B.

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